Friday, May 30, 2014

LEAN . . . Is An Evolution, Not A Revolution

We’re often asked about a typical lean journey, “What does it look like?” and “How long does it take?” While the answers range anywhere from "every situation is unique" to "there is no typical ’journey'," we do have a few steps that are essential for a successful lean implementation.
Step 1: Create the environment and introduce the basics

A Lean approach can seem foreign and quite disruptive to traditional organizations. Often it is disregarded as the 'flavor of the month' and rarely takes hold or continues past its introduction. This underlying feeling plus the human nature to do it the way you always have done it makes it extremely important to be committed to the process. Change is often accompanied by fear. Regarding Lean, A significant part of that fear is the notion that it will introduce extra trivial work (paperwork, using color code cards and containers, etc.) or will result in layoffs and staffing reductions.

In creating a Lean environment, it is important to assuage these fears and concerns. As adults it is documented that we learn best through hands-on action. Therefore MMTC has developed a number of hands-on simulations that teach the principles of Lean in an easy to understand way.


Step 2: Understand the Current State and create a success

Even in small companies, there may be hundreds of improvement opportunities. This is often overwhelming which is the root cause for failure to implement. A core aspect of Lean is engaging employees in the dialogue for improvements. Once the team grasps the basics of Lean (Step 1), it is important to begin to exercise this new skill. We suggest establishing (or in many cases dusting off) a suggestion box. 

The other aspect of understanding the current state, is knowing the best way to build Lean within the organization and grow the Lean culture. Many of our clients begin with 5S because of its high visibility. However, it is difficult to establish a Return on Investment (ROI) with a 5S project. So if part of your quest in growing a Lean culture is to show ROI to upper management, then 5S might not be the best initial application. 

MMTC’s Transformation Planner is a great tool to identify areas to focus on for improvement. This proprietary tool compares some of your key data against data collected from our nationwide database of similar companies. The report gives you a comparison on where you rate on 12 key measurables. We also offer a Waste Walk program designed to help identify “low hanging fruit” to assist in a Lean culture transformation.

Step 3: Establish a Strategic Plan

Step 3 could actually be called Step 2.5. In true lean fashion, after the groundwork is laid in step 1, the remaining process steps are completed concurrently. The reason why we call it Step 3 is because of teh evolutionary process of Lean. It's not a revolution. Therefore having a strategic plan helps exercise and cultivate Lean by showing quick successes and ongoing support. 

It is important to have a strategic Lean plan that supports the company’s mission and vision. There are many different approaches to establishing a Strategic Lean Plan (Leadership in Action, True North, Hoshin, Shingo, etc). While each is unique, they all establish a prioritized guideline, anticipated ROI and seeks to allocate required resources. MMTC can help you determine which approach might best fit your needs. 

Step 4: Do it

With all due respect to Nike, while this sounds simple, in reality it can be extremely difficult. This is the second biggest cause of failure in implementing a Lean culture. "Doing it" means allocating extra time to work on Lean initiatives. Finding extra time in today’s world when everyone is wearing multiple hats isn’t easy. This is why it is best to tackle some of the low hanging fruit first to gain momentum. This helps motivate people to find that extra time. 

A recommendation we constantly make to clients is “Schedule it”. You can’t make extra time, it must be scheduled. This shows its importance to the organization. Schedule doesn’t just mean on your outlook calendar, but scheduled throughout the organization. How can you improve flow around the machine if the employees are still expected to produce at their current rate? 

Another inherent issue with "doing it", is yielding to current situations. It is easy to get caught up in the daily routine, fighting the proverbial fire, and not attending internal update meetings or submitting timely findings. Instead, you push it out a week or two later when dealing with colleagues, thus ultimately undermining and impeding the growth of a Lean culture in the organization. 

Therefore many of MMTC’s clients have asked us to be the guardian of Lean culture growth. As an outside observer, it’s easier to step in and ‘play the heavy’ or serve as ‘the cheerleader’ as needed, to sustain Lean efforts. It is far more difficult to justify delays in implementation or missed deadlines to an outside party then it is a colleague. We call this Lean Mentoring. We basically come to a client’s office on a scheduled basis to help keep projects moving and continue Lean education, with the intent to instill an internal motivation and commitment no longer dependent on external influence.

Step 5: Report and Audit

Now that you have done all this cost saving work, what good is it if you don’t monitor and audit it? This is key to growing and maintaining the Lean culture. If you don’t monitor what you have implemented, it is human nature to revert back to how things happened in the past. Monitoring conveys a commitment to the whole team that this isn’t the “flavor of the Month”. This is the new way of thinking and doing. As your Lean culture deepens and takes shape, success breeds success.

Follow these simple steps and see the positive impact and savings pile up.

If you have any questions contact MMTC. www.mmtc.org 

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org


Friday, May 23, 2014

From Pinpoint to Elimination: Removing Waste From Your Processes

In a previous entry, Can Your Team Pinpoint Value-Added?, we identified some places that waste or non-value added steps can hide in your company’s processes. Today, we’d like to follow up on that. I mean, now that you know where to look, how do you actually identify the correct steps to eliminate? How, when you are so close to the process, do you decide which ones you need and which ones you don’t? 

Imagine yourself as the product or service your customers' value. Trace the design, order and physical product from launch back to original concept, from delivery back to the sale and from finished product back to raw materials. Include distances, stops and their duration, and the number of functions handling the product or its components. Basically, go through your operation backwards . . . it will force you to think differently. Ask these questions.


  • Do your products provide the value sought by the customer?
  • Are the current process steps required to design, order and produce your products, mostly creating value?
  • Does the design, order and/or product flow continuously through the necessary activities to reach your customer?
  • Can your customer get just what they want, when they want it without your company holding a mountain of finished goods, "just in case?"
  • Are your value stream's performance steadily improving?
  • Does your lead time meet your customers' expectations?
Don’t be afraid to go to the shop floor, the engineering area, the production control & order management department. Everywhere you go, evaluate your processes, and look for these opportunities: long lead times, frequent set-ups, long set-ups, significant work-in-progress dollars, critical work centers, flow bottlenecks, capacity constraints, large inventories, competitive products, delays waiting for approvals, and repetitive motion.

When you emphasize the value added, your company prospers quickly. If you cannot determine what is value added, all your other efforts simply don’t matter. The challenge is not only understanding what your customer’s value, but evaluating each person and process in the organization and associating those activities with what brings value to the customer. 

Lean manufacturing as a form of continuous improvement isn't a destination, but rather a journey; an ongoing process. The first step to getting lean is to learn how much of what you do is value added. Learn as much as you can about lean manufacturing through MMTC’s training, other companies and existing literature. There are some great books out there on lean implementation and establishing a lean culture, both on the shop floor and in the office. The MMTC’s staff of experts are available with the technical knowledge and experience to help you get started. 

Suggested Title: Lean Reading List
Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation 2nd Edition by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy 2nd Edition by Masaaki Imai
Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook
The Goal: The Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt
Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions 2nd Edition by David Mann
The Lean Office: Collected Practices and Cases (Insights on Implementation) put out by Productivity Press

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Break the Slump: Energize your Workforce through “Re-on-boarding”


My coworker mentioned her Memorial Day plans to me earlier, and it made me realize that summer is right around the corner. I got to thinking about how students get a summer vacation… oh to be young again!

Fewer things are more perfect in summertime than running around the neighborhood, spending time at the swimming pool, cook-outs, and watching your baseball team hit one out of the park. But as everyone knows, sometimes it rains, you get tired of cook-outs and your favorite player falls into a slump. Summer loses its spark.

So what does this have to do with business?

When you start a new job, it’s a lot like heading into the summer. It’s a fresh start. There’s the rush of meeting new people and a genuine excitement about starting a new journey. Managers walk you through the training process, teach you about the company and orient you to the culture. Many hiring managers refer to this as on-boarding. Everything is new and fun as you find your niche and start contributing to the organization.

Unfortunately, the business world is not a summer vacation. Once you develop a routine, the excitement fades and the joy of learning new things turns to the tedium of predictableness. The endless cycle of deadlines and moving product in and out of your work station, catches up to you.
This is where re-on-boarding can help.

Chances are, many people on your staff have been there for a lengthy period of time and the anticipation and excitement of learning new things has flown the coup years ago. Re-on-boarding your employees, or addressing their hitting slump, is something that should be done periodically to help benefit your company.

Most hitting slumps are less mechanics or process and procedure problems, and more mental. The same with employees. Re-On-Boarding is less like a new employee orientation and more like a recognition of commitment to the job and acknowledging things done well. Take the opportunity to refresh the vision for their specific job responsibilities and link it to the bottom line and customer satisfaction. Your company culture, key offerings, or standard procedures may have changed over the years. Rejuvenate your team to make sure they are integrating into the corporate culture and contributing to your company’s goals. According to Robert Bilotti of Novarti, staff members that complete the re-on-boarding process are:

  • 85% more likely to contribute their ideas for improvements.
  • 48% more likely to feel a strong sense of commitment to help the company be successful.
  • 95% more likely to feel part of a team working towards a common goal.
  • 207% more likely to feel the company was committed to their learning and development.
  • 481% more likely to have an impression of the company as organized.
  • 51% more likely to have an impression of the company as dynamic.
  • 65% more likely to have an impression of the company as caring.

All staff members should be treated with the same passion and excitement as new employees. Consider re-on-boarding your team and reignite the feeling of “new” for your team!

MMTC
MMTC offers a variety of services including projects that will improve your workforce. For more information, click here to see a list of MMTC’s solutions or contact us at 888-414-6682 or inquiry@mmtc.org

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org

Friday, May 9, 2014

Can Your Team Pinpoint the Value-Added?

We often hear company team members say “We don’t deal with the customer.” Team members are seldom aware of how their daily tasks connect to customer satisfaction. This is why it is so important that every organization recognize what its customer’s value and align its activities to deliver that value.

Lean manufacturing is based on identifying and eliminating waste focusing on removing non-value added activities from your company's processes while streamlining those that add value. Waste is anything that doesn't add value to the end product or any activity for which your customer is unwilling to pay. Defining value-added is the first step.

So, the three criteria for value-added are:
  1. It must be something the customer finds valuable and is willing to pay for
  2. It must physically change the form, fit, or function of the product/service
  3. It must be done right the first time
People often have a hard time distinguishing between value added, necessary non-value added and non-value added or waste. Interestingly, many team members just accept these "wastes" as merely the necessary evils of doing business.

How you answer these questions can help to assess each process step and see where waste might be hiding in your organization.
  • Are you producing more than consumers demand?  
  • How much wait time is there between production steps? 
  • Are your supply levels and work in progress inventories too high?  
  • Do you move materials efficiently?
  • Do you work on the product too many times?  
  • Do people and equipment move between tasks efficiently?
  • How much time do you spend finding and fixing production mistakes?  
  • Do you use workers efficiently? 
A key to achieving these improvements is utilizing your most valuable resource, your team. As each person better understands what your customers’ value, the easier it is for them to see ways to cut cost and deliver more of what the customer wants and is willing to pay for.

Finding ways to keep your employees involved and engaged in everyday improvements has been on our minds a lot lately. It was the topic at our last MMTC 360 event on May 1st and it will be a breakout session at this year's Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference at Cobo Hall this June. Mark your calendars today and register to join us in Detroit on June 10th and 11th. 

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, May 2, 2014

End the (Employee) Engagement - it’s Time to get Married


The topic of “employee engagement” has been popping up a lot lately. I’ll be honest with you… and maybe it’s just because I took my “let’s be blunt” pills this morning… but most of the articles I read about employee engagement are… well… on the cheesy side. They remind us that it’s important for our employees to be engaged and urge us to give out our annual survey for employee feedback. Most of the advice is pretty basic and, well, common sense. … I mean… who doesn’t want their employees to be happy and engaged? Of course you should treat people with respect, recognize their contributions, and invest in training to grow the business.

I did come across an article though that caught my attention. It was a Forbes story by Josh Bersin called, It’sTime to Rethink the ‘Employee Engagement’ Issue. The author laments that employee engagement is often viewed as a simple “annual HR measure” and challenges us to think of it as a “continuous, holistic part of an entire business strategy.”

What was really great about the article is that the author noted that the world engagement itself fundamentally pigeon-holes our perspective and instead of trying to get our employees engaged, we actually want them married to our organization. In other words,  “fully committed.”

Employee turnover is particularly painful in manufacturing, especially because a lot of companies are experiencing the talent shortage in our industry. Earlier this year, the NIST MEP blog published an entry, “Saying ‘I Do’ toYour Workforce.” In this entry, referencing the talent shortage and current skills gap, the author quotes from an earlier Bersin article, Predictions for 2014, calling for ‘capability development’ for employees.

You hear that Michigan manufacturers? It’s time to swap the engagement ring out for the wedding ring. Go beyond engagement to full commitment, for both the employer AND the employee.

Our employees are our most valuable assets. Think of your top 5 employees right now – what would you do if they left? Some workers are going to leave for reasons out of your control – retirement, relocations, etc. What you don’t want is for your top talent to leave for preventable reasons. Think of the costs associated with replacing top talent such as advertising / recruiting costs. Then there’s the time associated with replacing top talent such as interviewing and training. And don’t forgot lost productivity as the new hires have to get up to speed on the job and the way your company does things. And most important, think of the company culture change associated with replacing top talent. Mitigate the cost of ‘divorce now, and keep your key personnel.

In addition to your annual feedback survey, here are some additional ways to transition your workers from fiancé to spouse:

  • Introduce Relaxation Initiatives in your Company - According to Natasha Withers from One Medical Group, "Rest, relaxation, and stress reduction are very important for people's well-being and health. This can be accomplished through daily activities, such as exercise...” Introduce something like a weekly “stress reliever time” for your employees to take a break and catch up.

  • Encourage more Employee Vacations: Families and Work Institute study found that "workplaces with greater flexibility are more likely to have employees who are more engaged, in better health, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to plan to remain on the job."

  • Secure “buy-in” on projects: When you implement improvement initiatives or major changes to your processes, make sure your staff feels included. When they understands why improvements are being made and how the changes benefit them, they feel more empowered and a part of the change process. This will help drive motivation and ensure sustainability. Job security is important. Let your employees know how shop floor improvements and market diversification helps secure their future.

  • Invite their suggestions on doing things different, better, faster: Who better to implement changes, improve work flow, or modify designs to reduce scrap than the people day in and day out doing the job. Reward good and cost saving suggestions by sharing a bit of the benefits. If someone saves you $50K a year with an improvement idea, consider sharing a small % of the savings with your employee. Improvements are contagious, and a fully committed workforce benefits everyone.

MMTC offers a variety of services including projects that will improve your workforce. For more information, click here to see a list of MMTC’s solutions or contact us at 888-414-6682 orinquiry@mmtc.org

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org