New Online Lean Resource - The Lean Edge

This looks like a fairly new online resource for Leansters. Archives go back to November 2009 so a lot of the content here is fresh. A nice aspect about this site is that you get a lot of the popular Lean authors all in one place: Liker, Smalley, Balle, Spear and many others. Check out The Lean Edge.org.

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Toyota Pedal Problems Not Solved

More Toyota drama...a Prius reached speeds of over 90mph on a California Highway. The driver tried to pull the floor mat away from the pedal. The floor mat he received a recall on, but claims he was turned away from the dealer. The driver's account of passing a car just before the pedal stuck in this AP story gives us a new clue as to what is happening..."it did something kind of funny... it jumped and it just stuck there."

Uh-oh. A defective friction pad, the original recall culprit, can't make the pedal move on its own can it? A professor claims he can replicate the speed increase by manipulating the electronics, but Toyota claims that they can replicate the same effect in other vehicles made by different manufacturers. I have to say though, a pedal that jumps away from your foot sounds like what it would feel like when the cruise control engages. Maybe there is more to the electronics problem than Toyota is letting on...

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Gandhi gets Lean

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas Gandhi

The same is true for manufacturing. Especially when we think about batching and consumption based replenishment (kanban/pull). Many managers, supervisors and leads will resist reductions in batch size on the premise that the change will reduce their production rates, thereby increasing costs and missing shipments.

In my experience, the complete opposite is true. Here is one example. During my Job Methods training, I had to pick a production problem to practice on. A current production problem was easily found where the line was unable to make their daily order requirements. A quick Q&A led us to a station where the product was batched in groups of five and subsequent operations were processed one, or more, at a time. By modifying the fixture we were able to balance the line so that a "make-one-take-one" situation was adopted by the line. Initial results, by reducing the batch from five down to one, was a "trebling" of production. Trebling. That's a good word.

But this came with pain and resistance. Immediately, supervisors of the line declared that they were faster welders on five units rather than one. It was only through a Job Methods analysis that I was able to demonstrate to them that the batches of five were actually causing downtime and delays that were virtually eliminated by a single piece fixture scheme. Once we made it through this mental obstacle, the supervisors were more readily and open to seeing that no matter how many they could make in a cycle, the subsequent operation could only make one to their five. Once this was realized on all three shifts, the changes were sustained.

This is one of the many paradoxes (paradoxen?) of lean...by slowing down, we speed up. I want Gandhi on my management team.

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Made in Vermont

The company I work for, Revision Eyewear will be featured this evening in the "Made in Vermont" segment, airing during the Vermont Channel 3 - WCAX 6:00 news cycle.

If you don't live in Vermont and cannot catch this, you can view the feature here at the archive link. There are dozens of other small and medium sized Vermont companies to check out as well.


Do Not Write Work Instructions!

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Probably not what your ISO auditor would want to hear. O.k., go ahead and write a few to start...but you better use them! I've seen lots of work instructions lately that just do not get used. We didn't write them for the auditor, did we? Why did we even write them to begin with?

Why? Let's use our 5W1H (what, when, where, who, why and how) to get to the bottom of this.

WHAT is the purpose of the work instruction? Most working professionals will tell you that they serve as the record of best practice, training, etc. Most ISO auditors will tell you that they are required for ISO certification, but generally speaking this reason is subordinate to the reasons previously stated. In other words, work instructions must be useful for training and improvement purposes, or, they are not worth the paper they are written on.

WHY use a work instruction for training or improvement? Isn't there something better? The keyword to think about here is "use." Work instructions don't use themselves, people use them for training and improvement. Decades of research suggest that people learn differently. This has spawned hundreds of millions of dollars in various training methods, techniques and schemes. Video, audio, computer, etc. the choices for learning media are endless. But a work instruction, when coupled with a solid OJT method of instruction like JI, builds a desired habit in the trainee. What I mean is that if the trainer is prepared, she can validate that the trainee knows what she knows - or, that knowledge has been transferred. Can your computer do that with a work instruction? How about your DVD player? When we think of training this way, videos, CDs and computers are at a large disadvantage to the human capability to train.

WHEN are work instructions written and used? When they are written may depend on your business. The timing could be: before the process is created, as the process is created or after the process is created. In Bryan's perfect world, the paper would be created concurrently with the process - not before, when assumptions are incorrectly made and clung to after they are disproved, or, after when bad habits have formed and must be broken. WHEN are they used? Usually, at least once in the beginning of the process to train people. Hopefully, you have tested the instruction to see if it is bullet proof. Hopefully, it won't be the last time you use it. And, when abnormalities are found, a work instruction makes for a quick and easy troubleshooting guide. When improvements are made, work instructions are very useful for guiding trainers through the new process, reminding them about the key points the new improvement requires.

WHERE are work instructions written? The right answer is NOT behind your engineer's desk! Instructions are written by directly observing the process. If you asked me to bet on the accuracy and effectiveness of a work instruction written by a highly paid engineer under the gun of a corrective action and a Job Breakdown Sheet written by a well trained supervisor that will actually use the JBS, my money is on the supervisor.

WHO. Already covered that. To expand a little more, preferably the person who knows the job and will use the JBS to train others. If that is impossible, get a cross functional team to work out the sheet through collaboration. The bottom line is that direct observation of the job is required and it should be written and used by the person that will do the training. Although it won't vanish, effectiveness diminishes as you deviate from this recommendation.

HOW is the work instruction used? The four step Job Instruction method is the preferred technique. Unfortunately, most trainers will not go much beyond group overview discussion of a work instruction, demanding that trainees read the WI, or more commonly job shadowing with an eventual abandonment of the work instruction.

Don't write that work instruction unless you mean to use it. With great power comes great responsibility!