Posts Tagged 3P

Embrace Ugly

As best as I can recall, I’ve never coined a phrase with any staying power.

Until now.

And, my phrase has been purposely captured on a T-shirt, by someone other than a close relative. It’s not quite like having my words recorded indelibly in marble and situated in the Parthenon, but I’ll take it.

Enough gloating, what’s the phrase and what is its etymology?

“Embrace ugly.”

It’s a term that I have used frequently with a particular client. Frequently – as in multiple times per day, even multiple times per hour. I repeated the phrase, not only because of its self-entertainment value (yes, I do that), but more importantly to break the client’s paradigm.

You see, they were (note the past tense) chronic and debilitating perfectionists.

Now, striving for perfection is part and parcel of Lean Thinking (by way of Womack and Jones). The Lean Enterprise Institute lists the fifth step, “As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.”

However, the intent is to aggressively pursue continuous improvement – by frequently and rigorously spinning the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) wheel.

Perfectionists however have a very difficult time getting around the wheel and, in essence, missing the benefits of failing faster. Perfectionists tend to have their own version of the wheel, something like PPPPPDDDDD, or Plaaaaaaannnnnn, then Dooooooooooo. “C” and “A” are, often accidentally and ironically excluded from the perfectionists wheel.

Why?

Because after investing so much time planning and then investing in the perfect “Do,” (impossible, by the way) there is little time or money or will left to make meaningful adjustments. The victims (a.k.a. stakeholders) are often doomed to a life with less than optimal fixtures, equipment, facilities, etc.

How many times have you seen expensive underutilized stainless steel equipment, nicely laminated work surfaces that workers do not like, pricey, oversized extruded aluminum workstations, and flashy, but useless tooling? Stuff that unfortunately was not designed or developed with important things in mind like takt time, footprint, PM’s, flows (of people, materials, supplies, information, tooling, etc.), visual control and line of sight (i.e., can you see over and around it easily?), ergonomics, scrap, etc.

While lean folks apply 3P (production preparation process) concepts like 7 different ways and seek to down-select to the top three or so and then trystorm their way into the best using sub-scale and full scale models made of cardboard, plywood, and PVC, perfectionists are machining or building the perfect design in expensive materials.

In short, lean folks embrace ugly. They revel in trystorming, in learning, in rapid PDCA. Ugly is synonymous with the quick and the dirty.

Which is exactly why I kept repeating, “embrace ugly,” until my friends were repeating the same and then finally breaking away from the suffocating, expensive, lethargic legacy of perfectionism.

…and now, they’re wearing the words on their shirts.

A couple of quotes:

“Quick and dirty is better than slow and fancy.” – Taiichi Ohno

“A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented at some unspecified

time in the future.” – General George S. Patton

Related posts: Kaizen Principle: Be Like MacGyver, Use Creativity Before Capital!, Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions

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Lean Aerial Photography!?!

Ok, it’s really aerial photography with a lean application. And, it’s not that aerial. Just a guy standing on a big step ladder and taking a picture of stuff below. Yes, there’s a fancy camera in his right hand.

So, where’s the lean in this?

Good question.

When I first saw the ladder in the kaizen team’s breakout room, I was a bit perplexed. But, as it turns out, there was a good reason for the ladder. Actually, it’s pretty cool.

Many of us have participated in the design of future state layouts. This often employs two-dimensional scale models as a team seeks layouts that, among other things, facilitate better flow of product, people, information, tooling, scrap, etc., the use of less floor space, improved visual control, etc.

In an effort to generate multiple ideas and options and converge on the best one, many teams create a number of different alternative designs (think of the popular application of the 7 ways or 7 alternatives). These alternatives are then scored by the team against pre-established, weighted criteria.

Well, creating 7 or so different two-dimensional models can be time AND space consuming. The activity involves materials such as cardboard, plywood, paper cut-outs, sheet metal, magnets, yarn, and so on.

Enter the aerial photographer.

The folks with the ladder had a brilliant idea. After each iteration or alternative design, the designated photographer climbed the ladder and snapped a photo of the layout. (You need a pretty decent camera, by the way.) This way they quickly recorded and printed out the layout and then rapidly proceeded to the next design using the same materials.

More iterations. More ideas. More interaction. More learning. Better output.

Related posts: Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions, Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good, Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?

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Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions

Lean is applied within time and space. That’s where we “live” and add value, or not. Organizations often don’t rigorously consider critical lean implications when designing new spaces – whether brand new buildings, additions or modifications to existing structures.

The fact is that spaces need to support and facilitate a leaner value stream. Too often we design new spaces to accommodate old, waste-laden, value-inhibiting ways…because the architectural and construction process often has its own inertia. Lean thinking can end up taking the back seat. This is a big fail!

So, whether we: 1) believe (careful of that) that we have squeezed out much of the improvement opportunity within a given value stream and now anticipate that an improved space will bring us to the next level, or  2) have just begun our lean journey and think a new or redesigned space will give us some serious performance lift, or 3) are somewhere in between, there are some fundamental considerations before the architects design, the demo guys demolish, the contractors…you get the point.

Few things go together as well as value stream analysis and new layout development. It’s an opportunity to define a leaner future state, at both a conceptual and physical level. Of course, these activities are what we would call paper kaizen. While we can challenge one another on how to get to continuous flow, apply supermarket pull, incorporate new/improved standard work, etc., it’s still just captured on paper. It’s not real yet.

This is where 3P (production preparation process, or perhaps, more appropriately 2P – preparation process) is powerful stuff. Within the context of certain weighted design criteria (see below for some questions that might help identify key criteria), 3P facilitates: 1) the formulation of many different design alternatives, 2) down-selection to a critical few design concepts, 3) trystorming/PDCA of the critical few using open space, chalk lines, cardboard, PVC, etc., sometimes aided by 3D design, and ultimately, 4) the selection of a final design.

Now, that may sound too easy, and often it is. If the new space is supposed to accommodate a bunch of “improved” flows, standard work, visual controls, etc…heck, a brand new system, the likelihood that it will all work without a bunch of real PDCA, applied over many weeks, is about ZERO.

So, you need to evaluate the risk of going too fast and perhaps spending lots of money and then determining that the new space is far from what is needed. Most times, depending upon the depth of change, it may make sense to live the new system, as best you can, in your old space and do PDCA. While you do this, PDCA the design of the space.

To spur some thought around lean space design, here are a handful of questions to consider. In no specific order:

  1. Will the new space facilitate the least waste physical flow of the material, information, person, supplies, scrap, equipment, tooling, etc.?
  2. Will the new space facilitate and even enhance visual management by means of clear line of sight – no obstructions (high features, corners, stairs, etc.)?
  3. Will the new space have desirable acoustics to facilitate audible communication (musical andons, team discussions, etc.) and provide sufficient quiet/privacy to do the job (like in a call center)?
  4. Will the space facilitate 5S and work place organization? For example, how can we better accomplish the 4th S, standardized clean-up, by keeping things from getting messy in the first place?
  5. PDCA is forever and business dynamics evolve – is the space flexible enough to accommodate improved layouts, forecasted growth, normal demand variation? Avoid “roots or vines” so that equipment, furniture, workstations and even walls can be easily moved.
  6. Will the space facilitate tiered team meetings and accommodate the related performance metrics boards, suggestion boards, task accountability boards, etc.?
  7. Will the space be something that you would be proud to show you customers, something that your employees will feel makes their job easier and more satisfying?
  8. Will the space facilitate standard work and, with that, avoid isolated islands while promoting appropriate multi-process operations?
  9. Will the space generate a sufficient ROI?
  10. Will the stakeholders “own” the new space, because they were appropriately engaged in developing it?

What are your space design considerations?

Related posts: Telling “How” Removes Responsibility, Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good

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Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good

Whenever we undertake the (re)design or (re)development of a process, product, system, layout, tool, visual control, etc. (you get the point), it’s usually a good idea to define the criteria for the future state FIRST. The definition must extend to measurable performance or outputs – like cost, quality, lead time, etc. Similarly, the criteria should also extend to the characteristics, the “whats” and “hows,” of the future state. For example, we may determine that the new layout has to, among other things, facilitate visual management and natural work team co-location.

Without this clarity around performance and characteristics, it is difficult to understand “what good looks like.” We need to start with the end in mind. It’s part of the P, within PDCA. Absent clarity, an individual, team or organization is at risk of ginning up some options and then justifying later why one or more is good. This approach is not acceptable…unless of course it’s around something very trivial, like ordering lunch.

Furthermore, especially in a team environment, if the criteria are not articulated in a public and visual way (flipcharts, Post-It notes, whiteboards, etc.), there is no way for the team to discuss,  test, debate and reach consensus on those criteria and ultimately share and own the vision. Just think if we asked a team to go ahead and design a dream house without a shared vision. Without any definition, one person would be envisioning a mountain top retreat, another a beach side mansion, another a richly appointed brownstone in the city…

So, how do we go about defining what good looks like? If we’re talking new products, there are a host of lean design tools that can be applied individually or systematically, including: quality function deployment, must/should/could prioritization and the “seven-alternatives” process (a technique of 3P). Ron Mascitelli’s work, The Lean Design Guidebook is an outstanding reference in this area.

Keep in mind that the level of effort we invest in the process of articulating design criteria should match the importance of the task at hand, related risk and how pragmatically we can take something subjective  and make it quantitative. So, for example, if we are doing a quick seven different ways application for the design of a pacemaker scheduling system in a mixed model environment with demand coming from both a supermarket (make-to-stock replenishment) and make-to-order kanban, the criteria may include: visually controlled, kanban cards as visual artifacts, maintained by group leader, reflect status of required changeovers, etc.  This criteria will probably be sufficient for a team to pursue the seven different ways,  make trade-offs, down-select to three or so for trystorming and eventually and quickly converge on one best way (for now).

We can get fancier with Pugh Methods, weighted averages and the like. The important thing is to match the intensity to the challenge and to never violate the principle of first articulating the criteria. If we don’t follow that principle, we’re doomed to unthinkingly creating something and then putting lipstick on it later. Heck, then we could move to D.C.!

Related post: Model Lines – Federal Government Take Note

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Kaizen Principle: Bias for Action

Several days ago, during a health care value stream analysis, I was impressed with the team’s bias for action. Now we know that value stream mapping is typically a “paper” activity, but it was refreshing to see that one of the future state’s kaizen bursts, identified as a “just-do-it,” couldn’t wait. The team completed the just-do-it right before the wrap-up presentation. Outstanding!

Kaizen is founded on certain principles, one of which is a bias for action. This bias for action is largely a behavioral thing, but it can be facilitated by effective coaching, formal training, and the application of lean management systems and related visual controls that should absolutely scream for action.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning my “short list” of kaizen principles (see the Kaizen Event Fieldbook), because I think we need to have a holistic perspective and because together they should drive the right kind of bias for action. I call this my 10 + 1 list. I’m pretty sure that other lean practitioners can make some  great arguments for a few more, but I wanted to keep the list relatively short.

  1. Think PDCA and SDCA, the basic scientific methods.
  2. Go to the gemba; observe and document reality.
  3. Ask “why?” five times to identify root causes.
  4. Be dissatisfied with the status quo.
  5. Kaizen what matters.
  6. Have a bias for action.
  7. Frequent, small incremental improvements drive big, sustainable improvements.
  8. Be like MacGyver; use creativity before capital.
  9. Kaizen is everyone’s job.
  10. No transformation without transformation leadership.

Plus – Do everything with humility and respect for the individual.

The combined dissatisfaction with the status quo (eyes for waste  “see” the current state and the ideal state) and the existence of explicit performance gaps that are targeted for closure (kaizen what matters) should be unbearable enough to drive action. And, our action should be focused on appropriately and economically (MacGyver was a creative cheapskate) addressing the root causes (5 why’s and PDCA thinking) and then sustaining the performance (SDCA).

So, I’ll leave you with another bias for action story, surprisingly also within a value stream analysis backdrop. Tony, the plant manager, was participating in a combined value stream analysis/plant lay-out/3P activity for a brand new line. As we developed pro forma standard work and were doing table top and plant floor simulations applying, among other things continuous flow, he had a eureka moment. Actually, I noticed that he was becoming quite agitated and then…he disappeared. Over an hour later, Tony returned. He informed the team that he couldn’t stand it when he realized that the same principles needed to be applied to existing lines. So, right away, he made sure that the other lines (granted, without standard work at the time) stop their evil batch and queue ways and go to single piece flow. By the next day, the old lines had demonstrated an 18% productivity improvement (and yes, this was sustained). Now, that’s bias for action!

Related posts: Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?, Kaizen Principle: Be Like MacGyver, Use Creativity before Capital!

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Kaizen Event Supplies – Basic Stuff for Effective Events

airdrop picThe kaizen pre-event planning phase is critical to event effectiveness. It includes the obvious – event definition from the perspective of scope and targets, team selection, communication and certain acceptable pre-work, but sometimes the simple stuff gets missed. The simple stuff includes kaizen supplies – well organized, in a 5S way!

It’s definitely muda if a kaizen event team(s) is hamstrung, mid-event, while they’re waiting for a handful of cheap stopwatches to get picked up from the local giant box store or waiting for someone to track down some standard operations forms because they were all consumed during the last event and never replaced. The list of possible annoyances is pretty long.

Kaizen events are finite in length, typically three to five days in duration. If it’s a mini-event, it may be a day or so. Time is of the essence! Lost time means delayed or lost improvements and frustrated team members.

So, while we’re trying to implement lean, doesn’t it make sense that the kaizen event supplies are designated, sized, stored, presented and replenished in a lean manner? Of course it does. It just happens that it’s important, but not urgent. At least until that uh-oh moment, when a team determines that they’re missing a necessary supply item.

Sometimes, the reason for this phenomenon is that the organization is just cheap (penny-wise and pound foolish), there is no KPO to worry about this stuff or the KPO isn’t quite up to speed. The kaizen principle of “bias for action” is not an excuse for sloppiness.

See below for a basic list of kaizen event supplies. (Here, I am not talking about the typical 3P-type supplies – cardboard, PVC, plywood, Creform, etc.) Most should be specified, stored and presented point of use in the team’s break-out room. Some things, like laminators, may be shared amongst multiple teams. The KPO should make use of a kaizen team supply list which specifies the standard quantity of each item, item description, a field for an end-of-event inventory count and a field to reflect the quantity which needs to be replenished before the next event.

Of course, some things are difficult to anticipate that they will be needed for the event. For example, a 3X4′ magnetic dry erase board is usually not inventoried. These non-“supermarket” items will have to be bought-to-order during the event.

Stored within Plastic Storage Bin
  • 6 clipboards
  • 1 set of laminated copies of standard forms (5S audit sheet, time observation form, standard work sheet, etc.)
  • 6 stopwatches
  • 1 pedometer
  • 1 25′ tape measure
  • 1 box of pencils (pre-sharpened)
  • 3 white erasers
  • 1 box of pens
  • 1 box of flip chart markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 box dry erase markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 dry eraser
  • 1 18″ ruler
  • 6 8.5X11″ legal pads
  • 2 calculators
  • 1 stapler
  • 2 rolls of scotch tape in dispenser
  • 2 rolls of masking tape
  • 1 box blank overhead projector sheets (for us dinosaurs)
  • 1 box paper clips
  • 1 box rubber bands
  • 3 pkg of yellow sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of orange sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of green sticky notes 3X3″
  • 1 scissors
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ laminating pouches
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ laminating pouches
  • 1 box Sharpies (multi-colored)
  • 1 box push pins
  • 1 adjustable 3-hole punch
Not Stored within Plastic Bin
  • 3 flip chart pads
  • 1 box flip chart markers
Shared among Teams
  • 1 digital camera
  • 1 video camera
  • 1 label maker
  • 1 laminator
  • 1 measuring wheel
  • 1 roll 36″ wide kraft paper or white plotter paper
  • 1 LCD projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 overhead projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 color printer (11X17″ capable)

Am I missing anything?

Related post: The Kaizen Promotion Office Does What? 8 Critical Deliverables.

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Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?

ready fire aim picOne of kaizen‘s unofficial taglines is, “Just do it.” And it makes sense. We try to spin the PDCA wheel as fast and as frequently as possible in order to experiment and quickly learn and make adjustments. But, sometimes we should just do it AFTER careful and extensive simulation. It seems wimpy, but it’s about managing risk. Lean leaders should care about that.

So, when does it make sense to simulate an improvement? We actually do it all the time when we trystorm. Trystorming is a melding of brainstorming and simulation. It can be really simple stuff or it can be much more involved. People tend to be fairly OK with the simple stuff, but start getting weak in the knees when meaty simulation is required. They don’t want to take too much time simulating. It can be slow and tedious.

Simple simulation. People can tolerate simple simulation like pantomiming the new standard work sequence with a draft standard work sheet and standard work combination sheet in hand before they try it out for the first time. Then they can make adjustments on the way. Hey, who wouldn’t be OK with that level of effort and spontaneity?

More extensive. The more extensive simulations take time and require a certain rigor. Why do we need to endure this pain? Because the implementation of improved or brand new systems can cause big problems if we don’t iron out some of the more substantial flaws. Often we don’t know what we don’t know. Here are two types of extensive simulations.

  • Many people apply 3P (production preparation process) when developing substantially new or improved processes  and/or products.  As we all know, locking in a poorly designed product or process is a recipe for long-term pain and suffering. In brief, 3P is a team-based methodology in which the members down-select from multiple alternatives to seven different ways for a new improved process (or product), simulate the new process with crude, inexpensive, and quickly applied materials (PVC, cardboard, wood, duct tape, etc.), then whittle down the options to three best process designs (as measured against predetermined selection criteria), followed by more trystorming and then ultimate selection.
  • Supermarket pull is a wonderful thing when properly applied, but you’ve got to get it right in order to ensure that the downstream customers are not starved and that there is no excess inventory. Pull system or kanban system simulations are extremely valuable. Using production kanban as an example, after taking a first cut at demand analysis, percent load analysis, determining what the kanban strategy will be (i.e., in process, batch – pattern, batch board, triangle), sizing the kanban, formulating the draft standard work (how/who/when regarding kanban posts, emergency kanbans, scheduling protocol, etc.), etc., we need to simulate the system using real historical demand data and some invented surprises.  The simulation requires cards for all of the inventory, mock kanban posts, “scheduling,” capacity analysis…the whole nine yards! It is critical to find out when and where the system breaks in a big way and then figure out what needs to be adjusted…before it goes live.

So, what are your experiences with either high intensity simulations or implementations where it would have been a good idea to simulate (or simulate better)?

Related posts: Kaizen Principle: Be like MacGyver, use creativity before capital!, Check Please! Without it, PDCA and SDCA do NOT work.

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