Posts Tagged muda

Ineffective Visual Controls – 9 Root Causes

visitor badgeI just had an experience that prompted me  to think about the effectiveness, or sometimes lack thereof, of visual controls. Yesterday I was at a client site. No kaizen, just training. I was sporting a vistor’s badge (see picture), when one of  the class participants said something like, “Hey, you’re expired!” I came back with an intelligent, “Huh?”

It seems that the badge uses a time sensitive sticker that is white when the badge is first given to the visitor. After 24 hours or so it displays a red tiger stripe to indicate that it’s expired – meaning you need to show your ID and sign in again. Presumably, it’s a visual control to better identify the normal versus abnormal (unapproved) visitor.

Didn’t know that. I was walking around the facility for three days with my expired badge. I routinely walked right by the security folks and everyone else. No one said a word until the fourth day! Why didn’t the visually controlled badge  “work?” Why do visual controls fail consistently or intermittently?

Here’s my incomplete list of the root causes of ineffective visual controls (in no particular order):

  1. Introduced without training. Oftentimes new visual controls are deployed with nary a word to those who are supposed to manage them or respond to them. Stealth deployment is not successful.
  2. Not worker-managed. Visual controls are supposed to be worker managed. It’s silly to expect someone else (a supervisor or manager) who is not there real-time to reliably trigger a visual…in a timely manner. And it takes the worker out of the equation. So much for engagement and ownership.
  3. Not self-explaining. If a visual control cannot be immediately deciphered as to its purpose, operating rules and status, it ends up being a guessing game. No one has time for that and no one has a gemba decoder ring.
  4. Not visual/visible. Visual? What visual?  Some visual controls just are not very visual due to diminutive size, lack of color, poor location, etc.
  5. Too hard or complicated to use. Visual controls are designed to quickly, effectively and universally identify abnormal conditions so that those conditions can be addressed. They shouldn’t be adding muda. Visuals that are physically and/or intellectually a pain to maintain or trigger just won’t be reliably used.
  6. Obsolete. Sometimes the underlying system or process  is changed and the visual control is no longer used. Leaving it around is visual pollution and is confusing.
  7. Lack of discipline. It takes a level of discipline to maintain visual controls. Lean leaders must constantly reinforce their use and they should be an audit item within their leader standard work.
  8. Love of covert operations. Visual controls make things, well…visual. They promote an environment in which there are no secrets. For many reasons, some employees are not a big fan and purposely do not use the visual controls. Here, lean leaders need to hold folks accountable.
  9. Lack of faith. Oftentimes employees reliably maintain their visual controls and then give up when they determine that no one reliably responds to the abnormal conditions. Why the heck use a visual when no one seems to care?!  Apathy for abnormalities drive apathy for visual controls.

I’m guessing that I have missed some other root causes of ineffective visual controls. Any thoughts?

Related post: Visual of the Visual?

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Kaizen Principle: Be like MacGyver, use creativity before capital!

MacGyver picRemember Angus MacGyver? He was the star of the old MacGyver TV series and used science and the inventive application of common items (gum wrappers, duct tape, etc. – kind of a one person moonshine shop) to solve desperate problems. Well, MacGyver should be an unofficial kaizen hero for his real-time creativity and frugality.

Are we saying that lean practitioners are cheap? Well, yes from the standpoint that it is muda to spend or use more than is required to implement an effective countermeasure. But, the real driver behind the principle here is trystorming (the dynamic, real-time cycle of try-observe-improve-repeat through which individuals and teams identify and validate the best improvement idea) as much as possible before, if need be, committing some real capital. As Taiichi Ohno was credited with saying, “Quick and dirty is better than slow and fancy.”

And with the notion of “dirty” there is need for kaizeners to get their hands dirty – planning, doing, checking and adjusting. This requires the use of often simple, readily available materials (wood, cardboard, PVC, etc.) and “re-purposed” equipment, furniture, materials and supplies. So, what are some examples where people effectively reached for their brains before their wallets:

  • Re-purposed discarded rooftop air conditioner attached to a cooling vessel increased the compounding line rate ($0.9 million annual savings),
  • Urinal flush valve used to quickly dispense the requisite amount of water to a dry material so that it could be safely shipped,
  • Residential dishwasher serving as a right-sized, line-side parts washer.

So, what are some of your favorite MacGyver moments?

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The Truth Will Set You Free!

truth will set you freeLean thinking may not have been big in the first century, but there’s at least one quote that can be applied to Lean, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So, in a Lean context how do you know the truth and how will it set you free? Here are three steps.

1. Identify the waste through direct observation. Start with genchi genbutsu, Japanese for “go and see for yourself.” Go the gemba. Improvement begins with a deep understanding of what is called the current condition, current situation or current reality. In short, the truth. Truth can be obtained through personal direct observation. Anecdotal evidence is typically incomplete and often just plain wrong. It allows for the introduction of bias, whether purposeful or accidental.

In Lean we often employ the use of certain tools (and methods) to better force and focus us in our direct observation. They also facilitate the identification of waste and help uncover the root causes of that waste. The tools, depending upon the situation,  include current state value stream maps, time observation forms, standard worksheets, standard work combination sheets, % load charts, operations analysis tables, etc. When properly applied, their format forces a presentation of the data in such a way that waste and related issues are more easily identified for the observer and for others (the more, the merrier!).

2. Acknowledge the waste. Easier said than done. Direct observation can identify the truth, but it does not mean that everyone will acknowledge it. In other words, identification is largely a technical exercise, acknowledgment is mostly behavioral in nature. While the truth is the truth whether known or acknowledged, waste can’t be eliminated unless it is both identified AND acknowledged. As such, effective Lean cultures repudiate problem hiding. No problem is a big problem…heck, can anyone find a place where there are no problems? In order to facilitate the right environment there must be a large measure of trust where the focus is on fixing processes and not targeting people for blame. The principle of respect for the individual and a data-driven mentality must be front and center.

3. Eliminate the waste. Well, if you’ve identified the waste AND acknowledged it, then you know the truth.  You are now free to act upon it. Of course, this is a mixture of both technical (how) and behavioral (willpower, aggressiveness and stamina) elements. The truth has helped lead you to the PLAN, now it is time to DO!

What do you think?

Related posts: CSI Kaizen – When Forensics Supplement Direct Observation, Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes

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