Monday, January 31, 2011

Lean Lessons from a Snowstorm

In the northeastern part of the US we have received some record snow falls in the last few weeks.  All this snow got me thinking on the way home that there are some lean lessons we can take away from these snowstorms.

  1. Forecasts are inaccurate.  You can only count on actual demand.  We have all experienced school cancellations based on high forecasts which result in only a few inches.  You can't rely on forecasts to plan your business either.
  2. Overproduction is the biggest waste.  A snowstorm with 24 inches is much harder to manage than one with a few inches.  As in snowstorms overproduction leads to other wastes in business.
  3. Waiting is inefficient.  Snowstorms often leave you stranded at home.  This means going to work and school is difficult.  Businesses can't afford this waste of valuable time.
  4. Excess processing is not productive.  Large snowstorms usually result in multiple clean-ups.  This extra trip outside to remove snow is wasteful.  Extra processing and steps in business result in lost productivity.
  5. Excess motion is dangerous.  Removing snow manually with a shovel is physical exhausting.  Excessive motion in your business can be physically and emotionally exhausting for your workers.  This overburden is referred to as Muri in Lean.
  6. Inconsistency creates difficulties. The variation in type and amount of snow fall makes snow removal and road treatment more difficult.  The methods and effort to deal with sleet (freezing rain) and heavy wet snow is quite different. In Lean we call this inconsistency in demand Mura.  Businesses would prefer predictable level demand since it is easier to manage.
  7. Preventative maintenance is essential.  If you want to be able to clean up from a storm your snow blower needs to be maintained and ready to operate.  If you want to deliver on-time to your customers then your equipment needs to be ready to produce.  Total preventative maintenance (TPM) is the program to help you do this.
  8. Inventory is necessary.  During a storm you find many people stock up on supplies because of the unpredictable nature of weather.  They want to be prepared until they can resume their normal delivery routes.  This is necessary in business as well.  Lean is about having the right amount at the right time.

Lessons in Lean thinking are all around us.  Many of us are unaware of them but if you are willing look you can learn a great deal.  Jeff Hajek and I have highlighted various Lean concepts with everyday examples like making coffee, buying milk, and driving.  Keep learning and applying Lean to make work easier.

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1 comment:

  1. Great analogies, love it, especially the inaccurate forecasts!!