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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Top 3 “Old School” Apps for Lean

We have all heard the saying “there’s an app for that.” And for most things this is surprisingly true. But for Lean there really are no shortcuts. The tools are not particularly difficult which is in-part its success. Learning what tools to use in what situations takes some experience if you are not familiar.

Now that I got your attention you are probably expecting 3 digital apps you can use on your smart phone or tablet but those really undermine the importance of going to the source and seeing with your own eyes.  Rather,  I thought I would share 3 essential tools you can use in almost every situation.

Paper and Pencil
A paper and pencil is an indispensable asset to any lean practitioner. You can take notes on observations from the Gemba, document a process flow, record data, create standard work, and more. I would never leave home without it. You can’t remember everything so it is better to write it down.

A camera is a great tool document the process. You can use it to share best practices like in single point lessons, create visual standards, or even communicate defects and discrepancy. A picture is worth a 1000 words. Along these lines a video camera is an effective way to capture a process and break it down into elements either for waste elimination or training.

Post-it-notes have become a symbol of process mapping especially value stream mapping. Where ever there is a vertical surface you can create a map. They can also be used to identify waste in a cell like a red tag card for a 5S activity. I have even used post-it-notes to do a work balance table by cutting slips to represent the process times of various steps. Post-it-notes are a versatile tool with lots of potential for the creative.

Over the years I found these tools very useful in most situations. Now they can’t you out of every situation like a “MacGyver” tool kit but they are valuable. What tools do you find particularly useful in your Lean efforts?

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  1. Nothing tracks, presents, visualizes, & helps get consensus at the Gemba on the fly better then a flipchart.

  2. Amen, Tim. Old school is the way to go. The tools you mentioned are quick, easy and very visual. Paper and pencil and post-it notes make it very easy to modify and improve or correct on the fly.

    I always tell my groups, learn to do it the old school way first and then add new technology once you have truly understood what you want.

  3. I don't know if it would be considered an app or not, but one of the most powerful tools I have in my bag is the face to face conversation. I see too many conversations being held over email, text, skype, etc and the personal touch of conversing in real time to attack an issue seems to be fading away.

    It all goes back to the go to gemba ideology.
    in addition to pencils, post-its, flip charts, and a camera, interpersonal skills can make a huge impact on any improvement activity.