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Monday, July 22, 2024

Lean Tips Edition #302 (#3556 - #3570)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #3556 – Encourage Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has a major effect on creating a culture of continuous improvement and development. Workers who recognize how they fit into a holistic picture are more likely to make improvements and achieve better results. They will be more invested in the success of your business and the ways in which they can contribute to your overall strategy.

 Consequently, it is recommended to increase ownership over their workload and provide them with more flexibility and freedom. If you’re looking to measure employee engagement and gain valuable insights, you need to set up proper employee satisfaction metrics and KPIs. This will encourage them to streamline tasks and improve the efficiency of your company. Remember to show your employees that their opinion is important by listening to their suggestions.

Lean Tip #3557 – Improve Teamwork Efforts

It is important to encourage your employees to think of themselves as a collective unit. For best results, it is best to embody the style you want them to adopt. This means that you will need to develop a team-working attitude and offer support at every stage. If your staff lacks knowledge around others’ roles and responsibilities, you may want to transform your individual meetings into team efforts. As a result, you will ensure that each team member is capable of undertaking the workload of others and performing together to achieve goals. The dynamics and strengths of your teamwork will have a direct impact on business outcomes.

Lean Tip #3558 – Promote Professional Development

Businesses with a strong learning and development program are more likely to boost morale and improve business results. This is why, it can be beneficial to encourage your employees to participate in impactful professional development. Remember to prioritize skills development by providing training on specific skills and identifying gaps between actual and desired skill levels. It may also be useful to ask employees about learning and development topics they would like to know more about. This way, you will receive some creative ideas, which you may not have considered before. Moreover, a peer mentoring program can be a powerful educational resource for new employees to settle into their role.

Lean Tip #3559 – Deliver Transparent Communication

A workplace which focuses on transparent communication can ensure better collaboration between team members and increased productivity. Achieving continuous improvement depends on providing open and honest communication to each employee. Communicating updates will help your team stay on track with any changes or news within the organization. Therefore, this ensures they can stay involved and committed to their projects and tasks. Moreover, when problems are highlighted transparently and shared openly, they can be resolved more quickly. Transparency can also ensure alignment by preventing misunderstandings and strengthening relationships. To encourage open communication, be sure to involve everyone in decision-making processes by allowing employees to express their thoughts.

Lean Tip #3560 – Measure And Reflect On Results

Measuring the progress of your initiatives and strategies is what will help you determine their success. Transforming the data into useful metrics will ensure you gain a better understanding of your efforts. To measure the effectiveness of your project and evaluate your results, you can use observations, spreadsheets or studies. Some important metrics which you need to examine include return on investment, product quality, customer satisfaction, as well as employee satisfaction. This way, you can reflect on your progress and implement any changes to continue improving your business operations.

Lean Tip #3561 – Respect People’s Ability to Think

Each individual human brings their unique perspectives, strengths and life experience to an organization. Human brains are amazing things. Respect for humanity means leaders must make an effort to understand our collective nature as a species and enable us to do our best each day.

Sometimes as leaders, we do the problem-solving and just give the answers to the team – because we think we know better or because we think it’s faster or because it’s just a habit we’ve formed over the years. How aligned is this with honoring and respecting people’s ability to think?

Lean Tip #3562 – Build a Culture of Teamwork and Collaboration 

Lean leadership recognizes that the path to excellence is rarely a solo journey.

Instead, it relies heavily on the principles of teamwork and collaboration, where individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together to tackle complex challenges.

This not only enhances problem-solving capabilities but also promotes a sense of unity and shared purpose, driving the organization toward its common goals.

Lean Tip #3563 – Implement Visual Management Systems Across the Organization

Effective communication is a cornerstone of lean leadership, and visual management plays a crucial role in this endeavor.

By implementing visual tools and techniques, such as performance boards, kanban systems, and value stream maps, lean leaders can create a shared understanding of processes, goals, and performance metrics across the entire organization.

Lean Tip #3564 - Develop Problem Solving Teams

Recognizing inefficiencies and waste in operations is a key component of continuous improvement. Furthermore, every area of operations should be scrutinized, and leaders should look for bottlenecks, duplications, and non-value-adding tasks. Additionally, leaders may streamline operations and use resources more effectively by eliminating waste.

Leaders adhere to this idea realize that maintaining the status quo is insufficient. Moreover, they establish a culture where everyone on the team is urged to look for more effective methods of doing things, dispelling the notion that “good” is the enemy of “great.”

Continuously improving leaders give their people the tools they need to address problems. Additionally, they foster a climate where workers feel free to express their problems, suggest changes, and try out novel ideas. Thus, this empowerment stimulates creativity and propels development.

Lean Tip #3565 - Change with the Needs of the Customer

Leadership that is based on values is dynamic. Effective businesspeople are aware of how the market and consumer needs are constantly changing. Thus, they continue to be flexible and adaptable, ready to change course and modify their plans of action to satisfy changing customer needs and provide new kinds of value.

Lean Tip #3566 - Recognize the Little Things.

Small improvements matter because the people who make the improvements matter. Leadership should find three good things to say every day and be genuine. Some days, successes are hard to find. Find three distinctly different people in different situations to make positive comments to and about them. Seek those responsible for the changes and make sure they know you appreciate them and what they have accomplished. Positive communication from leadership is a force multiplier in every organization.

Lean Tip #3567 - Go on Gemba Walks

Going to the Gemba, walking around the plant and asking employees, “What did you do this week to make continuous improvement happen?” That’s one of the most powerful questions a leader can ask. When business leaders keep asking such questions, employees soon learn what’s important and what they need to be working on.

It’s important, though, to differentiate between Gemba walks and plant walks, or “board” walks. Board walks involve reviewing the plant’s performance (SQDC) boards to ensure that each area is meeting targets, and providing support for corrections when needed. A Gemba walk typically involves an executive or other top-level manager observing select processes and functions, such as material flow, with the goal of helping plant leaders and other continuous-improvement personnel see potential and high-priority areas for improvement. 

Lean Tip #3568 - Positive Reinforcement is Critical.

Endlessly deliver the message that people will not be disciplined for their mistakes. It is crucial that team members feel safe when they share bad news. We don’t know what challenges our team members face in their personal lives, and often we cannot influence their personal situation, but we can provide a safe working environment as part of the lean lifestyle. People need to be able to trust their leaders and know that leadership will not be punitive. Leaders cannot discipline their way to prosperity or success.

Lean Tip #3569 - Identify When Leadership or Team Members Fall Short.

Look at each failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. It is going to sting sometimes. Address it quickly and take corrective action in a positive light. When addressing failures, avoid blaming people at all cost. Suggest an alternative path that may have yielded a more desirable outcome. Suggest evaluating the process and the instructions together and suggest that the process or direction may not have been as clearly worded as it could have been. Affirm your understanding that given the information available it is understandable how failure could occur. Most of all, ask for the person or people to help evaluate the failure and to identify ways to prevent this in the future. Thank everyone for their time and input.  Recognize the person or people who identified the failure and thank them for their attention to detail.

Lean Tip #3570 – Reinforce Performance and Progress with Metrics Tracking

Show employees how their efforts are advancing the company’s lean efforts is through the use of visual-management tools and constantly updated metrics. Tracking and reporting performance metrics help sustain the organization’s commitment to the lean at both the leadership level and on the plant floor.

Tracking progress on a month-to-month basis reinforces accountability and gives leadership an opportunity to check on results. Business improvement leaders need to follow up to make sure new behavior patterns are consistent with the new methodology. This includes a commitment by executives to remain engaged in the lean process by going to the Gemba and participating in kaizen events.

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Friday, July 19, 2024

Lean Quote: Leadership Character Plays Role in Performance

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Building Character Is A Process, Not An Event.  —  Jon Meacham

Leadership creates moments not defined by policy or procedures—situations where leaders have to choose between right and right.

Every day, you make character decisions, consciously or unconsciously, such as between speed or quality and long-term or short-term results. The impact of these decisions either reinforces your team's desired or undesired thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Leadership character is shown to align the leader-follower relationship, increasing both leader and follower productivity, effectiveness, and creativity. Leadership character plays a vital role in unifying a team.

Followers will give more when they respect the leader's character. A focus on helping others is essential to providing effective strategic leadership. Also, character helps leaders navigate change more effectively.

Leadership character is doing the right thing for the right reasons and with the right feelings. It is the inner game of leadership. While leadership behaviors are observable, a leader's inner game quietly controls the leader's behaviors.

Evidence suggests that there are four universal leadership character principles:

Integrity – Being honest, acting consistently with principles, standing up for what is right, and keeping promises.

Responsibility – Owning personal decisions, admitting mistakes, and showing concern for the common good.

Forgiveness – Letting go of self and others' mistakes, focused on what is right versus only what is wrong.

Compassion – Empathizing with others, empowering others, actively caring for others, and committing to others' growth.

A leader's character determines how knowledge, skills, and abilities are applied. Leadership decisions are often based on values, worldviews, and past experiences. Your past, even as a child, has shaped your current perception of what is right or wrong. Family members, friends, religious leaders, and the community where you live and work reinforce your character.

Great leadership is a combination of competence, character, and commitment.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

3 Principles and 4 Rules to Remember that Will Guide Your Lean Journey

Lean manufacturing is the continuous improvement methodology of choice for companies around the world. It’s a people-oriented practice that focuses on reducing production lead times within your operations. These practices create a framework that emphasizes eliminating activities that do not add value for the customer, and focuses on reducing cycle, flow, and throughput times.

These Lean principles can be applied to any team, in any organization, in any industry. Practicing Lean effectively hinges on knowing how to apply Lean principles effectively in your business environment. The main thing to remember: Lean management principles focus teams on driving continuous improvement. When Lean is implemented effectively, teams and the processes they use to deliver value to customers grow stronger over time.

For me there are 3 key principles that guide the Lean Philosophy:

Lean Principle #1 – Make to Use (the ideal Target Condition, “True North”)

A Lean process emphasizes getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity.  These Lean ideals are a vision for your organization. They provide ‘True North’ direction toward which every member of your organization is commonly striving, and yet may never fully reach.

  • 1x1

        Process parts one at a time ( i.e. not batch processing )

  • On Demand

         Make the exact amount the customer ordered, when it’s ordered.

  • Defect Free

        Product conforms to customer’s specifications and expectations.

  • No Cost

         Look for simple low cost solutions.

  • Immediate

        The “system” should tell you immediately if there is problem.

  • Safe

        Physically AND emotionally

Lean Principle #2 – Eliminate Waste

Lean principles aim to identify the waste found in nearly every business and minimize or completely eliminate it, if possible. Using the acronym “DOWNTIME” reveals the 8 types of waste Lean Manufacturers target:

  • Defects can lead to rework/salvage and scrap. It is arguably the most costly type of waste, especially if a defective product makes it to the customer.
  • Overproduction is making more products than that which is ordered, potentially causing an inventory shortage and wasting labor hours that could be used elsewhere. Additionally, the manufacturer runs the risk of having obsolete inventory if the customer that generally uses the product decides not to order more.
  • Waiting comes in several forms. The most obvious, perhaps, is a line shutdown while waiting for parts or equipment repair. Finally, there is in-process waiting that occurs when an employee has to wait for a machine to process before he or she can take the next step in the process.
  • Not using people’s talents is a waste of their abilities, and it could hold a manufacturer back when it comes to innovation.
  • Transportation happens throughout the manufacturing process, from the supply chain to material delivery and specific production areas.
  • Inventory has five major categories: finished goods, sub-assembly, raw component, office supplies and Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO). Obsolete or overlooked inventory can build up in all of these areas, taking up valuable space.
  • Motion includes bending, reaching, lifting and walking. Something as simple as sharing a tool between workstations can lead to a lot of wasted motion in retrieving it.
  • Excess processing happens whenever time is spent on product features that do not impact part functionality. For example, painting a part that won’t be seen is non-essential and excessive, provided it still functions properly without paint.

Lean Principle #3 – People are the Cornerstone

Empowering employees is the ongoing process of providing the tools, training, resources, encouragement and motivation your workers need to perform at the optimum level. When you show an employee you trust them and give them timely information and the authority to find solutions, they will be able to solve problems and provide solutions more rapidly than someone without that empowerment.

  • Engage all human resources toward the effort of reaching True North
  • Provide information:  lack of knowledge is a limiter to waste elimination.
  • Knowledge = Speed (Knowledge is the limiter to waste elimination)

Lean management derives from the Toyota Production System (TPS) where a set of rules provide a structured approach to improvement. They create structure in our systems. Without rules there would be in chaos. Lean rules provide the guidance needed to implement improvement, explaining the “why” behind lean tools and the Six Sigma methodology. Lean rules also help develop new solutions to problems. For everyone in an organization, these rules help structure activities, connect customers and suppliers, specify and simplify flow paths, and bring improvement through experimentation at the right level.

The Principles of the Toyota Production System can be summarized into four basic rules.

Rule 1: All work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.
Specify in advance the exact Content, Sequence, Timing, and Outcome of work.

  • Content (what is being done?)
  • Sequence (in what order?)
  • Timing (how long should it take?)
  • Outcome (what clearly defined measurable results are expected?)

 Establish predictable outcomes for each process so shortfalls and over production are immediately apparent.

Rule 2: Every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send requests and receive responses.
Interaction between Humans, Materials, and Information should be Clear, Direct, and Binary. No ambiguity.

Create a workplace that is:

What is supposed to happen, does happen, on time, every time.

Rule 3: The pathway for every product and service must be simple and direct.
Organize for uninterrupted flow with simple, direct paths for work flow. The pathway should not be subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis. Build in self-diagnostics so when a path is not being followed, it should be obvious and immediately correctable without too much time passing or outside intervention required.

Rule 4: Continuously Improve
Develop leaders who can apply the scientific method to improve anything. Allow improvement to come from the source by those doing the work - as close to the problem as possible. Respond directly to any problem that arises with clear helping/coaching chains. Whenever possible, start as an experiment supported by a coach.

When it comes to using Lean principles in your organization, let these Lean management principles guide you. Embrace the Lean mindset. Consider your options carefully – even if it means making organizational changes to fully support your initiatives. This will lay the foundation for a successful Lean experience.

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Monday, July 15, 2024

5 Pillars of Effective Supply Chain Management

Photo by Norma Mortenson on pexels

Have you ever wondered how that phone in your pocket, the shirt you are wearing, or even the meal on your plate got there? The answer lies in a web of networks called supply chains. Supply chain management is the management of all the logistics of a business and its providers, from acquiring raw materials to delivering the final product to the consumer. But what is the key to having this process operate daily? In this article, we unravel the five critical pillars of supply chain management that ensure a seamless delivery of your goods. 

Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility is the foundation of proper supply chain management. It refers to a holistic and up-to-date view of all factors, ranging from purchase, manufacturing, transportation, and supply. This complete view, if facilitated by advanced technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID), barcoding, and delivery management software like Milenow, allows you to:

  • easily feature the shipping of products

  • monitor inventory levels

  • pinpoint possible problems before they inflate

Increased visibility leads to more informed decision-making and streamlines resource allocation to enhance operational efficiency. In this context, a clear and visible supply chain is crucial for a competitive advantage that helps develop customer trust.

Supplier Relationship Management

Suppliers are essential to the supply chain since they facilitate procurement of raw materials necessary to manufacture goods and services. They ensure a constant supply of material to the production line so that the manufacturing process does not stop. 

A good supplier relationship management model begins with the rigorous screening of potential partners. However, it is also important to identify quality or standard, reliability, and deliverability, as well as aspects of sustainability and the costs incurred. Working with suppliers who provide premium-grade products results in a clear value – a better and cheaper supply chain operation.

However, the benefits of supplier relationship management don’t end here. Its core advantage lies in promoting collaboration. This holistic cooperation model goes beyond the goal of gaining the best price. Thus, sourcing professionals and supplier partners can open new frontiers for product innovation, joint creation, and a more flexible approach to responding to dynamic market conditions. In the end, solid and long-term supply chain relationships support supply chain development for organizations and their suppliers, granting a win-win situation within the supply chain network.

Inventory Optimization

Keeping the inventory track from becoming overstocked or understocked is another crucial factor in supply chain management. When stored in large quantities and for a long time, inventory takes up capital and incurs high costs. On the other hand, having too little inventory creates the problem of stock-out and customer dissatisfaction. 

Businesses may use approaches like forecasting to address this problem. Along with this, they can adjust the safety stock correctly, that is, have adequate stock to ensure that customer demands are met without having to order ample stocks. 

While cost reduction benefits the company's bottom line, it also ensures that customers are offered quality services, thus improving the firm's market position. Moreover, the company can follow concepts like J.I.T. inventory to minimize wastage and enhance its business operations. 

Risk Management

Globalization is a reality! Practically all modern supply chains must navigate its ever-complicating landscape. Many factors, such as natural disasters, geopolitical changes, cyber risks, and supplier unavailability, might hinder an organization's smooth operation. Risk assessment and contingency measures are significant strategic assets that any business needs to have to be ready for such difficulties. 

This is the only way to be on the right side of the equation to prevent setbacks. Businesses need to:

  • Consider all possibilities of risk at any level along the entire chain.

  • Evaluate the level of each risk on a scale of low to high.

  • Employ the services of several suppliers and employ cloud security.

  • Develop contingency plans that outline specific actions to identify risks.

Risk mitigation measures also help contain risks and minimize likelihood and impact. With contingency plans, companies can reduce the effects of interruptions to a minimum and continue business operations. In turn, they protect their operations and reputations.

Continuous Improvement

Today, the pace of business is breakneck. Therefore, for supply chains to compete effectively and remain relevant, they have to be dynamic. Constant improvement and innovation are the premise of the overall goal.

This could be described as supply chain flexing. Organizations always need to evaluate and review different activities and establish areas for improvement. This strategy enables the firm to be flexible and adapt to situations in the market as they exist since markets are constantly changing.

Supply chain management is a complex process, but by adopting these pillars and implementing practices, it will be possible for companies to tackle the challenges involved and gain a lasting edge in the current dynamic business environment.

Author Bio:

Rabab Toor is a content manager at Squarepeg and a freelance writer. With a keen interest in technology, the latest trends in digital marketing, logistics, and crypto, she enjoys sharing her insights and expertise on Medium.

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Friday, July 12, 2024

Lean Quote: Circles of Influence vs Circles of Power

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Never mistake the power of influence.  —  Jim Rohn

Influence is how you get things done as a leader. In order to influence others, you must build trusting relationships and show genuine concern on an individual level.

Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.

The quickest way to figure out which of the two you’re doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.

Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.

Be respectful in all of your interactions. Earnestly motivate your employees to accomplish noteworthy tasks and provide recognition rather than seek it. Become a good listener, then follow through and follow up. Share your wisdom and be transparent in your words and actions. When you become someone who employees look up to, you will have the influence you need to lead.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Lean Moonshine – A Powerful Improvement Method


No this is not what you’re thinking if you’ve seen the show Moonshiners or tried some moonshine before. During prohibition in the United States, individuals illegally produced liquor mostly at night under the light of the moon. Raw materials used to make the liquor (called Moonshine) were varied, some poisonous, and the equipment was most likely constructed of re-used bits and pieces of copper and other metals. No two stills were identical, and the moonshiners used a bit of creativity to create a working system.

At Wiremold (where I worked) we used the Shingjiutsu Consulting Company to transform the business and teach us kaizen. Mr. Chihiro Nakao, founder Shingijutsu, transformed the Moonshine concept into a tool and method to innovate and create new ideas and solutions with a focus on production processes. This kaizen (continuous improvement) tool is a practical method to use your critical thinking skills to drive to a solution. Traditional methods, creating a project task force, analyzing/evaluating the problem are tedious and ineffective. Instead, pursue a “no excuse” attitude and create a solution to the problem. Moonshine enables the team to create prototypes through “trystorming” and as referred to by some as “cardboard engineering” using examples from nature as input.

Employees use simple and inexpensive materials to find solutions to problems they encounter in their day-to-day work. Using affordable materials means fewer budget constraints and lets employees give free rein to their creativity.

Focus of the Moonshine

  • Emphasis on creativity, using only materials that are directly available. ‘Doing a lot with a little.’
  • Encourage experimentation, using simulations, prototyping, and trials to explore and inspire. ‘Try-storming.’
  • Collaboration and observation of how peers work.
  • Get out of the typical workspace. A change of scenery can help stimulate new ideas.
  • Little to no structure helps the flow of creativity flowing smoothly.
  • Leader enabled, but not directed.

What’s more, that fear of failure doesn’t hinder creativity. Quite the opposite—failure is a normal part of the creative process. You just roll up their sleeves and find a way to make it better. They use ingenuity to create simple physical prototypes quickly.

At Wiremold we had a Moonshine shop that focused on rapid prototyping and design solutions that aided in many trial-and-error testing iterations. This team was used in all kaizen activities and was big asset in our trystorming culture.

I think all companies can benefit from space and where they tinker and make mistakes. It should contain all sorts of tools, old equipment and machinery at a minimum. And management needs to trust them enough that they can be left to figure things out in there. Otherwise where does creativity come from.

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Monday, July 8, 2024

Meet-up: 5 Questions from Within the Lean Community With Ron Pereira

In May 2024 A Lean Journey Blog turned 15 and as I look back on how I got started and who influenced my journey I wanted to revisit a previous series I started in 2012 called the Meet-up. One of the things I am so fond of in the Lean community is the general wiliness to share with each other. I have learned so much from my very experienced colleagues since I have been an active contributor. Every month I roundup the best Lean related posts and articles I found particularly valuable from these fellow bloggers and contributors. Each one has their own story and opinions to share.

The goal of Meet-up is provide you an opportunity to meet some influential voices in the Lean community. I will ask these authors a series of questions to learn about them, their lessons, and get their perspective on trends in industry.

In today's edition, we are going to meet-up with Ron Pereira, Co-founder and Managing Director of Gemba Academy. I met Ron online early on in my blogging journey from his online blog and early days at Gemba Academy. The value of continuous learning has been a lifelong pursuit of mine and something we've shared. Listen to Ron's words of wisdom regarding Lean and the scientific method.