Tag Archives: People

Lean Tools Value Stream Maps – darronrobertsconsulting

Value Streams are all the actions, (value added and non-value added), currently required to bring a product or a service through the operation flows from the input, raw material, into the arms of the customer, finished goods or services.

Transfer these actions to a sheet of paper and you have a value stream map, a graphical representation of the operation. This is used to visualise the operation and get everyone in the company talking the same operations language.

In these days of technology, don’t be tempted to waste your time learning a software package to get a nice, neat and perfect electronic version.  Walk the value stream from the customer contact to the supplier contact.  When you understand the number of process steps you can start drawing the map on an A3 size sheet of paper with a pencil and ruler.  This is a living document and should be updated as necessary and displayed in a relevant place.

Walk through process of the value stream and collect as much data as you can from the process.  Do not rely on hearsay, or past reports, capture the process as it is today.  Data that you want to capture are cycle times, change over times, up times, defect rates, number of operators and anything pertinent to the process.  Current Value Stream MapYou also need to capture what happens between processes, how much work in process is there, how much waiting time and anything that is needed to get an understanding of what happens in the value stream.  Connect the process steps with connectors, push arrows, pull connectors or supermarkets.

The last part of the material flow is to draw in the delivery to the customer and the delivery of raw material to the company.  Use a pictogram of the delivery method, a truck, train or plane etc. How often you get deliveries and how often you deliver.

Now that the material flows have been mapped you can start on the information flows.  The material flows are anticlockwise from the top right of the map; the information flows are.  Draw in the communication from the customer to the company, the company to the supplier and the company to the process for planning.  Include how often the customers schedule is communicated; how often you communicate with your suppliers and how often you communicate with the processes, i.e. daily schedule.

The last step in drawing the map is to complete a timeline at the bottom.  Add up the time for all of the process steps and waiting time between the processes to find the total time taken to travel through value stream, this is the flow time.  Then add up all of the added value times, that is, process steps where you are changing the form, function or fit of the operation or service.

Congratulations, you have drawn a current value stream map, for one of your value streams.  Like all maps it is used to guide you on a journey.  Compare the total time or flow time with the value added time or touch time.  If the times are different and mostly they are vastly different, this is the starting point for the improvement journey.  Similarly compare the total number of process steps, with value adding steps.  Only the value adding steps or times are paid for by the customer, the company pays for the rest, reducing profits!

Develop an improvement plan to reduce waste through the value stream.  Use the lean tools 5S, 7 wastes, visual management / visual control and standardised work. Form kaizen teams to address the identified problems and create flow in the value stream.

This is a brief of how to create and use current value stream maps.  If you need more information, leave a comment or send me a message and we can discuss you needs.


Lean Manufacturing Tools – Visual Control – darronrobertsconsulting

All the Lean Manufacturing tools are powerful drivers of waste reduction and improved efficiency.  The third building block of Lean manufacturing is the Visual Management / Visual Control tool.  These are two similar tools.  Visual Management deals with historic data, team photographs, productivity, efficiency, quality that was produced last week, last month or last year.  It is a reference for improvement.

Visual control is what I want to concentrate on in this article.  Visual control is the ability to enable everyone in the workplace to see in clear, simple and visual form:

  •  Indicators of the current situation
  •  Identification of normal conditions
  •  Identification of abnormal conditions
  •  Identification of the correct countermeasure to resolve abnormal condition

There is no digging into computers to retrieve reports, no waiting until the following day for managers to discover that there was a problem in operations.  The process indicates its current state via displays, read outs, clocks, andon boards and good old fashioned operator completed plan vs. actual reports.

This tool allows problems to be shown in real time that then permits the correct people to be informed to go to the operation and solve the problem.

The tool is simple to understand and can be simple to employ.  However, it is little understood and little used.  Operators are, initially afraid to use it because they are being “scrutinised” and they think that there is a problem with their performance.  Supervisors, who are not people managers, are reluctant to manage the process because it makes operators do more work, that as described, they do not want to do.  If there is a culture of “fads” then it will go away anyway!

The power of this tool when it stops becoming a tool and becomes the normal way to work makes the company agile.  Operators become aware that it is not a stick to be beaten with, but a tool to ask for help with their process, that also includes their performance.  Supervisors know that it is helping them achieve their targets if the operators are performing at the required rate.  Managers are there to solve the problems that the supervisors cannot on their own.  If the operation is running Just in Time (J.I.T.) anyway, there is no luxury of Work In Progress (W.I.P.) to hide the problem, they have to be solved quickly, even if that is in the middle of the night shift.

So this tool helps in attaining schedules, keeping up efficiencies (O.E.E.), problem solving and flow through the company.  So why is it used so little?  Is it the fact that we love technology and prefer reading reports on computers at our leisure or like I have described in an earlier article that managers and supervisors are in positions that they are not qualified to do or is it the fact that managers have not heard of the tool or do not understand the power of Visual Control?

Think about the benefits of using Visual Management / Visual Control in your company.

Difficulties of Managers Becoming Coaches– darronrobertsconsulting.com

There have been many comments on my blog articles about the need for operators to become change agents during the Lean Manufacturing Transformation.  All of which I fully support and subscribe to.

People are the company’s most valuable assets, not the shiny new machine or swanky new IT system.  Without the involvement of the people in the area of the change from very early on, the likelihood is that the intended change initiative will fail.  The reasons for this are very obvious, none of us really likes being told what to do, how to do it or when to do it.  After the initial high profile period, many initiatives, revert back to where they were, the people are in their comfort zone and management resign this initiative to another failure, label the people and unchangeable and try to implement another initiative in exactly the same way!

If on the other hand, after you have recognised the need for change and planned a change project, set the project definition and identified the project goals, when it is time to start the change process, communicate the project properly to everyone.  I insist on both written and oral communications, so that people can ask questions, allay their fears and be reassured about their security.  Which are the real underlying fears of any new initiative.  I give a project kick off meeting for senior managers, a separate one for middle managers and then a specific project kick off meeting for each kaizen team.  I get operators into the project as early as possible, facilitate the action meetings for a few times to make sure that all voices have equal say and that all team members have parity, whether they are senior managers or operators in the company.  This is a big factor in the success of all of my projects.

That said, the lower down the organogram the employee the more encouragement they need to make their ideas heard, after all, they are the ones who actually make the product or enter the data into a system!  They are the ones that we want to own the process and these are the ones who we want to actually implement the change.

Herein lies the problem the managers!  The managers want to be everything in the change process.  They want, in fact they might even need, to show their superiors, the consultants and their subordinates their knowledge and management skill.  By doing this they are curtailing the creative effort of others.  It is the responsibility of the management consultant to change the role of the manager in the project from a manager to one of a coaching and supporting leader.  Their superiors already know their capabilities, that is why they have employed them, what they want now is for them to step up to the mark, clichés again and get the best out of the people who work for them.

I have faced this problem in nearly every project I have been involved in.  It is difficult to get a manager to change their role, months in fact, but when they see that they get results that they have not achieved in the past and they are getting accolades for leading the project and not doing the project, then perceptions do change.

The underlying fact is that some people are in positions where they don’t have the training or experience to fully undertake the role they are filling and where the company doesn’t realise there is a problem because they are profitable.  This profitability hides many problems and is accepted until there is a crisis that prompts action.  This observation is backed up by the research that I did for the dissertation of my MBA.  I was researching why British Engineering companies fail to employ modern manufacturing methods, but this can be mapped over to other change projects.