Tag Archives: Thinking

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.

Lean Tools – What is 5S really about? – darronrobertsconsulting

Lean manufacturing is a method of transforming raw materials, whether they are products or services, by adding value, to generate a finished product or service that your client wants to purchase.  It is different to ordinary or traditional manufacturing, because Lean manufacturing aims to give the client value for their money in terms of the specification of the product or service matching their exact requirements, delivered when requested with a consistently high quality level, at the lowest internal cost to you.  Lean manufacturing is not a project!  It is a complete manufacturing process, that when started is refined over time and becomes THE way of thinking and THE way of working.  It is not complicated and aims to simplify the transformation process.

Let me give you an everyday example.  You are out, it is a hot day and you are thirsty, you want to go to the nearest shop and buy a small cold, bottle of water.  When you get to the drinks shop and give the shopkeeper your order, there is a problem, he does sell water, but only 20 litres at a time, it is not cold and you can get it in two days time. Not what you wanted.  A fair analogy of what we do to our customers in our businesses?

So Lean manufacturing aims to reduce problems of quality and delivery and to remove or reduce wastes and costs in the process.  To do this it uses a number of tools, each one aimed at improving one or more of the three problems.  There are basic and advanced tools, of the four basic tools 5S, 7 wastes, Visual Management / Visual Control and Standardised Working, probably the 5S tool is the most misunderstood.

A number of you will have been on Lean or Lean Six Sigma courses, read books on the subject and come across the 5S tool.  The origins of the tool are unknown, but it was taken and developed into the tool we know today in the Toyota Japanese plants.  The 5 essees were originally Japanese words but have now been translated in to English as:


Set in order




You have understood the tool and armed with red tags, sweeping brushes, cleaning cloths, two inch yellow floor tape and a digital camera; you head out to the shop floor and begin your “project”.  You have a briefing session with operators and supervisors of section, explain what you are going to do and off you go.  You put red tags on objects that you think, should not be there, give the sweeping brushes and the cloths to the shop floor workers.  When they have swept the dust away and polished the equipment and removed the tagged items, you begin marking area with yellow tape.  Areas to stand, areas to hold equipment, e.g. hand trolleys, areas for raw materials and areas for processed materials.  You get Engineering involved and produce shadow boards for tools and hang them on the walls behind the machinery.   Pleased with your efforts you take photographs of the area and display them nicely on the walls and instruct the operators that this is what the area needs to be kept like and that you will be round every week to audit the area and give them a score.  You are now doing 5S, covering all the essees, couldn’t be easier!  Then every week you go and audit, find something that is out of place, issue an instruction to correct the non-conformance, and write a management report showing how good the 5S audit scores are.

As time goes on you get into a routine, nothing is improving and you are wondering why you are getting into arguments every week with the operators, who do not see the point in doing their cleaning exercises, which just adds to their workload with no incentive or reward.  Your Lean transformation might be stalling before it has even started or you might have given up on your first building block without fully implementing it because you want to move on to some cost saving activities.

By now you are asking, what this has got to do with improved quality, improved delivery performance and reduced costs.  The answer is absolutely NOTHING!

Let us go back to the 5S, the Japanese version with a correct translation.

Seri (Say ree) – Sort and Discard
Eliminate All unneeded items.

Seiton (Say ton) – Arrange and Order
Arrange all items that are left.

Seiso (Say zo) – Shine and Inspect
Clean all areas.

Seiketsu (Say ket soo) – Standardise and Improve
Maintain the first 3S

Shitsuke (Shee tsoo kay) – Believe and Discipline
Believe that the 5S are important and maintain DISCIPLINE.

5S is a management tool to impose operational discipline into a business, the result usually is a clean and orderly factory.  As I have written previously projects are about people, they are the change agents, involve as many of the shop floor as possible.  Managers usually have a problem with this.  They are, after all, the manager and they should be seen to be doing! Not leave it to someone who is paid to operate a machine.

So do 5S properly!

Sorting is about empowerment, you want the operators, or staff in an office to take responsibility for their work environment.  Explain to them what sorting is, removing anything that should not be there and needs to be removed, if it gets in the way, it is a waste, excess movement etc.  Give them the red tags and let them do the tagging, if there is more than one shift, repeat the process.  If one shift tags and the other shift removes the tag, you have to manage the process and determine if the object is required or not.  After a set period of time, say three days, remove all of the tagged items from the area.  This is where the manager comes in.  Is the item required or is it redundant?  If it is redundant sell it, the money will pay for required items for the next stage or maybe the whole project.

Set in order is about teamwork.  The objects that are left need to be arranged so that there is easy access to them.  For this you will need to work with the operators to design the work area, develop shadow boards,  build / buy draws or cupboards  to keeps the work space useable.  Buy more tools if necessary and put them where they are needed.  Make sure there is easy access for feeding and emptying the process, make their job easier for the operators, they will see the benefit and become more enthusiastic and creative.  We are now starting to reduce wastes, in terms of time, which benefits delivery performance and of money, which obviously benefits costs.

Shine and inspect, I will emphasise inspect, because it is very often missed.  This is about ownership. Operators taking ownership of their work area.  You want a clean process, because if it is clean moving parts will not wear out as quickly, if they don’t wear out as quickly they do not increase variation as quickly, thus you have a more stable process, and consistent quality.  The inspection comes from two aspects.  The operators spend their working day on their process, they can feel vibrations, or hear noises that are not normally there and can inform management that there is a problem before it becomes a breakdown, similar to you driving your car, you know if there is a wobble on the wheel you get it looked at before you blow the tyre!  The object is to bring the process back up to, or keep it in design specification.  The second part is if there are abnormalities they should be easier to spot, oil on the floor, damage to a cover etc.  It is then up to management to action these reports.  This is also an input to a Preventative Maintenance program.

So far so good, this is where many companies actually stop at 3S, because they do not really understand the 4 or 5th essees.

Standardise and improve.  This is purely and simply management.  Management or to be correct the Area Supervisor should develop a Standard Operating Procedure for the first 3S.  Specifying what has to be done, when it has to be done and how it has to be done.  With all procedures the operators have to be trained on the procedure and then managed to perform it.  There has to be concessions on this.  Time off production for 5S, 10 minutes at the end of the shift, checklists to show what has to be done at a particular time and follow up from the supervisor to ensure it happens.  The SOP, like all SOP’s should be reviewed at least at a quarterly basis, improvements through experience and new ideas should be included and the operators retrained in the procedure.

Sustain, believe and discipline.  The audits should be undertaken by the GM, MD, VP or whoever is the senior person in the company.  This sets the idea that the company are taking this very seriously.  The auditor has to congratulate teams that are performing well and admonish teams that are under performing, to the point of disciplinary action if the negative trend continues.

5S is a management tool as I stated earlier, for introducing operational discipline.  If you have ever embarked on a project in the past, and it has failed for some reason and you have tried something else to the point that the workforce think these are just management fads and will go away in a week or so, 5S implemented properly will totally break those ideas.  If you have implemented 5S properly, when you come to introducing new SOP’s through the Standardised Working Process, the new procedures will be implemented quicker and the benefits will gleaned earlier than if you had not. (The operators are now used to following instructions.) So 5S is a tool for making operators do what is required from them when it is required.  As a consequence you will have a clean factory and offices.  Did you know that you can use the 5S technique on your products, processes and people as well as the factory?

This blog was written to give implementers an insight into what 5S is really about and what benefits related to Quality, Delivery and Cost it will give you when implemented properly.  It is the first building block of a Lean manufacturing transformation.