Lean Highlight: The Importance of a Strong Foundation

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I’ve only been with IPI long enough to witness 3 “Busy Seasons” as our summers are commonly referred to as by shop staff and incarcerated employees. It’s the time when we are trying to complete and deliver school orders before classes start. It’s the time when the old state fiscal year is ending and excess dollars are spent and when the new state fiscal year is starting and there are new projects to complete. There are lots of reasons and variables that create the “Busy Season”. And let’s face it, we want more orders so it is a good problem to have! And so my observation has been that summers are a time to just hunker down and keep pushing because we all know what to expect! Lots of hours, lots of unforeseen problems, quality issues, lots of problem solving on the fly, and lots of overtime and weekends required to get everything done. That is what appears to be accepted as “Normal”. And everyone knows Normal is good, right!?

If your body temperature is “normal” everything is OK. If your day is “normal” you seem to know what to expect as part of the job. As I visit the shops I like to ask people how their day is going. More often than not I hear responses like, Good! Or Normal!.....another happy day! But what is a good day? How do we define the difference between a good day and a bad one?

Or days with opportunities to make improvements? Remember in many of the PIMS modules and presentations we say, things we don’t measure, we cannot improve. So how do we measure a good day? Is it nobody was injured? Is it all of our orders got out on time? Does a good day mean no damaged goods or bad service reported from our customers?

What does it mean to have a good day?!

Often in the production areas that are struggling with issues of safety, quality, delivery, cost or people engagement, we find those areas often also struggle with the foundational tools of PIMS like 5S and standard work! Basics like developing a culture of discipline around 5S can prevent many wastes that add no value to our goods or services. Improvements to our standard work documents can help make sure our processes are predictable. Reducing or eliminating waste such as having delivery trucks delivering only partially full loads. Eliminating extra motion moving product in various stages of completion. Reducing the motion of moving excessive inventory of raw materials or finished goods.

Eliminating the time wasted waiting for things. Stopping over production that is using time to make more than what the customer needs or not being able to get the right pieces done at the right time to put them together. Identify those things and stopping processes that are adding more value than what our customers expect or are willing to pay for such as excess sanding, grinding, painting or packaging. Eliminating the defects that can happen with all the extra motion and inventory sitting around in the way or improper handing throughout the process. And the worse waste is all of the ideas that don’t get tried or implemented to make things a little better every day which will 100% guarantee that we will have another “Busy Season” next summer! So now it is very clear you are being empowered with a choice!

You can change nothing and expect to have another “Busy Season” next June, July, and August. OR you can work with your team and brainstorm what are the top 3 to 5 things you would like to see different next year so your job and the jobs of your team are safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient so you do not have to work long hours and every weekend.

So my challenge for each of you is this. When you do get a moment to take a breath as your Busy Season 2017 comes to a close, please take the time to capture things that you would do different next year! Write them down! If they are captured we can sit down with your team and fill out a PPS (process problem solving) form to identify the root cause or your issues and develop a plan to start working on solutions now! I’m happy to help with that anyway I can. I’m just a phone call away!

It really goes back to the basics:
• Build up that foundation!
• If you have had a 5S event, maintain your progress with discipline to having a place for everything and keeping everything in its place!
• Complete your 5S audits and take the countermeasures seriously.
• Ask your leadership for help when you need it!

Good 5S practices help make the expectations of your area visual. When everyone knows the expectation clearly, they will strive to meet it! Trust the system and tools that are there and they will work for you in making your job safer and more efficient!

Next year, we want even more orders than we had this year but to do that we must make adjustments to our processes that will meet our customer’s expectations and help us become better suppliers. I believe Albert Einstein is credited with the quote, “Doing the same thing and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity!” I think you would all agree, we need to make changes to make our summers more enjoyable when we are at work!

Always happy to help!

Steve Forbes

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