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Archive for the ‘Lean’ Category

Where is the Gemba?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Gemba Symbol

Where we reduce the impact of the 8th Waste

Written by Cordell Hensley, KCTS Consultant

Gemba – is a Japanese term which means “the real place” – within Lean it is associated with the shop floor, in Japan it means so much more – a detective considers the crime scene the Gemba!

Interestingly, as an interim engineering manager sometimes the shop floor is a crime scene to me. When we have a break down and it is completely preventable (which all arguably are) then the place where the breakdown occurs is the Gemba in both senses of the word.

Going to Gemba is similar to (or even the same as) MBWA – “Management by Walking Around” a management concept introduced by Tom Peters in the early 80s. Both the Americans (Tom Peters – In Search of Excellence) and the Japanese (Toyota Production System) understand the value of being out on the Gemba talking to and engaging with people, finding out where the problems are and listening to what people have to say about what should be done. Why is it that we find it so difficult to “Go Look See” (Genchi Genbutsu)? Is it because we are not sure where the Gemba is? Or is it because we don’t want to engage with the people who can see the problems and will openly tell us; is that because we will then have to do something about it?

Going to Gemba is not just about walking around, it is about looking for opportunities, for identifying waste but probably the most important reason to “Go to Gemba” is to engage with our people to ensure that the 8th waste (yes there are eight) does not become the main cause of all the others! We need to have our people engaged and bought in to what we are doing. All the systems and tools and techniques in the world will not make a company lean or world class if the people who do the work are not bought in! We get that buy in from going to Gemba, talking to people and taking them with us on the journey.

The eighth waste is the under (or un)utilised creativity of our people’s minds – if we don’t want them to think and be creative, how can we ever expect to be successful? Don’t propagate the 8th waste by ignoring your most valuable assets (even if we count them as expenses). Get out to the Gemba, you might just find yourself surprised by how much your people have to contribute!

Skills Planning- before it is too late!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Written By: Malcolm Newman – KCTS Consultant

Last week was national apprentice week in the UK. There were some exciting events and announcements about developing skills for young people in industry. There were new courses from universities and employers like British Airways, BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover Group and Nisan announcing new schemes and commitment to training.
At the same time we are hearing that there are major skills gaps in some industries. In engineering there is a wave of people who joined the industry 40 years ago are moving towards retirement.
This all reminds me of the need to keep a regular review of our skills requirements against those available in the operation.
As technology develops and business demands change skills planning is a fundamental business practice, one that is often forgotten or overlooked in the pressure to balance short term targets and costs. Whether you are running a small section or a global business; you must ensure you have the correct range of skills to deliver your business plan.
This is for the higher level planning but then we look at the specific skills needed to ensure we deliver products and services safely, on quality, on time and on cost.
A skills’ planning matrix and some advanced thought can make all the difference to business performance. Making sure you have more than just someone who can do the job; you need to have 3 people who can currently do the job and one of them who can train others to do the task. This is based on the assumption that your regular person is on holiday, the number 2 calls in sick but you still have the number 3 available who can do the task. You may have to do some juggling but the job can be done effectively.
Another benefit of having different people do the job is they can all bring different knowledge to the process and help drive the improvement process. All of this assumes you have standardised work instructions in place for training and as a platform for continuous improvement.
I remember visiting a production area and the supervisor pointing out with pride an assembler who was so good that when she was off work they needed 2 people to do her job! That was not relevant to my visit but later reflecting on this I wondered what made her so much more effective? Was she just super human or we did not understand her skill. She had developed a method that the business had not understood, captured and then trained others to the same standard. If they did that the job could continue to be run at the same cost, even when our super person is on holiday.
By keeping your team flexible and up to date on skills, it helps you understand and develop the overall skills in the organisation. Individuals can grow and develop skills as part their normal work. As new technologies are introduced the team learns and develops with it. You are not vulnerable to specific people as you know you have the skills available to operate safely and produce good products effectively. That’s one less thing to worry about then!

Top 5 things to do when launching a Planned Maintenance programme

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Written By: Stephen Ellis – KCTS Consultant

For those maintenance or production personnel contemplating introducing a planned maintenance programme, here, in no particular order, are the top 5 things to do:

1. Do you have the Leadership ‘will’ and commitment towards planned maintenance? To launch a planned maintenance system it will require resources – time, people, materials, systems. It will also require patience and persistence. Planned maintenance does NOT yield immediate results. It is important that the leadership understand:-

a. Why they have to have a planned maintenance system?

b. How to use a planned maintenance system to ensure it delivers effective results?

c. How to develop and create a planned maintenance programme?

2. Do you have a list of assets? To perform planned maintenance you need to understand your asset population and the detailed equipment information about each asset.

3. Where should you focus your planned maintenance resources and effort? With limited resources you will need to focus your resources based on priorities and need. Do you have any data or experience of what goes wrong, or where the risks are?

4. Do you understand the elements of a planned maintenance system – focus equipment and safe access to equipment, capable and available labour resources, available tools and materials, work standards and reporting, work scheduling, work and system review.

5. Do you have the necessary skills:-

a. To manage the planned maintenance system. Do you have to create the system? Is the system created? For both of these questions different skills are required.

b. To apply the planned maintenance tasks. Do you have the relevant skills to perform typical planned maintenance tasks – condition inspection, replacement, setting, calibrating, adjusting etc,?

If you would like to know more about how you can improve your planned maintenance programme effectiveness, please contact us.

Are you using Self Assessment Audits to drive your success?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Written By: Paul Steven – KCTS Consultant

To control the quality of your products it is necessary to have an excellent understanding of the processes within your business. How are you judging your process performance?

Judging process performance of your systems can be measured externally and give you benefits, and it can be measured internally and give you different benefits. External audits can be objective, observation based and external audits measure a process compared to proven practices and experience. Internal audits can allow a much deeper understanding of the health of a process by assessors who use the process as part of their daily life.

Self Assessment is the process of allowing you to use a standardised audit to measure your process against an aspiration. Externally supplied Self Assessments allow you to measure your own progress against industry-standard aspirations or philosophical aspirations. Internal Self Assessments, especially when written yourself, allow you to measure the success of a process against internal aspirations.

Recently I have had the privilege to work with a customer on converting an external Self Assessment, supplied by KCTS, into an internal Self Assessment aligned to the company’s aspirations for the next 2 years. This allowed the language of the audit to be altered and the direction given by the company to be woven into the questions. This particular Self Assessment dealt with 5S, a subject close to my heart, and related to whether the process was truly embracing the Plan-Do-Check-Act philosophy needed to sustain and improve 5S within the workplace. My customer was at first keen to include specific documentation audits as a way to assess the success of the 5S processes, but as we discussed 5S processes and Plan-Do-Check-Act the need to evolve the processes became evident. This internal Self Assessment must look for the evidence of delivery of the process more than restricting it to a documentation checklist. Self Assessment allows reflection on whether the processes or the personalities are driving successes.

The resulting internal Self Assessment also has clear scoring criteria to allow every person within the area to understand and judge their current performance within the process. Targets are being agreed to ensure the audit is progressive. Self Assessment requires discipline to ensure that the score does not rise based on a need to show progress as openness must be the priority whenever Self Assessment is deployed.

To summarise, external assessment allows you to be compared to others but when written correctly Self Assessment allows you to compare yourself against your own aspirations.

Are you ready for your Lean Journey?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Written By: Cordell Hensley – KCTS Consultant

I recently ran a half marathon, not fast and it was quite painful. This is partly because I didn’t seek out advice before I started running, as Nike would say, Just Do It! I did. In retrospect I should have checked with the experts, my doctor & a trainer to determine whether or not I was ready and to put me on the correct training plan to ensure that I didn’t hurt myself. They could have also given me advice to get the most out of my training and even helped me along the way with motivation, direction, guidance and general support.

When we start out on the journey towards world class its very similar. We should have the doctor over to give us a health check and we should have a trainer help us develop the appropriate training and performance plan. Having outside support on our journey offers many advantages and it will ensure that we approach the journey with the right mindset, the right expectations and with the support already in place for when we get frustrated and de-motivated.

This health check doesn’t have to be intense, we are not trying out for the space programme, but we do need to establish a clear picture of our starting position. It’s great to know where you want to go, but if you are not sure where you are, how do you know which way to go.

A Lean Health Check should identify your current position and the best path to take to get you moving, get some quick wins and build the right PACE into your programme to ensure you are successful. Looking at areas such as Leadership, Culture, Capability and Systems & Procedures the Lean Health Check should provide an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and should ensure that you begin your journey properly.

Already started down on the journey? Finding things are not progressing as they should? Maybe you should have had the doctor & trainer in to determine the appropriate path for you to take; fortunately it’s not too late. The Lean Health check is also able to assist those who have started and fallen behind or lost their way – it helps them get back on track by identifying where they went wrong and establishes a clear path to get back on track.

If you’re thinking about improving your performance, take the advice heard so often in physical fitness, get a doctor in and a trainer and let them help you determine your current position and develop a good plan going forward. There’s no need to go it alone.

Which Step of Your CI Journey Are You On?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

“7 Steps of Every Change”

Written By: Paul Steven – KCTS Consultant

How is your business coping with the challenge of introducing dramatic improvements today? Are you familiar with the 7 Steps of Every Change? Do you know how to use these steps to deliver the change you want in your business? You can learn here how to use them quickly and effectively for results starting today.

The “7 Steps of Every Change” can be described in many ways, but countless companies rely on navigating through their changes successfully using the following interpretation.

  1. Unfreeze the complacency, by demonstrating the urgent need for change
  2. Create Change Agentswho have a common Vision & measureable Objectives
  3. Communicate “Every Day in Every Way” about the change
  4. Generate Quick Wins to associate the change with success.
  5. Include & Grow the number of people involved in the change
  6. Deliver the Full Plan including its difficult actions (80+20) before Step 7
  7. Refreeze the standards (written or social) but include a way to challenge


The first part of using the “7 Steps of Every Change” is to unfreeze the complacency within your business for continuing as it is now. If there is no urgent, emotional, driving need within the business for this change to occur, business inertia will stop the change dead in its tracks. The logical reasons for the change may be clear and demonstrable, but the burning desire to change needs to be lit around the business. You must target key Stakeholders but include everyone related to the change.

Once key Stakeholders are emotionally engaged in changing, they need help delivering. Change Agentsare people aligned to a Vision of the business after the change, they are the people ready to get involved and make the change happen. You need make sure the team of Change Agents have a common Vision and measureable Objectives. Their alignment is crucial to the success of your change.

Change Agents make things happen and people like to hear about those successes. People actively want to participate in successful, interesting and honest change. This is why communication, generating quick wins and including & growing the number of people involved in the change is a virtuous circle. This circle is formed around the concepts of challenging, learning & applying and sustaining.  Steps 3, 4 & 5 are the enablers to ensure Step 6 is possible.

You may have been taught about the Pareto Rule than 80% of the outcome is often controlled by 20% of the actions. It is tempting to only implement those 20% of the actions and move on. When you deliver the full plan, the ability to sustain become apparent. The actions with no merit should not be included in any plan, but actions which deliver the full change correctly and honestly will pay dividends in the culture of your business. Before the standards related to a change are refrozen, you must conclude the plan.

Refreezing the standards and culture of your business after the change requires another emotional content. A celebration, however modest, is needed to allow people to reflect on the actions completed, the changes delivered and the new ways. As changes become a necessary cycle of all business, when refreezing you must put in place systems to allow challenge within the business. The next unfreeze will be needed at some time in the future.

Start today with unfreezing any of your complacency of what can and cannot change. You’re then one step closer to continuous improvement becoming “normal” culture. Kaizen is improving a little everyday and keeping that improvement you made.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Dealing with the “Nay-sayers”

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Written by: Cordell Hensley – KCTS Lean Consultant

If you’ve ever tried to make a change at work or implement a new policy, programme or project you have surely run into one of these characters; the ones who say “we’ve tried that before”, “it won’t work here”, or “here comes another management fad or flavour of the month”.  How you deal with these people can be the difference between the success and failure of your project. Even if they are not in a position to influence the project, they can sure make things difficult for you as the change agent. So the question is “how should we deal with these people”?

The first thing I would suggest is that we attempt to avoid it in the first place; we can often do this simply by communicating early, often & well. We talk about communication all the time, and we see good and bad examples of it. The better your communication with people involved in or affected by a change, the better that change will be accepted, implemented and sustained.

The second – and a lead into the first – is to expect resistance. Often the problem is that managers often think their ideas are so great, why wouldn’t the staff want to do this, that or the other thing? If we don’t expect the resistance, we will not be prepared for it. If we are not prepared for it, then we have a good chance of facing it.

If we have failed to anticipate it, or have anticipated it but been unable to stop it through effective communication then the first thing I would suggest is to try to find out where the negativity is coming from. Is it inherent in their personality (yes, there are people like that out there), is it the memory of a bad experience, have they been through many of these before or is it just the fear of the unknown or of change itself? Understanding where the negativity is coming from should help you deal with it and in many cases allows you to resolve the issues with the person or people who are resisting the project.

Depending on the reasoning behind the resistance the possibilities for dealing with it are many. Some suggestions for things NOT to do:

Don’t goad or push people into something they are uncomfortable with. You may have to force change through in the end but if you at least make attempts to understand the feelings and concerns of the resistors then you have a chance of allaying the fears or resolving the issue. If you force through the change without this “step” you could possibly make an enemy for life.

Don’t let emotions get involved. We are at work, this is not personal (or at least it shouldn’t be) and the more we can keep it on a professional level, the easier it will be to get to a resolution. Emotions build and people get more and more upset and nobody wins.

Don’t “lock horns”. When you are at an impasse or if things are not going well with this person, step away, take a break and resolve to come back later after putting some thought into how to approach the situation/person better.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the resistance there are plenty of Do’s as well:

Do listen and engage with people. Often the biggest issue people have is that they feel like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed &^%$. Speak to them, communicate with them and treat them as humans- often this is enough to get past the resistance.

Do try to understand their point of view. While we may not always agree with it, resolving differences of opinion often requires the understanding of the other’s views. If we refuse to see things from their perspective, why should we expect them to see things from ours?

Do try to find some common ground. You may not be able to agree on everything, but if you can find some common ground then you have a position that you can move forward together from. Often in disagreements it is much less about the issue at hand, and more about the way we work with people. Finding common ground allows us to feel like we are on the same side. It reduces the barriers which will always help.

Resistance to change is normal, we can probably all admit to being that person at least once in our career. How we deal with it and the people putting it forward says a lot about us and who we are and it can be the difference between a successful project and a failure.

Quick Wins from 5S

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Written By: Paul Steven – KCTS Lean Consultant

5S has many specific definitions for each “S”. I prefer, Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise & Sustain. All five should be applied together in sequence using Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) to drive a virtuous circle of improvement. PDCA means that rather than gaining perfection in a single cycle of 5S, success is found by repeating and learning from 5S through using it everyday. 

5S may be introduced by itself, but for quick wins I suggest you include the introduction of Standardised Work in conjunction with your 5S programme. Standardised Work is a subject entire books are written to describe and I shall endeavour to discuss it regularly whilst I blog. But as a start, the principle behind Standard Work is that if all people complete repetitive tasks in the same way each time they complete it and describe their methods so that others can do it identically then everyone who follows that method will have the same problems in executing it perfectly. Describing the method including symbols, drawings and photographs it is known as Standardised Work. As we strive for perfection in the method we can try to both understand and solve the problems involved in reaching perfection. Every time we solve a problem, we update the Standardised Work with the improved method and train everyone who uses it to ensure the maximum benefit from the improvement is felt. It is the fastest way to create a learning organisation where everyone’s problem solving is targeted for everyone’s benefit. Let’s look at how 5S and Standardised Work can compliment each other.  

When applying Sort for the first time you can have a number of benefits quickly whether using Standardised Work or nor. In addition to the removal of obviously unneeded items and engagement of allowing people to set their own standards at work, the biggest opportunities come from red tagging. Red tagging can be done using actual red tags or anything that you agree identifies items which may not be required. At the moment of tagging we just don’t know if the item in question is needed. The red tagging is your opportunity to deal with the item. In some simple but effective 5S programmes, the red tags will be cleared by quick discussion some that should be kept are disposed of and many that are not required will be kept, and perhaps shared to other departments within the organisation. This can form part of the virtuous circle of PDCA, but for a quick win from Sort you should use your Standardised Work to drive removal of red tags. The red tags should be kept or disposed of based on whether the items are mentioned within the Standardised Work. 

By having Standardised Work where all tools and necessary materials are accounted for, the red tagging leads to either faster removal of unnecessary items or improved Standardised Work. If you don’t have any Standardised Work, you should start writing how to work in an area whilst applying Sort as it helps you know what items are needed. Although you start writing the Standardised Work during Sort, as all 5S are introduced sequentially but together the Standardised Work will also be visualised during Set in Order. 

Once you try to remove any item using red tagging and Standardised Work, the real use of that item is quickly revealed. The item may now need to be included within a revised Standardised Work document or it inclusion agreed through a trial, or the item may need disposal and the proven standards reinforced. Whatever the outcome, if positive discussion and experimentation is used in the spirit of PDCA, progress is being made towards perfection. We are ensuring only that which is required within the workplace is kept within the workplace by applying Sort. Plus, we reinforce Standardised Work and continue to highlight problems which in turn can be solved by ensuring only needed items are kept in an area. As more problems are identified and solved, everyone benefits – KPI’s increase and work satisfaction improves as we strive for perfection in Standardised Work by eliminating problems.


Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Written By: Paul Steven – KCTS Lean Consultant

Can Shine within 5 S bring a team together?

As written in previous blogs, 5S forms a foundation for improving your environment. If you need to improve your reliability or reduce the costs of your processes or even increase the capacity within your work place, you should consider using 5S.

The first S, SORT, allows you to select the things needed to complete your work which improves standardisation as only agreed tools, jigs and machines can be used. As Taiichi Ohno, father of TPS, says “Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen”, so we must try to get standards in place before trying to improve.

The second S, SET IN ORDER, ensures that you have a place for everything you kept from Sort and that you make it the correct place by thinking about how often you use it. Spaghetti Diagrams and Process Mapping can take Set In Order into the detail where you get quantifiable benefits by creating flow.

The third S, SHINE, will be my focus during this blog. Many explanations of 5S start from a position of single ownership. These explanations work logically on bringing pride and ownership into the work place, which is also true of shared spaces used by teams. When you apply Shine to your work station, in your factory or in your office, you begin to own the cleanliness of your area and set the level of “Shine” to where you find it acceptable.

But, how do you align your ownership with the others in your team when you all share an area. If you work at a specific machine or work centre, or have a desk within an office, you can own your cleanliness standards because it is your own area. Once that specific machine or work centre or that desk is shared across shifts or through flexibility within your business shared with colleagues as a hot desk, that ownership of Shine standards becomes more complex.

So, what can you do to get simple Shine standards? If you start with your standard for handing the area over to another person after use then progress can be made quickly to set Shine standards for Handover. These Handover standards are the best place for you to start building a common Shine standard. You may maintain your own Shine standards during your time within your shared area but if you agree a Handover standard with the other people in your team then you must reset to these Handover standards each time you leave.

Most importantly you should agree that every team member has the power to challenge each other to keep the Handover standards. Do this and success is around the corner for you and your colleagues. In the spirit of continuous improvement, kaizen, the most sustainable to grow commitment is to demonstrate success everyday. You must commit to your Handover standard before challenging others. Once successfully keeping the Handover standard, you will be able to think how to achieve that Handover standard throughout the day so that it can become a Shine Standard. Perhaps starting twice per day then once an hour and so on until it is attained naturally throughout the day. Once the standard is consistent across all the team, any improvement of the Shine standard has a better chance of being sustained.

Have you agreed your Handover Standards for your area? If not, I suggest you start today and if you don’t need a handover standard then I hope your Shine standards are ready for further improvement.

Problem Solving

Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Written By: Malcolm Newman – KCTS Consultant

Delivery: On Time and In Full: But At What Cost?

New Product Introduction: Delivery Crisis was a Major Threat to Business.

I have just spent three days helping out a client with a serious delivery crisis due to the introduction of several new products for a major customer. They are a medium sized component manufacturer with a good reputation, experienced team of people and a range of technologies.

I will not go into how they got into the situation but it was the usual production headache; design, late changes, equipment, tools and methods are …. Well let’s say for this particular component they just don’t work! “The customer has launched the product and demand is better than plan;” said Plant Manager David. “I just have to deliver!’. But at what cost!”

When I arrived the team had been working all hours trying to get parts out the door. They had an agreed minimum quality sample. The customer needed 400 per day but Kev, one of the best operators could make only 1 piece every 2 minutes and only 60% were good enough, nobody else could do the job. Roughly speaking he needed to work 22 hours a day!

This was over and above the regular busy schedule of the normal business. The team; managers, engineers and operators were exhausted.

This is where the consultant has the advantage. Focused on the single issue with no axe to grind I could see the issues clearly. First action was to draft a plan. A plan that would stabilise the situation to keep the customer satisfied, return the operation to normality and save the team from certain failure and personal breakdown.

In these situations I find the solution lies in foundation tools. Standardisation, Standard Operating Procedures and Systematic Training work effectively to achieve the necessary results. We needed to develop a Standard Operation and then train people to the same skill as Kev – he is good but not superhuman.

To carry out a detail task analysis, draft SOP, test and verify them with any team is a challenge; with a team that is at breaking point working against the clock you have to be confident of your plan and processes.

Within the first day I had enough detail to start training an operator from the next shift, building their skill and confidence to be close to Kev’s quality. A second operator was trained so now we were starting to see progress; enough for the exhausted managers to go home and get some sleep.

By the following day we had two operators on all three shifts able to work to the quality standard and the reject rate was improving as their skill developed.

Now the parts were flowing to the customer so everyone was a bit more relaxed.

With the situation stabilised I could start on the improvement work. The current method worked but at a high cost. Now that everyone was a little calmer I could use the team to eliminate waste and get the process flowing. Within 2 days we had developed the methods and standardised procedures to be better than the original cost estimates.

Before I left I reflected with David who was still badly bruised by the experience. They had the tools and procedures in place and used them regularly. Why when under pressure do we throw away the procedures that ultimately save us? He still has a great deal to do in understanding the root cause of this crisis and putting in countermeasures to avoid a repeat; but that is another story.

Until the next time!



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