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CI 101

Do you believe in these lean misconceptions?

Do not makes these mistakes, learn about lean misconceptions

Like many other things in life, continuous improvement is often misunderstood. During my lean journey, the following are the most common ones that I have encountered.

CI is not a department store, you don’t get to pick and choose what you think you need. CI is a system, the only way to achieve big and consistent results is by using all its parts. CI is a business management system designed to provide customer value with fewer resources. It is made up of a group of principles, best practices, and tools. 

The heart of the system is the people, and you show respect by developing them. These motivated and engaged teams participate in the improvement process and create value. You cannot focus on the tools while ignoring the people’s part.

The second misconception is the idea of delegating the implementation. CI thinking is opposite to traditional management, for a successful implementation the company culture has to change. This change only happens if it is coming from top to bottom. Top leaders need to learn and practice CI every day, everywhere, just like the rest of the team. They show commitment by supporting and actively participating in the transformation.

Another mistake is believing that CI is a cost reduction tool. Do not start this journey without a clear purpose. Why do you want to do it? If the answer is cost reduction, think again. Go and see, ask why, and show respect will lead you to achieve cost goals. But that cannot be the purpose. Instead, think about changing lives or creating value.

The biggest misconception is believing that CI is only for manufacturing companies. Continuous improvement, Best Business Practices, Danaher Business System and Lean Manufacturing are different names for a way to conduct business. The foundation for all of them is the Toyota Production System (TPS). The name Lean Manufacturing shifts your attention to manufacturing, and TPS makes people focus on cars. I prefer to use continuous improvement or Best Business Practices. Those are general terms with no reference to any industry.

Now you know what not to expect from continuous improvement. If you haven’t yet, read my post What is Continuous Improvement and Why you Need it? You will see why you need it in your business.

Productivity, Time Management

What are the benefits of getting organized?

Get organized at work, and relax!

The ultimate goal of every professional is to achieve a work-life balance. I am not an exception. When my career started to grow, I found myself with not enough time to do the things I like. I realized that organizing myself and my daily work was the only solution.

The average person wastes 4.3 hours per week, searching for information. The Wall Street Journal reported that the average executive spends six weeks per year searching for misplaced information. Six weeks is a whole lot of hours!

To answer what are the benefits of being organized here is my top five reasons:

  • Improved productivity – Being organized will help you to focus on what is important, not the clutter. Focusing on your work will make it easier to identify what you want to achieve. Organizing will also save you the time of looking for things. Knowing the place for everything, it is easier to get the information you need faster. If you don’t have to ask around where is that report, you will cut distractions.
  • Better time management – The efficient use of a calendar, along with a list of your tasks will enable you to prioritize those tasks. Set daily and weekly goals based on the tasks you want to accomplish. Prioritizing will make you more flexible because you will react better to any changes or unexpected situations.
  • Reduced stress – No clutter equals less stress. A pleasant work environment improves morale and motivation. Achieving your goals give you a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Promotes improvements – A clean and organized work area pinpoints trouble areas, making easier to identify future improvements.
  • Better work-life balance – If you do more in less time, you can use the extra time to create balance in your life. Less stress and a reduced sense of being overwhelmed will leave you with more energy at the end of the day. Now you can go to the gym, or take a walk!

Being organized have a lot of advantages. I listed a few reasons, but there are a lot more. Find your reason, and get organized today!

Waste

How can you identify the 7 types of waste?

Waste can be deceiving, learn how to identify waste in Lean

Value-added means those activities that change raw material or information into value for the customer. Any step that does not serve the purpose of providing value for the customer is non-value-added or waste. This type of activity adds cost or time but does not add value. One way to identify what areas of your business need change is by identifying waste.

For people with continuous improvement experience, it is easier to identify waste. They will see waste jumping out in front of them. For most people, finding waste is not an easy task. If you are one of those people, use the back-door method.

Waste is everywhere, and probably things that you see now as part of the process, are waste. With the back-door approach, you look for the opposite of waste, work. Work is the value-added activity in the area. When you cannot see waste, find the work, and everything else is waste!

Follow the following five points or steps while focusing on one process.

  1. Look at the three real things, the functional area, the facts, and work-in-process. Do not guess or let the emotions or company culture drive the way, use data-driven thinking. Be in the look-out for excess inventory.  
  2. Ask what the operation is about, what is the purpose of the process?
  3. Ask why the operation is necessary? Is there a better way to accomplish that purpose?
  4. Everything that is not Work is waste. Draw the process steps, and everything that does not execute the function is waste. 
  5. Ask why at least five times to find the root cause or reason for each step to exist. Ask how you can change the process. Create an improvement plan with the information gathered and execute it as soon as possible.

If you follow these steps every time, soon you will grasp the concept. It is important to understand the purpose of the area. Why the process exists and what is the value for the customer are important pieces of information for effective waste identification.

CI 101

What are the rules to fix problems?

One common mistake for a manager or business owner is trying to “fix” problems looking at reports. Those reports are full of old information. They are good to know what happened, but they don’t tell the whole story.

If you are a basketball coach, you won’t try to call the shots just by looking at your team stats from the office. You will go to the basketball court, where the action is. You will observe how the individual members of the team react to the defense or offense play of the rival team. If you see something wrong, you will ask for a time out to discuss a change in strategy. You are observing every move, focusing on what the team needs to do to improve their game, and win. You can not be effective in doing the same thing looking at the score only.

As a business owner, when problems arise with a specific process, you need to do the same thing. Always go to the area where the action happens first. If it is a problem with customer service, observe how your employees interact with customers. If it is an issue related to the quality of the food, try it yourself. Does it look and taste as it should?

Sometimes it is not obvious what is wrong. In that case, focus your attention on the process tools, equipment, and standard work. On the food quality example, you confirm something is off with the quality but don’t know what. Focus your attention on how close is the execution to the standard work or recipe. Observe if the cooks are using the right ingredients, the right quantity, or following the recipe steps.

As soon as you find out the issue, take a temporary fix on the spot. This temporary fix will not solve the problem. To fix it, you need to find the root cause of the problem. Do not try to guess or assign a cause based on your experience, engage the team on this exercise. Once you know the cause or causes of the problem, you can plan how to fix it. To prevent a recurrence, you need to update the standard work.

To success on your continuous improvement journey follow these simple rules while fixing problems:

  • When a problem arises, go to the place where the action or process happens first
  • Check all the relevant things: equipment, tools, materials, standard work
  • Take temporary solutions on the spot
  • Find the root cause
  • Standardize to prevent a recurrence

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. – Marilyn Vos Savant

CI 101

What is a system?

A system is a set of principles or procedures working together to achieve a defined goal. Continuous improvement or Lean is a business management system designed to create customer value with fewer resources. Each part of the system has a purpose or objective. Many times only one or two lean principles are implemented, but not the system. Perhaps that is the reason why the expected results are not obtained.

The goal of lean or continuous improvement is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time. The foundation of the system is stability and standardization. The pillars to achieve that goal are delivery time and quality. The heart is involvement, highly flexible, and motivated team members that are always improving.
Each program or principle connects with one of those components. For example, 5S and standardize work are critical for process stability. Continuous flow is one of the activities to achieve shorter delivery times.

How do we take care of the system’s heart? One of the most important principles of lean is respect. It is important to treat our team members as human beings and not a commodity. We show respect by taking the time to develop their skills and helping them to be successful. Create opportunities to learn using lean tools and encourage them to improve their work. Employee participation in improvement activities is a way to increase engagement. It gives them a chance to win achieving success in their efforts to create simple and safer processes.

Little by little, I will continue to share other activities or tools connected with the goal, foundation, pillars, and heart of the Lean System. Continuous improvement is not a supermarket of tools to pick and choose those you like more. You don’t need to use all the tools available, but you have to support all the system components. What makes Lean good is not the effectiveness of individual tools, but the synergy between them to achieve the goal.

Productivity, Time Management

One-touch rule

My number one trick to keep myself organized is what I call the one-touch rule. Procrastinating is not something that I do. There is no point in pushing back the completion of something that you will have to do anyway. Dealing with emails or regular mail is one of those things.

I know people that have thousands of emails on their accounts. Most of them are spam or promotions. The problem is that they either ignore or go over them many times. I use the one-touch to manage my emails.

Get used to open each email only once. You read it and decide what to do, archive it or delete it. Sometimes you need to take action with the information delivered. If that is the case, you can set that email as a task or appointment. Do not forget to include a due day for all your tasks.

With the regular mail is the same concept. Every day or whenever you go to the post office, you sort your letters. You categorize the mail into pay, archive, read, or trash. Prepare an area with a couple of bins as needed. I have the shredding machine in the same area, so promotions or any document with personal information goes immediately into it. Create the habit to take at least 30 minutes every week to go over those things in the pay and read category. Unless it is a magazine, you should be able to read or pay and either archive or trash within that time.

Think about it, this is common-sense. It is just a simple way to keep yourself organized.

CI 101

What is ​Standard Work?

You need to measure what you want to improve. A metric is a measurement you use to track and assess the condition of a process. It gives you information about how the process is working and provides a baseline for improvements. After each improvement cycle, the resulting value is the new goal for your process parameter.

You use the current value of a metric or process parameter to know whether the process meets the goal or it needs adjustment. For example, the safe internal temperature for cooked chicken is 165° Fahrenheit. That value is the process parameter goal. If at the end of the process the actual temperature is 165° or more, the chicken is safely cooked. If it is less than 165°, you need to adjust. In this case, you adjust the process by cooking the chicken a little longer until it reaches the goal. How do you get the expected results every time?

In this example, you have a recipe. That document states all the ingredients and the instructions to cook the chicken. It includes the oven temperature setting and a range of time to cook the chicken. Also, it includes the process parameter goal, the cooking temperature for the chicken. If you follow those instructions, every time the chicken will be cooked and will taste about the same.

Standard Work (SW) is a simple written description to perform a task. SW is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. Once you establish SW, it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes. It contains the sequence of steps to complete the task, the process parameters, and their goals.

Update the standard work every time a process parameter or the steps change. Training for Supervisors and employees is critical to ensure everybody follows the standard. After training, it is time to improve again!

CI Tools

What is the Red Tag Campaign?

I am not talking about the inventory clearance sales, but this red label calls for attention as well. The red tag campaign I refer to is part of the 5S program.

During the first step, use red labels to identify what needs to be removed from the work area. Only items with tags are removed, which prevents needed items from being taken from the workplace.

The red tags contain information that will help further in the 5S steps to identify from where they came and what we can do with them. In general, they contain the date, tagged by, and location. In case of questions, you will know who you can ask.

All items removed from the workplace go to a temporary staging area called the Red tag area. This space should be labeled and the perimeter marked. A critical aspect of the red-tag area is the removal procedure. It includes how long the items can be there, who participate in the decision-making process, and the rules for removal options. Some options for removal are move to the right location, donation, employee sale, trash bin, and recycling.

You can have a permanent area designated for red-tag items. When people find items in their work area that does not belong, they can translate them there. In this case, the area has to be small to avoid clutter.

Part of the Sustain step is to include rules on how often this parking area has to be empty. 5S is part of their daily routine and they know what to do with non-needed items, and where they go. Organize a special Red Tag Campaign every six months or annually to promote and sustain 5S. A clean and organized work area is an efficient work area!

Home

How can I keep my pets stuff organized?

If you love your pets as I do with mine, then your house is full of their stuff. We have toys, different kinds of treats, health supplements, and flea and tick care. Also, we have grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, travel gear, and many others. How do you keep all that organized?

The best way to organize and keep it that way is by using 5S. 5S stands for the first letter of the methodology steps. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. It is a method used in all types of industries to build a nice work environment. Like many other continuous improvement tools, it is useful at home as well. The result is a clean, uncluttered, safe, and well-organized space.

The first step is Sort, which means that you need to sort all the items between what you need and what you don’t need. Start by taking out all the pets stuff you have around the house. By looking at everything in one place, you will be more effective in your sorting exercise. Check for things like:

  • expired items – medicines, health supplements
  • broken things – brushes, feeders, or scratchers beyond their useful life
  • duplicates – four carriers for one cat is too much, maybe you need only one nail clipper
  • stuff that you don’t use – like a cat carrier where your cat doesn’t fit anymore, or toys that your pet never uses

While sorting things follow this rule when in doubt, take it out. Do not store back anything you haven’t use in one year or more. There are a couple of options for those things, recycling, a donation to a local shelter or a friend, yard sale, or the trash bin.

The second step is Set in order, everything in a place and a place for everything. Find a house for every kind of item. Have toys, medicines, grooming supplies, travel items, and others with the like. Have the items close to where you use them. Check these ideas:

  • You can have by the door the items needed for a walk like a leash, poop bags and a collapsible water bowl.
  • Place a basket with bath supplies on the area where your pets get bathed. Shampoo, conditioner, brush, and towels go there.
  • Have a small cabinet in the same area the litter box is with litter bags and cleaning supplies. It can have a hook on one side to hang the scoop.
  • Keep a basket with toys in the area where they play the most.
  • Depending on how much you have, dedicate one cabinet or closet for the pets stuff.
  • Use bins or baskets to keep items like medicines, treats, health supplements, and grooming supplies separated.
  • Use clear bins so you can see through, no need to open to check what is inside.
  • Separate the items for pet type also. Color-coded lids are the best, let’s say, blue for dogs and red for cats.
  • Use a hanging wall organizer to keep the pet records in one place. 

The next step is shine or clean. Get those carriers, pet towels, and other items clean before storing them again.

In the fourth step Standardization, is about creating procedures and visuals. This step is absolutely necessary for the office or business. It is about creating written procedures that define who is responsible for what, when, and how. If you decided to use labels or color-coded bins, this is when you create your system. If you want to make sure everybody cleans the litter box the same way, this is the time to decide who, when, how and what cleaning supplies.

The last step is to Sustain, find ways to keep things cleaned and organized. You need to make a routine to keep everything in its place. Until you and your family have the habit of keeping stuff on their homes you can hang some signs to remember the procedure. Once a week, while sweeping the house check for compliance. Communicate with the family if something was out of place, keep working on creating the routine.

Your life will be easier following these steps, no more wasted time looking for items. Of course, you can do this exercise with toys, sports items, books, office or school supplies and many others. 5S is an excellent way to keep everything organized.

CI Tools

What is 5S?

5S is the five steps program for housekeeping and workplace organization. Standard work, waste elimination, and 5S are the foundation of the common-sense improvements approach. 5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Together, they promote stability and improvements in the business processes.

In the first step, Sort you go through all the materials, tools, and equipment on the area sorting between necessary and unnecessary items. You will keep only those items that you need to do your job. Also, you keep only the amount you need. During this step, red tags are used to unneeded items to identify them. This is part of the Red Tag Campaign. The rule of thumb is When in doubt, move it out.

During the Set in Order step, you will assign a location for the needed items. Have closer to you those things that you use very often. Think about what I need? Where I need it? How many? Consider to create a central location for shareable items, this will reduce excess inventory. The motto for this step is A place for everything and everything in its place!

Shine is to clean everything inside and out. Inspect for broken pieces, wear and tear, and leaks while cleaning. Make sure that your findings are corrected as soon as possible. Think about ways to minimize reoccurrence. Ask yourself: What to clean? How to clean it? Who is responsible? Set the cleaning standard, how clean is clean. Develop temporary checklists, cleaning responsibilities, and schedules. 5S is not spring cleaning, Make inspect and clean part of your daily routine.

Standardize the preceding three steps. Set clear expectations to make 5S the everyday standard for your workplace. This is the time to revise the temporary signs, maximum number, checklists, schedules, and others. Do you need to change anything? Make sure that the standard is correct before making it official. To avoid falling back to the initial state, Follow the standards daily, success is a habit, not an act.

Sustain is a never-ending step. You want to make sure that all four previous steps are followed every day. Develop a 5S mentality by promoting 5S daily, recognizing success, and correcting out of the standard situations. Create and enforce a 5S training for new team members. The motto for 5S is Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project. Make 5S part of your daily routine.

Some of the benefits of 5S are obtaining a clean, sanitary, and pleasant work environment, remove safety hazards and improving employee morale and motivation. 5S also creates a great first impression for customers and visitors. Start using 5S as part of your improvement program today!