CI 101

Are you sure you have visual controls? Do you know the difference between visual control and a display?

Often people confuse visual controls with visual displays. A visual control calls for action while a display exhibits information.  5S, the five steps for cleaning and organization provides the basis to build a visual workplace.  There are four different stages or types of visual management, display, calls for attention, organize behavior and defects prevention.  Only the last three are considered visual controls, they show the standard and the actual performance.

The basic stage of visual management display, it only exhibits or tells information.  Level 1 of this stage, gives people information that you want or need them to know.  For example, headcount, open positions, visitor schedules, and safety trends.  The second level shares standards at the site.  Work standards remind the employee of the right way to do the job, but they do not tell what to do if something is out of standard.  

The second stage, calls for attention, has levels 3 and 4.  In level 3, you start building standards into the workplace.  The difference is that now, a signal points out when something is out of standard.  At this step, you start using, for example, status boards with metrics posted each hour, heat sensor stickers, gauge labels, and oil level indicators.  

Level 3 sets the baseline for the next level where metrics are in real-time, and alarms or strobe lights go off when the actual performance is different than standard.  At level 4, the visual warns about abnormalities it speaks to you.   

The third stage, organize behavior, is level 5.  When something happens, it calls your attention and also guides your behavior.  In other words, it prevents defects from happening because you know what to do when you receive the warning.

The ultimate goal of every visual management system, prevent mistakes, is level 6.  At this stage, you and your team implement simple, low-cost devices that prevent problems from happening or stops the workflow when defects occur to prevent more.  Error-proof devices have shapes, guides, or sensors that prevent the person from inserting them in the wrong direction or shut down the device to avoid injuries.  

Many companies never moved from the first stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls.  To avoid that mistake, start with 5S and keep improving, one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, mistake-proof controls.  In my next publication, I will show you examples of each stage of visual management.

Electronic / Virtual, Office

Is managing your email inbox driving you crazy?

Manage your emails effectively

Do you know that the average office worker spends 13 hours per week on emails alone? A typical business professional sends and receives 122 emails daily. With those numbers, there is no doubt why you feel like managing your inbox is all you do.

To avoid going crazy for your emails, apply housekeeping and organization to your inbox.

Like every time you want to use 5S, start sorting out the messages that you don’t need. Browse your email in the lookout for promotions and subscriptions. Sometimes you subscribe to a digital newsletter or give away your email address to obtain some information. You are not interested in keeping the subscription anymore but never unsubscribe from it. Go ahead and unsubscribe now, do not touch that email more than once! Do the same thing with promotions that you don’t want to receive anymore. Identify spam emails and put them on the spam folder immediately.

While you browse for emails, make a list of those that you receive periodically and need to keep. Think about customers, suppliers, invoices, and your team. To set in the order, you have to prioritize and categorize your messages. Create categories like my team, finances, insurance, customers, and suppliers. You do not have to go through all your emails, but make sure you include your most frequent contacts.

To shine or clean your inbox archive or delete emails as you go. Make a routine to read your emails during certain times of the day. Reading emails every five minutes is a productivity killer. I read emails first thing in the morning as part of my routine to create the agenda for the day. Check again before lunchtime, and then before going home. Make sure your key people know that if they need your attention, they should text or call you.

Now is time to standardize. Use the contact list you build to create and assign categories to your contacts. With Outlook and Gmail, you can create color-coded categories or filters based on certain criteria. Also, you can assign priorities. For example, invoices have high priority, but digital newspapers are a low priority. Change your email settings, so incoming emails go straight to the appropriate folder or have the right label.

To ensure your inbox is under control, create rules to sustain the tidy state. Daily, as you check your emails, decide what you need to do with the information received. Create tasks or events using the message and then archive or delete. Establish a frequency to revise your emails looking for contacts that need to be categorized or are not relevant anymore. 

Your inbox does not have to drive you crazy. Stop the insanity and 5S your inbox!

CI Tools

What is Visual Control?

Road traffic safety is an example of visual controls

The ultimate goal of 5S is to create a visual workplace. Visual controls make problems visible, communicate status, and improve performance. They also guide people to stop or prevent abnormalities.

A key component of road traffic safety is the group of lane markings, traffic signs, and signals. Think about a street’s intersection. The traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk are visual controls. As a driver, if you are facing a red line, you know that your right of way has ended, and you stop. A pedestrian uses the pedestrian signals to know when it is safe to cross. In the workplace, you can use visual controls to warn when it is time to buy more office paper or to communicate that help is needed.

Everybody in the work area understands the visual control objectives and knows what to do with the information. They work because when looking at them, everybody understands the same thing and act the same way.

If you use a chart to show orders completed per hour, you should be able to know if there are delays by looking at it. What you see will tell you if there is a reason to hurry up or just relax and keep your pace. Another example is the red tags used in the Red Tag Campaign as part of 5S. These red labels indicate that something was out of place, and call your attention for action.

If you want to create visual controls remember the following:

  • Make the team part of the visual control design process.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the font type, color, and size.
  • Avoid cluttered signs and charts, it has to be easy to understand.
  • Use color code and fewer words whenever is possible.
  • Visuals communicate a standard and actual performance.
  • Ensure that the entire team knows what it is, the objective and rules. Even when they participate in the design process, a meeting or training to share those details is important. This will ensure everybody understands the same thing and reacts the same way to the signals.

In future posts, I will talk more about examples. For now, look around and identify visual controls around. Think about how you can apply this tool in your business. Any ideas?

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.

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!

CI Tools

Are your processes consistent?

Do you get the same results out of a process always? If you do, then the process is stable, but if you don’t, then you need to stabilize it. How do you do that? 5S and visual management are the foundation for processes consistency.

5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. By making 5S part of the daily routine, the workplace is clean and organized all the time. If somebody is not following the standard, and causing inconsistencies in the results, it is easier to see and correct.

A standard is what is supposed to happen. If your process does not have a standard, you need to create one. There are no improvements without standards, they are the baseline for comparison. In a visual workplace, the out-of-standard situation is easy to recognize, and employees can easily correct it.

When we fail to achieve the expected results, it is because the process fails. To have consistent results, we need to follow the standard. To improve the results, we have to improve the process. In my next post, I will discuss 5S in detail.

CI 101

How can you create changes in your business?

Often business owners see something that tells them that something different needs to be done. Perhaps it is a recurring problem or realizes that the business is not reaching financial goals. What is the solution? You need to identify what areas need change and prioritize. How can you create changes? There are two major ways to create change: innovation and continuous improvement.

More often than not, innovation is a high-cost solution. While it is necessary to keep yourself ahead of the game, I like to start somewhere else. My first stop in creating improvements is to use common sense, low-cost solutions.

What are common-sense solutions? It is to approach a problem using good judgment. For example, let’s use one of my favorite low-cost tools: housekeeping and organization. Will you agree that keeping a clean and organized workplace is common-sense? Why do you think it is? Perhaps because you know some of the following facts:

  • Clutter and disorganization are against productivity, reduces the ability to concentrate.
  • A messy workplace causes anxiety, stress, and has the potential to foster a negative state of mind, like feeling overwhelmed.

Your good judgment tells you that an efficient workplace is cleaned and organized. A lack of cleaning and organization is a visual indicator of inefficiency. You know that this condition has to change.

To improve housekeeping, you can buy a fancy computerized program or use a simple low-cost solution. Your new high-cost application will help you to create checklists, assign responsibilities and follow up on the cleaning activities. But it will not help you to ensure the workplace is clean and organized.

An alternative is to use 5S, a housekeeping and organization program. This program along with waste elimination and standardization are the basics of practicing continuous improvement. CI is about creating small changes using common-sense solutions that are easy to implement and follow. When you add up all those changes you will see a huge improvement in the overall performance of your business.