Sometimes, consultants sell lean as a quick and easy way to success that pays for itself. Unfortunately, this is usually not true, as many companies have found out the hard way. Getting lean in a company is similar to getting a lean body; it is usually neither quick nor easy. Let me show you the different phases of a lean transformation.
In my previous post I explained how the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) should work. However, while most people know the PDCA in theory, I find that the practical implementation is often lacking. And, quite frankly, I am also sometimes sloppy with the PDCA way more often than I would like to admit. Time for some reflection and observation on what works, and why so often it does not.
Hence, in this post I will show common pitfalls and problems when doing a PDCA. Also, simply because it is one of my pet interests, I will also show a bit of the history of the PDCA and its origins in quality control.
Plan-Do-Check-Act (or PDCA) is one of the key elements in lean manufacturing, or for that matter in any kind of improvement process. In my view, it is the most basic framework for any kind of change. All other lean tools are only on top of the PDCA.
In my experience, most lean projects in the Western world fail not because they do not have some detailed tool, but because the PDCA is neglected. Of course, (almost) everybody knows what the PDCA is, but there is a huge difference between knowing the theory and doing it correctly. In this post I will explain in more detail how PDCA should work. In my next posts I will show you the common pitfalls of PDCA, its history, and the many, many different variants of the PDCA that are out there.
I occasionally watch the reality show Undercover Boss, where top executives work undercover in their own companies. Over and over again I see these managers making the same mistake: They have no understanding whatsoever of what is really happening on the front lines. It is a typical case of not going to the shop floor often enough, or in lean speak, no genchi genbutsu (Japanese for “go and see”). So, <dramatic voice> Why do bosses all make the same mistake? Will they ever learn? Will you enjoy this post? See for yourself in the post below! </dramatic voice>.
Quality starts at the top with management. Top executives like to talk about quality, but employees below usually know very well if the manager only talks the talk or also walks the walk. Words are cheap. Quality (and pretty much everything else that is important) requires attention by management.
Pull production using Kanban is one of the major achievements of the Toyota Production System and hence lean manufacturing. The work in progress is limited by the number of Kanban. Overproduction is avoided by producing only if a part is taken out of the supermarket and the Kanban card is returned to the start of production. However, this Kanban system works only if the Kanban returns to the start of production. Losing Kanban means not reproducing goods sold. In this post I would like to talk about different methods to prevent the loss of Kanban, including different Kanban types.
During my last trip to Japan, I finally took videos capturing the Japanese Pointing-and-Calling standard. Pointing and calling is a safety standard that started with Japanese train operators but now is widely used in industry. The idea is that whenever you confirm something, you not only look at it, but also point at it and call out your observation.
Due to popular demand related to my two posts on “Make Your Plant Tour a Success!” and “How to Misguide Your Visitor – or What Not to Pay Attention to During a Plant Visit!,” I have created a checklist for a lean visit to a manufacturing shop floor for you to download. Take this checklist with easy-to-use metrics during your shop floor visit to make yourself independent of potentially misleading data given to you by the shop floor staff. Metrics include worker utilization, machine utilization, inventory reach and turnaround, and order & cleanliness.