Value stream mapping is a method to create a structured image of the material and information flow on the shop floor. You often hear that a value stream map should be the first and last thing to do during a lean project. It sometimes sounds like all you need is VSM and Kaizen and you are on the road to success. This is bollocks! While value stream mapping is sometimes quite useful, it is not a universal tool.
One of the many different ways to visualize a value stream on paper is a bubble diagram. While not quite as prominent as value stream mapping, it does help you in the design of a new line. Bubble diagrams are used in many different contexts, but here I will explain their use for lean manufacturing.
Organizing your manufacturing system is one of the keys to success in manufacturing. There are different tools available, although I have the feeling they are often mashed together or confused. Time for a structured overview of the different manufacturing diagrams available, with recommendations. The following post does not give a full explanation on how these visualizations work. Instead, I want to give you a summary of what is out there, so you can pick the right tool to improve your system.
5S is one of the basic methods in lean manufacturing, used to create and maintain a clean and organized work environment. As far as lean methods go, it looks pretty easy. After all, everybody has cleaned something at least once. Unfortunately, cleaning it once is not enough. The challenge is to keep it clean! And this is where most 5S activities fail. In this post I want to describe the basics of 5S and how it works (plus also 4S, 6S, and even more S’s). In my next post I want to point out the hidden dangers of failure, and give some advice on how to make 5S stick.
On a modern shop floor, you will find lots of data and documentation. These are quite useful to track and improve the situation in the operations. Many of them are quite nicely printed charts, diagrams, and tables of key performance indicators (KPIs). However, when I look closer at them, I often find that they were last updated six months ago, or even more than one year ago. That is useless in practical terms! You need up-to-date information if you want to manage a process. For this, entering data by hand is most useful. In this post I will discuss different advantages of tracking data by hand on the shop floor.
For larger improvement projects with a dedicated project team, there is frequently a “war room,” a conference room where all the project-related information and performance measures are kept. The name sounds cool and gives a certain air of focus to the project.
The name, however, comes from war rooms for real wars. Recently I had the chance to visit the Lascaris War Rooms in Malta, where I was able to see many tools and practices that are still common nowadays in manufacturing and project management.
Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation are some important elements of lean manufacturing. Here we have an example many of you are probably familiar with – toilet paper folding at hotels. This simple example can clearly demonstrate the value of Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation.