Applying Lean Principles – 5S

June 1, 2010

In Jeff Miller’s CSIA 2010 presentation, he proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles to their own processes as a system integration company. The last method that he described was the 5S Principle.

So, what are the 5S?

‘5S’ is the name of a workplace organization methodology that uses a list of five Japanese words which are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Translated into English, start with the letter S. The list describes how items are stored and how the new order is maintained. The decision making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization which builds a clear understanding among employees of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee.

  • Sorting: Eliminate all unnecessary tools, parts, instructions. Go through all tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.
  • Setting in Order: There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly labeled and arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow with each tool kept close to where it will be used.
  • Shine: Keep the workplace tidy and organized. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. Maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.
  • Standardizing: Work practices should be consistent and standardized. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.
  • Sustaining: Maintain and review standards. Once the previous 4 S’s have been established, they become the new way to operate. Do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways..
  • Safety (Sometimes added): It is reasonable to assume that a properly planned and executed 5S program will inherently improve workplace safety, but some argue that explicitly including this sixth S ensures that workplace safety is given primary consideration.

Applying the 5S Principle

Obviously, your shop area may work best, but you can apply them to any shared work area. The big key is everything has a place and it is in its place (e.g. tool shadow boards to demark areas for things to set so you can always find them. Also include one point lessons at the work area to show how to do the job in simple terms. And, design the entire work areas for flow with the only needed tools in the area.

The end result is not only less wasted and cluttered space. But improve work flow and efficiency. Things always have a place and you immediately notice when they are missing. In addition, you can identify unnecessary items,  red tag for removal, and get rid of it in a couple weeks if a need is not identified.

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Applying Lean Principles – The Kaizen Method

May 25, 2010

In Jeff Miller’s CSIA 2010 presentation, he proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles to their own processes as a system integration company. The second method that he described was the Kaizen Method.

Kaizen – Japanese for Improvement

The Kaisen philosophy or practices focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes, and management. When used in the business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions, and involves all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part by American business and quality management teachers who visited the country. It has since spread throughout the world.

Applying Kaizen to Your Business

As Jeff Miller described their Kaizen efforts, I could see how it could (and perhaps should) be applied by many of our Alliance Partners. As opposed to the Value Mapping, Kaizen is optimal for quick, incremental improvements for the better. You could argue that all employees should just naturally do this, but (for some reason), it just doesn’t happen.

So, it is worth going through a formal process. Start by picking an area of your business that you sense inefficiencies. Create a review team to map out the steps and brainstorm improvements. Involve in the day to day process as well as your Lean Core Team.

Start by creating a flow chart to make process visible. Establish a baseline and measures such as time( elapsed, lead), cost (# of steps, cycle time, paperwork), and quality (first pass yield, error rate, rework).

Then, identify waste (non-value adding steps) and decide how to eliminate them. See the white board example provided by Miller. I really liked the use of Post It Notes to make it easy to redesign the process. And, I’m sure it was gratifying to see the number of them that ended up in the ‘elimination circle.’

The sessions will typically 4 hours or less where you are looking for small improvements that you can implement quickly. By the end of the session, you have defined action items for process improvement. Once complete then look for the next thing to Kaizen.


Applying Lean Principles – Value Stream Mapping

May 18, 2010

In Jeff Miller’s CSIA 2010 presentation, he proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles to their own processes as a system integration company. The first method that he described was Value Stream Mapping.

Adding Value

In Value Stream Mapping, you must first define what is ‘value adding’. Value Adding Activity is an activity that transforms or shapes raw material or information to meet client requirements …. What is the client willing to pay for? And, Non-Value Adding Activities are those activities that take time, resources, or space but do not add value to the product itself. These wasteful activities can be summarized as:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilized people
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra processing

You can use a flow chart tool to help you visualize the process. It shows each step of the process as well as process times and wait times. Then, determine value add percentage. Keep in mind that you are looking for major improvements … not just trimming minutes. Note that this is not a quick process – plan 1 to 3 days. Be sure to include people that do the work as well as those from outside. And, realize that implementation of corrective actions will take time (months / not weeks). So, make action plans, specific assignments, and follow up to verify completion.

Just to Illustrate the Point

Jeff Miller went on to describe how they had applied value mapping to identify inefficiencies in their accounting process. They found places where the amount of paperwork and check points wasting a lot of time and energy. Just to illustrate the point, they taped the steps on the floor to show how much effort it required to process an order. A bit embarrassing, but it went a long way to emphasizing to their employees that they were serious about improving their processes.

He gave several examples where they were able to cut the number of process steps in half. In some case, they were able to reduce process time by 80-90%.


Applying Lean Manufacturing Principles to Your Company

May 11, 2010

One of the most interesting presentations at the CSIA 2010 conference was given by Jeff Miller of Interstates Control Systems, Inc. He proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles that they use with their clients to improve manufacturing process to their own processes as a system integration company. And his company is in the process of doing just that.

Eating Your Own Dog Food

Perhaps, a strange expression, but it apply describes how you should use what you are selling for your own good. For instance, should NI use our own products to build systems that test our own products? Similarly, Jeff described how ICS is methodically reviewing all aspects of their business from project management, to financial management, to sales and marketing, …. They analyze each area, identify inefficiencies, and make action plans to improve the processes.

There are numerous reasons for undertaking such an effort:

  • Quicker response times expected – notification to start time
  • Shorter project schedules
  • Cancelations and constant revisions
  • Economy is unpredictable at best
  • Price pressure from clients
  • Ensures you are poised for growth when economy turns
  • around
  • Engages employees to greater extent
  • Utilizes the creative talents of your people

Method to the Madness

Jeff went on to describe 3 methods for applying lean principles:

In the coming weeks, I’ll do my best to relay what these methods are and how ICS applied them to improve their business operations.