Volume 1 / Issue 10 / July 18, 2016
Here is the true account of how Lean delivered a decided change in the way that clams were harvested. It was thirteen years ago, on the April seas of the North Atlantic Ocean. These cold seas and HPS co-founder Bob Kerr coexisted for seven days.The result? The clamming industry may never be quite the same again.
How it started
For years, Bob had been delivering his hands-on “Intro to Lean Principles 101” workshop all across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia. In 2002, several sailors from Clearwater Seafoods attended and they will tell you (as they told your editor years later) that “The lights really came on” during Bob’s workshop. They saw the relevance of right-visioning, of one-piece flow, of process thinking, and of Value Stream Mapping (VSM). The discussions around flow and VSM thinking really rang bells as to how they could apply this to their industry.
The Challenge & the Project
The Clearwater team became convinced that there really was a better way by simply concentrating on the retention of clam meat – not on fishing!. Clearwater’s Gene King and Paul Norris talked to Bob about applying Value Stream Mapping to their ‘factory.’ Remember, this is not just any factory, at just under 200 feet long and continuously rolling 5-10 degrees back and forth Clearwater’s factory floats! I suspect you get the picture.
That simple fact alone means that everything they do, every piece of equipment, and every process must be adapted to a unique floating environment in the same way a chicken or furniture processor/producer must adapt to their individual world and needs. Clearwater’s factory is a boat that has three focus factories within its hull: one for harvesting, one for processing, one for freezing the clams (within an hour of harvest) and packaging right into the containers that will take them all over the world immediately upon docking.
Day one was a day that Bob will never forget. He was constantly reminded not to lie down but to keep walking until he got his ‘sea legs’ and his food stayed down. “Toast and I became good friends for the first two days,” Bob recalls.
Once the process was stabilized you begin as you would any VSM, any Kaizen startup, or any PDCA initiative. You begin by going to the Gemba (where the rubber hits the road) it’s where the action occurs, which is where you watch, listen, and respectfully ask many questions in order to fully understand.
Carefully map every single step in the value stream, always with direct input from those who do the job. Included are the steps that add value, those that don’t, and those that don’t but are necessary.
Look at every step and ask the question ‘would the customer see value in this step and pay for what is happening?’ The answer to that question determines whether the step was value-adding or non-value-adding.
Armed with all this new knowledge, put the ‘Current State Map’ together and share it with the folks who understand the process and listen carefully to what they say now that the value stream is visible.
Develop the Future State Map in conjunction with the process owners within the map.
Implement the Future State Map by involving the process owners and their ideas.