Volume 1 / Issue 15 / October 10, 2016
It's the little things that can pay off big!
Over the next several issues, ATJ will share examples of simple and practical wisdom from Gemba Walkers like you. Many readers will know our first contributor, Bob Kerr, from his many forays across Canada to get the Consortia movement underway. Here’s an example of one little gem with an outcome that saved real dollars.
Here’s an improvement Initiative with an unexpected outcome. It was taken directly from a Lean Consortium improvement team facing a bottleneck. The issue arose when items from ten individual product lines flowed into two shrink-wrap machines to be wrapped for shipping to customers. Depending on the velocity of the line, and the variations in product quantities on the line bottlenecks were frequent.
The anticipated outcome
The justification for tackling the improvement was based on achieving a sizeable improvement in product throughput.
The steps to solution
Those in the area had some lean training, so they decided to begin with a brainstorm of the issues in preparation for their next steps. The brainstorm covered many possibilities including starting a Value Stream Map and more. Everyone contributed their thoughts with the exception of one person at the back who remained quiet. In wrapping up the brainstorm, the team leader asked her for her thoughts.
She responded slowly with, “I don’t know why we need the shrink-wrap at all. What’s its purpose?” There was silence. One team member chuckled and said, “That sounds like a good Lean 101 question to me.” Upon probing, no one around the room had any idea why the shrink-wrap was actually used except that “It had been done for a long time.” With no answers forthcoming, it was agreed that the team would gather data on the purpose of the shrink-wrap and bring it to next week’s meeting.
At the next meeting, one member reported contacting marketing and talking to a long-time veteran who confirmed this was a case of, “We have always done it that way.” Upon checking, no one else in marketing knew why it was used. Another long-time employee in finance did recall that years ago the company was rigorously shrink wrapping ‘just about everything’ because it was easier for the company, and the customers, to count neatly wrapped inventory more quickly.
A further discussion with major customers confirmed that that inventory counting process had long since ended - “When your products hit our plant we just rip off the shrink-wrap and toss it.”
With an appreciative management’s approval, the two shrink-wrap machines were removed. This instantly eliminated the maintenance, material, and labour costs associated with the whole shrink wrap process. Reflecting on this example, Bob realizes now that “In today’s world the environmental impact of the use of plastic would be top of mind.”
The lessons learned
Never be afraid to ask the obvious questions. This example reminds us that we are surrounded by processes - many of which may have lost some of their original value - every day. Little things like this can make a big difference.
As Drucker reminded us:
“There is nothing so useless
as doing efficiently that
which should not be done at all.”
Share Your Story with ATJ!
Has this ever happened to you? Have a similar story? One that could make a difference for a fellow ATJ reader? Get your “Little Things Big Pay Off” story ready, we’d love hear it!