On Time Delivery: A Real Lean Manufacturing Story (The Business Productivity Series Book 12) by Giles Johnston Last annotated on May 6, 2015
Part One - Before
My combined role of manufacturing projects and ERP insights was played upon by my manager at the time and this led to me unintentionally giving the Production Control team a hard time. What was intended as an opportunity for improving the flow of product through the business ended up being a tool to highlight flaws in the existing management approach.
5S – My First Dabble With Lean
- Take an improvement approach, realize the underlying principle and then make that fit your organization.
- Be a role model when undertaking change.
Process Flow Analysis
The combination of tools; Process Flow Analysis, Spaghetti Map and Concern – Cause – Countermeasure is a powerful mix to help analyze and re-design your production layouts.
- Challenge everything during the review of a production layout.
- Use facts and not opinion to make decisions.
- Take proper action when making changes; don’t let people have a way out.
- Force problems out into the open if you really want to solve them. If you don’t live with the problem you don’t have to fix it.
Part Two - During
Back to Old School - Fact versus Fiction
If you deliver 999 of the 1000 items in an order your OTIF is 0%.
If you deliver 1000 items then your OTIF measures 100%.
One order in two delivered fully and your OTIF becomes 50%.
- Find the real information about where you are before you start your journey.
- Make ERP / MRP / MIS report writers your friends (either yourself, or via a reliable colleague).
- Check the integrity of the data before you start to publicize it.
- Don’t lose sight of the problems you have in your business, capture them for later if you can’t deal with them right now.
- If something doesn’t work, keep it in your sights until you fix it, or you work out how to fix it.
- Most problems can be solved with simple solutions. If your solution isn’t simple (and really effective) keep working on it.
Beyond Breaking Point
- If something isn’t working create a mini project.
- Keep your mini projects visible.
More Gem Polishing
- Process improvement can be tough, not to mention lonely, if you don’t have some supporters or team mates to work with.
Updates: Coming Clean and Gathering Momentum
- Give your cause a title, a project name, or a pet name. Something that people can refer to, or even better, resonate with.
- Don’t scrimp on the updates. Keep people informed as to what is happening on the change projects. Especially explain how it will affect them (and when if possible).
- Make sure your facts are right before you go public with this kind of information, ensure that these are facts that you have personally reviewed and not based on hearsay.
The logic was based on the fact that we had split our bespoke manufacturing into generic families years earlier. All I wanted to know was ‘how much of your available capacity does one unit of each family type require?’ I phrased it simpler than this when asking my question: “How many of X could you make in a week if that was all you were working on?” So, simply, if they could make 50 Xs in a week, then each X equates to 2% of the overall capacity (100% / 50 = 2%).
My colleagues and I also ensured that the routings were up to scratch and that the Bills of Materials were also up to scratch. We wrote some simple system reports that reviewed these records against our standards and corrected the exceptions. We didn’t have time, or the will, to go through the records one by one.
- Ensure that all of your system data is healthy, that it can be relied upon to make decisions from.
- Review your capacity management information and assumptions on a regular basis. Make it into a housekeeping routine if possible.
- If you don’t have a capacity tool of some kind, learn how you identify capacity within your business and create a simple tool to regulate it. The example in this section can work fine for many businesses, although it may only be a starting point for your final requirements.
- Implementing systems is always a journey. After you implement a system, however small, you will usually have new insights and ideas on how to make it better. Whilst in the early days you may want to go back and revise the systems or tools at the point of realizing the need for change. It may be better later on to do this in stages (i.e. queue up all the ideas and do them all at once, every three months).
- Doing something that is nearly right is often much better than doing nothing at all.
Balancing the Order Book
The spreadsheet was woefully out of date as you could imagine, so we had an amnesty and the majority (I’m being realistic) were destroyed. From now on we would use the system generated ‘work to lists’ only.
Again there was friction with teams from just doing this. I had instructed them to work to the schedule as prescribed, start at the top and work down. They however were working on the old school approach of finding out what orders were the highest monetary value and concentrating on them first.
- An uneven order book is unworkable in most situations, strive for balance and control over the loading of your work centers via the order book.
- Focus on getting the sequence right and don’t allow people to (solely) focus on the turnover aspect. Working on promises can yield better OTIF results quickly, and after all, the sequence is the job of the Master Scheduler who should have already balanced out capacity and turnover requirements prior to the schedule being launched into production.
- Enforce the necessary disciplines and don’t let the standard drop.
ERP on ‘Steroids’
- Work with your teams to understand their information requirements, and where practical, tailor their information / reports accordingly.
- Ensure that enough training and guidance is supplied to your teams to get the right quality of transactions (entries) on your SFDC system, poor entries aren’t worth working with.
- If you are experiencing the hockey stick curve in your business then you may want to review the loading of your order book and / or the flow of products through your business.
The next step for me was to simplify the format of the capacity plan and make it available for the Sales team. I wanted them to load the business from now on.
- Work with your colleagues closely when implementing change. Agreeing on a compromise to achieve the end result may well be worthwhile and can improve buy in.
- Don’t confuse reluctance with a lack of understanding. Be willing to spend time with people critical to a process to ensure that they really understand it. In my experience people would rather do a bad job than come clean and tell you that they don’t know how to do something...
- Follow through on your threats, especially when it comes to people mucking about with your production schedules!
- Be clear about where you add value in the organization and try to engineer ways to get yourself out of the low (or negative) value adding activities.
Adhering to the Schedule
- Keep your capacity planning tools up to date with current information. - Aim to get your teams focusing on the smallest unit of time possible that is relevant to the type of production you are involved with.
- Try to avoid delivering on the 37th of each month!
- Change can take time, find the pace of your team when making changes, they won’t necessarily travel at your pace (which is usually faster than theirs) so beware!
Continuous Improvement Breakthrough
- Continuous Improvement needs people, get involved with your people and get a conversation going. After a period of time, and a few quick wins, gently steer the conversation and see what the team can do on their own.
- Take advantage of the ‘8th waste’, untapped human potential. I walked past the oven for years prior to the improvement being made. I was unaware, but the team in the area knew all about it but were reluctant to make the suggestion until the time was right.
- Certificates can be fun!
Making Myself Redundant
“When I’m finished the Team Leaders will be able to run the production themselves, the tools I am creating means that they will have the ability to do the work that I currently am and they will fill the gap before I leave.”
Lead Time Reduction
- If you are progressing with Lean then killing the queues between departments / work centers is critical. Understanding how the work is passed from one function to another is essential if you want to find out how to shrink the lead times. Conversations are the key.
- If you are setting a target to achieve, it is best to share the target and get people to agree to the target. This is something that I should have done in this instance...
- Share good news whenever possible.
- When fixing problems, don’t just fix the problem, identify the patterns and underlying issues and fix those. Build them into your systems of working and ensure that you never slip back.
- Where possible try out exception reporting, spend your time and efforts in the right places at the right times.
- Share tools and techniques with your colleagues so that everyone benefits from the improvement opportunity.
Winning New Business
Our shorter lead times and more reliable delivery dates was putting us ahead of the competition, during the remaining period of time working for this business we took on an additional 30% of sales based on these three customers.
Now I had a tangible outcome from the work we had been doing. The improved on time delivery was great, the shorter lead times were brilliant, but unless it counts for something then what is the point? In this story the improved performances helped us to win more business, what a great outcome.
Every other tool was a system driven report, so you couldn’t really do anything to break them.
Part Three – After
What Happened Next
The factory is now closed.
No one I know understands all of the reasons behind the rationale used to arrive at this decision, but it reinforces the notion that you can only control what you can control.
What Would I Do Now?
So, in this section I will share with you a number of these improvements that I would do if I had to repeat the story.
I would have spent more time at the start of the work to envision how I could see production working, and spent more time working with others to get their input and buy in so that we could all work on one project. I can see how it all happened in retrospect, but at the time it seemed hard to pull all of the pieces together, I was also (seemingly) on my own...
Gain Support from Senior Management
I did a lot of work in isolation and without a decent level of support, or sponsorship, during my mini projects.
I took the new job role as a vote of confidence, which it was, but perhaps I should have demanded more interaction and support from my boss. Other senior managers and directors could have been called upon, and, if I had done this, I’m pretty sure I would have avoided a number of the problems that I encountered along the way.
Spend More Time on Gaining Buy In Before
I had gone too far into any one part of the improvement projects I would have spent more time gaining the trust and buy in from the people who needed to do the work and who were going to experience the changes. I think I did a fair job with the Team Leaders who reported to me, but outside of this I would have tried harder had I done this again. I’m not suggesting that you go mad with the ‘project stakeholders’, but a little can go a long way.
Package the Work
My wall of improvements was all over the place, they were bitty. Pulling three or four of these small projects together could have formed a nice little project in its own right. Some pieces of work could have been made more visible, more symbolic, showing that change was taking place, and that it was a good thing. Being a little more organized about how the work was structured into practical packets of work would have made it easier for other people to get on board. I feel for many that the change just crept up on them.
Conclusion: What about You?
I don’t think that a particular technique or method is going to solve all of your problems. I think being open to new ideas and techniques is vital, but making your own choices and creating your own approach to improving your business is key. No one knows your business better than you and only you can craft your own approach ultimately, although books and supporters can help significantly along the way.