Discover how to make doing the laundry WAY easier by applying the concepts of 5S and reduced batch size! By reducing the batch size of clothes in our laundry process we’re simplifying our weekly laundry and making it more manageable. This reduces the waste of over production and the overburden that follows!
Alright, now back to today’s episode. Today I’m I’m going to introduce you to the concept of kaizen and share four things:
- What kaizen means
- The secret to creating a lean life
- Paul Aker’s compelling example of 2 Second Lean
- Why small improvements are strategically more important than big improvements
Learn three keys to successful rapid changeovers/single minute exchange of die (SMED) in this funny introduction video!
In this episode I’m going to explain one of the goal of lean manufacturing, which is something we call “flow.” Historically, this has also been called “Just In Time” manufacturing, but we’ll treat these as synonyms.
As always, I will be naming resources and making references throughout the cast, but you can always check out the show notes online for easy access to them. Just go to leansmarts.com/005 to find this episode’s notes.
This episode is somewhat of a continuation of episode two titled, “The Heart of Lean Manufacturing: Eliminating Waste.” Indeed, eliminating waste is at the heart of lean. But the natural outcome of eliminating this waste from a system is flow. So the creation of flow is a kind of corollary to the elimination of waste. It’s what we’re after: creating flow! So in this episode I’m going to give you a broad overview of flow and what it is.
Defining Flow Conceptually
When I say the word flow you may imagine a picture of the flow of traffic, or flowing water in a stream, or something of that sort. These are all good pictures of the concept of flow. When you’re driving to work, flow is bothenjoyable and productive. It takes you places. But when there are traffic jams, red lights, or construction projects on the road, your commute to work is maddening and unproductive. If you picture a water system of streams and lakes, there are streams and rivers where the water is moving steadily and fast, and there are lakes or even dams where the water pools up and comes to almost a complete stop. A third example I’ll give you is taking a visit to the dentist or doctor. Everyone likes a productive visit–meaning, a visit that keeps you moving and flowing through the medical system. No one likes to be stuck in a large queue of patients in a waiting room or waiting endlessly between nurse and physician visits. We like flow. We like it when there are no lines at the grocery store, when we can walk straight through TSA security at the airport, and when life is eventful, productive, and moving along.
Applying the Concept of Flow to Work and Manufacturing
Now as we continue, I want you to apply this imagery to your workplace. The concept of flowing work is the same.
For example, if you step onto the production floor right now you could probably look around you and find lots of inventory and product waiting to be processed. It may be in bins and buckets or on pallets and in racks. I daresay that I’ve been to some production floors and was not sure if I had stepped into a game of Minecraft where operators were building pyramids of inventory instead of manufacturing product. On a similar note, I’ve heard that Taiichi Ohno and Japanese sensei would often visit manufacturing floors and question associates, “If this is a manufacturing floor, why am I seeing a warehouse?” What he, you, and I are all looking at is inventory that has pooled up just like water in a lake. There’s no flow.
And this is true in the office and service organizations too. Consider your inbox. You may not have good flow going on. Or your desk. Or the stack of paperwork that has been waiting in queue for hours or days to be processed. It’s all the same.
Four Reasons Why Bad Flow is Bad
Now there are a lot of reasons why bad flow is bad. What I’m really talking about are the many consequences of mass or over production.
- There are long lead times. This means customers are made to wait and scheduling and managing production is a nightmare.
- The quality feedback loop is long between operators or departments. This means you may not find out that stamping made a mistake until two days and 5,000 parts later.
- Big lakes of inventory require lots of shelves, floor space, forktrucks, walking, handling, counting, and managing.
- Even though there’s so much product on the shelf, these systems are often plagued by shortages and backorders.
I didn’t say it, but as you can imagine, bad flow is expensive. It costs a ton of money and is very fatiguing.
Flow is often a consequence of batch size. The bigger the batch size, the worse the flow. But as you reduce batch size the flow rapidly increases. The concept of Just In Time manufacturing is basically to deliver just what is needed and just in time–no more, and no less. I’ve got a few videos to illustrate this point that you’ll want to see if you haven’t seen them already on YouTube or at Lean Smarts. Check out the show notes at leansmarts.com/005 to see them.
An Example in a PB&J Sandwich
But in essence, if I were making a PB&J sandwich and did it in a batch size of 1000, it could take me a long time before I finish my first sandwich. First I’d grab 2000 slices of bread and lay them out. Unfortunately there’s not enough counter space in my kitchen to do that, so I may have to borrow some floorspace in the dining room or my neighbor’s kitchen next door. In any case, then I’d put peanut butter on 1000 of the slices. Then I’d put jam on the other 1000 slices. Finally I’d put the two halves together and finish my 1000 sandwiches. If I started at daybreak it may not be until dinner that I’m ready to eat my first sandwich! That’s bad flow.
If instead I did one sandwich at a time, I could deliver my first finished sandwich in a matter of minutes. It requires very little space. It’s very fast. And I can get immediate customer feedback. If I got the order wrong or there was mold on the bread, for example, I’d discover in minutes that there is a problem vs. half a day when making a batch of 1000.
And so flow is superior.
As you eliminate waste in a process, what happens is the value begins to flow more and more and more. It’s like breaking down the dams in the river and removing the boulders from the streams. The value-added actions that create products are unhindered by waste and flow freely.
The ideal state we’re trying to get to–which is sometimes synonymous with lean folk talking about “true north– is perfection. Perfect flow means no waste, no inventory, no defects, no waiting of any kind. It’s the creation of value at the speed of customer thought. Perfect flow is as if one of your customers thought, “I want an Apple Watch” and *poof* it appears on their hand. That would be magical!
What flow does is provide immediacy for the customer–whether that’s the next department or an end-user. Flow allows for you to deliver what the customer wants as immediately as possible. This is also attractive for cash flow if you’re familiar with accounting.
A Few Sidenotes…
Okay, a few sidenotes here before wrapping up this episode.
First, flow doesn’t mean to just do everything you’re doing faster. Lean thinkers are hard workers, but we don’t just work hard: we work smart (and that’s what lean is all about)! Flow is created when you solve operational problems and eliminate waste. Take the waste out, and value will flow. When you’ve got flow, your work is often easier and not harder. It’s smooth. You’re not searching for lost tools or material or wasting time walking, waiting, or handling parts.
Secondly, flow still holds true even if you have large equipment with lengthy changeover requirements. The smaller the batch size, the better the rest of the system will perform. And also, there are methods out there to reduce changeover times. Check out SMED if you’re unfamiliar with it. I’m also adding a link to the show notes for some amazing work at Denso to create “lot size one” in an aluminum casting operation. Most people would assume, “Casting is a batch process; flow isn’t possible.” But actually, Denso is doing it.
Thirdly, it’s good to train yourself to recognize flow on all levels: both big and small. The flow of an individual operator’s work is relevant to this discussion. One piece flow is ideal and any kind of delays in the process affect the flow of work. But also learn to recognize flow on a bigger scale such as between departments, inventory handling, and your supply chain. There are both large streams of flow and micro currents within your organization.
And lastly, a simple way to learn to see impediments to flow is to constantly ask the question, “Why is this waiting?” You can ask this question about everything:
- “Why is this decision waiting to be made?”
- “Why is that operator waiting for something to do?”
- “Why is that widget waiting to be processed?”
- “Why are those files waiting to be processed?”
- “Why is that patient being made to wait?”
- “Why am I waiting on my children to get out the door?”
I mean it: you can ask this question about everything and begin to tap into the concept of flow.
References & Resources
Thank you again for joining me once more for the Lean Smarts Podcast. I’m you’re host, Daniel Crawford, and this is the show where I talk about lean in simple terms and try to keep it fun. In the past few episodes I have given an overview on each of the seven wastes of lean. But there’s one that is worse than all of them: over production. In this episode I’m going to explain what over production is and why it’s the worst of all wastes.
So what is over production?
We’ve talked about over production briefly in episode 2, but I’ll take some time here to define it again before diving deeper into it.
Over production is when you create more of something than is needed or sooner than it is needed.
Delivering More Than Is Needed
So let’s take the first part of that definition and give more clarity to it. The first part of over production is this: when you create more of something than is needed.
Here’s some examples. Let’s say your busy season is coming up and you’re forecasting how much product you need to make. Just like weather forecasts, they are almost always wrong. It’s actually not possible to accurately predict future demand. But taking the example further, if you project that you need to make 1000 widgets and then you only sell 900, that means you’ve over produced 100 widgets. Those items have to then be sold at discount, scrapped, or recycled if possible. It’s extremely wasteful. Just think of all the labor hours, motion, inventory management, storage space, overhead, and everything else that went into making and storing those 100 extra widgets.
This is an example of over producing more than what is needed on a macro scale. But it can also apply on the micro scale as well. Think about one operator or one admin person. Let’s say instructions are given to gather and analyze data from all of last month. Someone looks through all the data, whether on paper or in digital files (which is the waste of motion by the way). But then in the end management decides that the project is no longer relevant. That means all of that work was over production and wasteful. In the case of an operator, if he or she is working at a machine and cranks out more items than needed due to scrap projections or pressure to increase machine output, at the end of the day that WIP (or work in process) is waste. And lots of effort went into making it!
These are all examples of creating more than what is actually needed, the first part of our definition of over production.
Delivering Sooner Than Is Needed
Now let’s look at the second part of the definition—and this may be even more interesting. Over production is when you make something sooner than it is needed. In this case, let’s say that everything we produce is going to be consumed or eventually sold. So we’re not making more than is needed. But instead, let’s explore what happens when it is created sooner than it is needed. In economic terms, this is when you supply something sooner than it is demanded.
Let’s go back to the macro level. You make 1000 widgets and put them on the shelf and they hang out there as inventory for a while. We’re assuming that all 1000 are going to be eventually sold. But they are delivered to finished goods inventory weeks or months earlier than needed. The first thing I might observe is that this requires a warehouse that is large enough to house all 1000 widgets. That increases overhead, and it also stretches out the physical work environment for workers. That means more motion of walking. Maybe you even need forklifts to move stuff around because you’ve got so much. It’s also true that the inventory requires lots of managing. Someone has to keep count of what’s on the shelf. Someone has to perform the impossible task of forecasting customer demand and availability of product, which is very time consuming and hard to do. I’ll also be honest and say it’s common for there to be traffic jams on the shelf or on the floor, because there are so many large batches of product being managed at any one time. It’s hard to coordinate all that inventory management. Lastly, when you finally sell the 1000th widget it’s not uncommon for there to be a scheduling crisis due to the long lead time of producing every other product in large quantities as well. Big batches tend to have long lead times, and this can cause terrible delays.
(Just so we’re clear, the answer is NOT to purchase an MRP software system. Unfortunately the physical world–the world that we live in–doesn’t match or respect the digital world of software systems. They are always inaccurate to one degree or another. Plus, that’s again just more managing and overhead to try to keep the software up to date with accurate information.)
So on the macro level, there are many indirect consequences to having something before it’s needed. It’s got to go somewhere, and it’s got to be maintained, and it’s a huge headache to manage it. Just imagine the firefighting that happens when a defect is discovered in the batch. Do you 100% inspect all remaining 1000 items on the shelf? Do you throw them away? Do you know if other defects escaped and were already sold to your customer? The delayed feedback of large-batch systems is plagued with lots of problems.
On the micro level, let’s say that an operator or department completes step A is in advance of step B with hours, days, or weeks of time in between finishing step A and starting step B. The consequences are similar to the macro example. The WIP has to be handled and moved somewhere, it has to be kept organized (or left disorganized), it has to be found, it can’t become contaminated, damaged, or otherwise degraded in quality. And it also needs to be completed fast enough before discovering too much was forecasted, or the design or specification is changed. Of course if it takes a long time to complete a product you increase the risk of the product design or specification being updated. Then everything might need to be reworked.
So these are all examples of the wastes involved when making something sooner than it is needed. It multiplies the other wastes. That’s why over production is so bad!
One of the primary problems with batch or over production is delayed feedback. If you make 1000 things before moving all 1000 to step B or to final QC inspection, you delay the feedback of quality problems. If something was wrong on the first widget, you won’t discover it until the 1000th widget when all 1000 items are passed onto the next person. If you were manufacturing in smaller batches or in one-piece flow, you’d discover the problem much faster and even immediately.
The Antidote to Over Production: Flow
Instead of over production, which multiplies all kinds of waste, the better approach is to learn how to make products “just in time.” Just in time, or JIT for short, is a pillar of lean manufacturing and the original Toyota Production System. It’s the antidote to all these problems I’ve identified with over production. It’s somewhat synonymous with the word “flow,” which is the ideal state of lean and our ultimate goal. Perfect flow isn’t attainable, because we’ll never fully eliminate all waste. But as we reduce the seven wastes in the process the flow is improved and product, material, or information is delivered perfectly and immediately when it is needed.
The primary indicator and symptom of over production is inventory. If you look around and find inventory waiting to be processed or sold, you know that the flow of work has been stopped. The inventory is being supplied sooner than it is demanded. It’s over production, and it bogs down the organization and dramatically increases costs.
So over production is bad. In fact, it is really bad. And that’s the idea I’m trying to communicate in this episode: That over production is the worst of all wastes. Now, doing things just in time or one piece flow creates other challenges and I’m not addressing them in this episode—things like equipment utilization and long changeovers, running out of inventory, and the like. There’s solutions to those problems, and we’ll look at them another time. Right now I just want you to know that over production is wasteful and we’ve got to eliminate it!
References & Resources
In the last episode I explained that the heart of lean manufacturing is in eliminating waste, and I also introduced the seven wastes of lean. In this episode I want to take some time to illustrate these wastes in a few examples. If you’re already well-versed with the seven wastes, this will be a bit redundant. But if you’re still new to the concept of waste, I’m going to explain how they work in real-life examples. I highly recommend you also visit leansmarts.com or visit my YouTube channel for more examples of wastes. Seeing them in videos is useful and will help sharpen your powers of observation. Remember, one of our goals as lean practitioners is to learn how to see waste in the first place!
Also check out the show notes for this episode with some handy recommendations. Just go to www.leansmarts.com/003.
Okay, so what I’m going to do is give you three examples. One is a personal experience of the wastes of lean at home in my kitchen. The next is an example of a typical batch-production manufacturer. And the last is an office example in an engineering office. [Read more…] about 003 – Three Examples of the Seven Wastes of Lean Manufacturing