As you read this article consider whether your organization is aligned for success in 2014. Will your dreams, objectives, and aspirations be realized this year or will they continue to be known only to you? I recently visited with the CEO of a furniture company who passionately wants his company to be a market leader, but there is no one to take the company on a path to achieve that objective because he has single-handedly shouldered the decision-making process for more than 20 years. He doesn’t even have a production lead-person in the factory. In the struggle to stay afloat in these difficult times he has lost the drive and energy needed to realize his ambition. Unfortunately, his staff may not welcome 2015 in their current employment and another domestic furniture manufacturer will be needlessly lost.

My experience indicates that all things are possible, even for the unnamed company above, if company leaders practice lean thinking and enlist, engage, enable, excite, empower, and encourage their entire workforce. A key to making that possible is alignment of all of the company’s resources with the leader’s dreams, objectives, and aspirations. Is it too late to accomplish that at your company? Trust me, if positive change can happen at Joe’s, and Hunter, and Signature it can happen at your company also.

Hopefully you have been following my series of articles on Joe’s Cabinet Shop, Hunter Trim and Cabinet, and Signature Wood Systems. As you know, Joe’s is a fictitious name for a real company that I have been working with for several months, but Hunter and Signature are real companies that you can contact for support in your own lean journey. If you haven’t been following the articles please take advantage of the archives for the past 12 to 15 months to catch up, otherwise some of what I am going to present now will seem a little foreign.

Using lean tools

I have been rolling out a number of lean tools and techniques at Joe’s that are being summarized into pocket-sized leadership cards for all of the leaders and managers to use as ready reference on their continuing journey. Some of the cards will be scattered throughout this article and others will be shared next time. All of these tools and techniques have one intent – to create alignment across the entire enterprise at Joe’s Cabinet Shop.

To eliminate waste and improve productivity it is necessary that everyone is able to identify the waste. Since waste has been part of the landscape of every non-lean company since its inception, it may be hard to distinguish from the blur of everyday activity. Training everyone in the Seven Deadly Wastes and posting visuals around the shop and office is a good method for heightening awareness. As you should recall, the Seven Deadly Wastes are:

Overproducing: Evidence – more work-in-process between internal customers and suppliers than the internal customer can consume immediately.

Transportation: Evidence – Material movement between customers and suppliers or multiple trips to move the next job to internal customer.

Processing: Evidence – worker has to intervene to overcome a deficiency in equipment, tools, fixtures, etc. Using the wrong tools. Not following best practices.

Movement: Evidence – worker has to move outside the normal length of reach or has to make more than one step to get work or put it aside. Look for poor layout, large workbenches, or obstructions in work path.

Waiting: Evidence – worker waiting for information, waiting for equipment to cycle, waiting for someone else to complete a task, or interruption due to quality issue.

Stock on hand: Evidence – value-adding processes disconnected because of material storage requirement. Old inventory taking up prime, value-adding real estate.

Defective Parts: Evidence – rework due to faulty equipment, lack of information, bad information, or non-conforming material.

5S Goal Line Sheet

One tool for eliminating waste that will engage the entire staff in applying lean thinking at a personal level is Workplace Organization or the 5Ss. I recommend that the initial implementation of Workplace Organization be limited to the first three steps of the first 3Ss. When those are ingrained in the culture you can broaden the focus to include every step of all 5Ss. See the 5S Goal Line Sheet pictured here.

The 5S Goal Line Sheet can be used to determine the current condition and establish a target date for meeting the acceptance criteria as well as periodic follow-up in an auditing process.

Tactical Planning Tool

Ensuring success in the implementation of every lean tool and technique requires an executable plan. The old leadership style of “just do it” or “get ‘er done” will always lead to failure in accomplishing objectives. The five-paragraph Tactical Planning Tool that I introduced a few months ago provides the framework for success. See the Tactical Planning Tool format in the sidebar.

In the next article I will share the purpose for going to gemba and other leadership skills that will make your lean initiative a successful and prosperous journey.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.