Are you keeping score?
August 5, 2019 | 1:39 pm CDT
Brad Cairns is the senior principal at The Center for Lean Learning and Quantum Lean as well as runna woodworking business called Best Damn Doors in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, where he puts lean thing into action every day. You can reach Brad at 519-494-2883 or brad
No matter what sport you prefer to watch or even play, winning is always the most exciting part. We sit on the edge of our seats for hours hoping our favorite players will rally and beat the competition. Often we don’t give up right until the buzzer sounds.  
So what does all that have to do with lean manufacturing? Everything. Imagine for a moment you’re watching your favorite sport. The only difference is no one is keeping score. 
The teams battle it out, and in the end, they simply just go back to the dressing rooms. Would there be a celebration? Would you even watch the whole game? What would be the point of even cheering when a goal, touchdown or hole-in-one doesn’t mean much?
I think we can all agree that keeping score keeps the players and fans engaged. 
In our factories, we all want our people to be engaged, right? This begs the question: “Are you keeping score?” Does everyone in your factory know if you are winning or losing? Well they should. 
I believe everyone in the company should be keenly aware of what is going on. I can’t think of any sport where there isn’t a giant board to tell players and fans exactly what is going on at every moment of the game. Yet, I don’t very often see any scoreboards in our factories. 
This is probably because it is extra work to devise a way to keep score, and frankly, depending on what you are manufacturing, it could be quite difficult. I will refer to the old adage that “nothing worth having comes easy.” In this article I will share with you three ways to help your team keep score and be more engaged than ever.
The three categories that keep everyone informed are: monthly targets, daily score, and process times. 

Monthly targets

Your monthly targets can be presented by management in any format you see fit for your organization. My preference is what we call an “over-the-line chart.” This is simply a chart that shows the company’s break-even point (straight red line), burn rate (break-even amount divided by working days in the month) and sales targets (green line).
If you update this chart at the end of each day, (Blue bars) and share it with your team at the morning meeting, then everyone will know if the company is on track for the month. I learned this amazing tool from my good friend Beau Lewis (formerly Lewis Cabinet) and now Beau is working with his brother Brady over at their software company called Allmoxy. They are changing the way woodworkers do business. I have personally been using the over-the-line chart in my companies for two years now, and wouldn’t ever dream of doing it any other way. 

Your scoreboard

The important part of your daily scoreboard is that you display the information pertinent to your team during the day. 
We use a screen hanging from the ceiling connected to Google sheets where we update production numbers throughout the day. At any given moment during the day, you can simply look up at the screen and know if we are on track for the day. 
This screen also serves a very important role in our morning meetings to watch videos and do team training. Well worth the small investment. But, if it’s not in your budget, don’t let that stop you. Use your head not your wallet, and come up with a creative way that doesn’t break the bank. A Sharpie marker and a large piece of cardboard would do the same thing. 

Process time

This is designed for each person on your shop floor to know whether or not they personally are on track. There are two items that go hand in hand for making this possible, it also forms the basis of all improvement activities in your organization. 
Step one is to create standard work, simple documents that help operators know how to execute a function or task. We usually try to keep these short, breaking down processes into 6-10 steps, taking a picture and using a brief description. 
If you don’t have in-house graphic designers, you’re in luck, we have created a tool on our website for making amazing standard work documents that allow you to create, shuffle and revise. The great part is our website stores all the data for you. 
You can also color code departments and no longer have to go through the clumsy process of creating an Excel (or Word) database and trying to manage it. Keep your people productive and focused on adding value to your customers. 
The next step is establishing times for each task and including that on the standard work document. 
This is fairly easy, and a stop watch is about the only tool you need. However, how do you ensure that each operator is executing their task in the allowable time and more importantly, how do THEY know they are? This was a major challenge we had at my factory, and most of the companies we work with. It was a hurdle that just had to be overcome. 
It wasn’t easy, but we created a tool specifically for this purpose. It’s a production timer that runs right from our website to help your operators know all the key information about how long their specific process is taking. It provides operators with how long they have been working on each item, how many they have done, their best time, their worst time and most importantly their average time per piece. This allows operators to know if they are on track every second of the day. If they are behind they will know to ask for help, or if the supervisors or team leads notice the average time isn’t on pace with the expectations, they can take appropriate action. 
As we began using this tool we also noticed it was very helpful for line balancing, finding bottlenecks, establishing reliable metrics and seems to keep people engaged at their workstation. 
They know any deviation from their task at hand will result in their average time dropping. 
As we continue to use this tool, we keep finding new and fun ways to use it, recently one of our team members had an improvement idea. 
Using this tool allowed us to evaluate the average time per part to discover if in fact the suggestion was an improvement or not. No more gut feelings, you now have the data! 
If you are in the game, make sure you’re keeping score. Your competition might be.
For further explanation on the over-the-line chart or scoreboard, feel free to contact me anytime. 
For the standard work and production timer please visit

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About the author
Brad Cairns | President/Owner/C-Level

Brad Cairns is the senior principal at Quantum Lean and is dedicated to improving the woodworking industry in North America using lean methods. He also owns Best Damn Doors, a cabinet door manufacturing business in St. Thomas, Ontario. You can reach Brad at 519-494-2883 or [email protected].