Continuous improvement is more than just a business philosophy but also a personal endeavor. I recall one anecdote in my childhood that always stuck with me. It was geared toward teenage girls however its true for both male and females of any age.

It goes like this …..

While walking home from work at the mall one day you look down to find a hundred dollars in cash! You’re incredibly happy because it was payday and you had a $100.00 check in your pocket. You notify lost and found at the mall who says the money is yours if no one claims it in seven days. You rush home and tell your parents who are happy for you and proud of your honesty. However they ask one interesting question.

Today you had $200 all at once, $100.00 in cash and $100.00 found. Which $100.00 dollars do you value more and why?

Most kids will give you a puzzled look since both check and found money are monetarily equal. After a moment of reflection they will almost always say the check is of more value.

Why, because I had to work for it.

As parent this is your time to provide the relevance of the question.

Remember if someone wants your time and affection make them work for it. If they’re not willing to put in the work that should let you how little they value you. I’d much rather be earned money than free money! What about you?

Have an anecdote you like to share, I would be glad to publish.

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SCRUM – Has Your Time Come?

Fast job!Scrum “The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” is a book written by Jeff Sutherland Co-Creator of the Scrum methodology. The word scrum is from rugby you know when players form up with arms interlocked and heads down, and push forward against a similar group from the opposing side. So you get the symbolism.

This book is yet another attempt to get across the lean manufacturing concept derived from Japanese manufacturing practices. Continue reading

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Book Discussion – Fast Forward Leadership

Most Lean Practitioners have a full library books, periodicals and professional publications. After a while they all melt together in the same old themes simply regurgitated with keywords of the moment. I decided to look over my bookshelf and discuss some of the books that broke the mode or at least were memorable and I believe worthy of discussion. Below is one I actually forgot about.

Fast Forward Leadership

This is a management leadership book written by Louellen Essex. The books premise “How to exchange outmoded leadership practices for forward looking leadership today.” Published in 2004 it was quite relevant and on point. The book was straightforward and quite practical without all the typical guru jargon written to impress the boardroom. Thumbing though it today in 2015 it still appears relevant and thought provoking. Much of what is written is what the rank and file continuously tries to communicate to management to no avail. Below are a few points that really resonated with me. Continue reading

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Deming’s Principles of Training and Leadership

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

Today let’s have a short discussion on training and leadership as it pertains to the W. Edwards Deming training and leadership model. The aim of leadership is simply to improve the performance of man and machine. If done correctly the results will be improved quality, increased production and instill pride of ownership.

I’m particularly fond of the Deming model because leaders recognize that the system not the worker is responsible for most defects. Thus a leader’s main responsibility is to improve the process. Continue reading

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5 Real World Tips to Reduce MRP Nervousness

Do these terms sound familiar, expedite, and defer, damper and cancel? If so you’re most likely a Material Planner or Master Scheduler. If that is the case you’re well aware of the nervousness of MRP systems.

Most of the time it’s blamed on moving customers schedules however that really not the case. I’ve found the greatest numbers of issues are caused by sloppy system management.

For example there is a MRP message to order Widget 123 so you create the purchase order. The next day MRP generates a cancel message for Widget 123. What happened? Looking closer we found Marketing needed a show and tell part and Storeroom Clerk used a unplanned transaction to remove from stock which generated an order message. You guessed it marketing returned the part the next day and once returned to stock MRP no longer required purchase order and generated cancel message. This is just one of many internal issues that can cause havoc in your planning system. Below are my top five internal reasons for MRP nervousness. Continue reading

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Lean Manufacturing And The Milgram Experiment

During your Lean journey is becomes easy to become discourage and frustrated. The more you become familiar with the tools and philosophies more you become aware of all the conflicting practices within organizations. Those practices produce many conflicting goal which oftentimes creates conflicts between organizational silos. One silo is tasked to reduce shipping cost while another is to increase shipping frequency with smaller lots. Another unit is tasked to reduce inventory at any cost in direct conflict with yet another group tasked to add inventory in support of on time delivery and level material flow.

Sometime all you can do is laugh. This brings us to an unknown quality tool “HUMOR”! Global competition has bought some massive challenges to the workforce. It’s not unusual for a Lean Practitioner to feel as if they are characters in a Dilbert comic.

This brings me a chuckle I had recently. I was reading about the Milgram Experiment. For those that have never heard of this. Continue reading

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Additive Manufacturing: A Game Changer

amThroughout the decades I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the evolution manufacturing. I’m sure most of you old time I mean seasoned professionals remember the cam controlled chucking lathes. Cutting those cams to make the tool cut a certain path took skill and patience’s.

When manufacturing evolved into CNC digital machining then robotics I was simply elated and amazed at the progress. The simplicity of setup along with the repeatability and precision made these machines state of the art for many years. I can remember making my first .005 offset on a CNC machine then checking the part. It was an incredible feeling of power when the part checked exactly .005 smaller (big deal back in the day). In the past this offset took a touch of a surgeon using the positive stop method.But we’re here to discuss the latest emerging technology in machining called Additive Manufacturing. This is the newest innovation in manufacturing and it will simply change the game. Continue reading

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Develop, Manage and Motivate Beyond the Measurements

heartHearing the phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ always gives me a reason for pause. Too often it’s the beginning of MBC (Management By Charts) which many employees are accustomed. Lean practitioners everywhere will tell you charts are valuable but rarely convey the true picture. For instance how do you measure loyalty, job satisfaction, ethics and values?

I know there are qualitative research models that can extract quantitative values that can be charted showing a trend. However this is lagging data and typically requires further study and interpretation. I prefer the stand by water cooler method; it’s real-time, cheap and not censored. Talking to real people can be frightening but also enlightening. Continue reading

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Save Your Sanity with PFEP

PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part. A simple material control concept from the past resurrected and touted as a new transformative process. PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part .

Material Control professionals first thought after introduction to PFEP is always “What do they think we do now, plan for half the parts?”



Planning every part is what these folks  do every day! In your initial roll out be cognizant of this fact so not to offend. PFEP in this instance means team rather than individual planning. Not because individual schedulers are not doing their job but to get more individuals vested in the plan. No longer is a schedule just thrown over a fence with only one person accountable for its success. If you been in business long enough you know everyone has plenty of input after the fact!

A simple value stream map provides best method to flush out every part along with its interdependency within the process. The plan that comes out of these sessions is usually based on best case assumptions and scenarios. Do we ever really plan for the reality of the environment?

Typically the problem isn’t the plan it’s the measuring and execution of the plan! On paper the plan can look flawless. But let’s throw in a little standard chaos you know scrap, rework, inspection, design change, transportation costs, EOQ, machine capacity and labor constraints. Couple this with your inventory goals that are oftentimes arbitrary. Many companies inventory goals are simply one word ”less”.

How does today’s PFEP differ from all the previous iterations of lean implementations. With PFEP you actually have measurable plan that is put together by a team and scrutinized as a group! Purchasing agents and Material Control personnel will no longer be constantly seconded guessed. A plan is established for every part with the goal of maintaining linkage and flow with minimal inventory.

Expected Inventory levels can be calculated and dollarized from the onset. No longer are you just shooting for arbitrary goal of less-inventory and ultimately starving the process and disrupting flow.

Once PFEP is in place you simply manage the plan not the parts! The key for success at this point is to use your lean tools to methodically flush out the problems with the plan. Problems that have been painfully obvious for years will now have management’s attention to either resolved or buffer.

Think of PFEP as the S&OP of the shop floor give it try and share the chaos and save your sanity!

What has been your experience with PFEP?

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WOSWaiting on Superman is a fascinating documentary critiquing America’s educational system which has become so large and complex that it no longer meets the needs of the end customer, the student. The primary goal of educating our children is lost in a labyrinth of special interests and political maneuvering.

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes” while following several students journey to a charter school. The film dispels much of the conventional (stereotypical) logic that children from low-income neighborhoods don’t want to learn. Another myth is that low performing or just plain bad educators are removed from the system. The reference to “Superman” describes educators Geoffrey Canada realization that there isn’t just one person powerful enough to save the system. Superman was fictional so you will wait forever if that was your plan.

As a Lean Practitioner I’m constantly mixing life, science and art. This documentary reminded me so much of lean programs past, present and possibly future. The parallels of systems and bureaucracies becoming so large and complex they lose focus and no longer function effectively. Lean in many organizations has become the “product” rather than the “tool”. Participation in value streams, kaizen events and other similar type programs have become mandatory in many companies. Rather than true problem solving of relevant issues practitioners look for “projects” to become lean certified or re-certified. Hence the tool is becoming the product rather than the tool enhancing the product.

This is where I had an epiphany … are serial quality programs organizations attempt to search for Superman! That fictional character or system that will save them from themselves!

Perfect quality, seamless linkage and flow along with world-class customer service and products are not results of complex and conflicting bureaucracies. According to Deming “A bad system, will defeat a good person, every time.”

Take heart Lean Soldier it isn’t all doom and gloom. Just as the documentary suggests there is hope in education and I’m sure lean manufacturing as well. But we might need to redirect the tools of quality to the process. Not the process of manufacturing but the process of managing the process if that makes sense. Maybe we should create “Charter” manufacturing cells detached from the beast or mother ship.

What are your thoughts?

One parting question “Is you’re a lean program more of a product or a tool of your organization? “  In other words do you use lean tools to solve problems or find problems to use lean tools.

Thanks and enjoy your Lean Journey it never ends!

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