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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compassThroughout my lean journey I noticed that practically every organizations mission can be summed up with an age old timeless sentence or variant thereof.

“ABC organization will provide a product or service that meets the needs of our customers while providing profit to our investors and value to our employees. “

That’s clear concise and to the point to everyone in an out of the organization.

Organizational communication over time has evolved into complex labyrinth of legalese, jargon and branding. Mission and vision statements today are more like social manifestos’.
To translate these new manifestos to into actions many large organization rely on Hoshin Kanri a.k.a Policy Deployment.

The goal of policy deployment is to drive the company’s strategic goals throughout the organization. Popularized in Japan during the 1950’s Hoshin Kanri on its face appears pretty logical.

Following is excerpt from Wikipedia ……

“The discipline of hoshin kanri is intended to help an organization:

• Focus on a shared goal.
• Communicate that goal to all leaders.
• Involve all leaders in planning to achieve the goal.
• Hold participants accountable for achieving their part of the plan.

It assumes daily controls and performance measures are in place: “With hoshin kanri… the daily crush of events and quarterly bottom-line pressures do not take precedence over strategic plans; rather, these short-term activities are determined and managed by the plans themselves”

In the past organization simply expressed their yearly goals through memos, meetings then move forward. Now it takes 25 lean tools to express and execute multiple key performance targets. Everyone in these organizations must create an individual goal that must be specific, measurable, and achievable and time bound. The organization now needs to manage review and control literally thousands of individual plans yearly! This labyrinth of communication has become time consuming, conflicting and complex.
I don’t believe Hoshin Kanri developers meant this to occur.


As a lean practitioner I’m always reviewing practices and testing assumptions. If your organization is truly into continuous improvement aren’t many policy deployment activities redundant? So the question remains is HOSHIN KANRI REALLY NECESSARY?

Share your experience with policy deployment. Has your job changed significantly because of it? Are your goals shared, relevant an attainable? Or are the goals just mandated driven from the top and policy deployment the tool used to measure adherence to the targets. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence for both.



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Lean Kryptonite – Running To The Numbers

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

From my perspective the largest cause of failure for lean initiatives is continuing to run the company by the numbers. You know the month, quarter and year end projections. I recognize to remain in business companies must have goals, objective and targets. However you can’t just set an arbitrary number then believe your system can accommodate it.


Imagine telling Tony Steward your number 14 Chevrolet Impala must operate on half the fuel next race because that what is needed to make the monthly projection. While sounding crazy in this context this is exactly what happens in many manufacturing companies throughout the nation.

Whenever running a drag race or manufacturing widgets you must know one thing from the onset “How much resources (fuel, inventory) is required to operate a lean and robust process that results in operational linkage and flow”.

Oftentimes setting up lean Kanban lines results in higher inventory but the inventory is relevant and turning. Think of a NASCAR engine, as it improves you may require more tires per race. But advanced engine might also result in less pit stop for fuel and repairs.  Lets not leave out an additional victory or two.

Kanban lines optimize and stabilize inventory it does not always reduce. This stabilization is what allows you to make methodical and continual incremental improvements. If your lines are constantly starved of inventory you will only create an expedite loop and never get the benefits of lean.

Edwards Deming recognized that operating on visible numbers and observations alone could destroy organizations. This is one of his seven deadly diseases of management, number 5 “Operating on visible numbers alone”.  Dust the book ”Out of Crisis” off and review that section it will offer amazing insight to this issue.

Hope enjoyed this short discussion. I’m always looking for content and guest authors so if you have thought or a story please submit it.

Enjoy your lean Journey … remember it has no end!

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Coping With Serial Quality Programs – Groundhog C.I.

ghDoes the movie Groundhog Day eerily remind you of your continuous improvement program cycle?  Just when you’re making true headway and ready to tackle the hard issues the alarm goes off and you awake only to find yourself back at square one!

After a short yawn and stretch look around only find a new focus, program or leadership team. But while names of the programs and people are different you are right back at square one of principally the same continuous improvement journey. Then like déjà vu you hear the chant to remove waste, strive for one piece flow, poka-yoke along with sort, straighten, standardize and sustain.

In other words the much work was completed when Groundhog Day reset the register.  You know all the low hanging fruit. Tools are now put at point of use, order sized optimized, floor stock added, back flushing used when possible and more in process signals.

Went to bed believing you were further along the yellow brick road of your lean journey only to wake up back in Kansas! How many times can a movie be get remade before it becomes redundant! A sequel maybe but remake! It’s the same storyline just in color!

How to cope Groundhog C.I. programs?

  1. Be patient remember while this might be quality program 3.0 to you there are quality virgins in the company that are in awe of the possibilities. Don’t burst their bubble, soldier up and stay positive
  2. Continuous improvement programs are major marketing vehicles for organizations. Prepare yourself to sell the sizzle not the steak. Remember there are competitors out there! The best product / company don’t always survive, but the best perceived product / company typically does. Would love to be a purist here but don’t want you to run into the brick wall of reality. You probably have the sales pitch memorized by now anyway.
  3. Finally to break this cycle you must document and file your projects.  The best method is the single page A4 process. This is a fantastic tool draw attention to process improvement redundancy.  Possibly just possibly presenting a past A4 during a current problem solving session might result in forward motion. Fixing a flat is much easier than recreating the wheel over and over again!
  4. Know that education can breed frustration. The untapped areas of opportunity are more visible to lifelong learners. Stay positive and balanced but keep reading!
  5. Most of all enjoy your lean journey it’s a rewarding path without end.
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Lean Tools 101 – Run Chart

During our lean journey we oftentimes become overwhelmed with the jargon, anecdotes and theories. In our rush to out “Toyota” one another some of the foundational tools are lost in the process or simply taught in passing. I’ve seen leaders who could tell you the life story of Aiichi Ohno but never created a fish-bone diagram.

A lean soldier must periodically re-visit all the simple side arms in his/her continuous improvement arsenal. The first tool to review is the run chart.

In practice the run chart is a very effective visual for a new practitioner. This should be taught extensively in high school. School sports stats offer an excellent opportunity bring relevant and power of the tool.  I’m sure coaches would love hundreds of young statisticians charting the numbers and critiquing the team strategy!

The Run Chart


Run charts are simple line graphs that show how often a process characteristic or problem occurs over a period of time and focuses attention on any substantial changes.



A run chart is used to organize countable data collected over a period of time to identify process problems. You will be able to detect trends or cycles of variation once enough data is collected. Ideally, an equal number of points should fall above and below a determined average.  When data points skew to either end of midpoint (which will ultimately cause average to change) the process needs to be investigated.

Change itself isn’t always bad. It could be a result of a problem solving event. However you will need to document the new normal for future review.

Typical usage includes trying to reduce tolerance variation in a machining process, percentage of scrap per operation or possibly identifying the number of sales orders released to production with errors.

Your ultimate goal is to reduce variation through to create a more robust and predictable process.

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The Reverse B.S. Principle and Lean

Fast job!

While reading blogs I came across one that continually comes to mind in my lean journey. The post was entitled the “Reverse [B.S]. Principle” Written by Elsiem see excerpt below.


The Reverse [B.S.] Principle

“The reverse [B.S] principle holds that if, when the sentiments contained in a given statement are reversed, the statement becomes ridiculous, then it wasn’t worth making to begin with.

For example, this sentence, taken from a different job advert:

In addition, the applicant must want to be a contributor on a team that strives for excellence and continuous improvement on a daily basis.

Could, when subjected to the reverse bullshit principle, be rewritten thus:

In addition, the applicant must want to be a contributor on a team that strives for mediocrity and sporadic improvement on an infrequent basis.

As the example illustrates, if the opposite of what you’re saying is clearly ridiculous, then what you’re saying should – well, it should go without saying.

The use of the reverse [B.S.] principle makes it easier to work out when someone is spouting nonsense for the sake of making a noise, rather than because they have anything worth saying. It is useful in all walks of life, but writers in particular should take careful note of it. ”

Has your organization ever asked you to remember or have ability recite a quality policy or company vision? How important was this really in shaping the actions of your daily work? Which bullet points would pass the reverse [B.S] principle? Try it you’ll find it amusing.

In your lean journey remember this principle and take a moment to smile whenever it can be applied. Also before your presentations don’t forget to add this prefix “This goes without saying” …

…. our goal is …

  • 100 percent on time delivery
  • Zero Defects
  • Strive to be Industry leader ….

Never can tell if there just might be a lean soldier in the audience smiling at you!

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5 tips to Career Pathing the Material Management Field


The field of material management is a vast and rewarding. Material management or logistics should receive more visibility as a career option to prep school students.


Unfortunately our educational system does little to bring awareness to this field. If you ask a student what profession do you plan to pursue? Practically every kid would give the same programmed answer doctor, lawyer, fireman or policeman. Typically said with the caveat, that their movie, rap, singing or pro sports careers don’t materialize.

Invariably most of us land in position or jobs more by chance than choice. Once in the workforce we truly begin see the wide range of professional skill sets needed to operate organizations efficiently. Engineering, finance, quality, material control along with building maintenance is just a few typical disciplines.

Of these I truly believe material management provides the best path for career advancement for the non-degree and entry level employee. This is because unlike engineering or finance there are plenty of entry level paths that can lead to advancement. This includes, shipping receiving clerks, storeroom clerks, purchasing agents, expediters, material control clerks practically any position in the logistics value stream.

First know career pathing is your responsibility. Don’t expect much help from your human resource department. From discussions and observation that path too often leaves employees more confused and less motivated. That comment is naturally anecdotal. The best advice is to seek mentors and sponsors within and outside the organization.

Developing the Plan

1. Decide on a path – Duh!

a. Find out the job requirements for the position you want. REMEMBER no matter what the requirements even if written in stone they are subjective. If you believe you have the experience but not the credentials apply for it regardless.

2. Develop a mentor or sponsor network.

a. During your annual review provide a written statement outlining your professional goals.

b. During annual review ask for direction in obtaining those goals.

c. Follow the plan agreed upon, this will give others a vested interest in your success.

d. Speak to the people doing the job you want, ask for tips, and show interest.

3. Education

a. Take full advantage of tuition reimbursement if company offers it.

b. Take full advantage of tuition reimbursements if company offers it. (Worth saying twice)

c. Night School, Day School or Online just do it.

4. Professional Development

a. Join a professional organization.

b. Give priority to college courses before trying to study for professional certifications. Don’t rob mental horsepower from your college classes.

c. Organizations such as APICS and ISM are great for networking and staying abreast of the profession.

5. Organizational Politics

a. Don’t be blind understand the culture and sub culture of the company.

b. Know the power brokers and the informal leaders of your organizing. Understanding how their measured is one secret to success.

Every organization requires some level of logistics and or material management. Industry continues to struggle with how to structure this discipline. Oftentimes its felt other department can better manage linkage, flow and inventory, but invariably some form of Production and Inventory control structure resurfaces

If for some reason you don’t believe your organization has a material management path for you, look closer.

Good luck in your Journey!

Do you have tips or article to present!

Always looking for guest authors!



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Will ERP Software Systems Ever Evolve?

Fast Job


After working decades in manufacturing I have had the pleasure to witness so many technological advancements.

  • Precision cutting and measuring by lasers.
  • Digital X-Rays
  • Robotics
  • 3D modeling creating not only solid models but also a hologram.

But what about the planning and support systems, are they keeping pace? In particular what about your ERP system? You know the software that drives the business?  Has it kept pace with the times?

Is it agile, intuitive or even user friendly? The answer is a resounding “no” from my experience.

What got me back on my soapbox was an article on Logistics Viewpoints entitled “Will Supply Chain Software Vendors Start Competing on Design?” by Adrian Gonzalez. See excerpt below.

One of the things supply chain software users like to complain about the most is the user interface (UI). This was true 15 years ago when I started as an industry analyst, and it’s true today. Simply put, many user interfaces…

  • are crammed with too many features and too much information that users don’t need or want to accomplish their tasks;
  • have non-intuitive workflows that don’t align with the way users are accustomed to working (or the way they want to work);
  • force users to open multiple windows and tabs, and click countless times, to accomplish what should be a straightforward task.

Sound familiar?

Hell yes this sounds familiar!

Why do I continually need to enter my plant number into each screen and every query!  Common sense dictates I’m looking up information regarding my plant until I input otherwise! In fact I never look up information from other plants or divisions!

Why do I need to manually enter work order and batch number when shipping product to suppliers. Aren’t the two tied together! The batch number is created and linked to work order upon work order release! The batch information should just populate when I enter work order number!

Let’s take a look at what should be a common sense workflow.

When system provides a missing part error message what is the first thing you want to know! What is this missing part of course! Why does it take another click to discover this!  Next question in the natural order of things is … Hmmm… maybe the status and whereabouts of missing part. Of course that information isn’t accessible from missing parts screens must back out and open new menu screen to access that information.

I could go on forever!

A person could literally create an Amazon buyers and sellers account from their phone buy an item resell it and track all the transactions with ease before a corporate user understands how to simply requisition a product on typical ERP system.

Do you have this problem? OK here is a test. Go to material planner and simply ask “Please print a report of what you shipped last month and what you shipped this month to date.

This should take less than five minutes with a ready-made report query. Surely the ERP gurus understood this is a foundational and universal query. Is it readily available and prints in very user friendly format?

What about these simple reports or queries.  These should take less than five minutes each to generate.

  • Ship lists – Items due to ship.
  • Purchased items status – Parts overdue or coming due.
  • Component Overview – List of parts and quantities available for a program.
  • Component Usage Reports – How many parts were consumed in the last six month versus how many are due next six months? Great for proving demonstrated capacity!
  • Inventory Reports – Why is it necessary for finance to export to excel then provide production with spreadsheet? Shouldn’t turns and dollars be readily available and calculated in real time directly from the ERP system?
  • Inventory Quality Ratio – Why hasn’t IQR caught up with ERP?

Is this information retrieved easily or is it more stumbling, fumbling and bumbling to get it.

As workers from generation X migrate to management it’s my sincere hope they don’t accept the status quo. For some reason the baby boomer generation views these systems as immovable objects (monuments) to work around rather than advance. The ability for users to easily and logically navigate the software will certainly improve the bottom line. But with most systems patched together like Frankenstein finding the bottom line is like searching for Waldo!

Final thought, if you’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a software system but still heavily rely on data massaged through an Excel spreadsheet something is amiss. Can’t wait to hear a Gen “X” manager say “Isn’t there an APP for that?”



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ISM CPSM Certification Now More Inclusive!


Great news ISM (Institute of Supply Management) has expanded their CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management) certification to be more inclusive while also discontinuing the CSM (Certified in Supply Management).

I applaud these moves by ISM, it reflects their willingness to adapt and change as required. This is win for the average professional and that is what this blog is about!

The requirements for CPSM at time of writing are below.

  • Three years of full-time, professional supply management experience (nonclerical, nonsupport) with a bachelor’s degree from regionally accredited institution or international equivalent


  • Five years of full-time, professional supply management experience (nonclerical, nonsupport) without a qualified bachelor’s degree


  • Successfully pass three CPSM® Exams, OR, if you are a C.P.M. in good standing, pass the Bridge Exam

I’m a huge proponent of professional certifications.  Dollar for dollar these are a great bargain for boosting your credentials and credibility. Education to use for your employer networking for you the individual it’s one of the few remaining win-win situations in the workforce.

With that I believe it was huge mistake for ISM to create two tiered certification process with the primary distinction being an educational prerequisite.  This left out in the cold many low, mid and even high level professionals that have decades of experience.

I’ve found that professional certifications are the most beneficial to non-degreed individuals.  They are an added distinction for those with degrees. If the certification highlights the fact your non-degreed than it’s a professional buzz kill. This is the reason I never recommend the CSM certification to professionals.

When ISM originally created CPSM designation without a pathway for non-degreed professionals it diminished CSM destination almost immediately. Carrying the CSM certification just screamed “I don’t have a degree” to colleague’s and coworkers in the profession.  I’m sure that wasn’t ISM’s intent nor was it to make CPSM an elitist professional certification.

What’s slightly disheartening is that ISM needed research from outside consultants to make a change. Also ISM needs to slow all the designation changes there beginning to feel gimmicky e.g. CPM. Has the organization become too academic and lost touch with the rank and file in the supply profession.  I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, everyone slips now and again, remember new formula Coke!

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Is TPS Evolving?

Fast job!I read an article recently that piques my interest.

In a March 15th article entitled “What after lean?”  Abe Eshkenazi Chief Operating Officer of APICS discussed what could be some important changes soon at Toyota. These changes could expand Toyota’s thinking beyond the TPS (Toyota Production System) and into other areas.

According to the article…

“The Toyota Motor Corporation is making some big changes, especially across its North and South American affiliate companies. Among these changes, the company announced a new head of North American operations, a new board chair, and a new board member.”

Also mentioned in article was an issue Toyota faced that may have contributed to the upcoming changes.

“These changes come at a time when Toyota still is recovering from a series of recalls that began in 2009 and were related to an acceleration problem. According to the Los Angeles Times, the company paid $1.1 billion in class-action settlements and $29 million to 29 US states because of the incidents.”

I have always argued that companies that blindly follow Toyota like a religion will always be behind them.  Only time will tell exactly what changes will be made at Toyota but it’s obvious they are a truly evolving organization.

There was speculation in the article that movement might be towards S&OP (Sales and Operation Planning). This would be great; I believe Toyota would do it correctly rather than the lip service of many other organizations. Toyota appears to be the Rand McNally of operational practices so the clones will just wait for the map to be published.

Any modification or shift from the Toyota production system would be quite impressive. While other companies steadfastly cling to their interpretation of TPS, the real Toyota is in a state of perpetual forward evolution. Thus again my premise that Toyota clones will never lead the marketplace if their model is simply to follow Toyota.

While I’m a big fan and have utmost respect for Toyota, I’m anxious to see who will be the Steve Jobs of manufacturing. A lean soldier who will not be intimidated an actually try to surpass the TPS not just emulate, replicate or clone.

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