18 Jun

LEAN Empowerment!

Lean EmpowermentHow do you create an ’empowerment zone’?…a place where people can take ownership of their workplace. This includes being able to influence decisions and actions related to your work as well as the look and feel of your workplace.

Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” LEAN tools are the quickest and most sustainable way to empower teams to take back ownership of their workplace .

A good example of this is a recent project we did using the 5S Workplace Organisation and S.M.E.D. tools to help the team take ownership of their workplace.  It is a story many have heard before…ineffective multi-level communication leading to lack of accountability and teams performing below their potential.

Step 1 was to get the team to be able to influence decisions made regrading their workplace layout and equipment maintenance through visual communications. Using 5S’s they planned their workplace layout, cleared out all unnecessary items and plotted where everything should go. By demarcating ‘parking bays’  with yellow floor tape they ensured that support services always placed the bins and palettes in the same place resulting in reduced clutter and always having materials in place. Red tags were used to identified equipment faults and to generate job cards for the maintenance team to plan repairs. Action lists showing work to be done are displayed on their notice board and are discussed and updated daily.

Step 2 was to have the team create their own benchmarks regarding performance. Continually competing against yourself and focusing on beating your previous best creates a ‘winning culture’. Beating the world record is the eventual target. The team are busy creating process maps for each changeover and are already looking at ways to improve the initial times logged. They have also developed housekeeping, lubrication and operations maintenance  schedules.

After a week the team has identified 18 improvements, which they want to implement in their workplace. They have prioritised them, posted them on their notice board and have an execution plan for the first two. Operator and maintenance teams are talking to each other about equipment improvements and discussions are being held with support services on how they can assist in improving the overall performance. The team is starting to take charge…a great thing to see.LEAN logo



17 Nov

Create Enquiring Minds

Process MappingThe tools for developing the thinking skills of your employees will be under your nose, at your fingertips, or even hanging on your wall. You can begin to build or improve employee thinking skills and job performance with little or no cost to your business. Generally factories have a wealth of charts, pictures, graphs, processes etc. on the walls but most employees mumble when asked what these visuals are. Employees have little say on what information is displayed so no feeling of ownership and little interest. Here a team is busy creating a map to help them visually display the process they follow during a product change on their line. They used it to come up with ideas to improve a changeover process resulting in a reduced in time (56%) and reduction of start-up waste of 73%.

A number of people responded to our last newsletter asking for more information about using the brainpower of your teams to solve problems. It’s easy to talk about getting teams to think but how is it done in practice. First you must realise that you are trying to change a culture and that is going to take time. There is no quick fix. Some hints on how to simplify the process are…

  • Make thinking visible.
    • Encourage team members to write down or draw their improvement ideas or problems. It may help to have a standard idea form and problem form.
    • Use photo’s – remember a picture says a thousand words. Use arrows and captions to explain the photo.
    • Use notice boards to display the ideas and problems. The more people who see the notice board the better.
    • Allow everyone to write their comments on the ideas displayed this way you can brainstorm over shifts.
    • Reward or recognise ideas that deliver sustainable results or financial benefits.
  • Challenge the team. Get them to solve specific problems starting with relatively simple ones progressing in difficulty.
  • Teach teams simple problem solving tools
    • Make a habit of asking questions. (5 Why analysis)
    • Use a Matrix – not only is it good for gathering and sorting information but it also inspires creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Involve the team in practically testing and communicating their ideas.

Given the chance people naturally try to improve their lives and make their work easier. All your teams need are the tools to help them improve and lots of support. The results will be amazing and sustainable.