• Bill Greider

LEAN Goals: Don't Build Your Church for Easter Sunday!

Ever notice how packed church suddenly becomes on Easter Sunday? Suddenly it is standing room only. People need to show up at least an hour early just to get a seat. Every square inch of wood bench is taken up, people are cheek to cheek with their neighbors. You can almost pass out from the perfume and cologne. Sometimes, the mass has to be doubled mass upstairs, and another downstairs in the church hall. More people are needed to make sure everything goes smoothly. There are parking attendants working outside with orange cones to make sure the parking lot is used to capacity, and to make sure nobody parks on the grass. An extra priest, extra deacons, extra people to serve up communion. The church probably has to buy the communion wafer in bulk just to satisfy demand for the weekend.

Then think about July 12th. One priest, no parking attendants, no orange cones, not too much perfume and cologne, no standing room only, no wafers in bulk. Back to normal. The "regulars". Just show up at church with 5 minutes to spare and you are all set.

Now let's think about our businesses. How often do we "build it for Easter Sunday"? In the majority of cases, our people costs are are usually our single biggest investment year after year. Yet, how often do we find ourselves throwing labor at spikes in demand or at problems? More people, more overtime, etc. How about our inventory levels? Does it look like Easter Sunday? Raw materials, WIP, finished goods?

The biggest reward for people who create a culture of continuous a improvement is the ability to do much more value added work (the work our customers will pay for) with the same hours, energy and effort. A leap of faith we lean zealots have is that 95% of any process is non value-added work (the work our customers won't pay for, the 8 wastes). To avoid building our church for Easter Sunday, we need to create a culture where every single person is working to recognize and eliminate waste every single day. If we do build our church for Easter Sunday, fluctuations in the marketplace might find us in a position where we are ready for Easter and get July 12th (remember 2007-8 & Wall Street). Then we need to downsize or gulp, liquidate. Many of the things that impact our business are out of our control......our competitors, our suppliers, the weather, the economy. But, we can control our own processes! If a process takes 12 minutes, figure out how to do it in 10. And do this relentlessly for all 3000 processes in your business. Think about the concepts of pull and level loading so inventory doesn't hide our problems.

My very good friend Richard Fleet, owner of Light Metals Coloring (Southington, CT), encourages us to make sure our processes are capable of Easter Sunday by relentlessly improving productivity (sales per labor hour).....don't allow people to do wasteful work!

Do your lean hard when times are good so you can still make money on July 12th!!

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