• Bill Greider

Lean is Time Management, not Conference Rooms and Sticky Notes!!

LEAN is nothing more than TIME MANAGEMENT! Nothing more and nothing less. Think of it this way: your business consists of hundreds, probably thousands of processes. Everything from how you buy raw materials to how you pay for them, how you recruit, hire and train new people, how you send quotes, how you transform raw materials into a finished product, how you send samples, invoices, collect money, count inventory, etc. etc. 

LEAN is simply a method to reduce the amount of time to do these processes by slowly, steadily. systematically eliminating the "non-value added work" (8 wastes-defects-overproduction, waiting, non-essential over processing, transport, inventory, motion and un-used employee brainpower). The way lean thinkers "count" how well we are eliminating waste is in units of time. 

As we learn to do real kaizen (where people are recognizing and eliminating waste every day), time is taken out. Sometimes it is seconds, sometimes it is minutes, hours, even weeks or months. Let me give you an example.

Pretend one of your employees decided to make an improvement to reduce walking (motion). The A3 team decided to move a printer 20 steps closer to where the work is. Non-LEAN people may think that this A3 does not have a high enough return on investment to even bother with. Let's dig a little deeper. 

Let's pretend that the operators (3 of them) need to print something after they complete their work that needs to be included with whatever they are passing along to the next process (it could be a label, a certification, whatever). Pretend they each process 10 orders per day. Let's pretend there are 2 shifts of 3 people processing 10 orders each. Here is the LEAN savings:

  1. 20 steps X 3 people X 10 orders X 2 shifts=1200 STEPS saved per day.

  2. 1200 STEPS per day X 240 workdays (doesn't include overtime or Saturdays)=288,000 steps.

  3. On average, figure 2000 steps per mile=in one year, you are paying people to walk 144 miles per year.

  4. How long does it take a human to walk a mile? 20 minutes, on average=2880 minutes spent walking (48 hours).

This means you will pay people to walk for 48 hours (at $35/hour which includes benefits, insurance, etc. that one improvement change will save $1680 per year that you will be paying people to walk). Accountants will argue hard vs. soft savings. All I know is that if the A3 team didn't recognize the walking as waste and improve it, people would spend 2880 minutes walking. By eliminating the walking, maybe I can ship 2 or 3 more orders per day with the same 3 people per shift! Don't forget that when we're walking, the next order is waiting.

That is only one A3! There are companies that do hundreds or thousands of them each year. Some remove seconds, some remove weeks of non-value added work. The name of the game is PRODUCTIVITY. Work to get everyone thinking like this, and you will double your sales per labor hour and suddenly find yourself in a position to pay more, attract and keep talent, give a bonus, whatever. This is exactly what happened to me and why lean works when done right!!  This is tough to do if you only do periodic kaizen EVENTS in a room with sticky notes and Power Points.

LEAN=Time Management on Steroids

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