“No standard, then no kaizen…” – Lean 3P continued…

“No standard, then no kaizen…” – Lean 3P continued…

By: George McDonald – LMS

 In other words, when a process is performed unsystematically in different ways, then:

  • There can be no basis for comparison (before/after)
  • One cannot objectively tell if there was a difference or change
  • No improvement is possible in regards to Time, Quality, Quantity, Cost, etc.

I define standardized work as the most efficient flow considering quality, safety, quantity and cost. Our next step in the 3P process was determining does the flow make sense in regard to this definition.

This project has a fairly aggressive timeline for completion in order to meet increased customer spa demand. Because the site already had experience running this type of product, they assumed they could do what they’ve always done. That is, add operators to

(The picture above shows the empty space that would have looked similar to the elevated floor to the right had they not developed standardized work. A great example where it was cheaper to cut cardboard instead of steel)

(The picture above shows the empty space that would have looked similar to the elevated floor to the right had they not developed standardized work. A great example where it was cheaper to cut cardboard instead of steel)

the new line based on past experience. More or less, when the line is up, they get to find out whether they guessed correctly or not.

What’s can go wrong with this thinking? From my experience, most sites always go heavy on their estimates as to how many people it will take.  The problem with that approach is that it is very difficult to pull operators if you started with more than are actually needed. Too many operators will create a situation where it’s difficult to see waste. You may also find that the operators may not be able to perform their tasks based on the final layout, equipment design and tools available.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here about the downside of not doing preliminary standardized work, but I will say in this particular case, the company saved a lot of valuable time and money.

After analyzing the data, and not “past history of how we’ve always done it”, the standardized work told us that we could conservatively, without initial kaizen, do it with 18 operators/shift (versus 24/shift) and 1000 sq. ft. less floor space. In essence, we went from four plumbing stations to two, two equipment and box frame cells to one, and two Weir stations to one.  The spas and component are heavy and cumbersome. The team improved the lift and reach ergonomics for the operator. We also feel we have the proper amount of tools and equipment for the line.

The picture below is a feeder cell that will support the spa assembly line with side panels. I will post more as the project progresses. Next on our list of events for 3P – material handling and components to the line.

3P effort for panels - saws, WIP, carts, etc.

(3P Effort for Panels – saws, WIP, carts, etc.)

“It’s easier to cut cardboard…”

“It’s easier to cut cardboard…”

Lean 3P (Production, Preparation and Process) is an event-driven process for developing a new product concurrently with the operation that will produce it. 3P is a game-changer that results in better products that require less initial capital investment and lower ongoing costs.

A client I am working with is building a new manufacturing line in order to expand their business. Traditionally, the company would assign an engineer to develop the concept, spec out the process and place orders for equipment, tooling, flow racks, tools, etc. As is the case with most big projects and unforeseen problems, it is difficult to get it exactly right the first time. This typically equates to more and delays for launch as well as additional costs to the company.

The most visible characteristic of 3P is the idea of creating quick and dirty mock-ups of the product and the process. These mockups are often constructed of wood, cardboard, PVC pipe – materials at hand.

The idea is to be able to quickly and cheaply try out, and experience, a process (or product) so that problems can be surfaced, opportunities for improvement can be seen, and the PDCA cycle can be turned far more rapidly than would otherwise be possible.

The purpose of a scale model of the process serves to create a Gemba as well. Now, rather than doing an abstract analysis, you have something that people can see, touch, and interact with. Doing so forces details to the surface that are simply invisible in abstract models in computers or on paper.

The team assembled some tables, got some boxes and cardboard, and represented the machines, the work positions, the material and people flow.

Even as they were doing this, some of the team members saw things that they questioned, such as the walking distance and reach. They were able to simulate cart height, machine height, etc. and were also able to reduce the footprint.

Curious visitors, some senior managers, have given input as well. The best quote I’ve heard thus far, stated by the Vice President of operations, summed it all up well, “It’s easier to cut cardboard than steel”. This is a simple but powerful message.


I will post more as this project progresses.