It’s been a very interesting month. Last month we talked about some of the problems of the effective management of change and agreed to continue this month. It would be incorrect to say ‘complete’ as the change process, just like any continuous improvement, will never be finished. There is always another possibility to be embraced for beneficial change.
Focus on end results, without embracing change, and you’ll get results you don’t want. Focus on the process of beneficial change and you will get the results you want, with patience. Try to bring about change without focus and you may well achieve chaos.
Since writing part 1 of this article last month, three of the Harford team have become Lean Six Sigma Black Belts which, I’m delighted to say, makes us even more willing, and able, to help manufacturers bring about and sustain their own management of change. The more we know, the more we are able to help.
Last month we highlighted some of the performance and personnel difficulties of bringing about change, so this month we’ll go a little deeper and look at some of the tools which we can use to hopefully achieve some ‘quick wins’, together with sustained performance improvement.
Firstly, and we cannot stress this too strongly, bringing about beneficial change to any organisation is never easy, as it requires not just a good system, but appropriate training at all management and operational levels. More than anything it requires the eradication of fear and for the people involved in the change processes to be willing to step out of their comfort zone. This is much easier said than done when the comfort zone has gradually evolved over decades for many factory workers and those ‘old hands’ will often be responsible for showing the new young recruits ‘the ropes’.
Recapping on last month, there is absolutely no doubt about the need for beneficial change, not to improve quality per se (that’s a given), but to improve efficiency. Just about every manufacturer is looking to achieve more by doing less or with fewer resources. This doesn’t necessarily mean fewer manual resources, though further automation of repetitive tasks (that human beings are either not very good at consistently or don’t want to do anyway) is inevitable. We believe however that the main benefits will come from the minimisation of risk, the minimisation of wastage and improvements in efficiency.
Whenever we carry out an end to end process map of a manufacturing process, we invariably find a myriad of opportunities for the elimination or minimisation of waste and improvement inefficiencies. This leads us to question everything, every part of the process from Goods In to Despatch is evaluated. So often we find areas of waste which have been right under the noses of operators for years but have been accepted as normal parts of the process. ‘We have always done it this way’.
One of the most simple tools within the Lean Six Sigma toolbox is, of course, the 5S programme, to sort, set, standardise, shine and sustain which, in its simplest form, let’s just get and stay organised. Another way of looking at 5S is ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. This could include shadow boards, often leading to instant recognition and availability of change parts to facilitate rapid product changeovers.
SMED (single minute exchange dies) is a classic area for quick wins where, often by some small changes, parts which need to be changed on a production line can easily be changed to make the product changeover far quicker and easier to achieve. One of our clients managed to reduce a product changeover from one and a half hours to 25 minutes, mainly through using SMED techniques.
Though 5S and SMED can lead to quick wins, more usually, the quick wins, or low hanging fruit, have been already accessed, which could probably lead us to carry out, with the management team, a Value Stream Map, (VSM). Though this is usually very time consuming it can be quite revealing. Our primary interest would be to look for areas of waste…those that have long been considered essential functions, but which add no value and only add cost.
Secondly, in our VSM, we might look in depth at Valued Added functions within the manufacturing process to determine if the VA is adding optimum value at lowest cost.
Thirdly, we would examine the Non-Value Added, but necessary, functions, ie., quality sampling routines, to see if these could still effectively sustain high-quality standards but at lower cost. Some companies do more sampling than they need, whilst some barely do enough, but so much depends upon the capability of each process.
In the enthusiastic pursuit of Lean Manufacturing there are so many tools and techniques available, such that the effective pursuit of Process Optimisation is never-ending. Obviously, knowing what to analyse, where and how, is of paramount importance. Perfection may be some way off, but improvement opportunities are everywhere, we just need to be open to them and bold enough to make changes. At the same time, we need to have patience, persistence and understanding and to recognise that, at the factory floor level some changes will not come quickly or easily and will take time.
On the credit side, we have been through this process so many times and know that it works, even if overnight success can often prove elusive. We are absolutely convinced that, despite some ‘bumps in the road,’ the journey is well worth taking, if uncomfortable at times.
What’s the alternative? Can we really risk doing nothing, or too little, whilst we wait for our supermarket customers, fighting their own High Street wars, to find a cheaper, more efficient supplier?
Roy Green, Harford Control