In this podcast, I share a presentation I gave on Jan 14, 2020 with the City of Gresham employees and Gresham Green Businesses.
I was asked to teach them about Lean and Six Sigma methods by Gregg Hayward (who kicked off the event) and Shannon Martin. I’ve worked with both of them in the past at other recycling activities and past green business activities near Portland.
You can learn more about my green business work in Clackamas County on Episode 12 about Setting Up a Green Team
In this workshop, I go over the basics of Lean and Six Sigma, and how it can be applied to your work to impact finances, community, environment and applied at home.
There is a video of the presentation, which includes the workshop PPT slides
I also discuss the following lean concepts of 8 wastes, value, systems thinking, value stream, one piece flow, and pull. There is also a simulation using note cards, that teaches batch vs one piece flow. I also discuss the Six Sigma concepts of variation, data analysis, measurement error, and process controls.
- City of Gresham and Gresham Green Businesses
- Download Slides from Presentation (PPT)
- YouTube (includes slides and videos)
- Videos from Workshop
Are you interested in learning more about Lean and Six Sigma?
Or are you looking to expand your existing skills to apply them to environmental impacts at your work or local community?
We’ll teach you about the lean forms of waste and WASTE walks (which stands for Water, Air Emissions, Solid Waste, Toxins and Energy)
We’ll go over examples of reducing electricity and solid waste, teach you how to involve your facilities and ES&H personnel. We’ll provide guidance on how to green your 5S and lean kaizen events, and many other tools specific to find environmental opportunities
Learn more at LeanSixSigmaEnvironment.org
Gregg (G): My name is Gregg Hayward. I’m the Gresham Green Business coordinator. I work in recycling and solid waste here at the city of Gresham. We’re really excited to have everybody here today for a combined Gresham Green Business and City of Gresham training on Lean Six Sigma.
Raise your hand if this is your first time ever hearing about Lean Six Sigma. Cool, and then raise your hand if you have maybe done a little bit of Lean Six Sigma in the past. And if you’ve done a lot of it in the past. Okay, cool. So I’m going to let Brion talk all about that; I’m not going to talk anymore about what Lean Six Sigma is about. But this is our Gresham Green Business Coffee Hour for the month. So the Gresham Green Business Program hosts a monthly coffee hour that brings together businesses from around Gresham to kind of share their ideas about what they’re working on in sustainability, learn from one another, see ideas in action, kick the tires I like to say, on sustainable ideas, and go from there. We found that when businesses are talking to one another, they learn a lot more and they get a lot more out of it than just having Gresham Gregg or government Gregg come say, “Hey, you should totally do this. It’s awesome.” It means a lot more one is coming from your fellow businesses, so we try to create a network where that is easy to naturally happen.
There’s more information on the green business program over on our table. There’s coffee and granola bars and clementines, a compost bin for your peels. Feel free to get up whenever you need to. The bathroom is located around the corner to the right. Feel free to go when you need to. There will be a break, about halfway through, around 10:30, 10:45.
What was the other thing I was going to say? so that everybody kind of knows who’s in the room, raise your hand if you are a City of Gresham employee. Put your hands down. Raise your hands if you’re in the Gresham Green Business Program or here because you’ve heard about the Gresham Green Business Program. Okay. Some of you didn’t raise your hand, because I counted. And if we could, from the city departments that you’re from. So if you’re from planning, raise your hand here. Finance? Environmental services or welfare departments? Government? Government management? all right. Anybody else? okay. And then from the businesses that are here, could you just raise a hand? I know we’ve got Plexus over here. Other organizations?
Female Speaker (F): The Quality Inn.
G: Quality Inn, that’s right.
G: Bridgestone, Firestone, [inaudible]
M: Mt Hood Community College.
G: Samsonite. Luke?
M: I’m still trying to figure out where I work.
G: Anybody else that I missed? Yeah?
M: John Deere.
G: John Deere, in the DC area. Cool. So I wanted to do that so that if you’d like to talk during the break, you kind of know some of the businesses that are here and some of the different types of people that are in the room. And the last thing I was going to say, this is our coffee hour for the month, so we’re not going to do an end of the month when we normally do our coffee hour. Oh, First Community Service is in the back.
G: All right, so let me just give a little bit of an introduction to Brion. So Brion has been doing process improvement work over the last 20 years and he was previously with Rockwell Collins, which is an interesting organization in Wilsonville, I believe, where they manufacture fighter jet pilot helmets. Yeah, so really important, really precise type of work. And you were doing process improvement work there, and then, about three years back, he started his own independent consulting agency and does Lean process improvement around the Portland, Vancouver metro area and beyond. He’s also the chair of Recycling Advocates, which is a nonprofit within the Portland metro area that helps advance recycling. He became involved with our Gresham Green Business Program, he came to some of our coffee hours and was like, “Yeah, I would love to do a training,” and so this has kind of come to be today.
Another really cool thing I’d like to mention is that Brion and his wife Vera, they’re really living this Lean lifestyle, so they’ve taken Lean concepts and applied it to their daily life. They’ve downsized, they’ve been very strategic about the work that they take on and the amount that they take on, and that’s allowed them time to travel, more time to hang out with their family, and all kinds of things like that. So it’s interesting that you can apply Lean Six Sigma to big businesses and you can apply it to your personal life, so I think it’ll be very interesting for all of you. So with that, I’m going to let Brion take it away.
Brion (B): Thanks, Gregg. Thanks, everybody. I think that’s one thing I want to leave today with you guys is to think about ways you can apply this to your work and do things a little simpler, easier, faster, with less struggle. But also, when you go home, think about what are the things and tasks I’m doing at my house and how can I do that a little more efficiently so I don’t waste so much time and I can get back to doing the fun stuff, the relaxing things, or whatever you want to do with that free time.
A lot of this is not about making people go faster, it’s about just looking at the work that you do and the tasks that you do and thinking about different ways of doing that. So that’s what I want to, hopefully, leave you with and if that expands into activities at your work, even better. Hopefully, you all leave with that the concepts have an application in both home and at work. If not, then let’s talk about that as we get toward the end and I’ll try to see if I can understand the work you’re doing and try to give you some examples to think about. So keep that in the back of your mind as we’re going through some of these topics.
So just a little bit about me. I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, and I went to school at the University of Iowa and then kind of, through different transfers, through the company I worked at, made it out here to Oregon. My background is in statistics and quality management and that’s how I got into process improvement work. Fortunately, I was able to go into an organization and I didn’t have any direct responsibilities. I just got basically tasked to say go out and help processes and help people out with their data or their process workflows. So it was a really cool job and I got to see all the different parts of the organization. I probably knew more about how the organization worked than most people did because I got to see all the different processes that connected, from HR to IT to purchasing to supply chain management, all those different areas, so that gave me really good experience and examples.
There’s different certification levels that Lean and Six Sigma offer us. I’ll talk about that a little bit later.
This is what we’re going to go through today. We’re going to start off by talking about Lean concepts, and then we’re going to talk a little bit on Six Sigma concepts as we get further along. I usually start with Lean because the concepts are a little bit more intuitive for people and sometimes the Six Sigma concepts get heavy into the data analysis and that can be scary for people. And so we’re going to ease into that a little bit with the data, but there’s a whole host of detail beyond there. So if you are interested in this topic, there’s lots of different options to expand and learn, but the number one thing I would say is just practice. Just like anything else, is to practice what you learn. That’s the best way to learn so, I would encourage that as a next step from here.
I think I got a good handle on who is in the audience, so that’s good. We have some mix here. If you do have some examples that pertain to something I’m talking about, please feel free to raise your hand and just give that example. I think that makes a lot more sense when you can hear other people talking about, “Yeah, we used to do things this way and now we do it a different way,” and this is tied into the concept I’m bringing up. We’ve got a couple of videos to go through. I want it to be somewhat interactive. We’ll do one simulation as well and then I’ll try to have a couple of breakouts to have a little discussion so you can talk about what did we just go over and how did that pertain to what you’re doing.
The best way, I think, to introduce this is to go through a video. This video was done by some consultants who work at Toyota. As part of their consulting work, they work with their suppliers, but they also work with government agencies and nonprofits and this is a really cool video of some of the work they did with a food bank in New York after Hurricane Sandy.
B: Why don’t you turn to your neighbor, introduce yourself, and then just talk about what did you see that you liked about that video. So just take a minute or two here.
F: Is how this stuff makes so much sense, but it’s hard to make the time to even step back and think about it. Because I can think of a lot of things I’d like to improve if I just had an hour to think about it.
B: That’s a really important part of improvement is you have to invest a little bit of time to, yeah, step out of the work and kind of look at it from a different perspective. That’s a challenge because you’re already probably struggling to keep up, so that time you’re spending evaluating the process, you’re getting further behind then. That’s a big challenge is how do you get over that initial hump. Because that first improvement will then save you time in the future, but you kind of have to go a step backwards first before you can go forward on that and that’s a big challenge.
F: We were talking about people’s reluctance for change…
B: Yeah, that’s a huge difficulty too. A lot around this improvement is around getting a team together, involving people in the work and in the improvements so it doesn’t feel like it’s being thrown on them or thrust on them, but they are a part of coming up with the solution. Because they’re the ones, the people we’re changing, they’re the ones who are going to experience the benefits or, if it doesn’t go well, the consequences of that, so we definitely want people involved in that so they can make the best choices. And you’re going to get the best answers, too, when you involve all the people who are the experts. Yeah?
M: Well, speaking of involvement, we had some people from the outside who came in to observe the operation and their ideas.
B: Yeah, and some of this is just concepts that they’ve never been introduced to or exposed to before. And so everybody’s working really hard, it’s just there’s easier ways to do that work once you kind of look at it from a flow standpoint or efficiency. So sometimes it just needs that kind of introduction or coaching, we call it, from an outsider just to get it started or see things differently, that you kind of get ingrained in that process and you think this is the best we can do, so you kind of get introduced to a different way. Yeah?
F: We were thinking, because of my limited experience so far, but how it seems easy to understand when you’re looking at a process that’s like that, like cars or boxes of food, and when you’re dealing with a process that involves people and their motivations and their choices, it seems like it would get quite a bit more tricky.
B: Yeah, definitely, if your process does not involve a tangible item, one of the first things we try to do is figure out how can we make the visual. Because when it’s hidden behind the computer and the network or in the systems, you can’t see the stuff piling up. You can’t see the back and forth on your computer as easily as you can someone walking that distance. So one of the first things is how do you turn that electronic work into visual? so put it on a board or put sticky notes that represent things in the process so multiple people can look at it and see the waste, see the process, first of all. So those are really important pieces, what can you do to visualize your work that’s something that’s not as tangible as this.
So the key takeaways here were they got the group together, they observed first before they just came in and gave answers, they watched the process, that took some times, they noticed that there was a waste, that they were trying to get more families fed and they wanted to address the problem of running short, so they figured out a way to get more boxes on the truck. Then they also went in and looked at the way in which they were packing the boxes and they said there are a lot of people carrying and struggling with that process. What if we set up a little conveyor belt system and they stay there and just pack the boxes in, and then have someone else in charge of making sure they don’t run out of supplies? and so there’s less travel and movement and tearing things and potentially dropping stuff and struggle. So five cool improvements from there. We’ll expand on that.
There’s a long history with Lean. This is not a new thing. In fact, it’s been around many, many decades. It probably got really popularized in the 80s, when people started to notice that the Japanese automobile manufacturing was surpassing and beating a lot of the US manufacturers and they were trying to figure out what’s going on over there. They traced it back to the history of, after World War II, they were trying to rebuild their economy. The US actually sent over some quality experts, like Dr. Deming and Joseph Juran, and they brought expertise. They also studied Ford in that early 1900s and how they revolutionized manufacturing.
And then they had their own internal experts, Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno, who worked at Toyota and they were looking at ways to be very efficient because they had no resources to pull from. They had to turn the materials into a product quickly because they had no money, no one would lend them money. They had to bring in all their materials outside their island. So, through necessity, they came up with this method and that was the term that got described. When they watched this Toyota production system, they realized they’re running very lean, much leaner than the US automakers. What’s the secret? and there’s tangible things that they noticed, but at the heart of it, it was really the way in which they tackled problems was completely different than a lot of organizations. They’re very open about it.
He said in the video, “Outside Toyota, problems have a negative connotation,” like a bad thing. I think that’s a pretty common experience we have because we don’t like to talk about problems or bring up problems because we’re afraid of getting in trouble or getting yelled at or we’re going to get penalized. Yeah?
M: We were at a financial training and I’m a bean counter by trade, and the difference between what a lot of manufacturers do is they put raw ingredients together, where the meat industry is, literally, the composition, the carcasses, etc. I think that’s the same process that they’re running is what’s the quickest way to take a carcass from a whole or a half down to steaks or whatever. That’s what makes it easy for me to understand Lean concepts is it’s something that’s on both sides of the track.
B: Okay, cool. So a lot of this is around looking at what are the steps and things to do the tasks that we’ve done and how do I get it all the way from the person asking for it until it’s finished? What we find, a lot of times, is it gets hung up at various points in the process for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes, it’s I’m juggling too many things or I’m trying to do too much at once or I’m batching work, and we’ll talk about that a little bit too. So there are some actual principles there that actually will help and I’ll go through that, but there’s also a culture and a mindset that goes with this. So it’s one thing just to have the tools, but you also have to have the support and the culture to support it. So it’s a hodgepodge of different various different improvement methodologies that have been kind of pushed and combined together.
In the late 70s/early 80s, a lot of Japanese books were being translated in English, actually, here in Portland, by a group called Productivity Press and Norman Bodek, and he started to bring some of these concepts to the US through the English translations. Then there was a research team at MIT that went over and did this study and it really determined that they were doing things in half the time, half the inventory, half the workers, twice as fast, twice as high quality. Everything was double better than the competition that they studied. They actually set up a plant at GM and Toyota went together in the early 1980s and worked together. They took the worst-performing GM plant down in Fremont, which is the current Tesla facility. They had shut it down, they rehired 80% of the same workers, they implemented the same system, and it turned it into the number one performing plant in all of their facilities just by implementing a different culture and system.
So this history has been kind of expanding and so a lot of the manufacturers do have a little bit of background on these concepts, but once you start looking at government agencies and small businesses and the film and entertainment industry, banking, and healthcare, there’s all these same concepts are at play. And so some of these concepts have been around 100 years, but sometimes it just hasn’t been exposed to people, so that was part of the motivation to try to reach this audience just to introduce these concepts that they’re not brand-new, they’ve been very established and very successful, but outside of a manufacturing setting, they haven’t had as much exposure yet.
So these are the two pillars and I think these are really important. The first one is that it’s continuous improvement and that you’re never done. Sometimes people say, “We did some improvement last month.” Okay, great. What are you doing this month? It never ends and once you get okay with that fact that there’s always going to be problems, it’s just what is the next one we need to tackle and work on, then it changes your mindset a little bit about it.
And so there’s a couple of things here. Challenge means that we have something we’re striving for. If we don’t know where we’re going, it’s going to be really hard to make improvements because we don’t know which direction to go. Kaizen is this idea that they mentioned in the video is this continuous improvement mindset, that we can make small improvements every day. It doesn’t have to be we need an automated line to pack all the boxes. They took the same people, same things, they threw it on a conveyor belt, pretty low technology, and they made it much better. So small, incremental improvements and then go and see, for your own eyes, what’s going on. Don’t sit in the conference room or at your desk and make decisions. Go talk to the people where the problems are happening and see firsthand and ask for ideas and input from the people who actually do the work.
Which kind of leads into the next piece is respect for people. What’s much more respectful is to include people into that discussion than saying, “I’m the manager or I’m the boss. I should have all the answers and I’m going to tell people what to do.” That doesn’t work very well, at least not where people are happy and feel empowered in their work.
We do this in teams so it’s not an individual going off and making decisions, it’s everyone working together to find good solutions to a problem. And there’s compromise that has to be made too. Sometimes the answer is I need to take on more work because I’m going to save you much more time in the future. If I’m already in this program and I find out that I can add these two fields of the system and that saves you 10 minutes of looking up that same number later, that’s the right answer. That is better, overall, for everybody. So it might actually make your time and your work longer, but you’re saving more time for somebody else. That’s a good improvement even though it seems like this is going to hurt my productivity a little bit. The goal is to make the whole system run for the customers, so making sure we’re always thinking about the customers. Does that make sense?
So those are some of the pillars that you want to keep in mind. Always revert back to these is do we have the right goals and objectives? are we thinking about small, incremental improvements? are we going to look at the problem and talking to the people who actually do the work? are we being respectful and not saying, “Who messed up?” but, “What’s wrong with our process that allowed you to make this mistake?” I’m assuming that everyone’s here trying to do a good job. And then how do we work together as a team to do that? So if you keep those principles in mind, you can always refer back to those when you’re struggling to figure out how do I tackle this particular problem.
These are the five principles, and we think about that as kind of a process flow to how to improve our process. Let’s start with the first one up here called value. Value is what your customer or stakeholder or end-user or recipient – it could be the residents, it could be an actual customer – what do they think is valuable? What do they want? We make assumptions all the time about what we think they want and this means go talk to them and verify. We provide you these artifacts. We send out this report to you. We deliver this product or service to you, tell us what you think. Are you happy with it? Is it what you want? Maybe it made sense five years ago, but now things might have changed.
So the first thing is, before we go any further, we need to verify that the customer or the end-user or the recipient is getting what they want, no more, no less. Because if we’re doing more, it’s going to slow us down and they’re not going to care about that extra stuff. I give the example of there’s an email. Your manager or somebody says, “Can you get me an update on one of the activities you’re working on?” and you sit there and you pound out a 10-paragraph summary of your project. You send it to them and they say, “Whoa, I thought you were just giving me like two sentences.” So if you had had that discussion upfront, you could have determined what is value to them and clarified what exactly the expectation was and then, instead of you spending an hour on this perfectly well written out, lengthy summary, you could have cut that down from an hour to 10 minutes and give them a very quick update and then the manager didn’t have to read through the whole thing to pull out the two bits of information that they wanted. So take an hour and a half process for both people total and you cut that down to maybe 10 or 15 minutes and everyone gets what they want and we’re not wasting time. So the first thing is let’s not do stuff that no one cares about.
And don’t assume. Go talk to your customers and end-users and stakeholders and verify these things because if you get this wrong, you’re going to spend a lot of time doing processes that they don’t care about or you’re missing the things that they do care about and you’re not even including in your process. Does that make sense? Okay, so it all starts with kind of the end-user or recipient of what you’re doing. Whether you’re delivering a document or sending an email or giving out a report or delivering a box or providing advice or doing research, there’s a recipient for that.
When we see these types of things in our process, it highlights that these could be probably non-value-added because they usually don’t result in good things for the customer. There’s an acronym called TIM WOODS. This describes eight different types of waste you can see and observe in a processes. Let’s start with the first one here, T. T is for transportation. We saw this in the video, someone was walking back and forth with a box. All that walking is just taking time. Every two steps takes about a second, in a rough estimate. So if I’m walking 100 steps, that’s time that is slowing down the process. If I don’t have to walk this far, then that’s time I can save and get more work done.
Because, usually, you’re not walking and then doing something with your process or writing things. Well, some people are writing an email and walking, but that’s not very safe. Sometimes you can try to be a little multitasking, but it may not be the best way to do that. So most of the time, the transportation time is not improving the product or service that you’re doing. It’s just taking up time, so we try to figure out ways to cut down the walking and travel. Transportation can also be moving of items – routing emails around to find the right recipient who should answer that question – and that’s causing delays in the process.
The next one is inventory. So think of this as it could be the physical inventory of why there are so many boxes here and why there are so many pallets here. If it’s stacked waiting, that means we don’t need it right now, so why did we get it so early? also, think about your backlog in your inbox, that’s kind of like inventory. So you have unread emails, right now, piling up. That’s your little inventory stash. That creates stress and the more that are there, the longer it takes to get through that pile. And so somebody who sends an email later today is going to have to wait through all the other emails to get looked at before it gets around to theirs, so it causes delays and waiting in the process.
And if you’re physically buying things, what happens is you have to… I see this a lot when people buy in bulk. They’ll say, “All right, I can get a good deal on this. I’m going to buy more than I need right now.” And so that might seem like a good deal, but we also have to weigh that against how much space is that going to take up in our area? Do I need a bigger space and a bigger building to house all that extra stuff? And then that’s usually going to take more money out of your bank account or the business account to hold onto that inventory because you’ve paid for it but you don’t need a right now, so it’s sitting there just kind of collecting dust when it could have been in the bank gaining interest. And then there’s a risk that there might be changes and this stuff isn’t even needed anymore in the future, we’re going to change our process around. Do you have an example?
M: Well, no. And is it perishable?
B: Perishable, exactly. Look, I got three dozen bananas for $0.10 each. What a deal! but at the end of the day, if I end up tossing a whole bunch of the bananas away, did I actually save money? and then I had to have a huge shelf dedicated for the bananas. So you’ve got to look at the long term impacts of the inventory. So that creates a backlog as well in our process and so this can be an area to look at and say where I see big backlogs of inventory, maybe that’s where a problem is nearby. There’s something holding it up, there’s a bottleneck in the process. So this can be used to help us identify areas to focus on for improvement.
Motion would be like activity at your own workspace. On your computer, if you’re having to click this program, and then click this file, open it up, change it to a different format, go to this screen, log in to this computer screen, upload a file, save it, and then you’ve got to go over here and update a database that you did that, and then you go back to your email program. That’s all motion. And then, at the end of the day, you say actually what am I trying to get out of this process? and there’s all those steps and motions that are not even helping me. Can I streamline that somehow because that’s taking time?
Or it could be something physical – I’m turning around and grabbing something over and over again. I was watching a campus mailroom and what they would do is they would scan a package, and then behind them was the printer, so they would scan the package, and then they’d turn around, grab the label off, and then flip the box over, and then put the label on it. They did that just all day long, just turning around and it was kind of like why don’t you just move the printer in front of you so you can just go from here to here to here? that’s motion and people get so used to the process they don’t even realize they’re doing it until someone kind of looks at it from a new perspective.
Waiting, just waiting for decisions to be made, waiting for approvals, waiting for someone to get back from their break or from vacation. Just think about the end-user and the customer, there waiting through all of those delays. And you might say, “Well, I’ll get to that on Monday,” but the clock’s counting even on weekends. Or, “I’ll get to it in the morning,” but still, there’s 8 hours or 10 hours or 12 hours or 16 hours of time between when you leave work and get to your work in the morning. The customer is experiencing that. They’re waiting through that whole time, so we should be conscientious of the impact we’re having on the process.
Overprocessing is why we started with value because, a lot of times, we find out we’re doing things that the customer doesn’t care about and we’re going above and beyond what they want and they don’t care, so why do we keep doing it? because this could take us an extra 20 minutes or 30 minutes of work and they don’t even appreciate that extra work you put into it. So once you realize that, it’s good – then you can stop doing that extra stuff if they don’t really care about it. Maybe during that discussion, we find out they’d rather us do a couple of other things, so we just swap out the type of things we’re doing. “I need that report, but honestly, that 6-page report, I really only need this little section. What I’d love to see is actually two other sections added,” so cut out 10 of these sections and replace it with two of them. I still save time and I give them exactly what they want. So those can be some quick wins right there.
Overproduction is working ahead of things too early, which means it creates inventory. That means I’m done but I’m not ready to send it off to the end-user yet, and that means it’s vulnerable to being changed or something gets updated. “I need to do an update for my manager next week and I’m going to put together a PowerPoint slide deck.” Well, if you do it too early, what happens is that information becomes outdated or maybe the meeting gets delayed or canceled and then you spent all that time getting ready for it and it didn’t actually happen or got pushed out and you have to redo it again anyways. So sometimes we find that we do things too early and we have to rework it because it becomes outdated or stale. So we want to do things just in time, not too early and, obviously, not too late either.
Defects are like mistakes and errors. That’s something we want to consider and think about. Obviously, if we have mistakes and then it gets to our customers, they’re not too happy about that. So we want to increase the confidence that they have in our work, but it also creates delays in our process and we have to go fix it. So we have to do a second or third time and we should try to do things right the first time and try to find problems as quickly as possible so they don’t propagate throughout the whole process.
And the last one is skills – do we have the right people in the right seats doing the right type of job. This person is really outgoing, but they’re in the back where nobody gets to talk to them. And this person is not very good with customers and they’re front-facing. I don’t know if that’s a good match. They may be better in a more technical role or kind of working on their own. And some people have a marketing degree and they don’t do anything with marketing and other people have an engineering degree and they’re not doing anything related to engineering. How do we get people lined up so they can maximize the skillsets that they have? we all have strengths and weaknesses with our skills, so trying to match people up. And you’ve got to know people’s background and skills to put them in a role where they can be successful. I’m sure we know of examples where people have been struggling in one role and flourished in a different role just because it that wasn’t a good fit for their skills. That’s a waste too. Yeah?
M: Almost all of these, on the sustainability lens, making changes here are going to make your business or your organization more sustainable too. Reducing food waste, reducing inventory, defects, overproduction, all of these things have an environmental cost as well as a work cost and a financial cost.
B: Yeah, absolutely. And so, usually, what we start off with in improvement is you have some kind of goal or method you’re trying to improve and then you start looking at the process through this lens and say does that process have these things in place? and almost every process does to some extent. And then just start saying how do we chip away at some of these wastes, because they’re probably not what the customer really wants. They’re slowing us up or causing rework or extra time in our process.
And to Gregg’s point here, each of these wastes, there’s an environmental impact to go along with it. So if I overproduce and I have something that is perishable, it can go bad and then I have to toss it somewhere. Hopefully, I compost it if it’s food, but a lot of times, I have to pay for going into the trash or landfill, and then I have to reorder more and that’s extra processing time and money. Inventory, I have to heat/cool the space and light the space and so I’ve got to pay more on the utilities for that extra space to hold stuff that I don’t need right now. That doesn’t make much sense. And the transportation, you might need extra packaging. To move it long-distance, I have to package it up more to protect it during the transportation. So either I get things closer together so it’ll have to go a shorter distance then I don’t have to do as much packaging or I look for other ways of using fuel or finding more cleaner fuels to use, because that has environmental impact too.
If there’s defects, I might have to throw away certain items that are not any good anymore. That adds to my landfill costs. And waiting can cause delays. I know like in healthcare, that’s a huge thing. When processes take longer, the quality of the process goes down. Surgeries that take longer than they’re supposed to have higher rates of issues and complications, and so time is a huge element to our processes. As they get longer, they can actually increase the chance of something going wrong or the quality of the process doesn’t go as high as it could. Any questions about the different wastes or the impacts of these wastes?
M: I do have a point to make. Are we to assume that Mr. Tim Woods did that whole program?
B: There is no Mr. Tim Woods. He’s a mystery person that is wasting your process, so look for him in your process. Any questions about those different wastes – transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects, skills. Just an acronym to try to help you remember.
M: I think it’s kind of interesting, when you use the waste, the last letter, and when you use healthcare, because I saw a video a couple of years ago about how the healthcare industry critiqued their whole surgery by going to NASCAR or I think Indy 500. They looked at how they did changing tires and that whole thing and they said, “We need to use that model,” so yeah.
B: Yeah. If you’ve seen a pit crew, how fast they are, it’s unbelievable. And that’s an example of set up reduction and that means how do I change from one process to the next one or to complete that task, and they’ve got it dialed down to seconds, and it can be done. It takes a lot of work, but you can turn processes around from one task to another very quickly if you focus on that. There are very good techniques for doing that.
So that’s the first thing is you kind of look for those eight wastes. If you leave with nothing else today, if you just start noticing and observing those wastes – and it could be at the grocery store when you’re waiting in line – and saying, “I wonder what’s wrong with the process that I’m waiting in this extra-long line here. Maybe they haven’t cross-trained very well, their teams, to jump in and help out. How come they ran out of my favorite item on the shelf? That seems like a defect and that doesn’t make me happy as a customer.” So you’ll start to notice this and sometimes it can be a little frustrating. You can’t unsee the waste in the processes, but that’s the first step is to start to notice these things in your process.
The second piece of this is a value stream and what we look at is what are all the steps it takes to deliver that value. When you get an order or a request – it could be an email request from a coworker, it could be a customer pays you for some service or product – until you deliver that product, you look at the total time from request to delivery. The goal is to make that whole process streamlined, not any one individual stop. A lot of times, the biggest challenge is that a lot of the processes are set up to make individual steps look really efficient and you have to break that. It’s not about an individual department or group being efficient, it’s about the whole process being efficient, which means individual pieces of this are going to be inefficient at times and that’s okay because you’re focusing on the customer experience or the end user’s experience.
So sometimes, in the process improvement, we say it’s okay for people to be doing nothing. In fact, sometimes that’s the best answer is don’t do anything, just sit there. It’s very counterintuitive to say I’m going to have a worker not do any work and the answer is yes, because they can do more damage by working ahead too early on stuff and they have to fix or rework later than just doing nothing. That’s, again, very counterintuitive, but if you think about it from the perspective of we shouldn’t start because it can create more work for us later, then it does make more sense to wait until you have the right information or the right decisions to move forward. So that’s the focus is to streamline the process for everybody in the process, not for one individual person or group.
This is an example of a value stream map this is usually done as a team. You get a group of people together who represent all the processes and, for the first time, you bring them together and say, “Let’s talk about how this all works,” because most of them only see their little piece of the process. And so we might spend a couple of days going through and mapping this out, but it’s very eye-opening for people to say, “Wait, you’re doing that process too? We do the same thing. Why are we both doing that task? one of us should stop doing it. It doesn’t make any sense.” And, “You need that information later on in the process? well, I can provide that to you. I didn’t know that was important to you.” And, “You only process these things on Friday? why do you wait until the end of the week to process all this stuff? Why can’t we do that every day and process it and move things through our process a little faster? because when I get these, I get them in a big pile and it creates havoc and stress and I end up making mistakes because I’m trying to juggle too many things at once.” So you get everyone together to look at the whole process and then you say how do we make that whole process better?
Here’s an example, and this is not that unusual. A process that takes 68 days and only 15 minutes of actual work is needed to do the work. And I’m not joking, that is a very typical result is we’ll find that the ratio of the actual work it takes to get it done versus the total time it actually takes, those are two different numbers. And if you looked at your processes, looked at how long does it take to respond to your customer and then how much work does it actually include, that’s a very typical ratio, a very small number – 1%, 2% of the whole time – and we want those numbers to be closer. If it takes 15 minutes, maybe it takes an hour to do the whole process. That’s a little bit more typical ratio we’d like to see. So this is really eye-opening when people go through this exercise. First of all, they’ve never even met people in the other parts of the process and then, secondly, they realize how broken the process is from the customer’s perspective.
Has anyone been through a value stream mapping or a mapping exercise like that, cross-functional teams together? A little bit of one? it’s a really a powerful exercise, so a lot of companies start with this. They think of a major product or service that they offer and they value stream map it. And it does take some time, and this goes back to the question of where am I going to get this time to work on this thing. Well, if you do it well, you’re going to regain and recoup that time very quickly and, hopefully, be faster. In two months or three months from now, where are you going to? you’re still going to be struggling if you don’t make the time now. If you do this well, you might end up way better off at that point and you might be doing way faster. So even if you fall behind a little bit during this improvement time, if you do it right, you should catch up and surpass where you would be. So it is an investment, but it’s usually a very successful investment.
I’m not going to go through all the technical details on that, but this is an example. And so all we’ve done is, see the green? that is the actual work, and the red is the time where there’s waiting and delays and hold up in the process. So let’s just cut out the delays and the waiting by looking at the process differently. And we haven’t changed the green at all. I haven’t made anyone go any faster, it’s the same amount of work, it’s just going to hand-off more smoothly to the next person because we’re actually in better communication with each other and we’ve set up our processes to flow a little bit better. So it’s the same amount of work but we can take a process that takes a whole day down to one hour just by rearranging the way we do the work and thinking about it as a whole system, not as my individual efficiencies. That’s very reasonable to do as kind of a first pass is to cut out a lot of the delays.
And so the third piece here is called flow. How do we get the process to flow smoothly, like we talked about there? when it goes and it sits on someone’s desk with three days, that’s not flow. When it goes to an operation and it piles up and it sits there in a pallet for four days, that’s not flow. So how do we identify these and then get things to flow a little bit better? So think about the concept of once I start working on something, I should try to complete it all the way through without setting it down. Every time I set it down and work on something else, I’ve disrupted the flow, and so how do we stay focused on those types of things? so these starts and stops in our processes – “I can’t finish that because I need an answer from so-and-so and they’re gone on vacation. I’ll have to put it off to the side,” and then you work on something else. “I don’t have a way to access that folder, so I’m going to set that one off to the side,” and what I’m doing is I’m building up inventory and now I’m having to juggle many different things and I forget about that one and I forget to contact that person and, all of a sudden, it’s been three weeks, and “Where’s that form?” “Oops, I forgot it. It was in this pile of things that I’m managing and juggling.” So once you pick it up, try to get all the way through the process. That’s the goal, to get flow. But usually, it’s called either batching or personal efficiency motivations.
So let’s do a little exercise here. I need groups of five, so I think tables of four. So we’ve got thes three…
We need a notecard person on one end and a stopwatch person on the other end. Make sure you’ve got that. So the colors designate a right hand or the left-hand signature.
F: Is that the first person with the cards?
B: No, the person with the card doesn’t do anything until it hands-off, but they can control what they’ve handed off, okay? so we’ll change the three cards to first-person and you’ll sign it. Probably do your right hand three times, once on each card, and then you go back and sign it left-hand on each card, once each. Then you’ll pass all three cards. You have to send them all in a group of three to the next person, so keep it in groups of three at all times. The next person will add their signature in the middle, same thing. So you’ll end up doing six total signatures with each set, okay? the third person will do the same thing on the far right. They’re going to add their signatures, both the right and left-handed, okay? and then they’ll deliver it to the end person, the timer or the customer, and the customer will write down the time it took when they received the first of those batches. It’ll be four deliveries.
And so, when the first person gets done with the card, you can issue three more and then when they finish those, issue three more until you run out, okay? so everybody’s going to have 12 cards total, there will be four groups of three cards each. Does that make sense? take a nice easy pace. It’s not a speed race. We’re just keeping a pace that you can maintain, so this is not trying to make you go faster. Just sign your first name only. Yeah?
M: How legible does it need to be?
B: It can’t be like a scribble. We should be able to tell it’s your name, so try your best with your opposite hand to make it legible that you can tell it’s your name. And then the customer just verifies that there should be six signatures on each card, three left-handed, three right-handed, from three different people.
F: The customer has the stopwatch?
B: This customer has the stopwatch. And so for round one, we’re going to get four different times because there’s going to be four different deliveries. Does that make sense?
F: Yeah, but then they going in at the same time, right? so like when the first one starts?
B: Yeah. As soon as we say start, start the stopwatch and then laps as it goes along. So keep a continuous running total of the times. So the final delivery will be the end time for everything. Yeah?
B: Keep it consistent throughout the whole exercise, how ever you want to sign your name, okay? so it’s not a speed, you’re going to be competing against yourself, so don’t worry about what the other teams are doing. Yeah?
M: Is asking all of these questions an example of overprocessing?
B: Potentially, yes. Any other questions? it didn’t make sense? so round one, we’re just going to run through in groups of three. So you have to pass only in groups of three, you can’t pass them… All right? okay, is everybody ready?
People like doing things in a batch because you might say well, it’s easier if I knock out all my left-hand a bunch at a time and I don’t have to switch my hand as much. So it seems pretty efficient to do it this way and this happens in a lot of processes because we say, “I’m going to wait until the pile gets large and then I’m going to blow through that pile really quickly.”
So let’s try a different method and see how that changes up our times a little bit. We’re going to do the exact same thing, so send all the cards back to the beginning again. Flip over the card so you have a blank side that you haven’t written on yet, so we’re just going to use the backside this time. We’re not trying to waste paper. Okay, so you should have 12 cards, make sure you have all 12 cards. So this time, you’re going to issue one card at a time, you’re not going to wait for three. You’re going to send out one card, they’re going to work on it, and then you just send one at a time through. So you’re actually going to issue out 12 times and the end person is going to get 12 different deliveries. So there’s spots on that sheet for 12 recordings, all right? and so we’re going to see what happens those times when we do it one at a time versus three at a time, okay?
F: Same thing with the right hand…
B: Right-hand, left-hand. Same exact task except you’re not going to hold up those other two cards before you pass them along. You’re going to just take one, pass it on along, take one, pass it along. Does that make sense? so everything stays the same except you can pass only one at a time instead of three. Is everybody ready? All right? Ready, begin.
F: It’s a very important relation because if I wouldn’t give the cards, it takes time to give the cards would slow them down too.
B: Yeah, you have to know when they need the next card and it was more frequent there. So it does create a little bit of different work somewhere else, but if the goal is to try to get… Think about this as that a document. Someone’s requesting assistance and they fill out a form and it has to go through three departments and that signing was your review of that document. When we batch them up into piles and then work on the piles, the person requesting assistance takes much longer. If we do it one at a time and say, “I’m going to look at this and document right away and pass it along,” they get the answer they need quicker and you actually get through more of the documents faster and it’s not intuitive. It takes a while. As you’re thinking about your process, think about maybe I can’t do one at a time, but maybe I can go from ten at a time to five at a time or five at a time to three at a time. The goal is to try to keep making those batches smaller and smaller as much as possible. It’ll highlight waste in the process for you.
Any other questions about what we just went through? This is just kind of a real simple exercise to try out, but it was pretty eye-opening when I first learned about that method. It did not seem intuitive. Actually, there’s a video that has people stuffing envelopes like for a wedding and they fold all the papers, and then they put it in the envelope, and then they write the address, and they stamp it. And then when you do it as fold, shove in the envelope, address, and stamp, they get through more of those documents at once and those are ready to be mailed out right away instead of you putting this whole pile of items through. So it’s a little counterintuitive.
Okay. So let’s watch a little video on one of the improvement methods that’s really popular, called 5S, and then we’ll take a break, okay? this method is called 5S and it stands for five steps of a process to organize a workplace. This can be done in a physical workspace, it can be done in your garage, in your closet, in your kitchen, at your desk. It can also be done on your file folders in your hard drive, in a shared drive. And so look at the steps and the process they go through and this is a method you can follow to get better organization around your workplace.
M: I did the pantry. I put the labels on saying this is where the frying pan goes, this is where baking powder goes. Because I think I’ve struggled a little bit with my significant other to put things in the same spot regularly.
B: Hopefully, you worked together as a team and you didn’t say, “Honey, I rearranged your dresser drawers. I hope you like it.” It won’t go over very well. But if you do it together as a team. Yeah?
F: I did just the labels and pictures for my preschooler, actually, because I had a lot of trouble getting her to clean up her things. And just having picture labels, so that she knows where things go, it’s so much easier for her.
B: Nice. Great.
F: I really like the Marie Kondo method of organizing clothing in closets and dresser drawers, and that has helped my son, too, who is a teenager and needs all the help that he can get, in choosing his outfits. It’s so very important to see where everything is and figure out what’s clean and what’s dirty. And going through and by bringing out old clothes that you haven’t worn in a couple of years, I think like a year or like two years or, oh my God, how much they grow in a year. And then just a little thought, if you’re going to throw out all your old clothes, we’re having a clothing swap on Saturday at the Gresham Library, 10:30 to 1:00.
B: Yes, try to find a good home for all your stuff. Yes, don’t throw it away. But yeah, start at home and practice some of these techniques, then you’ll feel more confident bringing it into work and say, “I’ve already gone through it. look what I did at the house and I saved time and organized.” So again, it’s a really good starting point for improvement because it gets people together, it gets them up and active, physical, and then they can start to envision a new way of doing it, any gets them excited for more improvements from there cox they’re like, “Ooh, it feels nice now in this space. It’s freed up. I can actually set up the process the way I want to because we have the room now because we got rid of this stuff. And it’s organized and I know the color-coding matches, so red means this, and we all know what red means now. It’s not red in this department and blue in that department and green in this department.” Why don’t we take a 10-minute break and we’ll start up at10:45?
With our five principles, we were talking about the element of flow and that’s where we did the exercise to try to get the cards to flow more seamlessly through our process and back to our end customer. Then when we start getting that running pretty smoothly, we’ll find that sometimes you’re flowing it too fast or too slow for what the customer needs. And so what we want to transition to is pull, where we wait and let the customer pull when you’re ready for it. Sometimes, we build our plans off of schedules that are way out in the future that we try to predict what’s going to happen and then when we get really close to that time, it actually changes a lot and that can cause a lot of disruptions in our process. So instead, a pull system would be tell me when you need that report and I’ll deliver it to you within the hour. A push system is I’m going to send you the report on the first of the month, whether you need it or not. Because what happens if someone goes on vacation and then they come back the next week and they said, “That report you sent me last week, can you add this week’s data in or last week’s data into that report and resend it to me? because I didn’t have our meetings because I was gone and I pushed out my meeting until next week.” So when I worked off a push, I can deliver right on time for a plan, but that plan changed and now I’m being asked to go do that over again completely because I wasn’t in alignment with when my customer actually needed that report.
That’s what we’re going to switch to, to make sure we’re only delivering that need when they’re ready for. And like in the card simulation, when we’re passing out cards, you started to do that a little bit too. You didn’t want to give too many cards at once, you wanted to wait until that person was done with the card and then you give them the next card, and that’s kind of like a pull system too. The same with what we saw with the two-bin system in the video. You’re pulling the replenishment of those items based on the bin sitting out there. You don’t come in to fill it the bins whenever you’re ready or on Mondays, you go around and check and when there’s empty bins, you refill them at that time because they actually consumed those items. So that’s the transition we want to make and then if you don’t get the signal that you’re ready, then don’t work on that item, go off and do something else with your time, all right?
so that’s what we’re trying to get to is things change, what the plan was last week may not be the plan this week, and so we want to be flexible in our process and say I’m going to make my process so efficient that I can give a response quickly and when you need it, but only when you’re ready for it, okay? so flow is to make the process run efficiently, pull is to wait for the signals – and that can be a visual signal, it can be a signal like an email, it could be a phone call, “Okay, I’m ready for it. Send it to me,” – and you’ve got your process dialed in so quickly it says I can deliver that to you pretty quick because I do it one at a time and it flows through our process really quickly. But you’ve got to get the kinks worked out here first before you can really go here, otherwise, if your process is all over the place and you say, “Oh, you need that right away? Oh, we’re struggling to get that done,” it’s going to be messy. So you get the flow running smoothly, then you start to transition to pull. So there’s different signals and triggers you can use in the process, but then just wait for the signals to come through and you know what to work on. If you don’t get the signal, if you don’t have to work on it, go do something else.
This is an example of the business I used to work at. There was a yellow box that they started to use for a kanban system or a pull system. What this box would do is they would collect up these boxes and send them back to the supplier. That was the signal to the supplier that they should send more product. Now, there were people working all the time trying to figure out a plan – “We’re going to need this many items on these dates,” and these would be predicted out 6 months, 12 months, 2 years in advance. But when we get down to it, how much do we actually need right now? it varied a lot – maybe we’re having some technical problems, maybe the customer’s having technical problems. So what they would say is don’t send us stuff until you get an empty box and you fill up the empty box and send it back to us. That was the pull system. So I know the schedule said 10, but you’re only getting six boxes back, only send six. And that means we don’t have to keep as much inventory and we only get as much as we need because we’re replenishing what we used.
The nice thing, too, from the green benefit, is I can reuse the packaging. By maybe trying to cut out all the cardboard, I actually created a cool trigger system and reduced the environmental impact as well. So I can kind of use these in conjunction with each other, that it had multiple benefits, and then we can just work off just replace what we send you back. That’s your schedule, that’s your plan. I don’t have to be perfect on my predictions of what’s going to happen in the future, I can just respond to reality and that means when the supplier says, “Oh wait, they didn’t ask for all 10, the only needed six. Maybe we shouldn’t make 10 more. Maybe you should wait and only make six more. And maybe we should only six more components for our supplier.” And so all that inventory starts to go down across the whole supply chain process and so you start lowering costs. I don’t have to buy as much now; I can keep that money in the bank. I don’t have to store it. So it all has a ratcheting effect all the way back.
And then perfection. This is a never-ending process, you’re never done. You can’t say, “I’ve Leaned out my process. It’s all good to go.” That means you’re not looking hard enough. And so no problem is a problem, that’s a philosophy. If you say, “We don’t have any problems here,” then that means you’re not really challenging your process very well. Sometimes what they’ll do is say, “Let’s take one person away and reassign them somewhere else and now let’s see where your next bottlenecks and problems are at in your next process.” And one thing, improvement, never use this as a way to get rid of people. That will destroy your culture and the intent of this. This is an idea to say how do we free up people so we can do more products and services for our customers and make them happier?
you might have said before, “We can’t do that for you, sorry. We don’t have enough people.” Well, let’s Lean out our process so we can have enough people to give them what they want. That’s the way you need to think about improvement. If you use it as a way to save money and cut jobs, this will not last very long because people will catch on to that really quickly and do you think they want to participate and help and possibly Lean themselves out of a job? I wouldn’t want to do that. I’d be hiding – “This takes me an hour to do, and this takes me – oh – I’m going to need all week to do this,” because I’m afraid that if they find out the real numbers, then I might be out of a job. That’s not what we’re trying to do. Let’s make it easy to do the right thing and give people opportunities to move around and learn new skills and flexibility to jump into different jobs and build out in other areas.
M: Do you see companies where they reward individuals that have found significant improvements?
B: I think on the team level, trying to come up with some ways, some do some compensation for that. I don’t think that’s necessarily the best approach because what you get is people kind of picking projects with the best savings opportunities. But some recognition for people making big improvements to an organization, that should be rewarded in some way – whether that’s stood up in front of a room, a little plaque, maybe it’s get a couple of days off – some way of recognizing people if it is significant. I’ve had projects that were very big cost savings and there was some extra financial bonuses involved in that, but that shouldn’t be the motivating driver for that. It should be about making the processes better and then the benefits will come without. But yeah, I’ve seen some recognition around that. But I would try to build it so that’s not the motivation for people is to, “I’m going to get a percentage of the savings,” because you get people kind of cherry-picking different areas to work on. It should be about customer experience and making the processes simpler and easier.
This is an example, this one is where we were actually trying to cut out the clutter. You can see all of these different stars represent different carts and it was like a safety thing trying to navigate through here and it would take up space and you’re kind of like does this mean we have a problem, that something’s missing off the cart, or is that supposed to be there? it was very unclear. So we did some 5S stuff and some organization and we made parking spots. So at the end, when you’re done, park in a parking spot. Very simple, just a little marking on the floor, but that cleared up a lot of clutter.
And then we realized we don’t have enough parking spots. Maybe we have too many carts. In fact, we had 20 extra carts when we were done. We had room for about 30 of them and we had 55 or something like that. Well, it turns out they were actually going to replace all the carts and they had an order out there for 55 new carts. We said, “Hold up, hold up? we only need 30. Only order 30 of those carts.” And so that turned into like, they were 500 bucks a cart, so that was like $10,000 of savings because they went in to organize and figured out how many do actually need, and 30 is still a lot of carts. But we saved all the material and the environmental impact of those 20 carts, plus the cost savings right there, just by having a clear designation of where things go. Everything has a place and everything goes into its place. If it doesn’t have a place, it’s going to find a place on a shelf, on the floor. Wherever there’s room, someone will make a space for it. Yeah?
M: We found this with waste bins in offices. If you tape out where they’re supposed to go, they don’t migrate and you could keep your signage above and people will clearly sort and you save on your waste expenses. But it’s amazing how much materials will float around in an office if nobody knows where to go or they just stop recycling because it’s not convenient anymore.
B: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a good one. So it’s having that area to say this is where it belongs. Having a little circle to say this is where our trash belongs, put it back. If it’s not of this place, you can tell right away, “Wait, something’s supposed to be here.” There’s a visual indicator that something is out of place and that means there might be a problem. “Why isn’t it here? what is the problem that we need to find that caused that to be out of place and then what can I do to help fix that problem?” So the visual indicators make it obvious. So if there is a cart in the middle, now I can say, “That’s not supposed to be here. What’s wrong with this?” So it’s helping you see problems much easier too. And maybe I could find it much faster than waiting until the end of the week and saying, “Why did we reach our numbers?” or, “How come we were struggling to keep up and why are we getting complaints?” Well, we could have seen that coming on Tuesday if we had the visual indicators in the process.
I went to visit my mom and she said it’s okay to show these pictures.
M: Did you get that in writing?
B: I should have, yeah. This is her sewing room, a dedicated room to sewing, and she’s not that disorganized really. She’s pretty organized, but then I was like, “Mom, this is not very organized. I’m here for a couple of days, put me to use. What can I do?” So we sat down and we talked about, “What are you using this room for? what’s the purpose of this room? what are the main tasks you do in this room? what are the products and services you deliver? “We make quilts.” “Okay, great. Anything else you do?” “Sometimes I repair things.” Okay, so once I understood the purpose of the room, then we worked backwards to say, “What is the process you go through?” “I decide on a customer and I meet someone and make a quilt for them.” “Okay, great. So you pick a pattern and then you get wrapping material, and then how does it go through your process?” She walked me through the process and then from there, we determined what the process flow should look like and how to cut down the inventory.
We went through all of the material as a sort process and I said, “How many projects do you have going on?” She said, “Probably five or six.” I think it was more like 20, 25, when we got done, that are all in various stages of completion, from all the way almost done to I just started and did a little work and then put it off to the side. So we said, okay, let’s set some limits. Maybe we only have five projects going on at one time. Let’s try to bring it down a little bit more manageable. And then when is your workflow and where are the things you use most frequently and what is your transportation and your motion? what are your visuals in the process? and so, after just one day, we came up with a new process where she could go from the ironing board to the cutting table you can’t see, and then to the sewing room.
And it was kind of a weird shape, it was in the middle of the room, and before, she had everything on the edge of the room. I said, “This is your room. You can set up any way you want to. Set it up for flow and efficiency; don’t set it up because it looks nice.” So this is in the middle of the room, but it actually cut out a lot of travel and then she could also watch TV on the other wall. She sent me some pictures, she’s maintained this. This was in the summer, so she sustained the improvements, which is a really hard part of getting organized. You can do this all the time and then you come back six weeks later and it’s a mess again. So that’s the hard part, but if you can set up a system and then manage the flow, then you can keep things a little more organized. So that’s a home example you can try these concepts.
This is at Free Geek. How many of you have been to Free Geek before? quite a few. So they’re a nonprofit in Portland. They refurbished laptops and computers and this was their mobile device repair station. And so the people that worked there knew where everything was, or at least they said they knew. I believe them, I think they did know where everything was at, but if you get a new person to come in and say, “I need you to go fix an iPhone 7,” they’re going to have a hard time finding the cables and the tools and supplies they need.
So we went through some of the principles, we talked about what is the purpose of this process area. They complained a lot about space, they were backed up with shelving right behind them. You can’t see it, but there’s basically a wall of stuff right behind them. It felt cramped. So afterwards, they went through and they cleared out a bunch of stuff and then they did start to organize this a little bit better. So it just created space and it made things feel a little bit more freeing. It didn’t seem so chaotic and they could find things quicker because they weren’t looking through stuff that shouldn’t even be there. They got rid of the broken cables and cords that don’t work anymore and outdated phones that they had. They used to store all the phones underneath here in a box and they would rummage through the box and look for, “I found the iPhone 4S.” We laid them all out, went through all of those, and put them on a shelf and laid them out so they could see the entire stock of things that they could work on.
And then the salesperson would come by and say, “People want these and these and these,” so it created a pull system. Instead of, “I like this and I like this and I think people might like this,” they connected the sales team to the mobile device area. So that was some of the improvements that were done here.
Let’s take a couple of minutes. What are some of the key takeaways of some of the Lean concepts we’ve talked about so far? so turn to the person next to you again and say, “We talked about a couple of different topics. What are the things that stand out or what are the takeaways for you?”
Does anyone want to share what they discussed?
M: Andrew from Birch. Over the last seven years, our donations, in large part due to you generous folks, have increased more than double in the same facility, the same labor and everything. One of the challenges that we have come up against on a regular basis is how do we change our processes to more rapidly move through that product and get it to as many families as possible. That is an ever-increasing challenge, and so, more than anything, as I go through this, I just feel guilty.
B: Yeah, those are important challenges to deal with. And that’s a good thing, right? I’ve got a lot of donations coming in, how do I process those? so we’ve been working with Restore in Gresham, so a lot of good ideas we’ve got around warehouse efficiency, sales floor, all those things. Yeah?
M: We have a Y-drive, that I’m sure a lot of the city folks know about, and it’s got files on there for 10, 15 years ago with various naming conventions. I bet if we ended up adding up all the amount of time that we spend navigating through that to find files, it’s going to be insane. So taking the time to really work on that will save a lot of effort.
B: That [5s] exercise is best to do on your file drive. Sort out the files that don’t belong, organize it in a way that makes sense, more logical sense. Because things evolve over time and you’re like, now, this is part of the new program, but these files are all spread out throughout. Clean out the drive a little bit, there may be some technical things you want to do, standardize naming conventions, labels. What do you call a customer or a segment of your population? everyone has 10 different names for it, some abbreviate, some don’t, some use the old name and that’s kind of stuck and you have to know all of this stuff when you join the group – “Oh no, that means this because that’s what it used to be called,” and it’s confusing. It takes time and we don’t add it up because, “It’s five minutes of my time,” and that’s this person, but across the whole organization, it could be hours and days’ worth of waste. Anything else?
M: Yeah. I opened up saying I didn’t know why I’m here. I think I’m here for one reason, and one reason alone. I’ve got seven grandkids and many of you guys have seen them. But my wife, she watches them probably three or four times a week and when you walk into their house, literally, it looks like a war-torn house because from a year to 13. And listening and just being a part of this, really, I’m going to go back today, because my son and his wife is out of town and my wife is there, and I’m going to say, to each of the kids, give them specific responsibilities and structure and see how that fits into just this concept because it’s interesting to hear and to see it. Now, on a personal level, and on a household level. That’s something I think that I can take and apply.
B: Yeah, it’s empowerment, right? You guys can organize it any way you want, just make it organized. And so they’ll make it very creative that way, too, and they’ll say, “I like what this person’s doing. I’m going to copy that idea,” and they’re going to copy this idea. So yeah, it’s great when you don’t go in and try to control it and say, “Yeah, do it this way.” Just say, “How can you make it simpler so, at the end of the day, all of the toys are put away, all of the things are in their place, the clothes are where they’re supposed to be?” and you give them that freedom to try different things.
The other thing that’s important with this is people are going to fail and you have to be okay and let them fail. Even if you see it coming and say, “I should say something, but they’ve got to learn on their own and try things out.” That’s how people learn and it’s by experimenting and trying things, but you’ve got to create an environment that it’s safe to do that. If it goes wrong, no big deal. We can change it, we can fix it. Then people are willing to try, they’re not afraid to try.
I want to introduce Six Sigma concepts a little bit. We won’t spend as much time on that. Some of you may be really interested in some of the topics around this, but it gets a little bit more into some more complexities.
The history of Six Sigma has a very similar path. It started officially in the mid-80s, but if you go back, some of the tools have been around for over 100 years. And so it’s just evolved over time to be where it’s at today and most of the organizations do some kind of combined Lean and Six Sigma methods because they each have their strengths. Also, Dr. Deming appears in a lot of the Six Sigma history. He’s a very important, pivotal person, so if you’ve never heard about him, he may be an interesting person to research. He actually spent many decades in Japan, but he started in the US as a statistician and helped with a lot of the efforts, during the wartime, to increase productivity by using statistical methods. Then he went over and shared his knowledge with the Japanese and they embraced it and then they kind of took it and ran with it.
Motorola is responsible for kind of developing. They took all of these tools and said this is just too much for anybody to digest. Why don’t we put it into more structure so it’s easier to go through a step-by-step process? and I’ll talk about that. They developed a Motorola University after a while and they had a lot of success. The reason what they went down that path was they were getting beaten by their Japanese competition – “Wait, these parts now, the TVs we’re making, we’re getting beat out because the Japanese are higher quality and less costs. What’s going on here? and better quality too.” So they had to do something different and that was their reason for change.
And then General Electric took it and ran with it when Jack Welch took over as CEO. He claims they saved like $5 billion through their improvement efforts. It’s a monstrous amount of money. Because they tracked all the savings and what he said was really different. He said, “If you want to move up in GE, you have to be a Green Belt level,” meaning how can you lead change in the organization if you don’t understand these tools and concepts? how can we expect your team to do this if you don’t understand the concepts and tools? so that was really powerful.
There’s a lot of focus on finances and certifications and there was mixed reviews on how that can be a driver, but it has spread into many different industries over the last few decades. Again, a lot of these techniques started in manufacturing because you’ve got repeatable processes, very visual. But a lot of industries are realizing we can use the same concepts, just like with Lean. We have to tweak it a little bit for our industry and our purpose, but a lot of the fundamentals are still the same, and we’ll talk about those.
I like to use the analogy of golfing to describe something called the Sigma levels, and that’s the word that people are really confused about. What does Sigma mean? it’s actually a Greek letter that represents S and we use S in like mathematics, in statistical terms, to represent the standard deviation or the variation of a process. So it describes how good a process is in terms of its variation. So if you’re a 1 Sigma golfer and your requirement is to hit the ball past the bunker and the sand traps, but not too far that you get into the other sand trap, then this is the requirement or the goals. And if you’re 1 Sigma, that means you are not easily meeting those requirements. Sometimes you shoot the ball and hit the T-shot and it goes way past. Other times, you hit it and it falls way short, and sometimes you get lucky and it lands in the middle, but it’s pretty random and it’s not consistent. And so in a 1 Sigma process, 30% of the time, you meet the outcomes, and 70% of the time you don’t. That’s not a very good process and you probably would not be a very good golfer if this was your outcome, this is what my process is.
A 2 Sigma process gets a little bit better. You can see that the red arrows showing down, that’s variation, you still only achieve 70% success, but it’s better and you can see that they’re hitting more of the shots that are landing in the zone. So let’s keep going, 3 Sigma process. Most of the shots are starting to land inside of the zone and that’s good. 93%, in fact.
A 4 Sigma gets up to 99% and you might say that’s exceptional. Maybe. It depends on what your process is. If it’s how many pieces of mail you deliver to houses, if there was a 1% failure rate, how many people are going to miss their mail? Thousands of people won’t get their mail. That’s a horrible percentage if you’re talking about something high-volume like that. Or if it’s bags that find actually make it to their final destination through the airport. 99%? that means a couple of people on the flight will lose their bags, every flight. That’s not a very good percentage. So they said, well, 99% isn’t good enough. Maybe we need to go to 5 Sigma, at 99.9%. Well, that’s better. And then you can see, not only are they doing better, but they’re stepping standing away from the edges too. They’re hitting more in the center and they’re not getting even close to the limits. Just in case, you still want to have that risk of being that close. I don’t want to be anywhere near those sand traps.
Or 6 Sigma, 99.9997%. For some processes, we need to be that good, like airline flight safety. I hope that does more than 6 Sigma performance process. I think it is. So that’s good, we want those processes to be that high of a success rate.
The main thing is not to say I’ve got to take all the processes and get them to that higher percentage or 6 Sigma performance, but maybe if I’m at 1 Sigma, how can I get to 2 Sigma? and if I’m at 2 Sigma, how do I get to 3 Sigma? so it’s taking wherever you’re at and trying to get better by making the process more consistent. And how do you do that? you have maybe documentation of how that process works and you train people on that method and you enforce that consistency, but not to a point where it makes it locked in that I can’t change it. You should always be able to say, “If you’ve got a better idea, let’s hear about it. But until then, we need to do the same way so it doesn’t matter who comes to us, they get the same results.” That’s why you see the fast food places, you can go into any location and you can get pretty consistent results because they’ve standardized how that does. The consistency and the variation is the same.
And you can compare different process – I mentioned like tax advice is probably not a very good process. Especially if you call up somebody on the phone that you don’t know and say, “What should I do? how should I fill this out?” They’re probably going to give you not great advice because they don’t know your situation. Or baggage handling, and this is restaurant billing. I go to a coffee shop pretty often and I get charged different amounts even though I order the exact same thing each time. So there’s variation in how much I’m going to get charged, so that process is not very reliable or very good. Maybe a 2 Sigma process. Probably about 70% of the time, I get charged correctly. Why do I go back? I don’t know. That’s a good question.
Getting correct invoices, what percent of the times are they good? you can look at these percentages and say where’s our process? and I don’t know, maybe we need to start collecting them because we don’t have that data to even know where we’re at. So it’s not about am I at 6 Sigma or not, it’s just where are we at today and say where should we be to really make our customers happy? and so for certain processes, if you have a high-volume process that’s very critical, you need to be up in the 6 Sigma performance or better.
If you have a process you do three times a year and it’s easy to fix, maybe you can live with a 2 or a 1 Sigma process, but you’re still going to waste time, so it’s an opportunity for how do I get better and better. Because you can see that when you go up to higher Sigma levels, your costs go down because you’re spending less time fixing and dealing with customer complaints – “Where’s my document at? did you lose it? do I have to send another one in?” “That was wrong. You filled out the wrong information. You put the wrong thing on the form. You have to redo it,” all those things cost time for someone to deal with those problems and that’s eating away at you doing new stuff because you’re back here fixing the old stuff. So there’s a cost that goes along with poor quality of those processes.
The framework for making improvements is to go through a model called DMAIC. Those letters represent something, kind of like TIM WOODS. The first one is defining the problem. This is one of the critical pieces because when you get a team of people together and you start talking about a problem, you might have eight people in the room and you might have eight different perspectives on that problem. You need to figure out how can we get on the same page because, otherwise, when we’re trying to solve this problem, we’re all going to be thinking about it in different ways and we’ll never come to a solution. So the first step is agree on what the problem is and sometimes the answer is it’s actually not even a problem. Okay, great. Then we can move onto something else. And then there’s the perception of a problem where sometimes they realize it’s way worse than we even realized. But we’ve at least got to get everyone on the same page of what is the problem. Usually, I like to think about it is a gap. We’re supposed to be at this performance and we’re here, and so the problem is we have a gap from where we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be at 99%, we’re at 94%, so we’ve got a 5% improvement we have to make.
Second phase, measure. What data do I need to solve this problem? Six Sigma is very data-focused and it says maybe you should go collect data on your process. Starting tomorrow, write down every time these things happen and set them off to the side and we’ll go through it as a team and look at the problems and try to categorize them into different groups. Maybe that will help us figure out what’s happening. Or maybe we can extract a report out of our system and we can make some simple charts and graphs and that might help us understand what’s going on. And we need to walk the process and talk to the people in the process and say, “What do you think is going on with this problem? what’s your idea? you deal with this every day. I bet you have a lot of good ideas on this.” And we might even get everyone in a room together and say, “Here’s the problems. Let’s look at the processes that we go through and make sure that we understand what everyone’s doing and make sure we really have a good process here.”
From there, we analyze the problem and that might be getting to the root of the issue – what’s really going on? if you say it’s somebody’s screwing up or a department doesn’t try hard, that’s not a good answer. It should be what process is not working the way we want it to. So it should always come back to not people but processes. To keep that mindset open, it’s much easier to have discussions with people when you’re saying, “I’m not pointing at you or your team. We’re saying the process is broken. Someone is not getting the right information, something’s getting through our process, we’re not doing things consistently, there’s some process issue that’s going on, so let’s try to figure out what is broke and let’s try to fix that.”
Improve, then, is action going and doing improvements. And you’re looking at this and saying, “Boy, it takes a long time to do some improvements. I’ve got 50 ideas right now I can go off and do,” and that’s the challenge is people want to run off and change a bunch of things without studying the problem thoroughly. And so what you’re saying is go a little bit slower, take a methodical approach so when you get to the improvements, you have the data and the supporting evidence to say this is the right approach to take versus let’s try this out and oops that didn’t work, and now we’re even in worse shape. There’s small stuff we can try out, little things like that, but when we try to make big changes in the process, we want to make sure we’re pretty confident that’s going to work because it can take a lot of effort and time and even money to go implement those.
So what we’re saying is going a little bit slower at first, make sure you have everyone in agreement on what the problem is before you start launching into improvements, and what data do you need to be able to make those decisions properly. And then the last piece, control, says how do I make sure that the problem doesn’t come back again. So great, we fix it and it looks better, and then we walk away and then a new person comes in and then that problem shows up again. We never did add it to the training class and we never did update the documentation and we left the old system in place so they could still use it. Obviously, we shouldn’t be surprised that that problem recurred again. So what are the things we’re going to do to control and make sure that problem doesn’t come back? and if it does, we have the tracking and charting to notice that it did. We’re tracking the wait times and the wait times are climbing up. What’s going on? let’s jump into it now. Let’s stop waiting for the customer’s complaint. We can see, in the data, that something’s going wrong. Any questions about the steps?
So through the Six Sigma training, we go through and we teach different tools that go along with each of these phases and that’s the part that makes it a little easier to digest. Because before, Six Sigma was just, “Here’s 100 different improvement tools. Just go pick the right one at the right time,” and this one says start with this process, use these tools. Go to the next process, use these tools. It’s more methodical and easier for people to learn. That’s what I think is really the important part of it. It’s not new tools, it’s formatting tools in the right order and sequence.
I mention data a lot. You can’t guarantee you’ve made improvements if you don’t have data of before-and-after. Otherwise, it’s just kind of gut feel, “Well, it feels better,” but it would be much better if we had numbers to look at to say, “Yeah, it used to take four minutes, now it takes two minutes,” versus, “I think it’s faster.” That’s not as reliable numbers. It’s just guessing. We also want to make sure that the improvements were actually a result of the changes we made, not just it just happened to improve on its own. Because our processes go through ebbs and flows and things like that, so we want to be very clear about when we introduce the changes and be able to measure that and say, “No, that improvement is directly because of the training we did,” or, “The training we did didn’t actually work. We isolated out our data and we can see that it actually didn’t work, so what do we need to try now?”
And you have to have good data. If you have bad data, you’re going to make bad decisions from that data. There’s a whole approach around making sure the data is of good quality and sometimes that means we have to start over. Our data system is not trustworthy and it might have to be get a clipboard and a piece of paper and a pen and start writing down numbers on a sheet until we can figure out what’s going on. Other times, you have all the data in a database and you just need to look at that data and do something with that information, it’s already there. So it can vary quite a bit on what kind of system you have in place and so it could be a lot of effort or very little effort.
One of the tools is called the Pareto chart. How do you prioritize what you work on in that problem statement? because if we’re going to go after climate action, how do we solve all of these problems? it’s daunting, it’s overwhelming. Six Sigma would say puck the top ones, focus all your attention on those and try to put a dent in one of these two major categories and you’ll have a huge impact overall on the bigger problem. What we end up seeing is everybody’s doing a little bit on all of these things and we’re not seeing the overall progress we’d like to make. And so prioritizing what you can actually address and staying focused on the things that have the biggest impact. Say, “If I can just fix these one or two problems out of all of them, following the 80/20 rule, if I can fix the top 20%, I can maybe have impact on 80% of the total problem.” So it’s a smarter way of going after certain parts of the problem.
M: This graph is super important to the type of work that we do. If you look at the bottom right, it talks about the emissions from various parts of what’s called the lifecycle of a product or a service. And so a lot of people say like, “I’m taking care of the environment. I recycle.” Well, disposal, in all of those categories, for the most part, represents just a tiny little bit of an item’s carbon footprint.
B: The red?
M: Yeah, the red. So it’s the production or distribution and use of all of these products that is the biggest environmental footprint. So if you think about of all that inventory in that closet yes, that is solid waste, but think about all of the waste involved in the manufacturing of all of those business services. So running a Lean operation not only reduces your waste, everything you throw away, but it’s reducing all of the upstream emissions and all that sort of stuff and this is where solid waste management is going. We’re working to educate people that, yes, you should recycle, but reduce and reuse is so much more important because then you’re actually looking at the overall lifecycle and reducing that lifecycle.
B: Or just the production impact. So if you don’t have to produce something, you can reuse it or repurpose it, we don’t have to go through the same cost expense. But it’s all prioritization because you have limited time and resources, and so let’s let the data help us prioritize what we can focus on to get the biggest bang for the buck. Understand we can’t solve it all, but we can put a dent in a couple of problems if we focus our attention there.
Charts and graphs. This is where we start to understand our data a little bit. I’m not going to go through all of these different charts, but the idea is that if we look at the data and turn that into information and something visual that people can say take all this information and compile it as something useful that we can make decisions from, you’ve got to do it in some visual way. There’s lots of different charts that are taught in Six Sigma around ways to visualize and make the data tell different stories, and I’ll show you a couple of examples here. But I always start with there’s a lot of statistics, but most of the audience is not going to be statistically sound and remember all of the stuff they might’ve learned at some point, so the charts and graphs are what are going to catch people’s attention and make it simple for them to understand what’s going on.
I did a little experiment in some of my classes. I would have them determine you’re part of a process and your job is to separate out the different types of water, and I’m going to give them a task to say I’m going to give you some samples of water and I want you to tell me which of the four water you’re tasting. And so I’ll set out like 12 cups of water, each cup has three samples of each type. So in those 12 cups, there’s three Fiji, three Zephyrhills, three 7-Eleven generic, and three from the tap, and I have them go around and taste that and say, “Tell me what that one was.” Do you think that people can distinguish between those four? no? Yes? anyone? no? okay. You’re right, they cannot tell them apart.
So this was the actual answer, and if you look across here at the right, the percent correct is how many… I had three different people test and said how many times did all three of them get the right answer? and then down here, on the column, is how many times did each person get the right answer. And so you can see that they struggled to have three different people even get the right answer and then each person never got above like 40% right. This is the type of data we can run and then say is this process working at assessing which type of water it is? and I would say the answer is no, this process doesn’t work. So do we need to change it or we need to find a new method or stop checking and wasting time inefficiently assessing this process. And so this is a way that we can validate are things working the way they’re supposed to in our process. What you do is you give people multiple attempts to look at the same thing over and over again, and you don’t tell them it’s the same thing, and see if they get the same answer each time. So that’s a type of experiment you run to validate something.
So a couple of minutes, talk about what is the data situation in your work. Do you have a lot of data? do you have no data? do you have data by hand? is it in a spreadsheet? is it on a computer buried somewhere in the system? what is your data system about your process? do you have data? what does it look like? Take, again, another discussion for a couple of minutes with your partner.
Anyone have a really good situation in terms of data? nobody? Okay. Does anyone have no data they can think of that it’s possible to look at? if I was to ask you, “How is your process performing today?” how many would say like, “I have no idea.”
M: Well, if they’re profitable ad doing well, that means it must be working.
B: So the first step, sometimes, is just getting hold of some data to say where are we at, and then you might realize, ooh, we do have a problem. Or, actually, we’re doing pretty good. So if you have to resort to even just manual writing down on a sheet of paper, that works. It’s not the most efficient way to do it, but it’s something and at least it gets you started. So don’t let technology be a barrier of doing improvements, but definitely, you can leverage that technology to gather lots of information as well. But don’t let that stop you, “We need to wait for the new database system to go online before we can do any improvements.” That’s not true. There’s easier, simpler ways to get started with that, even if it takes a little bit more effort to do that.
The different belt system is part of Six Sigma and that’s really based on training and application. Lean does not have a belt system or any kind of certification level formally. It’s just about practicing and applying the tools all the time. Six Sigma kind of went a different route and had very structured levels. So a White Belt is like you get an introductory class, maybe it’s a half-day or a full day on Six Sigma. This is kind of like a White Belt class on Lean Six Sigma.
Yellow Belt is White Belt plus you get a little bit extra tools. You learn a little bit more tools – process mapping and maybe go deeper into 5S and stuff like that. Green Belt is kind of the level where you start to learn quite a few tools and then the goal is to go off and apply those tools. So maybe a couple of weeks of training, one to two weeks, plus there’s an expectation that you go apply it to your work and show evidence that you understand how the tools work. And then the levels get higher from there, more training, but also more expectations around how much implementation you do.
So again, with all of these things, you can sit and learn about these things all day long, but if you don’t go apply it, it’s not going to really be useful and that’s where you’re going to learn the most is through practice. So that’s why the levels increase in what training you go through but also the experience and application goes up, the expectations go up as well. And there’s pros and cons to certification, so I see both sides of it. I don’t think it’s the answer, but it does help establish some kind of levels of knowledge so at least you know where people are at.
This is an example of one of the key tools and Six Sigma called statistical process control. This is that Honda and so you’ll see an application in a factory setting, but I want you to think about your process and think about why they’re doing the chart. They’re going to go through an example on how the chart helped them and think about that – how would that work in your process to identify problems sooner.
Okay, so a different process, but the key thing was that the data told them there was a problem and they didn’t notice it. Something had broken in one of the fixtures and the data started acting unusual and it forced them to go back and say what’s going wrong here and they found that broken fixture. If they didn’t have the chart, it could’ve been days or weeks before they noticed that problem and that’s what a recall is called. You’ve got to get all the cars back that we made over the last couple of weeks, and they can put out a lot of cars in a couple of days. How many recalls that would require to go check all the ones that were suspect from the time it broke to when they actually noticed the problem. So for them, it’s critical that they get on top of these problems very quickly and not let them drag out because that’s very expensive.
I want to show you, real quick, a couple more things. We’re a little short on time here. One of the projects that I worked on was energy reduction and I used the Six Sigma methods to do that. We took a look at the different facilities, and it was pretty obvious, in our Pareto chart, which one to focus on. It was headquarters, a huge building. I had no data, so I had to go around with a clipboard and record data off of different submeters. There’s 52 submeters in the building and I had to find them all first. Then we had to take turns going and collecting data and we built a pie chart of where the energy was coming from.
Then we did some modeling to kind of validate it, and it told us temperature was really important to affecting our kilowatt-hours, which is obvious. So we can’t control temperature, but we can control the equipment that runs the heating and cooling in the building and that’s where we focused a lot of our attention on, a set-back program, because it turned out, when we talked to everybody, that it just runs 24/7 at the temperature, whether people are in the building or not. So we came up with a program that looks at actually when people were leaving and coming into the building and we adjusted it to only operate in the proper zones during those times. So we pulled badge swipe data and looked at actual entry coming in and out of the building.
And then they had a button here that was installed on the wall that said if you come in at an odd time, we don’t want to discourage people from coming to work, you just press that button and you get two hours of normal temperature. And if you stay for four hours, press it again. That was a way to kind of deal with the change resistance to saying, “I might come on the weekend and I don’t want it to be too cold or too hot in there.” They had those buttons ready to go, installed, but it cost $50,000 to install and they couldn’t get approval. When we went to our data and we did a pilot project in one section, all sections of the building, and that pilot project said you will get that money back very quickly, within six months if you do this program. That was the data we needed to sell to management to go forward with that project. So the idea wasn’t new, they had actually already purchased the items, but they couldn’t get it implemented because they didn’t have the data, so that’s really what the project brought to the table there.
I’m going to skip on through, there’s a couple of more charts. This is sales from a nonprofit by day, and then you can look at staffing and say do we have our staffing lined up and matched up properly with when our sales are for those days? and maybe do we have more people on Saturdays and less people on Tuesdays? so the data helps us make better decisions.
We also have to look out a lot of the process improvements we’ve talked about really focus on the actual process, but make sure you’re also looking at outside the process, like at the heating and the cooling and the lighting and the pipes and the chemicals and the water flow. Those are all the environmental aspects of your processes. Those often get overlooked in normal Lean Six Sigma improvements. So to really get a full picture of the whole impact of the problem, make sure you include these other areas that are outside of it, including the solid waste and landfill charges and the pick-up fees and all of that. So don’t just be too narrow that you overlook the other areas of the process behind the walls, basically.
So if you don’t have enough time, maybe start with 10 minutes a day or one hour a week. You can do a lot in that time, just carve out time for improvement. If management doesn’t support this idea, then apply it to your own work or do it at home. And if you don’t think you know enough, I taught you about eight ways to apply this, you can do a lot with those two tools. And practice, I would say practice those tools instead of saying,” I need to go through weeks and weeks of training.” No, you have already some ideas you can go implement and you can Google search a lot of stuff. Almost everything is out there probably. To piece together your own improvement program and training, find online resources that are out there. And I do have a free course that you can take to go into deeper topics that we’ve introduced here.
I just want you to make sure that you can think about applications of this to your personal life, at least something you took away from today’s that you can apply at home. If you can apply at work too, even better, but at home, you have full ownership of that and it’s your processes and you deal with it every day, figure out a way to get ready in the morning faster and make dinner faster and do the dishes faster and mow the lawn faster and vacuum the house faster. And make it simple and easy that you don’t actually dread it, and you actually look forward to it because it’s organized and streamlined. This gets you started down this path, it just takes that first improvement. And I mentioned before, make sure you start with your own processes. Don’t try to Lean out someone else’s processes. And this is the link. Gregg will send out all the slides, if you have the links, you should be able to access those videos, they’re all on YouTube.
So just to summarize and we’ll take questions here. The Lean and Six Sigma methods are two different methods but they are merging together.
Probably in the last 10, 15 years, most companies have some blended approach between those two.
They’re very effective and successful, but what we’re trying to do is spread this knowledge to every organization because the application is there, you just maybe have to think about it a little differently for your type of work.
Look for the eight wastes in your work and in your personal life.
Organize your space using the 5S methods.
Start small, don’t go after, “I need this huge, big implementation and big change and big solution.” Start simple, small little things, but stop doing things the customer doesn’t want, start doing things they do want.
Collect data to better understand your problem.
Work together with your coworkers and staff and then, if you are a manager, help them become better problem solvers. Don’t give them the answer, ask leading questions. Instead of saying, “You need to do this and that’ll fix it,” just say, “What would you do? How could you better organize that area?” I liked your example. Don’t tell them how to organize the toys and the clothes and the things they play with, ask them to organize it in a way that they can find what they want quickly and then they put them away at the end of the day and see what they come up with. You’ll be surprised.
Work in teams, more people better than one. They’ll have better ideas.
But really, never lose sight of who you’re serving and what your process is intended for. Make sure they are number one focus on your improvements. If what you’re going to do is going to hurt or be negative to them, then you’re probably doing the wrong improvement.
So these are some other links. If you want to see examples of Lean applied to nonprofits, natural disaster recovery, some healthcare examples, outside of nontraditional organizations, there’s some links there. I have a Lean Portland group; we do volunteer work for nonprofits. That’s where the Free Geek and Restore and Rebuilding Center examples come from.
These are examples where the course is for Lean and Six Sigma applications to the environment, so that’ll be good for those of you working on your green business initiatives. That’s my consulting. Any questions? It’s a lot to digest. I gave you a lot of different things to think about, but hopefully, enough to give you some ideas on where you can start – maybe later today, maybe tonight, maybe sometime this week.
F: I have a question. Do you go back to your very last slide, where to start with?
B: Any other questions? We’ve got just a feedback form. So I need data. Give feedback and this is like when you go to talk to your customers, you’re going to hear some things that probably aren’t very pleasing, and that’s okay. You want to try to improve, so sometimes we need to hear the feedback, right? so if you have any suggestions or comments about the class, let me know.
Any other questions while we’re handing those out? Anyone struggling to see where they can apply some Lean methods to their work or their home? I’ll stick around if you have really specific questions that you want to run by me or you have a scenario you want to talk through. I’ll stick around as long as you want. Gregg, do you have any more?
G: Can we get Brion a round of applause? And I want to give a good shot out to Brion. Brion does a lot of really wonderful work in the community out of the goodness of his own heart, not always out of his bank account, and I think it’s really awesome that you’ve made that a priority in your life and it’s benefiting many people, so we appreciate it.
B: It’s fun. It’s important work.