We are often asked how to get started with making improvements.
We have all been in the situation where we are not getting the results needed and we need to be seen to be do something let alone actually getting improved results? We will talk about what our experience has taught us to get results quickly. We have seen managers that will immediately start reorganising their department, changing their staffs focus areas, goals and objectives. In almost every case little actually improves, except a loss of credibility within their department. However this only buys them some time. When managers say “we are reorganising and we believe this will make significant performance gains” it relieves the immediate pressure and everyone hopes that gains will occur sometime in the future. Typically after 3 months the promised results never materialise.
A better approach is the approach we will describe here.
Understand the process
We would complete the following steps:
1) Identify the non performing process and commit to running a Kaizen Blitz.
2) Map the process using a Value Stream Map or a Process Map. We would make sure we either walked the process if that was possible or map the process by talking to people that work in the process.
On our You Tube channel you can find a video with a brief introduction to Kaizen Events –Click here .
Identify the bottleneck
3) Next we need to find the bottleneck. The bottleneck is the process step that is restricting the throughput. How do we do this? In manufacturing you would look for inventory in front of the bottleneck operation and in services we would ask people who work in the process where they think the bottleneck is. Our experience is that operators intuitively know what is slowing the completion of tasks. Now we have a place to start our improvements.
4) Start making improvements. The way we usually do this is by using Kaizen Events. Kaizen events are where a team is formed that will concentrate on a problem for between 2 and 5 days. The key is that the team members are taken out of their jobs and ‘allowed’ to focus on the problem without having to do their normal day to day job.
It is not unusual for a Kaizen event to achieve gains of 50 to 80% by the end of the event. Kaizens also generate a lot of goodwill with a very enthusiastic team at the end of the event -an outcome that can not be underestimated.
The key to getting results with a Kaizen event is setting them up for success. Every Kaizen needs a mandated charter with very clear goals. Other business Support functions (ie: maintenance in manufacturing or IT/IS in Services) need to be alerted upfront about the kaizen and that they are expected to rapidly support any kaizen team requests.
The Kaizen starts out with upfront training in Lean Kaizen techniques; this is nothing in depth but usually includes process mapping, the 7 process wastes, the Kaizen expectations and the event timetable. After training, teams will ‘go, look and see’ the process (if possible), come up with a list of problems, generate solutions to overcome the problem areas and then implement the solutions. This process of observation, problem identification, solution generation and implementation is iterative and helps teams get fast feedback on any improvements implemented. Teams will go through this process up to four times during the Kaizen. The focus of a kaizen event is on action and implementation for quick results.
Transactional Kaizens vs Manufacturing Kaizens
The transactional kaizen event are much the same as manufacturing Kaizens, however the implementation may take longer if IT changes are required. At the end of a Kaizen a list of work that was not able to be implemented during the event is compiled. Management is then usually given 30 days to fully implement the outstanding items.
Kaizen events are a mechanism to generate improvements quickly. However it is critical that the projects chosen are important to the business. The projects must be focused on the process bottlenecks to generate system wide improvements. We have run Kaizens that have generated up to $10Million in benefits over the course of a 5 day Kaizen event -not a bad return for 5 days work. We have also worked on Safety Kaizens which generate no financial benefits but improved operational safety.
If quick results are important, then consider using Kaizen events for your business.