LinkedIn Group Discusses Change Management
The idea of effecting change within a business is exciting and positive, but it can, at the same time, cause some stomach turns for Lean professionals. Even with experience, and sometimes because of it, the task of changing minds, processes, and habits can be daunting.
Users on LinkedIn Six Sigma, Change Management, and Lean Methodology groups often bring up the topic of which tools and habits make for the most effective and easy-to-implement improvement projects; it’s no secret that overeager or under-qualified evaluations, resistant workers and management, or unpreparedness can turn a well-meaning improvement effort into a nightmare.
As such, Ricardo Anselmo de Castro asked users what their “number ONE” rule was for “making things happen” with their Lean efforts. As usual with these things, there was some consensus, and some divergent thinking, but the ultimate conclusion I could draw from this one is that the idea of “ONE” cure-all just isn’t a realistic pursuit. Instead, I’ve gone ahead some of the best points from the discussion into a quick, simple, 3 Step Guide; here’s to hoping it helps you get things done!
Step 1. Lay A Foundation
One of the first steps to bringing any project to completion in the business world is making sure that you’re working on the correct project in the first place. Throughout the conversation, a common belief was the notion that you had to have hard facts and data to back up your projects before you started formulating a specific strategy, let alone trying to convey that strategy to others and sell them on your ideas.
User Parashuraman Ramaswamy suggests “desk audits” to identify problem areas in your business, and as a good starting point for backing up project plans. The term “desk audit” refers to close scrutiny of various workstations or individual units within a business. These audits look for problems or slowdowns, much in the same way Lean practitioners use a “Gemba Walk” (the two are really the same thing, in most senses).
Using a such a strategy with an open mind and no agenda can help you objectively spot things you might have otherwise missed. Showing that you’ve audited many aspects of a business before deciding on one process to tackle can help assure others that you’ve done your homework and are going to be dedicating resources where they’re most needed.
User Prashanth Baragi’s number one tool is Value Stream Mapping, or VSM. VSM is another tool for holistically evaluating an operation, thought it works in the reverse of auditing; instead of focusing on small individual units first and comparing them later, you map an entire overview of production, and then assign values to the efficiency of various processes and decide which area you’ll focus in on.
Both approaches are valid, and the main point, again, isn’t that one tool is the end all be all, but that you’re using something effective to help back up your projects.
Ultimately, all auditing, visual mapping, and whatever else you use are meant to get you to the goal of step one: Documenting your process and making an informed, research-based decision.
Step 2. Cultivating Buy In
Everything you did in step one to lay a foundation for your change management is to aid you in the biggest hump in the system: Getting buy-in. ‘Buy-in’ is the mental currency of all audiences affected by your projects, those whose support you’ll need to move forward. While I’ve done an entire article on cultivating buy-in for continual improvement/Lean projects before, the two main parties you need to be concerned with – and thus the ones we’ll skim over here – are your directly affected workers, and management.
Management: Love it or hate it, wooing those in power is pretty much a necessity; if you aren’t completely autonomous in your decision making, then the biggest barrier you’re likely to encounter is simply that someone in charge doesn’t see the value in what you want to do. At worst, they may simply see the re-organization, new systems, etc. that often come with continual improvement/LSS as wastes of time that divert their workers and resources.
Luckily, you’ve got a secret weapon, and it’s all that helpful research you collected in step one. When you don’t fully understand a topic, you might be impressed by someone else’s knowledge of it, but that doesn’t mean you agree with everything they’re saying, because you don’t have the authority on the subject to.
Don’t give management this same excuse; you don’t only need to use your research to prove that you’ve done your homework and know exactly what the company needs to improve (and how to do it). Instead, what you need to focus on is how to present that information so well that management feels educated enough to agree with and understand your ideas and goals.
This not only helps with initial approval, but also project longevity. Your boss is going to feel much more comfortable having an understanding of what’s happening as time goes on.
Employees: Depending on the setup of your company, those on the ground might not have as much of a say in whether your project gets off the ground or not, but they certainly have an influence on how far it gets. Buy-in with workers is absolutely essential as you’ll be asking them to learn to do things in a new way, etc. for weeks, months, or even permanently depending on your aims.
A great quote to come out of the discussion was offered up by Kevin Erickson and reinforces the need to be receptive to the needs and concerns of your audience while carrying out step two (and even step one, for that matter):
“This is why the number ONE rule for me is to LISTEN. I mean really listen, in order to understand what the process, current and potential, means to its stakeholders. What do they like and dislike about current? What do they like and dislike about any proposed change?
Nothing else matters unless we get this right and getting this right will support the change that matters.”
Step 3. The Follow-through
The last step is to follow through on what you’ve set in place. It’s easier said that done, and it’s not even said that easily because how you keep your program on track is largely a function of individual circumstances. Even so, keeping your original goals in mind (not getting sidetracked), keeping your two primary audiences informed every step of the way, and having an effective method for measuring the impact you want to have will all help you succeed.
LinkedIn is a veritable wealth of knowledge for professionals looking for insights and discussion within their industry, and business owners won’t be disappointed by one discussion prompt this week. One user made an initial post stating that, contrary to popular belief, being the “cheapest” should never be the goal in your business. He goes on to argue that looking too hard at minimizing the costs of running your business might cause you to lose focus on other important aspects that will ultimately keep you in the game longer. This is, he says, due to the fact that the actual value you receive in return for wages paid, material costs, and more is what determines the ultimate success of your business. Let’s go through some of the merits of such a position and discuss the relationship between direct input costs and your final products, profitability, and corporate longevity.
Cheap Manufacturing & Employees First
One of the biggest areas that the cost vs. value debate makes a statement is in the realm of worker wages. While we have to put work contracts in terms of dollars per hour, these amounts are not always directly relevant, or at least measurable in such a simple way, to an employer. Looking at employee productivity, work ethic, setbacks, production numbers/results and more, it is usually apparent that some workers have a higher inherent value than others.
Look at it this way: Let’s say you pay a worker in your warehouse $11 per hour to conduct their work. Their tasks include checking in stock, checking out orders, re-stocking in-store aisles, and a few other assorted tasks each day. Tending to these responsibilities at a competent level is a job you have deemed worth spending $11 per hour on. Now let’s look at two different workers: Worker A arrives early most mornings and sticks around to help close up shop in the evenings, she is efficient on the job throughout the day, looks to fill any down time with additional tasks or by helping coworkers, and often opts out of her breaks in order to fill more orders. Worker B, on the other hand, seems often distracted while working and sometimes this leads to mistakes and orders that have to be re-done, wasting time. He takes full advantage of his breaks, which is fine, but also seems to need additional time to smoke and check his phone throughout the day. From an objective standpoint, you would probably view worker A as doing slightly more than expected of her position, and worker B of doing slightly less. By extension, worker A is likely worth more than $11 per hour of value to your company, while worker B is worth less than $11 per hour.
To the original poster, this concept of actual value when looking at wages and outgoing costs for a business is the one and only primary difference between businesses that succeed and those that ultimately are forced to fold. If you are consistently hiring worker A types, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Furthermore, if you can calculate the actual value you get from these workers (not impossible to do by accounting for day to day productivity/profits, hours they work, etc.) you may find you’re getting a huge return on investment. In our previous example, you might determine that some workers are giving you $16 per hour in value for your $11 wage. But what happens if you raise your wage for the position to $12.50?
You might be wondering why you’d do this when you’re basically getting $5 extra in value from a worker every hour already. However, if you wanted to replace your lower-value workers with more high value types, raising the wage might help attract these employees. While your individual clearance on each worker would be $3.50 per hour now, your overall value would skyrocket from having a whole workforce of high value people.
Global Problems With Cheap Manufacturing
If asked which country a company could outsource to for the cheapest labor, you wouldn’t be alone in naming Asian, South American, or even African areas in which wages are extremely low. For many years, these low wage requirements also translated to high value margins for corporations. In recent years, however, the tables have turned, and many large, first world nations, including the UK and the US are becoming popular labor destinations. Wages are certainly higher in these countries, causing companies to shell out more per worker, but consistency in standards, quality, regulatory hoops, and exchange rates make per-worker value higher in these nations.
Here’s a breakdown of the recent shifts as related by a IndustryWeek article dated April 29th:
A study by the Boston Consulting Group shows that traditional views on low-cost manufacturing are not true anymore. The last 10 years has seen a shift in the lost-cost advantage away from China. China is still ranked the lowest cost by some measures, but the all-in cost, including quality, has resulted in a new look at other manufacturing centers, including the US. China’s cost advantage in manufacturing is now less than five percent. Mexico is now lower-cost than China, and the US is on par with Eastern European costs.
Moving forward, expect companies to thrive who focus on value. In the US, for example, the federal minimum wage, as well as that of many individual states, may be raised soon. Cheap Manufacturing Businesses looking for the cheapest labor to fill their ranks may find themselves squeezed when these changes come about. Henry Ford, the great American automotive entrepreneur, is often credited with paying above-average wages to his workers because he recognized that if his workers could afford his own products, and were paid well enough to want to make them the best on the market, he’d likely see a value return on these extra outgoing dollars anyways in the future. Having an eye for your company prospects five, ten, or twenty years from now is always a good idea, and it may just start with getting yourself out of the “cheap” mindset.
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Implementing a 5S program in a facility takes a lot of hard work and dedication. In most cases, however, companies are willing to put in that effort in order to get the great results they desire. A facility will have buy in from upper management who are willing to provide the financial backing and other support necessary to really get the 5S program off the ground. Once 5S has been implemented, however, the passions often begin to cool and it can become difficult to sustain the benefits that were realized, and push forward for ongoing improvements.
Since one of the S’s in 5S is sustainability, it is important to look at how to sustain the program as a whole. The following 5 ingredients can help ensure your 5S program not only enjoys a successful launch, but also has ongoing success for years to come.
It can be tempting to keep pushing for large and complex changes that might have dramatic results for the facility, but that isn’t always a good idea. These types of major changes do have a place from time to time, but for true sustainability, you’ll want to make sure you’re focusing on steady momentum, which is done by focusing on simple projects.
The vast majority of improvements a facility can enjoy will be simple to find and implement, so don’t make the mistake of overcomplicating things. If, for example, someone presents an idea on how to eliminate a small amount of waste from their one department, implement it as quickly as possible so everyone can see that simple solutions are appreciated and implemented.
One of the best things you can do to ensure a 5S program remains in place is to get it put on people’s performance evaluations. Even when people think there is value to something at work, they will often neglect it if it is not something that they are measured on for their annual review.
Implementing this type of measurement should be done right from the start, so that the upper management is taking action while they are in the early phases and are focused on the new 5S system. Putting it off until after the launch will give them time to lose interest, which could cause problems down the road.
When it comes to eliminating waste in a facility, it doesn’t matter how big or small the elimination is, it should be seen as a major victory. Sometimes it is the smallest changes that can have the largest long term results, so make sure you’re celebrating success at every level. Recognizing the people who contributed to a particular change or improvement, for example, will not only make those individuals feel appreciated, but will also motivate others to take action for improvement as well.
While most facilities do a good job of explaining the benefits of 5S and how it works at the beginning, they often end all training after the initial implementation. This can cause a number of difficult problems. To start with, any new employees will be coming in to the situation without knowing what 5S is, or how it is being used in the facility. In addition, even those who were properly trained at first will fall back into bad habits over time if they aren’t constantly reminded of why 5S is important to the facility.
Finally, you need to review your progress regularly to ensure you’re not losing momentum. Finding out where improvements were made, and how they were accomplished on a weekly or monthly basis, for example, will help keep the progress going. This type of information should be shared with everyone in the facility, especially management, to help keep them informed of the importance of the 5S program.
Ongoing improvement in any industry is essential for the success of a business. When companies, or even individual facilities, become stagnant, their competition can quickly overtake them. With this in mind, it is important for all companies, and the individuals who make them up, should always be trying to make improvements.
In many facilities, the main focus is on workflow improvement. Things like adjusting the way a particular part is made, for example, can decrease the amount of time it takes and eliminate some types of waste. These types of improvement are excellent, and essential for the success of businesses. Unfortunately, however, they are also much more difficult to come by, and constant improvements like these can’t be sustained.
For companies that are looking for ways to promote ongoing improvement throughout a facility, it is better to focus on the routine decisions that are made every day by employees of all levels. Helping people learn how to analyze a given decision, and make it with the best interest of the company at heart, will allow for things to run more smoothly.
Different types of companies and facilities will need to approach this in a way that works out best for them, but the general concept can be applied to any situation. If, for example, a manufacturing facility provides training to their employees regarding what the end result for each part it, it can give them more information to work with when making decisions. Rather than having to follow a set standard with every decision they make, it can give them additional flexibility to make smarter decisions on a regular basis.
One of the things that make this focus much more effective is the fact that employees make dozens of decisions every day. Multiply this out by every employee in a company, and it is easy to see why this is so critical. Even though the vast majority of these decisions are small and almost insignificant in nature, the sheer number of them makes them one of the best ways to influence change in a facility.
When employees aren’t encouraged to make better decisions on their own, they are often constrained by the processes and procedures. When something comes up that is not clearly defined, they often have to stop what they are doing to seek advice or clarification. This, of course, wastes the time of both the employees and the manager they are asking the question of.
Daily Decisions Drive Workflow Improvement
Another important thing to consider when working to improve the daily decisions of employees through the facility is the fact that it is these decisions that lead to the workflow improvements. When people are given the opportunity and ability to make smarter daily decisions, they will be more likely to find ways to improve the work is done. Rather than focusing directly on attempting to improve workflow, which can often result in forced changes that don’t work out well, focusing on daily decisions leads to a much more organic and natural workflow improvement cycle.
Employees making informed decisions will typically want to share the positive results of those decisions with others, which may come in the form of a workflow improvement idea. While not all of them will be implemented, it can often lead to a steady stream of improvement ideas to be evaluated and possibly implemented.
Improved Employee Engagement
Another reason that focusing on better decisions is such a smart idea is the fact that it will empower employees to make decisions on their own. Empowered employees are far more likely to be actively engaged in their work. They often have a greater sense of purpose in their job, which makes them significantly more productive. When employees are forced to ask for permission or for clarification on even small decisions, they can become disheartened and become disengaged with their work. This can lead them to look for work at another company, or just stay with the company but become unproductive.
Has Vocoli saved the suggestion box?
The traditional suggestion box has long been thought of as a thing of the past. The dusty wood box that no one can usually find, sitting with a couple of broken pencils and some half doodled pieces of paper, has been in desperate need of an upgrade for years.
Vocoli, a product of a Brighton-based Web development firm Massachusetts Technology Corp, was launched in September and is attempting change the way you think about suggestion boxes.
Any company founded on the will to continuously improve needs voices to push it along. Often times, these voices tend to get choked out in a dusty box. They get forgot about, left for too long, and by the time they make it into the hands of someone who can make a difference, it’s a lost cause. In attempts to spark innovation, collaboration, and maybe most importantly, participation, Vocoli is a cloud based, virtual suggestion box that allows employees to submit suggestions, comments and ideas from anywhere, anytime, from essentially any device.
Vocoli is a pay-for-service software that allows organizations to offer a fully interactive platform for employees and managers to rate ideas, add comments and input additional data on how a particular idea impacted operations.
A nice feature with the Vocoli software is the ability for leaders to target specific organizational challenges and allow the team to collaborate on finding a workable solution.
- Set campaign start and end dates
- Set reward amounts for motivation
- See number of related ideas and pre- and post-campaign.
Contributors will have an option to improve each other’s ideas with the organization’s collective knowledge.
- Discuss and rate ideas before submitting to management
- View the latest and trending topics
- Incorporate comments into the submission
- Up- and down-vote to bring the best conversations to the top.
Never lose a great idea again!
- Program administrators can assign department heads to review ideas and then accept or decline them
- Dashboard tools help quickly keep ideas progressing through each step of the process
- Mange the idea process with reminders to department heads, follow-through and status tracking
- Ideas can be set aside for further evaluation and clarity from the author.
Employees want something that’s user friendly and allows them flexibility. The interface Vocoli offers is easy-to-use, allowing contributors to focus on their creativity, instead of how to figure out how to use it.
- Customizable screens to meet your organizations needs and audience
- Desktop, tablet, and mobile compatible from any browser, anytime, anywhere.
- Users can upload documents and images to clarify and support their ideas
- Contributors can share credit with others
- Save an idea and finish it later.
According to Boston Business Journal reporter Sara Castellanos, the company has about a dozen customers after the first few months and anticipate further growth in the upcoming year. Their target market, according to their CEO Richard Kneece, is for companies with more than 100 employees, but their site claims the benefits could help any organization.
We are trying to create an avenue.. to allow somebody who has these ideas to submit them in an organized way.
Tools like these can be an encouraging sign to your employees. A sign that you care about their opinion and value their input on serious challenges facing your organization. Employees that feel like they are a contributing factor in the progression and continuous improvement effort, are more likely to put forth and more importantly, sustain the effort needed to make programs like these a valuable asset to your organization.
Engaging your employees is a critical part of your operations. The first one to put out a suggestion box years ago was forward thinking and innovative for the time, but over time, it became misused and abused. The Vocoli software is innovative and forward thinking as well, overtime, we will see if it can help to sustain improvement in organizations and keep them moving forward as well.
It is advisable that employee acknowledgement be ingrained in the culture of the business and not simply an act of ingenuine communication. Indeed, employee acknowledgement is a communication device that reinforces and rewards the most significant results that employees are responsible for. When leadership identifies employees competently, it strengthens, with its selected means of acknowledgement, the activities and behaviors it most desires to see in the employees it manages. A productive employee recognition system is simple, immediate, and powerfully strengthening. When leadership addresses employee recognition methods, it will need to develop a recognition program that is identically powerful for both the employer and the employee. A solid plan for inspiring and rewarding employees for significant contributions should be significant for a business lacking an initiative to make such matters indispensable for employee moral and business profitability. It is imperative that leadership set up criteria for what presentation or contribution constitutes rewardable conduct or activities.
Identify the criteria for Recognition
The challenge of criteria based goals is to make certain their accomplishment is swiftly noted and rewarded since it’s expected the employee is currently feeling good about their performance; your timely acknowledgement of the employee will enhance the affirmative sentiments and this, in turn, affirmatively affects the employee’s confidence in their proficiency to do well in your organization.
- All employees should be eligible for the acknowledgement.
- The acknowledgement should provide the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviors or actions are being paid for and thusly directly indicative of the employee’s value to the business.
- Anyone who performs at the grade or benchmark stated in the criteria obtains the pay.
- The recognition should occur as close to the presentation of the activities as possible, so that the acknowledgement reinforces conduct that employers desire to boost.
With a constant set of criteria applied to the applicable employees, leadership will effectively abstain from conceiving of a process in which managers choose the employees who will receive recognition, for this approach undermines the purpose of recognition by replacing the company wide criteria for a system based on favoritism. For this reason, the process of seemingly arbitrarily singling out an individual, such as “Employee of the Month,” is seldom fruitful.
Examples of Recognition Criteria
A business began establishing criteria for rewarding employees. Criteria encompassed such undertakings as contributing to the business success by assisting a client without being aided by a supervisor during the process. Each employee who met the criteria obtained a letter of appreciation that was hand-written by leadership. The letter identified why the employee was obtaining the acknowledgement and in addition, encompassed the opportunity for the employee to “draw” a gift a from gift bin. The gifts ranged from gift cards for local restaurants to reasonable increases in pay. The outcome was desirable because the businesses aim of isolating the behavior of assisting a client without being micromanaged increased the efficiency of the employees, and therefore the bottom line of organization.
On the other hand, if leadership expresses gratitude every time an employee assists a client with or without help from their supervisor, then the reward becomes a grant that is expected for doing the basic essentials of the job description and therefore no special behavior is being acknowledged. That is, it is counter-productive for leadership to reward an employee for the very same reason they are receiving a particular salary. For example, in another organization, the CEO officially bought lunch for all employees every Friday. Shortly, the CEO found that she had employees coming to her inquiring to be reimbursed for a meal that occurred outside of the business on a Friday. Indeed, her good intention but lack of solid criteria caused a misunderstanding of the purpose of her providing lunch. Her goal of establishing a reliable team of the hardest working employees turned into a grant or a claim on valuable resources owned by the company.
The Letter of Recognition
Employee acknowledgement is worth the time and the money a business spends on it. Leadership has no other device at their disposal that so predictably aligns employees with company goals. From acknowledgement and express gratitude you notes to bonuses and presents, employee acknowledgement is good for workplace motivation and conceives positive employee morale. Your choices for employee recognition are numerous. Every year, some businesses give bonuses to employees who contributed throughout the year. After a business takes the attenuating factors including business profitability, the anticipations of economic factors and their past practices, they should address providing bonuses for employees.
If leadership cannot sanction cash bonuses, a sensibly priced gift such as company merchandise can work well as gifts. If a gift is not on the horizon – and it may not be for governmental employees, for instance – at the very least, adopt the custom of composing letters to employees for acknowledgement and to express gratitude them for their assistance.
The note should identify exact employee contributions, which goes a long way in assisting employee identity in the business. In fact, an acknowledgement letter that accompanies a bonus or gift magnifies the recognition. Employees who treasure such gratification will keep their letter in a place where they view it frequently, such as their office or cubicle.
An employee recognition note does not need to be complicated but it is most effective when the employee recognition letter:
- Expressly describes the behavior that is appropriate.
- States “thank you” and that the employee assistance is treasured.
- Is in writing and sent as close to the date or time of achievement as possible.
- If handwriting is not an option design a customized looking email is customized that avoids a template or form look.
Leadership should not underestimate the power of an employee who receives a letter of acknowledgement from an individual who is the arbitrator of their effort expended at work.
Employees desire to be thanked and appreciated every day. But a stronger appreciation is a targeted effort of the company to reward and motivate employees to work at their maximum output levels. The foundation of this thriving connection is the leader’s proficiency to make employees feel and actuate themselves as relevant to the company’s growth strategy. This is critical when a leader’s achievement is reliant on employees respect of them. That is, a constant portion of leader’s activities should be dedicated to communicating worth to employees. When leadership ties acknowledgement to business growing accomplishments and aims for the accomplishment to be performance based, it raises a bar to a level that all employees must reach.
Cloud computing has emerged as the latest technology to help companies, but what are the benefits of this technology? Companies all over the world are using it to create a mobile workforce and to lower expenses. There are so many benefits to this new technology that any company with an IT department could use this technology to improve business processes. Here is what you need to know about this new technology that’s sweeping the nation.
1. Cloud Computing and Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS)
PaaS cloud solutions will provide enterprise-level quality at a fraction of the cost of an in-house solution. Most companies need platform solutions to improve the functionality of their business. When they are hosted in the cloud, the cost of the platforms decrease and more startups find the services affordable.
2. Cloud Services Can Meet Customer Demands
As customer demands increase, scalability becomes more of an issue. Cloud computing makes scalability easier and requires only a simple sign-up and payment for access for a new employee. The process usually requires a few minutes to purchase access for a new employee and a nominal monthly fee to sign up. Once the user ID and password is established, it will be easy to connect and use the service for most employees.
3. Cloud Computing Can Reduce Storage Costs
If you want to decrease storage costs, you can do this by reducing your payment from $5 to 25 cents. Companies are switching to cloud computing for cost savings and also for disaster recovery. If disaster strikes, companies want to have an alternative method to have access to their files in storage without it interrupting their business processes. Because of this, many companies have chosen cloud computing to access their files from any location in the world. This service protects companies and helps them remain competitive.
4. Cloud Mail and Collaboration Services
Cloud mail can be accessed from any location in the world. This improves productivity and efficiency of any organization. Employees can also collaborate and hold meetings even with people in remote locations. Cloud should be a priority for any company for this reason.
5. Web-based and Content-Rich Applications
Your company should provide web-based and content-rich applications to their employees and even their customers to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. These applications are essential to companies all over the world who want to save money and increase revenue.
6. Cloud is Essential to Cobol Apps
Cobol apps can improve the functionality of any company. Every company that develops Cobol apps notices a change in productivity and the robust nature of the private cloud. Many companies do not recognize how much more efficient they can be with the use of the private cloud.
When employees can telecommute, they are more apt to be more productive and miss fewer days of work. They’ll have access to all types of information while on-the-go, which will allow them to make faster decision-making. When you can reduce your overhead expenses, it’s easier to get a new business up and running or keep an existing business going without using too much capital. Most businesses also find that employee morale improves with telecommuting. There are so many benefits with telecommuting that every company should incorporate the option for working mothers, remote workers, and for people who are physically ill.
The Cloud Can Improve Your Business
The cloud can improve your business over time. Since the market is constantly evolving, more companies are looking to cloud computing to improve functionality and also productivity. Check with your local cloud computing provider and learn how the cloud can enhance your business.
We’ve all had a bad experience at a restaurant. It’s nothing we or the restaurant ever hope for, but it’s the risk we take each time we venture out for a meal. We generally choose a restaurant for one of two reasons, the food or the atmosphere and set our expectations accordingly. For my most recent dining experience I went with the latter and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings. There were multiple sporting events on that I wanted to watch and they were all on at the same time. Seeing how I only have one television and they have more than I can count, it seemed like the right choice at the time.
A Three Hour Wait!
Apparently, so did everybody else in town. After circling the parking lot for about 15 minutes looking for a parking spot, I was greeted by a hostesses inside to tell me the good news. A three hour wait! Yes that’s correct, our estimated wait time was as long as the game itself! She did say it with a smile though.
After putting my jaw back in place from it dropping to the floor, the hostess asked for my phone number. I gave it to her without hesitation and proceeded to wonder what I was going to do. That’s until about two minutes later when I received a text message saying that I had been added to the Buffalo Wild Wings waitlist.
Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t even have to be there and I could be notified that my table was ready through a text message. In fact, inside the text message was a link to a webpage that showed my place in line and how long I had been waiting.
Lean in a Restaurant?
In working with and writing about the wide word of Lean, I was immediately drawn to this new method of handling large amounts of guests in a restaurant. I started running through the process and thinking about all the ways this simple, yet powerful new tool could be interpreted by a Lean enthusiast.
- Less Waste: No more writing down names on paper and then having to call them out when a table is available. Gone are the plastic alert buzzers that require additional equipment and power to run them. All that’s needed, is what the restaurant and customer already have, a computer and a cell phone.
- Enhanced Customer Experience: With up to the second information at the palm of your hands, you know exactly where you are in the order and how much time you have until your table is ready.
- Keeps Continuous Improvement In Focus: Being able to track your customer wait times electronically with no additional software should provide the restaurant with critical information. This should help improve wait times in an efficient and accurate manner.
- Improved Communication: It’s a two-way system which allows the customer to text the restaurant back or if you would like to call, the phone number is included in the original text.
A Better Way To Dine
Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my guest and I decided to walk down to another restaurant showing the games and grab an appetizer while we waited for our text message. We continued to hang out at the neighboring restaurant while monitoring our status on my cell phone. As we moved towards the top, we walked back over. Sure enough, after walking back into BWW I received a text message that our table was ready. We ended up staying there for the rest of the game and most of the following, but if it wasn’t for this new service, we more than likely would have not come back at all.
The technology the restaurant used was from Firespotter Labs called NoshList Premium. After doing a little research, it turns out this service is now being used by over 1600 restaurants nationwide. Other chains include Red Robin and Gourmet Burgers.
The full list of features include:
- Unlimited Two-Way Texting
- Table Number Assignment
- Large Party Functionality
- NoshGuest Autofill
- In-App Statistics
- Designated Local Phone Number
- 30-Day Exportable Analytics
- Weekly Email Summaries
The path towards continuous improvement in your lean journey is not always as clear as you’d like it to be. Many of the processes and methodologies behind Lean take time before your organization has success with them. It’s a learning process well worth the investment, but can be frustrating at times. Same goes for the Lean process known as Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). The increased efficiency and reduction of costly inventory that results from SMED, only comes when your organization has fully committed and dedicated the time to fully understand the process.
Background of Single Minute Exchange of Die or SMED
The SMED process was developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo in Japan during the sixties and early seventies at Toyota. Dr. Shingo was given the challenge of increasing production capacity without purchasing new equipment. His research at first was mostly spent observing machines in action and trying to understand how to make them run faster. However, this was not giving him the information he was looking for.
To his surprise, his aha moment came when he observed a machine sitting idle. While spending all the time focused on the machine in action, he failed to realize the lack of emphasis on the machine’s cycle time. When a production order was complete the machine would lay idle while workers slowly gathered the materials for the next order. Dr. Shingo then realized that in order to achieve full production capacity, you have to reduce setup and changeover time.
His new focus led him to realize that changing production equipment from the last good piece to the first good piece, should take less than 10 minutes. Which is where the term “Single Minute Exchange of Dies” (SMED) came from.
What Can SMED Do For You?
Most people refer to SMED today as “quick changeover” or “setup reduction.” Even though it was originally developed to improve die-press and machine-tool setups, the concept applies to all changeovers in all types of product setups.
In the book Quick Changeover Simplified, authors Fletcher Birmingham and Jim Jelinek offer six reasons why a quick changeover process like SMED will help benefit your company. They are as follows:
- Simplify your manufacturing process. A quick setup and changeover program simplifies processes and makes manufacturing jobs easier and more fulfilling for employees. This leads to happier employees, which leads to a lower turn-over rate.
- Improve the quality of products. When you define, simplify, and control your manufacturing processes, the end result will be a better, higher quality product.
- Increase throughput. A quick setup program allows an increase in throughput, helping to improve deliveries. Improved deliveries help customers sell more products, thus increasing their need to order more products from you to keep up with demand.
- Permit smaller lots. The old rule of thumb was to produce goods in large lots because long setup times make it costly to change the process frequently. However producing large lots for this reason has several disadvantages, including:
~Inventory waste: storing what doesn’t sell costs money and ties up company resources without adding value.
~Quality loss: storing unsold inventory increases the chance that it will have to be scrapped or reworked.
~Delay waste: customers must wait for the company to produce entire lots, rather than the quantity they need.
~Non-standardized setups: Infrequent setups often aren’t standardized; thus they are difficult and risky.
- Make your company more competitive. A quick setup and changeover program reduces the time , cost, and resources associated with switching from one manufacturing job to the next. Any savings you have can then be passed along to your customer to make you that much more competitive.
- Save jobs. Not implementing a quick setup program makes your company noncompetitive because it needs to absorb the cost of lost potential savings that could have benefited your company and customers.
These benefits of SMED are just the start of the continued improvement you will see to your facility in the long and short term. Stay tuned for more on SMED, including tips on how to implement SMED into your Lean facility.
Designing a layout for your facility is a hefty project that really takes both sides of the brain to draw out all your creativity and scientific knowledge in order to be successful. The growth of Lean concepts and processes over the past decade has shifted many facilities to adopt a Lean layout on their floors. The results of a successful Lean layout can dramatically improve your facilities efficiency and flexibility when it comes to production swings.
A veteran Lean practitioner may understand the essentials that go into this design process, but for those struggling with this concept, it may be helpful to understand the fundamentals of a Lean layout to help get started.
Lean Layout 101
For starters, it is important to separate a Lean layout from other design templates like functional and line layouts. The goal of a Lean layout is to increase efficiency and allow for flexibility in your production process. This is done by focusing on the sequences in the process and linking them together, not the function in which they operate.
In a functional layout, products have to move through several departments before completion. This adds several processes to the overall production. This decreases your efficiency and adds a lot more handling of each individual part in the process. Also, parts have to wait for other parts to be finished in order to be completed, slowing the process down.
Through the use of U-shaped cells, a lean layout aligns work stations to work hand in hand with each other. By taking a piece of equipment and the step in the process and locating them next to each other creates an efficient flow in the process. A series of U-shaped cells is called a cellular layout.
A line layout may be more efficient than a functional layout, but it lacks two things that a Lean layout thrives on; individual effort and creativity. Both of these concepts are completely eliminated from the products design and finished product in a line layout.
Three Parts to a Lean Layout
Since the first manufacturing plant opened, engineers have been working towards designing a more efficient method to manufacture goods. This mindset falls right in line with Lean thinking. Improvement should always be at the forefront, but understanding the fundamentals for what you’re trying to improve is essential to the process. For a proper Lean layout, there are three main fundamentals that need to be addressed.
- One-Piece Flow: This type of system focuses specifically on the sequences in the process. Workers only work on one unit or product at a time and then pass it along to the next process. This has had a significant impact on reducing time, wastes, and improving value-added activities in many Lean organizations.
- Reducing Transportation of Parts and Motion: The minimization of movement is always going to increase efficiency. This is done by placing equipment in the proper sequence in the process. By reducing the amount of movement needed by your workers to complete their task, you will also reduce the strain on them, reducing possible health issues over time.
- Minimization of Space: Poorly utilized space is wasteful and can be costly to your improvement efforts. All objects within your facility need to be evaluated to determine the least amount of space needed to be efficient and keep production levels flexible.
There is no specific blueprint to a Lean layout that everyone must follow in order to be considered Lean. However, by following the methodology behind a Lean layout, you can design a layout that works for your facility, under your constraints, that still fits the mold for a Lean layout.