Lean Success – Sense of Urgency and A Plan

By: Kevin Klump, Senior Consultant Lean Advisors

Recently we were asked to review a company’s process improve efforts as they said they were doing everything that could be done to make improvements and yet they were not getting the results their senior management wanted and needed.

The initial step was to perform our two-day assessment of their processes which includes interviews with key personal, Gemba walks, KPI review, and a detailed look at their past process improvement efforts.

At the end of the Assessment, we shared the findings with them and inquired – ‘What is your company’s process pain that drives you to want to improve your processes?’ They shared lots of pain elements from scrap, rework, employee turnover, customer issues, sales issues, etc.

We then shared our knowledge and observations – the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of their process improvement efforts. They had done 5S work but outside of the beautification they really couldn’t describe any major measurable transformation the 5S did for them.

They have a process improvement meeting every month to schedule their next process improvement review and discuss what projects they are working on and the annual goals each of them are working on.

We reassured them that they are having the same problem many companies find themselves in, which is their desire to make serious process improvements, yet they let their busy work schedule put those efforts on hold instead of realizing that process, end-to-end improvement must be their daily priority.

They also then shared that improvement is definitely part of their long term strategic planning platform. The challenge, and the frustration, is that improvement is not moving fast enough to keep them competitive and maximize their bottom line and create a bright future.

So often companies, like this one, are cautious and treat process improvement like something that must go slowly or they will make mistakes. The world class companies are those who make process improvement a priority, and never settle for less. Successful organizations focus on improving their processes constantly and as quickly as it can be improved. It is part of their vision/direction and all efforts support that vision and corporate goal.

The next step was to ask the company to give one process issue that if improved would have a significant impact on their annual KPI goals. They shared that problem/challenge and what we discovered is they knew very little about the root cause of the problem.

The team was then asked to take a Gemba walk through the identified problem process area. During our walk, they were given a waste observation sheet and asked to analyze the process from the perspective of the customer with the goal to note all the ‘waste’ they ‘see’. Most had trouble seeing the waste at first, but then as we coach them and continue the Gemba walk, they become the customer and ‘see’ tons of waste of all types.

Following this exercise, we led the group through a quick session of applying Lean metrics to their findings. When we were done we totaled up the Lean metrics and if they eliminated a majority of the waste they identified, the result would be a $650K positive impact on their bottom line this year.

The company then asked us to assist them in developing a Future State Plan and leading Kaizen events to resolve the problems observed. Within 3 months the company had saved over $250K and had identified 46 additional Kaizen events they wanted to do that would have significant impact on the organization.

This company is just like so many we see that spend lots of time discussing improvement but minimal time implementing. Many have many improvement projects with no Future State plan which leads to ineffective change, or they treat process improvement like it’s a long-term, slow moving project that impairs their ability to be competitive.

Your organization can transform and have maximum improvements on cost, quality, and service. All it takes is to learn and utilize a structured effective Lean change methodology. It works!