Starbucks - Standard Work for the Abnormal

After 3 or 4 hours of A3 Problem Solving today, I kinda started tiring. I decided that a nice cold coffee drink from Starbucks might get me re-energized. I drove to the Starbucks around the corner from the site and rolled into the drive-thru. There was an SUV in front of me and the girl was talking on the phone instead of ordering. It sounded like she was trying to take an order from a friend over the phone but she didn't have the full order. After a couple minutes she eventually hung up and ordered her drink. Somewhere between the window and the ordering kiosk, she must have gotten a call back from her friend because she asked for four additional frozen drinks at the window. So I sat behind her waiting for the barista to fill her order. When she finally sped away with her drinks in hand 15 minutes later, I pulled up to the window. I had my Starbucks gift card ready to pay with but the teller instead handed me a coupon along with my drink. He then apologized for the wait and explained that the girl ahead of me placed extra orders at the window. On the coupon itself was written an apology for the slow service.
The coupon I got from Starbucks
I think there is a lesson to be learned here from my experience today at Starbucks. To improve customer satisfaction, Starbucks has created Standard Work for the abnormal. They recognize that no matter how 'lean' they make their business, that "stuff" happens. Coffee machines break down, customers drop in surprise orders, drinks get spilled... the list goes on. Starbucks has not only acknowledged that these things happen - they have actually trained their employees on what to do in case "stuff" happens. Instead of walking away annoyed by the delayed service, I walked away happy and pleasantly surprised.

In manufacturing, I don't think we create enough standard work for the abnormal. We know that despite our Lean systems, disruptions are going to occur in our value streams and business processes. What do we do when those disruptions happen? In most cases, we just try to fight the fire whenever the bomb goes off. Processes and systems that are prone to these types of problems should have clearly defined standard work on what to do in case problems arise.

Where have you seen well-defined standard work for the abnormal, either at work or elsewhere?

Kamishibai for Sustainment

If you have a clear vision and you're persistent enough, you'll eventually have some success in your Lean journey. Your culture will start changing, managers will start buying in, value streams will start flowing and you'll feel a sense of accomplishment. The joy will quickly subside and you'll realize "oh crap, I don't know how to sustain any of this stuff!"

As dumb as it sounds, its critical that you implement systems to sustain your systems. That's what Kamishibai and Leadership Standard Work is all about. I've seen many people make mistakes with Kamishibai (Go-See) systems - particularly on the shop floor. People will often times deploy Kamishibai site-wide to sustain production enablers like standard work, visual management, 5S and autonomous maintenance. Well, what if an area hasn't deployed autonomous maintenance yet? Or what if they haven't documented standard work? What happens is that these system become implementation systems instead of sustainment systems. The audit questions on the cards are always marked as "red" and then some leader tries to run off and fix all the problems. I think it sends a bad message to the guys/gals in the shop too. If you prematurely implement these red and green audit cards, it might be a while before those audits actually turn green. It's pretty demoralizing to see a red card in your cell every day that you can't control.

Shopfloor Kamishibai systems should only be created for enablers that have some level of implementation already. Kamishibai without previous implementation just creates an unmanageable list of actions.

I've always liked how Jamie Flinchbaugh closes his Lean posts with a question to the reader so I'll pose one here: What mistakes do you commonly see with Kamishibai deployment?

Lean books I'm currently reading

Great read for Business VSM
Just thought I'd share about the book I'm currently reading. My site did a Business Excellence event last year and we found that we needed to focus a lot on business process improvements in 2011. I decided to read up on business process improvement to get an understanding about the differences between mapping strategies. After reading some reviews on, I decided to go with "The Complete Lean Enterprise: Value Stream Mapping for Administrative and Office Processes" by Keyte and Locher (found here).  I really think this is a great book for anyone trying to implement process improvements in the office environment.

"Learning to See" by Shook and Rather is essentially the starters guide for shop floor VSM - I think Complete Lean Enterprise is the same for Business VSM. It provides a very simple, visual explanation of how to use the standard shop-floor VSM framework and apply it to office processes.

Barcode Kanbans = Awesomeness.

After a recent value stream mapping event our team identified the need to create a supermarket. The kanban from this supermarket would have to go across to the other side of the factory. I calculated the number of Kanbans as follows:

Daily Consumption (d) = 1000 pcs/day
Std Deviation (s) = 300 pcs
Lead Time to Replenish (t) = 3 days
Kanban Quantity (q) = 48 pieces

So using the formula [(d*t)+(1.65*s)]/q with 1.65 being the z value for 95% confidence (normality assumed), I calculated that we would need 73 kanbans cards. 73!! How do you manage 73 kanban cards??

Instead of making 73 physical kanban cards, I developed a application that utilizes a networked SQL database. Basically, the customer process scans a barcode when they pull a part and it instantly pops up at the supplier process saying they need one. The tricky part was setting up the software to do a batch kanban. The kanban quantity was 48 pieces but the signal quantity was sometimes 10, 20 or 30 peices. So the software had to keep track of pieces requested until 48 was reached. The requests will queue at the supplier until he builds the item and sends it along. At this point, he'll indicate on the software that the order has been fulfilled.

I understand that Kanbans are best when they are visual and physical, but the barcode Kanban has worked great in this scenario. It eliminates the wasted travel and lag time and provides instantaneous feedback to the supplier.

The Dominos Pizza Strategy and Lean Mindset

Domino's Ad Campaign
If you watch any TV, I'm sure you've seen Domino's latest ad campaign. They basically talk about how disgusting their pizza used to be and how they dedicated themselves to improving the product. Now that they've improved it, they of course want to make sure everyone has tried the revamped product. I thought that this was a pretty brilliant marketing strategy: we admit we use to stink, here's how we improved, and now you should try us out again.

When you are trying to implement Lean into a company that's had failed continuous improvement programs in the past, the Domino's strategy might not be a bad way to go. Admitting your flaws, showing that you've learned something and demonstrating that you've rededicated yourself to the cause is quite powerful as a training tool. Our site has been through failed iterations of Lean and Operational Excellence in the past 10 years. They failed, in hindsight, for pretty obvious reasons. When we relaunched the initiative a couple years ago, we gave everyone at the site a lean overview class. One component of this class was very similar to the Domino's strategy. We admitted our past flaws (not involving all the people, trying to take action before planning properly, etc) and showed them how we've started to change (using recent successful projects). The fact that we were admitting our mistakes so honestly opened a lot of minds and made changing the culture a possibility.

Add "waste" to create flow

On a value stream I worked on once, the flow would always stop at one polishing/grinding operation. Kaizen event after Kaizen event was done in that area to make it go faster. The teams spent days upon days trying to take seconds out of the process time while ignoring the real problem. Looking at the standard work, the area was well below takt, but the flow was still jamming up - so what was going on? Well, the parts would go to the next cell and then come right back. The real problem was quality variation. Some days the rework could be 5% and other days it might be 50%. How can you really flow value around such an unstable process? You can't.

We came up with a fairly simple solution to the problem but many thought it was crazy. Add a secondary polish step to reduce the variation. No one denied that the secondary polish step improved the quality but people thought it was crazy that we wanted to increase process time by 10%. How could a Lean guy add process time!? The process was still below planned cycle time/takt time and now we created process stability. We regulated the flow and created chaos by adding a bit of extra work - well worth the price.