Color Me Lean

So as we speak, I'm sitting at a store called Color Me Mine watching my girlfriend paint me a Boston Celtics themed pig. For those of you that have never been, Color Me Mine is a paint your own pottery place. Basically you pick a pre molded ceramic piece (plate, cup, bowl, pig - whatever your heart desires) and they give you paints and a brush. You design your own piece and then they glaze and bake it for you.

Shelves very close to workspace
Well, since I have nothing to do for the next couple hours, I'll do some rambling about how I would make Color Me Mine leaner. The store itself has pottery pieces along the left and right walls. The area between the shelves is where all the tables are with a walkway between the two rows of tables. The layout itself causes a few problems. Before any customers sit down, they have to roam around to find the piece they want to paint. This is quite distracting for people who are already seated and painting because now they have people behind them bumping into their chair scooping out the shelves. They frequently have people waiting for a table to paint so it's in their best interest to get people in and out as quickly as possible (short leadtime). Any disruptions, like pausing when people are hovering over your table trying to see the shelf behind you, increases wait time and ultimately hurts their sales.
Lots of Inventory

They could reduce this problem and probably add more tables by eliminating half of the shelves. Their shelves are filled with multiples of the same blank piece. They could put into storage all but sample of each variety. Each piece could have a simple number on the bottom and when the customer finds the piece they want, the employee retrieves a copy from stores. These are basically the first two S's of 5S - sort and simplify.

Paint with numbering system
One lean element that Color Me Mine has implemented is basically a water spider stocking system for their paint. Each customer gets a small tray for the paints they choose. Each slot on the tray is labeled with a Sharpie and each color has an associated number. When the customer runs low on paint, the Color Me Mine employee gets the number and refills the paint from the larger bottle. The paint bottles are all numbered in a central storage area (good visual management). This drastically reduces raw material (paint) usage. People have a tendency to dispense more than they really need and once the paint is out of the main bottle, its basically gone. Refilling the trays themselves saves them a lot of money.

Leadership Standard Work and Pulse Points

I recently watched a webinar hosted by lean thinker Joe Murli. The session focused on Visual Management and leadership standard work. Joe introduced me to a concept called “Pulse Points”. After you implement and debug a Lean system like a supermarket, FIFO lane or Heijunka box, you’ll need to implement a layered audit to make sure the system stays working. The pulse points are physical spots in your value stream where you can see if the systems you have implemented are being sustained. I’m guessing they are called pulse points because they determine whether you’re value stream is still alive and kicking. The value stream leader should have a pulse point walk that he makes on some set frequency. The order of the stops on the walk doesn’t have to match up with the flow of the product – you just take the shortest path through the shop and cover all the pulse points. At each pulse point, the auditor has a question they need to ask themselves – i.e. if they are at a supermarket, “Are the min/max being adhered to?” If the answer is no, then the Act phase of PDCA needs to kick in.

Lean Video Library

The guys over at have compiled a great library of videos on Lean. They have videos on topics ranging from shopfloor waste to Lean Burrito making. Check them out.