Is Lean More Than Kaizen Events? – The Lean Project Format

The Lean Quick Project Format

  • 3 – 5 Weeks in duration
  • 2 – 3 days per week
  • Team members return to work for the remainder of the week or use time to gather data and communicate updates to department employees
  • Project Phases – Define, Analyze / Mapping, Design, Roll-out Plan
  • Education/workshop on day 1 of each week, if needed
  • Report out to Business/Executive Sponsor
  • 2 – 6 month Implementation Roll-out, Monthly Team follow-up meetings / conference calls

The Lean Six Sigma Quick Project Format works on projects that need a few weeks to complete the improvement. This can be due to many reasons.

  • The scope of the project may cross multiple departments and cannot be broken down into smaller parts or the process will be sub-optimized
  • The team will need to gather, analyze and quality-check data before making critical decisions (Performance, Sales or Time Study data)
  • The small Lean Six Sigma Team needs to get input from company associates who are not on the team, to ensure buy-in

In these circumstances the changes made by the Lean Six Sigma Team need to be well thought-out. Decision-making cannot be rushed!

Projects that require a 3 – 5 week duration versus a one week Kaizen event include:

  • Customer profitability analysis – Politically sensitive data and decisions
  • Product rationalization – Important to use correct data or highly negative decisions can be made
  • Order to Delivery streamlining – Processes that touch multiple departments
  • Human Resource processes – Often involving legal issues
  • Warehouse layout – A lot of work required
  • Flow Manufacturing / Kanban Materials Management – Where parts, supplies and components are shared by different product families and therefore different Flow Cells
  • Supply Chain improvements – Involving suppliers

Kaizen Event Format

Day 1 – Lean Education

Day 2 – Analyze current process and begin improvements

Day 3 – Continue improvements

Day 4 – Document new standards

Day 5 – Present results and celebrate

Failings of the Kaizen Event Method

  • Action Item List not completed
  • Rushed decisions
  • Incomplete time studies
  • Data not quality checked
  • Poor record of sustaining

Kaizen events are meant to start and finish a Lean project in one week. In many cases, however, the Friday celebration is just creating an action item list. When the energy and focus of the Kaizen week is over, this action item list often lingers and the action items never get completed. The result is that actual savings/improvements are far less than the calculated savings.

Because of the 1 week format, and the fact that the team is working full time on this project, decisions are often rushed. Allocating 1 day to do time studies or gather other critical data is just not enough. In 1 week, a few product families get time studied but not all. Data is gathered, but it is not verified as being accurate. There is no time to gather additional input from employees that are knowledgeable about this process, but are not on the team.

The result is often a solution that is forced on the organization. When this happens, employees who were not on the team will naturally push-back. The result is an unsustainable process and actual results never equal the theoretical results.

Anyone involved in Kaizen events will tell you that sustaining is the hardest part. But in the Kaizen process it gets the least focus.

What Kaizen Events Are Good At

Kaizen events can be successful. There are two circumstances where we have been successful using the one week events to improve processes.

First is when the process being analyzed is very focused, affects only one or two departments and does not impact other parts of the company. We used a Kaizen Event at a Retailer who was looking at eliminating redundant paperwork in the Procurement department. This involved primarily just Buyers and Administrators in Procurement. The improvements the Lean Team made were eliminating printing and copying paper. This did not affect other departments in the company.

Another example of a focused Kaizen Event is reducing machine set-up time using Quick-Changeover tools. This improvement is focused on one machine and can largely get done, while communicating with all operators involved, in one week.

Kaizen Events can also be affective for 5S Visual Management implementations. This involves labeling, organizing and sorting the workplace. We would usually involve most of the people who work in the area involved. This type of Lean tool can usually get done in one week (if the area is properly scoped out in advance) and does not have numerous additional action items that need to be completed after the week is over.

Benefits of the Lean Quick Project Format

  • Breaks in the project allow time to gather, quality check and refine data
  • Breaks allow time to present current state process flow maps or time study results to additional department employees who are not on the Lean Team
  • Duration of the project provides enough time to complete time studies of all product families
  • The last week is dedicated to creating a control plan (how solution will be integrated into the business) and roll-out plan

The key to the success of the Project Format is the duration of the project and the breaks in between meeting-days. The duration allows for a completeness of analysis, communication of the improvements and a design that works and is well received by all department employees.

The breaks give Lean Team Members time to catch up with their regular jobs and work externally of the Lean Six Sigma Project to gather the data and communicate the current state with fellow department employees.

The last week of the project is dedicated to thinking about sustainment. This involves creating control plans; how the process improvement will be integrated into the business process. The team also builds a roll-out plan (schedule) to show how changes will be sequenced into the business to ensure testing and acceptance.

Sometimes going a little bit slower will achieve real results faster.

Source by Mitch Millstein

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