Since it’s in the best interest of every business to improve, I’d be willing to bet whether you state the claim “we are on a lean journey” or you just wake up every day trying to make your business better, there is likely a flurry of activity with people making improvements on the shop floor, management is constantly wondering how to improve processes, and the ownership has an ear to the ground at all times for new equipment that could help the organizations throughput.
So we all agree, improving is good. When it comes to improvements, it’s analogous to investing money. More you do the better. At least this sure is the common belief. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Let’s dissect a simple improvement.
Step 1- Discover some amount of frustration with the current process, enough that you’d like to fix it.
Step 2-generate an idea that solves at least 50% of the frustration (more on this later)
Step 3- Usually you tell someone about it discussing Problem & your idea to fix
Step 4 – Sketch up the idea, or develop a plan to make or implement it
Step 5 – Make the improvement
Step 6- Train anyone involved on the new and improved idea
Step 7- Deal with the backlash of the ones who don’t feel like it was an improvement
Step 8- Break our old habits & develop new ones.
WOW. When you really break down the physical and mental energy that goes into even a simple improvement there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
Now there is no doubting the compounding effect of making improvements, it works. And without it, your business will be susceptible to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, I’m paraphrasing here but its along the lines of “nothing stays the same, left alone things always degrade” Even if your improving everyday, is there another side to this coin? Let’s flip it and find out.
Last week we were working with a very high-end custom kitchen manufacturer in Ontario Canada. Big shout out to the team at Lighthouse Cabinets, they are all lean maniacs and absolutely crushing it. I was out on the shop floor with the owner, and he made a comment that stopped me dead in my tracks. Jason said “we’re making so many improvements I feel like we’re not getting good at anything“. It was like the world stops spinning, time stood still, I couldn’t move, and then was hit by a freight train.
You can see the full video of our visit to Lighthouse on the Quantum Lean YouTube channel.
I have seen this pain manifest on many shop floors, I have experienced it in my own factory and I was guilty of this personally at the highest level. I distinctly recall my whole team being up in arms because from the time they clocked out Friday until the time they clocked in on Monday, I had revamped the entire shop, and I mean literally. CNC’s moved, Line reconfigured it was like walking into a different building. And that happened a lot in the early years.
In order for anything that compounds to have a positive affect it has the compound longer than it took to develop and implement. So if it’s a genuine two second improvement, you’re probably free to make those as rapidly as humanly possible. If it’s a product modification, for example: changing the way you make something or altering a process, perhaps this should have a period of time to simmer before changing it again. Remember the saying “the first one is the worst one“ so you’ll probably experience the most pain right after you make a change, if you don’t take the proper time to work through that then you may be ditching a half decent improvement when your team wants to go back to the way you used to do it. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The concept seems so simple and I’m sure if you’re reading this you’re like well-duh obviously. But isn’t that always the case with hindsight.
Here are the top three things to help combat over implementing:
- Test all product and process changes off-line. Maybe come in on the weekend and run the experiment, and put things back the way they were while you analyze the data
- When setting your improvement target always shoot for 50% improvement. Any less than that it’s probably not worth doing, you likely have bigger fish to fry somewhere else in the plant. Any more than that, if it doesn’t work it may cost you big time
- Give your improvements a chance to blossom. Try and get your team on board with the fact it’s going to be uncomfortable in the beginning but you need them to band together and work through the small nuances. The famous saying is “fail forward”. Remember that you wanted to make that change for a reason, fix and tweak the new process as unforeseen problems pop up.
If your team needs help, or just a helping hand now and then, or maybe it’s as simple as just getting a question answered, we’re listening. Quantum Lean has just launched an ALL ACCESS PASS. This gives you 24/7 access to a lean manufacturing expert for any reason whatsoever. So whether you need a call, a zoom meeting, a video response or just a text message, with the all access pass you’ll get what you need when you need it most. As a bonus to being an all access pass member you get our website with all our online tools and training for FREE. Our goal is simple: we want to see you improve!