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Monday, February 24, 2014

From the Eyes of a Lean Sensei Master Blackbelt: Florida Benchmarking Tour Day 2

Welcome back David, Jake and team from sunny Florida. Let's keep warm in this snow by recapping the warm memories from the trip. Below Master Blackbelt Candidate, Andrea gives us the summary of the second day of Lean Sensei's Florida Benchmarking Tour.
Mayo Clinic
Today we had two tour stops planned, both in the medical field. Stop number one: The Mayo Clinic


It's a big campus with a hospital, education centre, and outpatient clinics. They have been in operation for 150(!) years as a not-for-profit organization, and it is truly an impressive operation. They have only really been at lean management in the last few years at this facility (they have two other clinics in the US), and started with focusing on teamwork, internal communication, and training.


They branded their lean initiative "The Culture of Safety" which I thought was very clever... They don't necessarily use the terms "lean" or "continuous improvement" or six sigma" or other words which may make people nervous... However, in the healthcare field, employees care very deeply about their patients and really just want to give them the best care possible. So to use the Safety card to get employees engaged - extremely clever
The focus on safety was a good way to encourage everyone to feel safe to speak out about what could be done to improve patient care, without feeling pressured or afraid. 
This is a common theme, it seems, regardless of industry. People fear raising their hand to ask for help or to point out a problem. 
Why is that? 
Is it culturally-isolated to North America? I don't think so, I have seen it in Europe, China and Japan. 
Is it only front line workers? I don't think so either, I have seen many a c-level employee exhibit this behaviour.
I suspect that it is inherent in everyone to want to please others, and this, coupled with fear of public shame, is what drives this behaviour. Can we learn to manage this response? You bet. But how many employees, supervisors and managers are actually taught anything useful about human behaviour in order to do just that? If they are, it's often only later in their careers. A long time ago, a very good manager of mine (one of my first) told me that "people are messy." She didn't mean it in a bad way but in an honest, let's-face-reality, kind of way. It was her way of saying, sometimes people's lives get messy and it's in no ones best interest to make it worse. I have found that showing true respect for people means that you actually have to respect people's lives including what lies beyond the work day. 
Mayo also had an impressive simulator lab - a dojo - for learning and testing new tools and technologies. It included an amazing digital anatomy table, where you could take real CT scans and spin, slice, add or remove layers. Absolutely fascinating - but imagine what they could use this for in the future? Pre-planning surgeries. Creating custom joint replacement parts (3D printing anyone?). I have to imagine that in my lifetime, everyone will receive regular full body CT scans as part of preventive medicine.


Medtronics had decoupled most of their manufacturing processes from their ERP system, and simply replenished what was purchased by customers. They had a small amount of inventory as safety stock, set into a two-bin kanban system (coach Andrews also calls this bin-ban), such that as soon as the first bin was picked and shipped, a trigger was sent to production to replenish the safety stock. When raw materials for production ran low (similar two-bin system), a trigger was sent to purchasing to buy more. So simple. They used heijunka to redirect excess staff to improvement activities, or to overburdened areas. If pick to ship was slow but production was hopping, staff could be moved to where the need was greatest. They also used a simple red card/yellow card for issues - at the line, in each functional area, and cascading up to the value stream level.
Red: needs action
Yellow: actioned with a due date
Daily 12-minute huddles only focused on the red cards or overdue yellow cards. 



The thing I like about this approach - as you can see by the picture above - is that the supporting functions realize that if they want to be part of the process (managing and resolving issues that is) they need to actually participate.
In university, I had a chemistry prof who used to joke: "If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate" (insert groans here). 
But if you don't participate, you aren't part of the solution. Even if it is messy at times.

Andrea MacIntosh is the Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement for Alpha Technologies Ltd., a Burnaby, B.C. Organization that provides power system solutions to the information and communication technology, traffic, security, and smart grid/utility  sectors. Andrea has been with Alpha since 2011, before which time she spent ten years in the defence supply sector (subsea technologies, electronics) in various management roles including quality, manufacturing, supply chain and materials, regulatory compliance, industrial security, information technology, and contracts. Prior to that she was a business owner in the software services sector. Her educational background includes a B.Sc. In Physics from the University of British Columbia, and she is currently working on her Master Black Belt in Lean Management.
The Florida Lean Tour is one of four Lean Benchmarking Tours you can take to complete Lean Sensei Executive Lean Certification. The Executive Leanbelt program allows you to take one to five day workshops on specific lean topics.
 Upcoming Executive courses:
Japan Benchmarking Tour - March 17-21, 2014 (FULL*Inquire for the next date)
Back by popular demand: Europe Benchmarking Tour - if you are interested, please inquire as we are in the process of setting the date.
Visit the Executive Certification page on our website or contact us at:
(604) 264-1000

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