GA 073 | The Zingerman’s Approach to Lean with Tom Root

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Today’s guest is Tom Root, a Managing Partner of Zingerman’s Mail Order. Tom and I delve into Zingerman’s fascinating background and how the company has used lean to make all kinds of improvements.  Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are thrilled to be collaborating with Zingerman’s in an upcoming Gemba Live! episode .

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

AME 2015 International Conference

Thinking about attending this year’s conference, held October 19th-23rd in Cincinnati? Sign up here using promo code “GEMBA15” to receive 10% off your registration. Be sure to drop by the Gemba Academy booth to meet the team and get some free swag!

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Tom’s background and how he first learned about lean (2:53)
  • The quote that inspires Tom (5:02)
  • The story behind Zingerman’s (5:03)
  • How the mail order component developed (7:42)
  • How the company adapts staffing-wise to their seasonality (11:17)
  • The hiring process at Zingerman’s (13:51)
  • All about their production leveling system (19:04)
  • What Tom and Zingerman’s are struggling with (25:37)
  • How to learn more about Zingerman’s (30:01)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Tom (31:55)
  • The best advice Tom has ever received (35:54)
  • Tom’s personal productivity habit (36:47)
  • What has surprised Tom in the last year (38:41)
  • What Tom does to recharge and refocus (39:05)
  • The skill Tom feels he needs to improve (40:10)

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What Do You Think?

What about the Zingerman’s story resonates with you?

AeroFit’s Factory Improvement Team

By Steve Kane

FITChris Ferrier, Manufacturing Engineer with AeroFit, was challenged to increase production on a manufacturing line by one part per hour.  While this might sound easy, making it happen isn’t.

AeroFit makes fluid fittings for aerospace and other high tech applications.  Increasing production by even a small amount without adding resources would be a considerable improvement that would immediately add to the bottom line.

Build a Team

Chris assembled a team of workers.  They were called FIT: factory improvement team.  Their goal was simple: one more part per hour without adding resources or increasing burden on the machine operators.  Although they were about to launch a kaizen event, none of Chris’s team members knew anything about lean.  In fact, they had never even heard the term (in this context) before.  This is when Chris contacted Gemba Academy.

There was much for FIT to learn before making improvements.  They needed to understand the current state and what obstacles were between them and their desired future state.

Learn

Chris contacted Gemba Academy and signed up for a free three day trial.  During the free trial period he used Gemba Academy’s School of Lean videos, quizzes and templates to teach the team about the seven deadly wastes, standing in the Ohno circle, and conducting kaizen events.

Chris followed Gemba Academy’s traditional classroom learning model, which entails:

  • Playing videos for the team in a training room
  • Reviewing key points from written overviews
  • Utilizing interactive quizzes to measure comprehension
  • Facilitating discussion to reinforce and deepen understanding of the material

Go and See With Your Own Eyes

Team members, armed with new knowledge, went to the gemba.  Each of the four team members stood in the Ohno circle for 30 minutes and made 30 observations on the Stand in the Circle template.

Next, the team completed a cycle time analysis, resulting in the identification of both value added work and waste.  The total value added time per part was 443 seconds.  The total non-value added time was 53,681 seconds.

Understand the Problem

The team reviewed their observations, the cycle time analysis, and the seven deadly wastes.  They determined that the waste of motion had the greatest impact on productivity.  It turns out operators were moving 481 miles per year while manufacturing this part.  They could improve, or reduce, the non-value added time by reducing the distance traveled in the process.

Show Respect

FIT shared their findings with the operators.  They listened to the operators to understand perspectives, concerns and opinions.  FIT, together with the operators, identified small improvements that would make the work easier and faster.  

PDCA

The gemba was 5S’d.  Equipment was rearranged to reduce distances traveled.  New fixtures were built to reduce reach.  The team was focused their goal of eliminating the waste of motion.  They were also careful not to get distracted by trying to make improvements outside their plan.

After four weeks of PDCA, FIT had exceeded their goal.  They had increased production by 1.1 parts per hour.

Keys To Success

  • A single, clearly defined and measurable goal (desired state): 1 more part per hour
  • A team dedicated to reaching the goal
  • A complete understanding of current state
  • Simple, yet thorough, training on how to bridge the gap between current state and desired state
  • Cooperation from process owners through demonstrated respect

Chris and his team didn’t try to boil the ocean.  They chose one attainable goal and focused on it.  They not only made the desired improvement in only four weeks, they also began a gradual culture transformation through continuous improvement.

Congratulations, Chris and FIT.  Nicely done!

GA 072 | Practical Problem Solving: Part Four with Jon Miller

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In this episode we continue the Practical Problem Solving series with Gemba Academy Co-Founder Jon Miller. This time Jon and I go over Step Six, which entails seeing countermeasures through. For links to the previous installments, check out the Podcast Resources section below.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

AME 2015 International Conference

Thinking about attending this year’s conference, held October 19th-23rd in Cincinnati? Sign up here using promo code “GEMBA15” to receive 10% off your registration. Be sure to drop by the Gemba Academy booth to meet the team and get some free swag!

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Jon’s quote for this episode (4:39)
  • What Step Six of the PPS process is and why it matters (7:30)
  • Whether or not there’s a difference between “Act” and “Adjust” in PDCA (9:02)
  • How to see countermeasures through (10:57)
  • Why Step Six is the first time you’re really exposed to your mistakes (16:13)
  • Why we should work quickly not slowly (18:04)
  • What can go wrong during Step Six (20:27)
  • Other failures Jon has seen happen during this step (23:34)
  • Jon’s take on the different approaches to continuous improvement (29:48)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What about Step Six is the most challenging? The most rewarding?

Knowledge of Work is Key to Better Knowledge Work

One of the questions and concerns most often raised by people in position to lead continuous improvement efforts in their organizations is, “Where will I find the time?” It is rarely the case that this person has a full time responsibility as “improvement manager” or equivalent title. Many “full-time” improvement managers often wear additional hats, with line responsibilities for quality, engineering or other areas seen as being adjacent to improvement. Even when this person is fully-dedicated to effecting continuous improvement within their organization, temporary projects, initiatives or responsibilities requiring similar skill sets are added. The corporate improvement manager tasked with tracking cost reduction efforts, leading lean training and overseeing enterprise software implementation wonders, “Where will I find time for improvement?”

The good news is that improvement managers are knowledge workers, whose work is not bound by the times of industrial equipment and processes. With knowledge of our work and where our time goes, knowledge workers can effect changes in how we spend our time. Nearly a half-century ago, Peter Drucker wrote about how managers and professionals can make more effective use of their time, with clarity and insight, in his classic The Effective Executive. in the chapter titled “Know Thy Time” he lays out a three-step process for knowledge workers, which I rephrase as

  1. Track where your time goes
  2. Redirect where your time goes
  3. Consolidate the time saved

This process is “the foundation of the effective executive” according to Drucker. One wonders what he would say of the state of knowledge work, the technological wonders and digital distractions, the relatively unchanged human behaviors, if he were alive and alert at his typewriter today. Indeed, the same technology tools that create distractions also give us apps for tracking and recording time more easily, effectively and accurately than ever before. Drucker points out how people can be very confident and very wrong about where they think their time goes. Only observing and recording reality gives us facts that result in improvement action. Improvement managers should know this, and use this to their benefit in answering, “Where will I find the time?” Tracking where our time goes, by paper and pen, voice recorder or smart phone app, is the first step.

The second step is to analyze the results with the goal of finding things that can be immediately be stopped with no negative consequences. In knowledge work this requires discussions with people immediately upstream and downstream from the process or task in question, asking people about the purpose and importance of that output of that process for them. What would happen if the process was stopped? What if it was done less frequently? What if it is was done with less effort or detail? Many e-mail chains have been shortened, meeting attendances cancelled, and reports reduced to weekly face-to-face updates using this method. With the tasks and responsibilities that remain, the effective improvement manager looks for items that can be delegated, done more effectively as a team, or given to others as a challenge and teaching opportunity. The latter still requires time to set up the task with the learner, and coaching time, but serves both the goal of reducing total time spent when compared to doing it yourself and the goal of developing others who can lead improvement in the future. The improvement manager going through the process of trimming down their workload in this way should be very careful to ask how they might be creating extra work and wasted time for others, either in the current or proposed way of working.

The third step of consolidating time savings can be the most challenging for knowledge workers because we rarely work in a repetitive process. In a repetitive process with other team members, time saved can be realized as finishing tasks earlier or with fewer people. With non-repetitive or creative work, the time needed to complete a task is variable and sometimes difficult to predict. If we are not careful, the time saved may simply disappear into this unknown. This is not a bad thing as long as we can direct the saved time into proactive, creative and forward-looking things. Yet this is difficult because our days can be unpredictable, and an hour of consolidated time savings set aside for improvement may be swallowed up in an unplanned task. It is more difficult to consolidate time savings in knowledge work than in other types of more repetitive and predictable work.

Here we must follow Drucker’s advice to “know thy time”. When do we have our most productive hours? When are we the most creative? When do we have shorter attention spans? When do phone calls, urgent emails, escalations and walk-ins tend to happen? When do we tend to have quiet or uninterrupted time? Getting to know where our time goes, and how time behaves in our work day demands reflection in order to build awareness. Once we become aware of where and how usable pockets of time tend to appear and disappear, we can prepare to take advantage of them to invest in more improvement, creating a positive spiral. “Where will I find the time for improvement?” The answer is, “Within your day” because there is simply no other place to look.

GA 071 | Practicing Lean with Mark Graban

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Today’s guest is lean expert Mark Graban, a longtime friend of Gemba Academy. Mark’s background includes manufacturing and healthcare. In this episode we talk about his work in both industries, along with his eBook Practicing Lean: Learning How to Learn How To Get Better…Better.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

AME 2015 International Conference

Thinking about attending this year’s conference, held October 19th-23rd in Cincinnati? Sign up here using promo code “GEMBA15” to receive 10% off your registration. Be sure to drop by the Gemba Academy booth to meet the team and get some free swag!

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Ron’s Meme Mania

   1932434_787164387978409_255477859_n1922335_787164414645073_1343672655_n    1939839_787164534645061_914663244_o

Check out more memes here!

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The quote that inspires Mark (4:27)
  • What Mark is up to these days (6:07)
  • All about Mark’s new ebook (7:15)
  • Mark’s background (12:16)
  • Some of Mark’s first mistakes (15:40)
  • Some of the mistakes Mark made while working in healthcare (20:27)
  • Advice Mark has received (30:31)
  • What has surprised Mark in his last year of practicing lean (33:10)
  • How Mark recharges and refocuses (38:24)
  • The skill Mark feels he needs to improve (41:27)
  • Mark’s final words of wisdom (44:36)

Podcast Resources

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Click to Subscribe in iTunes

If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What unique challenges do you, your company, and/or your industry face in terms of practicing lean?

Fun With Measurement Systems Analysis – Part 2

Welcome back to the second, and final, part of this measurement systems analysis series.  If you didn’t read part 1 of this series please do before pressing on with this part.  We’ll wait on you!

Measurement System Analysis

Defined, MSA is used to quantify the amount of variation attributed to the measurement system rather than the product or process being studied. In other words, MSA allows us to understand how much of our observed variation is being caused by the measurement system.

When we’re working with variables, or continuous data, we’ll conduct what are called Gage R&R studies which is short for Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility Studies.  When we’re working with attribute data, we’ll conduct Attribute Agreement Analysis.

To be sure, MSA can be used throughout the DMAIC or PDCA process. In fact, you don’t even need to be doing a formal DMAIC or PDCA project to conduct an MSA.  As it relates to the DMAIC roadmap, MSA’s are usually done during the measure, analyze, or improve phases. Anytime you’re relying on data to make decisions, you should verify the measurement system can be trusted.  Put another way, if you’re ever unsure of your measurement system please perform a MSA no matter what phase of the project you’re in!Snip20150810_8

In fact, as an aside, I once worked with a team to improve the performance of an optical inspection measurement system. We spent around seven hours on the issue and the results were extraordinary since, as it turned out, this company was scrapping hundreds of thousands of dollars each week since their measurement system was rejecting good parts.

So, with this all said, let’s spend some time working through an actual example where we’re going to imagine we work for a company that produces nuts and bolts. For this particular study we want to know if we’re able to trust the measurement system used to measure the widths of the nuts that have a process tolerance of 0.5 mm.

Gage R&R Study

Since measuring the width of anything results in variables, or continuous data, we’ll be performing a Gage R&R Study.

For this study, we’ve chosen three operators – Bill, Kristen, and Tom – who will all use the same digital caliper to measure the widths of the 15 nuts that were selected.  All three operators will measure these 15 parts two different times.  Each nut has a unique marking that allows the operator to “grasp” it the same way each time to reduce noise in the experiment.  So, in summary, we have 3 operators, 15 parts, and 2 trials.

Tips for Setting Up Your MSA

Setting up a Gage R&R study is important so here are some suggestions.

First, you should randomly select between two and four operators. We find three to work extremely well. Next, the number of parts used should be enough so that when we multiply P, the number of parts, by O, the number of operators, the result is greater than 15.

If this isn’t possible or practical, you’ll want to increase the number of trials accordingly. We must do at least two trials, but for example, if P times O is less than 15, we’d want to do three trials.

We can use some simple math to ensure we set things up properly, but we can’t use math to help with what we feel is the single most important aspect of an MSA, and that’s setting the operators’ minds at ease.

If an operator has never been part of a formal MSA study chances are very good they’re going to be extremely nervous. Some may be downright scared. It’s absolutely critical that you let them know the point of the study is to better understand the process and that no one will be in trouble if they do poorly.

Finally, all the parts should be randomly handed to the operators.  Many times the facilitator will have the parts being measured organized behind a small wall or something so the operator doesn’t know which part is being handed to them.  Once the operator measures the part and announces the result the facilitator documents the results immediately.

Calculating With Minitab

Now, there are many ways to analyze a MSA.  For this article we’re going to show you how to analyze the results using Minitab.  We also share how to analyze a MSA using SigmaXL with our School of Six Sigma.  On a personal note, since I’m a Mac user, I love SigmaXL and use it often.

The first part of the Minitab output is a standard ANOVA table as shown below.  If you’re not sure what any of this means please be sure to check out our videos on inferential statistics.  We cover everything from the difference between the null and alternate hypothesis to what this talk of P-Values and such is all about!

And don’t worry if stats aren’t your thing… I personally promise you will understand it all by the time you finish our course materials.  We also do screen recordings so you know exactly what buttons to press within Minitab or SigmaXL.  No more 3-ring binders full of hundreds of slides with outdated screen shots needed!

Snip20150810_1

OK, as you see above, the Part P-value is 0.0 which means that the Part-to-Part variation is statistically significant. The interaction of Part x Operator is also statistically significant since its P-value is .016.  In most cases, any P-Value less than 0.05 will be assumed significant or, at a minimum, worthy of additional exploration.

Next, here’s the Gage R&R information. There’s definitely lots to take in here but we’ll point out the most important things we need to focus on.

Snip20150810_4

First, the % Contribution section summarizes the percent of the variation that each component contributes to the total variation. The % Study Variation section, which we’ll show in another image below, summarizes the standard deviation percentage of each source to the total standard deviation. And the % Tolerance section summarizes the percentage of variation of each source compared to the part tolerance.

While every organization will need to determine this for themselves, the Automotive Industry Action Group has come up with some suggestions as to how to interpret these values.

AIAG MSA Suggestions Gage R&R

Specifically, they suggest that % Contribution values less than 1% represent an acceptable system. While % Contributions between 1% and 9% represent marginally acceptable systems. Anything over 9% is considered unacceptable.

For % Study Variation and % Tolerance acceptable values are anything less than 10% while marginal systems will be between 10% and 30% and anything over 30% is considered unacceptable.

When we look at the results of this study, we see a Total Gage R&R Percentage Contribution value of 3.5% which could be considered marginally acceptable since it’s between 1% and 9%. Minitab also shows us how this value is derived, namely 2.31% is due to repeatability, or within operator variation, while 1.19% is due to reproducibility, or between operator variation.

These values can help us understand where to focus our attention as we work to improve the system. Minitab also breaks the reproducibility values down by operator and the operator by Part interaction in this section.

Finally, the Part-to-Part variation is also noted. Since our goal is to ultimately measure individual parts, we want to see this variation figure high since this means we’re able to distinguish the difference between parts.

Let’s move on to the next section which includes %Study Variation and %Tolerance Variation.

Snip20150810_5

Here we see our % Study Variation is 18.71% and our % Tolerance is 13.85% which means, again, we’re working with a marginally acceptable measurement system. Minitab also breaks these values down into finer increments here just like we saw in the section above.

Last, but certainly not least, our number of distinct categories is 7. Again, like we mentioned in part 1 of this series, we’d like to see this value greater than 5 which this value obviously is.

Let’s Get Graphical

In addition to these statistics, Minitab provides some nice graphs of this same data.

Snip20150810_6

In the components of variation section, we see a graphical view of the different variation sources. Again, we want to see our Part-to-Part variation higher than everything else since that means we’re able to distinguish between parts.

Next, we also see an R Chart by Operator. This is helpful as it can tell us where individual operators struggled. You can see where Tom, the third operator, obviously struggled with two parts so we may want to visit with him in order to better understand what may have caused this issue.

In a perfect world, we don’t want to see any special cause variation in this R chart, but as long as we intend to identify and counter the root cause of this variation, it’s normally okay to press on unless we see wildly out of control variation across all operators.

The Xbar Chart by Operator graph is an interesting one since contrary to any other control chart we’ve ever looked at in this course, we actually prefer to see special cause variation since this represents part to part variation, which again, is what we ultimately want to measure.

At the top right of the graph we see Data by Part. This can help us identify if one part was harder to measure than another. For example, it seems like part 14 has the most variation. Perhaps there’s something about this part that makes it hard to measure. We also see the Data by Operator, which again, can be very useful information to help us work with each operator when applicable.

Finally, we see the Part x Operator Interaction graph in the lower right corner. If we remember, we saw a P-Value of .016 for this interaction which means it is statistically significant. As we can see in this graph, it seems like the operators struggled a bit with part 9 and 14 so we’d definitely want to take a look at these parts to see if there is anything we can learn and improve.

Conclusion

In summary after looking at the results of this Gage R&R, we’d conclude that this measurement system is marginally capable. Some next steps may include investigating the measurements with high ranges while also trying to understand why some parts were harder to measure than others.

We’d then want to repeat this study as needed. For example, if we gained an understanding of what made part 14 so hard to measure and we’re able to implement a countermeasure, we could repeat the study and see how we do.

We’d also want to repeat the study with different operators while also doing the study with this same group at a later date to ensure that the measurement process is stable over time.

To be sure, MSA shouldn’t be a one and done activity.  If I had my wish every organization would have recurring MSA as part of their Standard Work.  It’s that important.

Thanks for sticking with me on this series.  I hope it was helpful.  If you have any questions please be sure to let me know in the comments section below.  You can also contact me directly using the Contact Form on our website.

Watch This Series in a Single Video

Now then, if video is your thing, or perhaps you need to run through all of this material one more time, we’d encourage you to watch the video below.

When you click on the image you’ll be directed to another part of our website where you can click on the “Gage R&R (15:15)” link.  Doing this will launch the video free of charge.  English, Spanish, and Chinese captions are also available (simply click the CC button).  Enjoy and happy MSAing!

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Respect for Humanity… of Your Boss

boss and worker conversationThe notion of “respect for people” is widely recognized as an essential pillar of lean management. It stands out among lean principles by being the most important yet least clearly defined. As such, it is most often at the root of failed or struggling lean transformations. When the management does not respect the people they are leading, people follow only grudgingly and only until a better employment opportunity presents itself. When peers do not respect each other, they are unable to work effectively as a team, and therefore unable to benefit by harnessing each other’s strengths. When customers and suppliers do not respect each other, business becomes transactional, zero sum and ultimately lose-lose.

One particular aspect of respect that has been largely overlooked is in the lean discourse is the respect for one’s boss. At first glance, it would appear that bosses get enough respect. Those in power and authority demands respect and have the ability to delivery positive consequences when the subordinate shows respects, and negative consequences when they do not. This type of command-and-control or directive leadership is only one style, and not appropriate in every working environment, much less every lean organization. However, the responsibility for developing respect for the boss does not lie only on the boss being a more enlightened leader. In lean, trust and respect must always be mutual, freely accepted and given through open communication while striving towards common and benefits.

Here I digress for a moment to state again that I believe “respect for people” is a Western misunderstanding of what the lean management originators at Toyota meant by the phrase ningensei no soncho (人間性の尊重) which is literally “respect for humanity”. In this instance, humanity (人間性) does not mean “all humans” or “people” but rather “human nature” or “humanness” or even “what it means to be human”. The phrase “respect for people” seems to place the focus on how we interact with the individual. On the other hand, “respect for humanity” leaves the question wide open as to “the humanity of what?” Non-human things, creatures and ideas can possess “humanness” or human qualities. I believe this vagueness was intentional, so that Toyota people could think as broadly and as deeply as possible about what it means to bring more “humanity” into their products, their work, their relationships, and ultimately the world. The wording of “respect for people” rather sells the notion short, in my view.

As such, what does it mean to show “respect for humanity of your boss”? Lean coaching is increasing in popularity and importance, focusing on helping subordinates to see and solve problems, and in matrix organizations this increasingly extends to managers needing to coach and influence their peers in similar ways, but does this extend to coaching one’s boss? A Harvard Business Review article from 10 years ago by John J. Gabarro and John Kotter titled Managing Your Boss addresses similar issues and provides some practical hints. The first step is empathy with your boss, and an acknowledgement of their humanity, their need for the subordinate’s help:

Some people behave as if their bosses were not very dependent on them. They fail to see how much the boss needs their help and cooperation to do his or her job effectively. These people refuse to acknowledge that the boss can be severely hurt by their actions and needs cooperation, dependability, and honesty from them.

While the hoshin planning process is often used in lean management to clarify and align goals between hierarchical levels, showing respect for the boss’ humanity requires grasping not only the goals but the pressures the boss is under to meet them:

At a minimum, you need to appreciate your boss’s goals and pressures. Without this information, you are flying blind, and problems are inevitable.

It is a two-way street, and the boss must at a minimum creating an working environment that is open to proactive problem solving by their subordinates. We’re are in solid lean management environment-building territory here:

Managing the flow of information upward is particularly difficult if the boss does not like to hear about problems. Although many people would deny it, bosses often give off signals that they want to hear only good news. They show great displeasure—usually nonverbally—when someone tells them about a problem. Ignoring individual achievement, they may even evaluate more favorably subordinates who do not bring problems to them.

This highlights the fact that bosses have strengths and weaknesses, just as all humans do. Not all bosses have the self-awareness or self-control to recognize and rein in bad behaviors that result from a combination of weaknesses and job pressures. If we wish to practice lean fully, we can show respect for humanity of the boss by understanding their weaknesses and by being part of a team that actively shores them up, or even enables the boss to improve themselves.

The HBR article helpfully provides a “Checklist for Managing Your Boss” about two-thirds of the way in. There are 12 specific actions around the three topics of understanding the boss and their specific context, assessing one’s own style and needs, and developing and maintaining a relationship that is mutually beneficial. It wouldn’t be hard to adapt these ideas towards the continuous improvement of any leader-subordinate relationship, starting with the spirit of respect for the humanity of the boss.

Fun With Measurement Systems Analysis – Part 1

By Ron Pereira

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to visit many different companies across the world.  During these visits I’ve seen some amazing examples of continuous improvement in action.

But, to be blunt, there is one aspect of continuous improvement I simply don’t see practiced enough – measurement systems analysis.

So, what I want to do in this article is offer an overview of what measurement systems analysis (MSA) is all about.  If you’d like to learn more please request a free trial to Gemba Academy where you can dig into this topic even more.

Variation

Being able to attack variation is an extremely important aspect of continuous improvement. But variation is a tricky opponent. The variation we see isn’t always what we think it is.  Allow me to explain with a simple diagram (click picture to enlarge it).

Gage R&R Variation

At the top, we see the observed process variation. In other words, this is the data that we’d use to conduct a Process Capability Study where obviously, we’re interested in understanding how our process variation is behaving.

Unfortunately, there are two things that make up our total observed process variation, the actual process variation and the measurement variation. Put another way, it’s entirely possible that the variation we’re observing is mostly due to the measurement system and continuing to attack the actual process variation won’t help at all.

Our actual process variation consists of short-term, long-term, and part-to-part variation. Measurement variation consists of several characteristics including accuracy, repeatability, reproducibility, stability, and resolution.

Measurement System Characteristics

Let’s spend some time discussing each of these important measurement system characteristics.

First, accuracy is the ability of the gage to measure the true value of a part on average.  In other words, it’s possible for a measurement system to have high variability but still be accurate so long as the average value of the measurements are close to the true value.

Next, repeatability, which is a component of precision, is attained when the same person takes multiple measurements and gets the same, or similar, results each time.

A close cousin to repeatability is reproducibility, the second component of Precision. Reproducibility is attained when other people get the same, or similar results, you do when measuring the same item.

While repeatability focuses on how well you measure something, reproducibility compares your measurement performance to other people’s measurement performance.

Next, stability is attained when measurements taken by the same person, or gage, vary little over time. In other words, it shouldn’t matter what day of the week or time of day it is. We should always be able to measure in an accurate and repeatable manner.

Last, but certainly not least, sufficient resolution means that your measurement system provides at least five, more preferably, distinct values in the range you’re measuring.

Sufficient Resolution

For example, let’s say we wanted to measure the heights of three children with a scale that only measures to the nearest foot. When we did this, our results were 3 feet for child one, 4 feet for child two, and 5 feet for child three. In other words, we only had three distinct values.

As it turns out, the key to ensuring we have adequate resolution is by determining the amount of discrimination our scale needs.  Discrimination refers to the number of decimal places that can be measured by the system.  Increments of measure should be approximately one‐tenth of the width of the product specification or process variation.

For example, let’s say that we’re working with a process that has an upper customer specification limit of 80 mm and a lower customer specification limit of 60 mm.

Discrimination GRR

When we subtract 60 from 80, we learn that our tolerance is 20 mm. In other words, this measurement system needs to be able to discriminate to at least 2 mm since 20 mm divided by 10 is 2 mm.

Measurement Systems Analysis

We’ve covered a lot of terms and concepts so far which may make you feel a little overwhelmed. The good news is we have an extremely powerful tool at our disposal that wraps everything that we’ve discussed up into a single statistical tool called Measurement Systems Analysis, or MSA for short.

But, since this article is getting pretty long… and your head may be spinning a bit right about now I’m going to continue this MSA story in a second article which, if you’re ready, you can now read here!

Again, if video is your thing, and you’re interested in learning MUCH more about MSA and many other topics be sure to request a free Gemba Academy trial and demo today.  Nick, Leslie, and the rest of our team are ready to help you out!

GA 070 | Menlo Innovations with Richard Sheridan

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Today’s podcast is based on one of our Gemba Live! episodes, featuring fascinating lean company Menlo Innovations. CEO Richard Sheridan explains how Menlo came to be and how their unique approach to software development has made them successful.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

AME 2015 International Conference

Thinking about attending this year’s conference, held October 19th-23rd in Cincinnati? Sign up here using promo code “GEMBA15” to receive 10% off your registration. Be sure to drop by the Gemba Academy booth to meet the team and get some free swag!

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • An introduction to Menlo Innovations (2:35)
  • All about the typical nature of the software industry (4:03)
  • Why you won’t hear a phone ring at Menlo (9:45)
  • Why the Menlo approach can work for large organizations too (10:42)
  • The origins of the babies and dogs policy at Menlo (13:29)

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There’s More to Nemawashi than Consensus

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Nemawashi failure with fatal consequences

A local grocery store has been doing some major remodeling. This summer they redesigned their parking lot, including new landscaping. A number of young oak trees were planted in the soil beds dividing the parking area into sections. This is a great idea. Previously the parking lot was quite bare and without trees to provide shade or touch of nature. However, due to a critical lack of forethought, these young trees sadly suffered the same fate as improvement initiatives have in many organizations.

The general contractor who is otherwise doing what seems to be good work failed to take certain risks into account when planting these trees. I observed the trees being moved into the parking lot towards the end of the week in mid-July. They were placed with the root balls resting on top of the soil for some period of time – perhaps hours, perhaps overnight. By the time I saw them again on Sunday afternoon, the trees were already too far gone. The western part of Washington State has been in a drought condition for the past few months. Summers are normally dry here, especially in late July and into August. But the rains return in force after October so at the moment there is no real sense of urgency. We have also been experiencing temperatures in the high 80F or even 90F range for weeks at a time, which is not typical. The particular weekend when the oak trees were transplanted was one of the hottest so far this year. These trees newly planted in the narrow islands of soil in a sea of hot asphalt under the direct sun did not survive the weekend. When I touched the dry-looking leaves on the tree, they crumbled into small fragments.

Simply put, the trees died due to a lack of proper nemawashi. This lean term means “preparing the roots for transplanting” in Japanese. The purpose of nemawashi is to make sure that the tree moved from one location to another, lives. Logically then, nemawashi extends also to preparing the soil where the tree will be planted, as well as care and monitoring of the tree after transplant. My local grocery needed a lesson in nemawashi, or at least a general contractor who considered the weather forecast, and made arrangements to ensure that the trees were watered to prevent them baking in the sun. As it was the weekend, the construction crew was not on site, but the grocery store staff could easily have watered the trees had they known and taken initiative. It is a gardening term adopted to describe the consensus building process of Japanese organizations, and via lean thinking to the West.

So what’s the parallel we can draw from these unfortunate oak trees to the failures or successes of or organizations to embedding a culture of continuous improvement? Or, for that matter, embedding any good process, system, policy or idea among any group of people? In lean management terms, nemawashi is preparing the minds of people for the transplant of new ideas. At the most basic level this is communication based on mutual respect, building consensus in advance of the new software system, management practice or improvement initiative going in. One could call it change management, but there is more to it than tnat. Unlike trees, when people experience bad nemawashi, they very seldom die. But the transplanted good ideas do.

Think about what killed the oak trees in the grocery store parking lot, and ask yourself whether your organization is guilty of similar neglect. What questions are asked and what information is shared during your nemawashi process? How does the “weather forecast” look? Did you check whether conditions might be particularly poor right now for transplanting the idea? The forecast might be financial, due to workload, seasonality or other business factors. Who is on “weekend duty” to provide care after the planting, should there be a heat wave? Did management transplant the idea and then go on a weekend, holiday or management retreat? Nemawashi is more than consensus-building, or preparing people’s minds for something new. We must also prepare our minds to watch, think and respond to conditions around us that will kill the idea. We must examine what conditions may have killed a good ideas in the past, and plan to counter similar conditions. While it is not always possible to predict the future, and over-analysis can lead to inaction, to avoid the fate of the oak trees we must take a few moments in nemawashi discussion on the topic of, “What might kill our new idea in early days after transplanting?” This will surely help identify at least the most obvious risk factors and simple countermeasures.