Tips for Lean Managers

The Power of Mapping

By Jon Miller Published on March 14th, 2005

Iain Johnstone
Operations Consultant
During a recent trip to a client, myself and a team of 5 from various manufacturing departments began mapping the first three weeks of their build process. The product is very complex and labor intensive with an average of 5500 hours of cycle time during an 18 week lead time for a “standard” product. Due to the complexity of the product and the number of people involved (250 direct employees), I had previously deemed a fishbone diagram the best way to map the processes and their interactions & dependencies, this worked very well for the first two weeks of the process that had already been mapped. One of the reasons for mapping was to help us identify which processes should be the subject of kaizen events in the future.
Initially the team had some concerns about being able to accurately show how a coach is built because of the complexity and the number of people involved in each of the tasks but after learning some lean basics including TFP they felt a little more confident about being able to see what is going on. The power of mapping soon shined through once the team began to get tasks down on paper and realized there were so many things they didn’t understand about what each department and operator does and immediately were changing the order of tasks to maximize the amount of work completed as sub-assemblies away from the coach whilst making sure there was always as many people working in the coach as possible. As the map took shape more and more people were brought in from the floor to add their expertise in particular tasks and again they were pleasantly surprised by the amount of information we were able to get on paper and how clear and useable the map was.
Once the map was complete I converted it into a Gantt chart for the manager to use. Previously the only “plan” in place for each department was a list of tasks that they understood needed to be completed in the next three weeks, there were no clearly defined responsibilities as the process had evolved over time and people just knew what needed to be done next. On the Gantt chart we identified each task, who was to do it, what time they should start and how long it should take. From this we were able to link tasks that were related or dependant on one another together and everyone could see how they would impact the rest of the department if they did not complete their tasks to the plan.
Initially there was a great deal of concern from some people that they were now being locked into the schedule and no longer had the flexibility that they had enjoyed up to this point. My response was that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure and without a plan to work with, how could you ever measure if you were on track!” Although most understood this principle there was still some reservations however, once they started using the Gantt chart most people felt the benefits pretty quickly. Not only were they held to the plan but so was everyone else so the tasks that they had to wait to be completed in the past were now getting completed on time and in the right order. They had also leveled their tasks out over the entire three weeks to make sure they didn’t have a big rush at the end to get everything finished. Creating the fishbone map had allowed us to rearrange the tasks and get three weeks worth of work completed in two weeks by eliminating dead time and reducing lead-time. Ultimately within a month of using the Gantt chart the team had been able to take an additional two days out the their lead-time by fine tuning the process through use of a kaizen newspaper.
It just goes to show, we don’t know what we don’t know until we map out what is happening and can see the big picture.

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