What’s the most peanut butter and honey sandwiches you’ve ever made before? I just got done making over 700 in 45 minutes. Yep, that’s right 700 in 45 minutes. Besides how… you may wonder why someone would want to make that many sandwiches. That part is easy to answer. My church makes these sandwiches a few times a month for some local homeless shelters. And tonight was our night.
My friend, Frank, is in charge of this project. Frank is a former corporate executive and now superstar executive recruiter. But in all his spare time he does amazing things like coordinate the making of 700 sandwiches a few times a month.
Well tonight me, the wife, and 3 kids loaded up into the Toyota Sienna and went to make sandwiches. It was our first time there. I had spoken to Frank earlier today and joked that I was going to “lean out” his manufacturing process. I mean Frank is good and all… but come on. I know lean.
Well, I arrived at the gemba and stood in the circle for a few minutes to see what I was going to optimize. Here is what I saw:
- Frank, the water spider, was emptying peanut butter and honey (very yummy) into bowls and mixing it up. He then replenished the work stations as needed.
- There were a few tables set up with people already working from bowls Frank had already prepared.
- The bread, bowls, small sandwich baggies, and large bags to store the sandwiches were all at point of use.
- There were three main processes: 1) spreader (smeared the PB onto the bread), 2) small bagger (put the sandwich into a baggie), and big bagger (put the bagged sandwiches into the big bag).
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to improve the process. I decided to get involved, genchi genbutsu style. So me and my wife (and kids for about 5 minutes) took our positions.
My wife assumed the spreader role and I took the small baggie role. For some of the time we didn’t have a large bagger so I had to stack the completed and bagged sandwiches up.
I’m not sure if it is because we have been married 9 years or what… but me and my wife kick butt at making PB sandwiches. It took her about 10 seconds to spread the PB and it took me the same if I hustled. I did, shamefully, fall behind her a few times. When this happened she stopped and helped me catch up. What a gal.
A young girl finally came and helped with the big bagging process and that was that. Short of improving the small bagging process through some standard work and properly manning the stations I can’t think of how I could improve the process.
In the end, the key isn’t how well things flow I suppose. The far more important lean lesson is the respect for others we are teaching our children. If I can get them to learn this now kanban and heijunka will be a piece of cake in a few years.