ECRS stands for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify and is an age-old industrial engineering process analysis method. We humans are not too bad at rearrange, but if we were a lot better at simplify, eliminate and combine the world would be a better place. In keeping with the “motion” theme we have been on for the last few of the 101 kaizen templates, here is a motion-themed ECRS Worksheet (only “eliminate: section shown):
Please feel free to modify the questions in the left hand column as appropriate for your gemba. The key is to use the open-ended questions beginning in 5W1H (what, where, when, why, who, how / how much) so that the answer is not yes / no but requires a positive identification of a kaizen opportunity.
We often talk about lean being the elimination of all waste an non-value added, or the pursuit of a waste-free process. But what if you can’t eliminate a certain waste from a process? What to do? Try harder? Move on to an easier process and come back later? Call it “non value added but necessary” and fool… err… comfort ourselves for a while? We can still do kaizen if we remember that we can combine, rearrange or simplify.
There’s a hint that TPS architect Taiichi Ohno may have applied ECRS on the ECRS tool itself by eliminating the CRS. In the selection below from the great Superfactory article TWI Influence on TPS and Kaizen, Art Smalley interviews Isao Kato, who reflects on the influence of ECRS in particular on JM and by implications later iterations of kaizen and the approach to waste elimination at Toyota:
Initially Ohno was a proponent of JM even though he thought it narrow and lacking the scope to drive the type of kaizen that he wanted. JM’s main contribution to improvement is the 5W 1H method of inquiry which he viewed initially as all right but eventually decided was too superficial. He was driving the broader thinking of the various forms of waste and the specific need to eliminate the root causes of waste and improve efficiency in the company. JM emphasized the principle of ECRS (Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange, and Simplify) and mainly looked at assembly job, machines, and material handling aspects of work but it just did not drive deep enough into the elimination of waste aspect strong enough to suit Mr. Ohno. Additionally, it must be noted that JM lacks any connection to takt time, flow, and pull style production. Eventually Ohno decided JM was not delivering results and instructed the training department to stop the JM component of the program.
The simplified yet broadened focus on the elimination of the 7 types of waste has certainly served Toyota well over the years. If we keep the 7 types of waste in mind and use the ECRS tool in combination with other efforts such SMED (single minute exchange of dies, a.k.a. quick changeover) or 5S it will be powerful indeed.