Gemba Research Office Layout Kaizen #11

Over the past week we have been chipping away at some office kaizen at the Gemba Research office near Seattle. The major activities so far have included a layout change, some 5S and other small improvements. In the 6 years that we have been in this space we have rearranged the layout 10 times. This was our 11th layout kaizen. The picture above shows the before (left) and after (right) kaizen layout.

The Moves
The moves of the desks (yellow boxes), and bookshelves (dotted line rectangles) were completed in minutes or seconds each, quick changeover-style, thanks to their mobile design. We built all of our furniture with the exception of the black rectangle (desk) and filing cabinets from pipe and joint material. Everything (with the exception of the black desk) is on wheels, easy to move by hand.

The space is about 16 feet by 32 feet. We moved the furniture into the lower half of the layout in order to consolidate and create open space. One storage unit (red box on layout above) was made redundant. Moving the book shelf from the middle of the office to the top of the layout diagram allowed us to store books on both sides, library stack-style, making better use of the depth of the shelf. The book shelf on the top right now has free space and is currently being used as a red tag item area. In the future this book shelf may become redundant or house other useful items.

The Rewards
We freed up about 30% of the space and created a nice open area. The photo below shows it filled with plastic bins and boxes but this because we moved them temporarily in from storage to this area so we can sort through them. Ideas for the future use of this space include a wall-to-wall white board, ping pong table, or the future home of the Seattle Lean Salon (anyone?).

The extra bookshelf space, and the good excuse to do some 5S has given us a chance to go through boxes in storage from 4-5 years ago. Much paper has been put in the recycling, and eight plastic bins have been made available for record storage. Our four filing cabinets are stuffed full, so these bins will come in handy as we target them for the next round of 5S activity.

As a bonus, we found some old reference materials and documents that were in storage and had been forgotten. I will share interesting bits from this in the weeks to come. For a taste, here are some scribbled notes from James Womack’s day-long keynote speech in Seattle in 2004 (or maybe 2005) during the Kent Chamber of Commerce lean manufacturing seminar.

James Womack quoting Taiichi Ohno on lean, “No one ever does this stuff unless they are desperate.”
Toyota operates on, “Brilliant, bullet-proof procedures everyone understands.”

“Honda runs on adrenaline. Toyota runs on cold processes.”

Quoting the late Mr. Iwata, student of Ohno and to the murmur of the 100+ Boeing employees in the audience, “Toyota could build the 747 with half of the resources.”

“FedEx knows exactly where they lost my package. They’re spending billions to know where it screwed up. The lean guy wants to know why it gets lost.”
“Heijunka is Dolby for processing.” Meaning a choppy signal is made smooth.
Value stream mapping helps you see, “Cost per ker-chunk versus total cost, which is what the customer cares about.” James Womack went on to explain that the lowest fill cost of a bottle can result in a large warehouse, and described companies that build right-sized equipment.

Toyota gets “Brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes.” And went on to clarify that there are brilliant people also at Toyota, and gave the example of the 40-person Operations Consulting Division who tackled tough problems and helped create brilliant processes.
During a gemba walk, “Become a part and ask ‘What happens to me? Why? Where’s the value?'”

“Be junkyard dogs for standard work and standard daily management.”
James Womack said we needed to change our thinking from, “Make the quarter to make the day to make takt time.”

According to my notes the day covered lean accounting, policy deployment, value stream mapping at various levels, the role of the manager, the role of the CEO in addition to all of the gems above. Going through old files has never been so rewarding.

The Homework
More work remains to be done. Kaizen never ends. Here are some of the problems I saw as a result of this latest office layout kaizen at Gemba.

  1. The black desk is not easily moved. It is not on wheels. It is an off-the-shelf unit which we did not build but purchased. We will either find a way to attach wheels or move it out.
  2. The desks and bookshelves are becoming loose. The bolts need periodic tightening. On my action list is to post a basic TPM routine for this.
  3. On starting up one of the computers I learned that it is extremely slow and nobody could remember when it had last been defragmented. This will also be included on the TPM plan.
  4. Using tie wraps to bundle loose cables together creates waste. A scissors is needed to cut them when a layout change is needed, the tie wrap once cut becomes trash, and there was a near-miss with the scissors almost severing a cable. The countermeasure is to convert all tie wraps to velcro strips.

There is a kaizen newspaper with a list of 12 actions on the wall. I am sure the list will grow before we complete them all.


  1. Steve Webb

    February 12, 2010 - 8:51 am

    Re: Comments about Toyota in the article. I am glad they don’t build 747’s with half the resources. Imagine throttle problems during landing?
    Toyota operates on, “Brilliant, bullet-proof procedures everyone understands.” It appears that standards have slipped? Deming & Juran would not be best pleased.
    Time to revisit quality Toyota

  2. sharma

    May 10, 2010 - 10:35 am

    Dear Jon,
    I am shocked and disappointed to see your office, lol!!! Please forgive me for the critisism.
    In the second picture, your computer and printer tables are in complete mess, with cables hanging all over, 20 liters water can lying below the desk(where will the operator keep his legs? ergonomic hazard), there is a lot of darkness(safety hazard), why are there 2 boxes of A4 blank papers? how do you know when you run out of paper so that you can order new box on time- just in time?, same questions for printer toner cartridges. In other word it seems to be in a complete mess!!!
    In the picture number three the selection of colours of your carpet adds to the darkness of the room and they also need more maintainence, dust-mite hazards in the long run too. White marble or White vitrified tiles, give a larger feel to the room, easy to mop, wipe and shine, and do not need regular maintainence. Also, they(vitirified tiles) don’t cost much.
    In picture number 5 again the workstation having yellow bins! Are the bins necessary for office stationery? Aren’t they too big to keep stapler pins, envelopes and adhesive tapes? What else do you keep in those yellow bins. It will be interesting to know. Or is it just and enthusiastic attempt at 5S? In order to use your library shelf from both sides you have lost 2 X 5 feet = 10 square feet space towards the wall. Also the contents of the shelf facing the wall are not easily visible(visual control?). How much does it cost for a 10 square feet in Seattle?
    In picture number six you are using opaque storage boxes, even the lids are not completely transparent. You can use(or make on your own)acrylic sheet boxes or purchase more transparent boxes, which will make the contents easily visible. Plus you can stick a A4 sheet on the boxes, showing the contents,dates and owners of the documents contained. I have a simpler suggestion which I use with great success : use polythene transparent bags of big sizes to keep your records yearwise instead of these boxes. Easy to write with a marker pen or stick simple labels on all the sides. Keep a master list of all these polythene bags.
    Also, I would like to just mention that in my office 80 % of floor space is free. Floor is Ivory white vitrified tiles, walls pearl white colour(whites give a larger look to a smaller office), wooden working desks do not have any sharp edges, they are of inverted ‘U’ shape, very light weight can be moved with a single hand. I keep changing the set-up of my office every 6 months. It gives a refreshing feel every time we change. Time to dismantle my PC if required to be taken to a service station is 1 minutes. Time to reconnect it again after servicing is 3 minutes. The phone numbers of the computer servicing companies are stickered on each computer, showing the Annual Maintainence Contract dates and details. Daily housekeeping like brooming and mopping take one minute each. The time to change over the furniture takes 2 to 5 minutes for the complete office. Not Joking!
    My suggestion : free the floor, use wall cabinets for storage.
    Using Velcro for wires is good idea.
    Sorry for the harsh comments.

  3. Jon

    May 10, 2010 - 7:30 pm

    Hi Sharma
    The empty water bottle is not a hazard as this is a standing work station used for printing or quick graphics work.
    The lighting is not as bad as my photography skills make it look. We have no control over the carpeting and are not allowed to paint the walls. We don’t find these troublesome enough to invest in tiling or covering over them.
    The plastic storage bins are not used for storage in the office – they were brought up from storage so we could sort and empty the contents, not used in the office.
    The bookshelf contains Japanese books on the “blind side” that are only accessed by me, so it made sense to have them accessible but not visible.
    The yellow bins are not purpose-built and yes there is some clutter there. We will stop using them once the contents (excess inventory) have been used up.
    The rest of your points I will have to examine when I am next in the office. We have moved things around since then.

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