This person — let’s call him Jeff — works in a distribution environment meaning he doesn’t produce widgets for a living.
One of the lean concepts Jeff was struggling with was value stream mapping. In order to help him I asked a few questions and sensed he was getting stuck on how to deal with the yellow inventory icons drawn between process steps.
Stumped by Inventory Icons
You see, in Jeff’s case, he doesn’t really have WIP piling up between process steps like we might see in a manufacturing environment. Therefore, noting 112 pieces of inventory between steps 1 and 2 didn’t really make sense for him.
Once I understood this I asked if there was any “waiting” or “queuing” time in between process steps and Jeff quickly replied YES!
I then explained that an easy way to adjust your value stream maps for this type of situation is to replace the “I” inside the triangular icon with a “Q” which represents the time spent waiting in between processes.
The Light Goes On!
With this simple piece of advice I sensed a new found hope in Jeff’s voice.
It’s as if he finally realized that lean thinking is not an exact science and that it’s OK to bend the so-called rules and guidelines taught in workbooks and even lean training videos narrated by extremely handsome instuctors.
What do you think?
Do you agree that it’s OK, and even preferred, to bend the rules in order to make lean concepts apply to your work? Or do you feel like it’s important to apply tools in the most traditional manner?