Ask GembaKaizen

Batch Answers to Reader Questions

By Jon Miller Published on November 23rd, 2011

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I haven’t kept up so well with reader questions over the past few months so here is a batch of answers. Better late than never, hopefully.
A question posted to Quick changeover and SMED for the office:

in point “1. Separate internal and external time” A knowledge work example of external set up could be as simple as having the next task or project prepared and waiting for you in a folder so that you could get to it right away, rather than having to go seek out the instructions and information to start the next project smoothly. But my question is how can we balance between this and over processing (from 7 wastes)?
– Mazen

All set up, planning, preparation, work instruction documentation or for that matter management activity could be called non value-added. However, these activities serve the purpose of limiting waste caused by being not prepared, not having clear instructions, etc. so they are not waste per se. I would not say that set up is an example of over processing waste, unless the set up process itself was done with more resource or more complexity than absolutely required. It is a difference between qualitative and quantitative. A process is either waste or value-add / non value-add. If it is one of the latter, it may still contain waste, such as over processing. The difference is that if the process is a complete waste (qualitative) the goal is to cut it out while if it is quantitative (complexity, ambiguity etc) the goal is to reduce inputs to the process but not cut it out completely.
Two questions posted to How to calculate standard WIP:

My question is: How can I use lead time and takt time in hospital warehousing of medical supplies? I currently have a team of 9.5 FTE’s. The average scan time (order materials) per person is 31.4 minutes The average time to replenish the patient units are 45 minutes, 277 Par locations. All other tasks total 284 minutes.
– Laurie

First of all, to answer the “how” question, lead time and takt time can be used in hospital warehousing of medical supplies to a) balance employee workload to customer demand, b) improve on-time delivery from the warehouse, c) set stocking quantities at point of use locations based on replenishment lead-times, etc. The implied question is “how specifically do I do this based on the team, processing times etc?” but it is completely impossible to answer your question based on the information provided. In order to calculate takt time we need to know net available working time per shift and customer demand per shift. Neither is provided in your question. In order to determine lead time we need to know consumption rate, i.e. customer demand. Once we have that information we will be happy to help.

So, my process has a “batch auto cycle”, like #4, but my auto cycle is five separate batches due to cycle time limitations. How do I use your calculation for SWIP? Do I divide by five?
– Randall

This depends on whether you mean 5 separate sequential batches that are run across multiple shifts or 5 batches that go into a process such as an oven at one time. The simplest way to answer this question is to count how many pieces are in your 5 batches currently. Unless you are consistently running the downstream process out of parts, your current WIP quantity is sufficient or excessive. Don’t divide by 5. In order to help you calculate the exact quantity, we would need the machine cycle time, capacity (batch size) per cycle, and cycle time from load through auto cycle and unload.
A question from a post about a takt time calculator:

Hi, i have question on how to calculate takt time. A demand of product A is 1000 nos. It takes 2 shifts (8hrs) and 1 hour break to get it done. For the first shift usually takes 20-30 minutes to warm up the machine for the initial process. How should I count the cycle time for the initial process? And how should I count the total cycle time if it involves 2 shift then?
– Jason

It sounds like the 20-30 min warm up time could be counted either as set up time and be deducted from the available time for that shift, or it could be handled before the start of the shift so that when day shift crew came in the machine was warmed up and ready to go. If you choose the first option, the takt time calculation is net available time per shift / demand per shift. If the demand for 2 shifts is 1000 and the net regular hours per shift is 8 then the calculation would be (60 min x 8 hrs x 2 shifts) / 1000. If you start warming up the machine when the shift starts, deduct 30 min from available time. In many cases a small crew or the supervisor will come in early to get the machine warmed up so people and materials aren’t waiting, in which case you would not deduct the 30 min. When you are calculating takt time, the information “it takes …min” to get the work done is not necessary. It might take 9 hours based on current conditions, but we set takt by customer demand and then balance or improve our process to get the work done at the pace the customer wants. That information is used after takt time is calculated, to balance the cycle times with takt time. When calculating takt time we only care about net available time and customer demand.
From 8 ways to get total involvement:

I’m actually working on a project that consists on applying the Kaizen culture in the company I work for. Tough task considering its a company with over 5k employees. I’m aware of all the activities you can perform (5S, suggestion box, TPM, etc), but I’m having a hard time coming up with a way in which people keep being involved, I want them to adopt this way of thinking and not just have them do a couple of activities and then forget this ever happened. Any suggestions?
– Ivan

If you can figure out a way to apply the kaizen culture as a project, please let me know!
A kaizen culture transformation is much more than a project, it’s a total leadership commitment to changing how people come to work every day. It is management itself. Of course this can be achieved through projects, but be careful not to think that you can “a project” with some kaizen activities and tools and have a new culture. When you do any of the activities mentioned (5S, kaizen suggestions, TPM) properly, you will have employee involvement. Be prepared to support these efforts for at least 12-18 months very closely, making sure the daily management standards are set, followed and improved. Start small, create some wins, build belief, learn from mistakes, etc. Don’t worry about changing 5,000 people at first, focus on making sure you have the 50-100 leaders (formal and informal) visibly supporting the kaizen culture. Be careful thinking and talking about the steps to a kaizen culture as “activities” because this implies that you can do 5S as an activity, then stop and move on the next activity. Think of it as building capabilities, system. Most of these things (5S, TPM, suggestion schemes, kanban) are all people-driven systems that live or die by involvement and daily management. Make sure you have the resources and organization to invest time in educating people about the new way of working and why it is important to improve safety, quality, delivery, cost and serve customers. If people do not see kaizen as a way of making their job more interesting, easier etc, they may not be motivated.
Thanks for your questions, it’s always fun to hear about your kaizen efforts and challenges.

  1. John Santomer

    November 26, 2011 - 9:47 pm

    Dear Jon,
    Just a follow through, what’s the next best catalyst for culture change? Change tools, activities and processes can only do so much. If THE leader is a strong preacher of culture change but is reluctant to “take the leap”, grasp the responsibility and “dodges the bullets” to keeps his hands clean – the Pull System will probably work just within his “radar” but will never really cascade down the ranks. THE leader himself seems non receptive to suggestions and other options “outside the box”. Any thoughts?

  2. Jon Miller

    November 30, 2011 - 7:17 pm

    Hi John
    In my experience there are two words that cause leaders either to champion culture change or their departure: relentless discomfort. Change the circumstances or get out. I suppose there is a third way, which is to get used to discomfort, but then by definition it is no longer discomfort…

  3. John Santomer

    January 11, 2012 - 6:59 am

    Dear Jon,
    “Change the circumstances or get out.” Relentless discomfort… (Still digesting). So there’s no hope for lower ranks to live and see lean change if top management lacked the commitment? As this may be foreseen as a challenge to management’ approaches coming from the rank and file?
    I remember one comment from Bill Schultz, ”Not only do higher levels need to participate (to show their commitment), we must get the lower levels involved. We MUST NOT DO LEAN TO PEOPLE, WE DO IT WITH THEM. They must feel ownership of the process, so they buy into it, and it doesn’t become the program of the month (going back to old ways one month later).“
    I was wondering if the process ownership originated from the lower ranks, as top management aims to generate lean start ups and then reversing my question: “Do you think this will be a better catalyst?” Most of the sustainable change can be implemented from the “shop floor” or the “gemba”. Which approach do you think would have better success?

  4. Jon Miller

    January 12, 2012 - 4:19 pm

    Hi John
    The simple answer is that if the leadership isn’t managing based on fact, learning through deliberate experimentation, and making people development a priority, it’s not a recipe for success.
    Even if you have a committed and talented team of scientists, if the leader of the scientific organization leads based on bias, whim and faith rather than science, the team may overcome and do great science, but may never become a great scientific institution.

  5. John Santomer

    January 13, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    Dear Jon,
    Thanks a lot for your patience and diligence on my querries. I may be relentless is “squeezing the orange juice out of the apple” but I hope everyone of them would have a chance to read your response. 😉
    Simply translates…”The Team will do great lean but never become a lean institution.” I feel sad.

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