The Lean Toolbox: Where is the thinking cap?

By Bryan Lund:

For the full article, click here for a PDF file

The Lean toolbox is brimming with attractive tools and if you are like most Americans, you can’t wait to get your hands on one of those shiny new gadgets and show it off to the neighbors. The problem with tools is that we get wrapped up in what they look like, not in the purpose of having the tool in the first place. Following is an example of where using a “lean tool” has gone bad. In this case, the 5 Why tool was put to work, and nothing happened, but was on display for the neighbors. Let’s take a look at why good intentions went awry.

First, a quick glimpse of the picture: a group is in the middle of a kaizen event and someone says there is a chronic problem with a machine. A facilitator of the group says, “Let’s use the 5 Why tool to solve this problem”, which the group proceeded to do. Following is the line of questioning and answers provided during the 5 Why session:

Problem: The parts carrier doesn’t slide on the belt.

Why do the carriers not move along the belt?

The belt is caked with grime.

Why is there grime on the belt?

We are using silicone instead of light oil. Silicone builds up on the belt and attracts grime.

Why are we using silicone?

We need extra lubricant and silicone works for that. We normally wouldn’t use silicone.

Why do we need extra lubricant?

There is a problem when the machine tries to screw the assemblies together.

Why is there a problem with screwing the parts together?

There is a problem with the threads, but we can’t figure that out.

At this point, the group felt as if they had hit a dead end and threw the problem over the wall to engineering to solve. Fast forward 40 days.

This approach concerned me for several reasons. First, the group had a nice, stylish, flashy form created on the computer and dated 40 days prior to when we observed it on the machine. There was no status on the problem, and further discussion with the operators in the area yielded no other information. Another thing, the group literally stopped questioning at the fifth why. Problem solving sometimes requires multiples streams of questioning and certainly should never be limited to asking “why” only five times. Finally, it wasn’t clear how a physical feature on the subassembly was causing grime to build up on the belt, thereby causing the carriers to stop on the belt. At first glance, it may be obvious that, “since the parts don’t go together easily, we use more lubricant, which is transferred to the conveyor belt, causing grime to build up. This is basic 5S stuff!” Sadly, when we blindly using Lean tools we inadvertently reduce the credibility of a continuous improvement program.

For the full article, click here for a PDF file

About the author: Bryan Lund is a Lean Coordinator in the Global Lean Office for Energizer Battery Manufacturing. www.energizer.com. Bryan is also involved with the reintroduction of the WWII production improvement program, Training Within Industry, or, TWI. Many elements of TWI, notably Job Instruction Training, are fundamental to maintaining stability and improvements within the Toyota Production System. Learn more about TWI at our local SME #204 website: Training Within Industry

Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author’s copyright.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to receive posts via email.


Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please consider leaving a comment or sharing this post via social media.

Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Tags:

1 Comment on "The Lean Toolbox: Where is the thinking cap?"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    On the surface, the concept of “5 Whys” seems so simple, people often laugh it off. However, as Bryan has shown, it is really one of the most powerful, and least understood, problem solving methods.

    People often think “how could something so simple possibly help me solve this complex problem?” Well after they struggle for a little while, they see that it works, and they come to see the deeper meaning the method brings.

    Problem Solving is some of the most under rated training out there. However, it is probably one of the highest returning investments in training any company can make.

    When people practice and become good problem solvers, they no longer seek to hide their problems. They embrace them because they know they can solve any problem that comes their way. This is perhaps Toyota’s biggest secret weapon for improvement, and a big reason for their manufacturing and development success.

    Another important aspect of good problem solving is that is casts the “lean tools” in a different light. People come to understand that all those tools are really countermeasures in a larger problem solving process. This brings the tools to life in a way that solves specific problems, rather than just using them to “get lean” because the boss said so.

    Thanks Bryan for such a unique and helpful posting. How about one on TWI?

Post a Comment

CommentLuv badge