By Scott McDuffee:
The recent discussion of beignets at the Cafe Du Monde and breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks helped inspire the following. In concert with recent suggestions for using common language to get across lean principles in palatable ways, here is an analogy which may be useful for some audiences – The Fruit Salad Production System!
Let's say our finished goods consist of make-to-order fruit salads. We would need to keep inventory and processes stream-lined so grapes wouldn't wilt, bananas wouldn't brown, and pineapples would be crisp.
If this were the case, how might we manage the supplier partnerships and proximity? What would inventory turn-over look like assuming we wanted everything to be fresh, not frozen? How might we think about vertical integration v. outsourcing of grape de-stemming? How might our inventory be delivered, moved, or stored as to not let it age or bruise through excess handling?
How would the customers' feedback and what they value become a part of everyone's focus and driving philosophy? What would the process be for ensuring the taste is just how our customers like it – not just by tasting the final fruit salad result but for each ingredient before and during processing and combining? How might we optimize our product offering to please the customer?
How would we adjust to changing demand from holiday peaks and the picnic season – because overproduction would be an immediate disaster due to spoiling? How could we smooth out both mix and volume to reduce variation for both our internal processes and reduce chaotic surges on our grape, banana, pineapple, and jello suppliers? Could we truly have a system where if the mixing station had a delay, the upstream pulling and chopping processes would halt?
What would be the process for proactively keeping blades sharp and mixers operating with zero down-time? How could mistakes and near misses be embraced to drive Safety corrective actions? How would we make it really difficult to have a Safety incident at the workstation?
How could everyone from the janitor to the president have the understanding their job is not only to run-the-biz but also to improve-the-biz? How could we ensure the leaders AND operators will follow standardized yet continually improving methods? How could we create a disciplined system where people are held accountable by processes so they don't need the boss to be the bad guy or gal? How could we get support functions to truly support by observing the process, talking to the people, and routinely getting excited about problems?
How could we instantly be able to see if the process was healthy? How could we rapidly escalate process issues and respond quickly to embrace problems before they reach the next step and to solve them while the pain and information is still fresh? How could the right metrics and visual controls be real-time linked to the processes to inspire constant improvements and problem solving? How would leaders respond if someone brought up a problem?
What type of processes might be in place to help banana cutters and jello stirrers share the best way to do things and engage in thinking about the whole system – as if from the perspective of the banana – with ideas valued and implemented? How could successes be shared through the organization so the Flintstones know what the Jetsons are doing?
How could customers see us as being very easy to do business with through the simplicity of ordering and specifying? How could we make it easy for customers to pay us for fruit salads speeding up the time between when the customer has a need to when we get paid? How would we ensure our customers are so excited about our product they would sell to others for us? How could we partner so well with our customers they help us define our next offering?
How could we be the exemplary fruit salad producer in the world being benchmarked by other industries wanting to use FSPS (Fruit Salad Production System)?
What questions are still missing for the FSPS?
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