Lean Manufacturing

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The first step in the Tanzco Management Consulting approach to Continuous Improvement education and shop-floor implementation is to perform an assessment of your current processes and Continuous Improvement history. A Tanzco CI Manager will visit your plant to learn about your unique business issues and needs. We will walk your shop floor with you from receiving, through all of your internal processes, to shipping finished goods. What's in it for you? A personalized written report outlining your potential opportunties to achieve operational excellence and help prioritizing immediate and long term goals. Not bad for $0.00! For more information about this and other assessment programs, call us today.

Four Essentials of Effective Work Instructions

This article was created by Patrick Sweeny of the Explainers and is reprinted with permission. You can view the original article and the Explainers website at http://www.explainers.com/Articles/Four-Essentials-Effective-Work-Instructions.htm

Overview: Returning the Focus to the Worker

A work instruction is a tool provided to help someone to do a job correctly. This simple statement implies that the purpose of the work instruction is quality and that the target user is the worker. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, today’s work instructions have little connection with this fundamental focus. Factories have encumbered work instructions with content that has been added to satisfy auditors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and yes, even quality managers. We’ve piled on so much extraneous material that we’ve lost sight of the intended purpose of work instructions.

Instead of providing a simple tool to do a job right, we’ve buried the work instruction under a cascade of specifications, contract requirements, revision history, references, controls, licensing provisions and engineering theory. The person who uses the work instruction has become an afterthought in favor of satisfying a licensing or certifying auditor.

If work instructions are to be practical quality tools, the worker must at least share focus with the auditor. This shift in emphasis does not require removal of the licensing and certification information that has been added to instructions. However, the procedure portion of the work instructions can be improved, often significantly, by appropriate consideration of the worker. Workers learn quickly to spot the usable portions of the work instructions and apply the appropriate material on the job.

This paper suggests a four-part criteria against which work instructions can be evaluated and improved as needed. As a first step in judging the overall effectiveness of work instructions, managers can examine their work instructions against four essential characteristics: credible, usable, accessible and consistent.

Credible: Workers Trust Them

Credible work instructions are at the heart of standardized best practices. In a workplace that’s committed to one and only one way to perform all procedures and processes, work instructions must define that standard.

When work instructions are credible, workers accept and trust them. But it’s easy for work instructions to lose their credibility. A common way to lose credibility is when standard procedure updates and changes get passed on verbally and there are consistent and regular delays in updating the written work instructions. With verbal changes, something can be missed or an individual can otherwise fail to get the correct message. In a busy workplace with frequent undocumented changes and updates, work instructions become marginalized with workers no longer trusting them as being accurate.

Work instructions also lose credibility when a supervisor initiates a change and deviates from standardized best practice. Even though the change may be an improvement, the worker is forced to make a choice, and the boss’s words are always going to win over the written work instructions. For work instructions to be credible, workers must believe that they define the one, single, proper way to perform a task.

Clear: Workers Understand Them

A clear work instruction can be quickly understood by the worker with a minimum of effort. To accommodate the typical worker, an ideal work instruction explains mostly with graphics using only minimal clarifying text. Illustrations or other graphic support should be immediately visible and the worker should not being required to go to any other location for supporting information.

Work instructions start to become unusable when they contain extraneous matter not directly related to the procedure. Also, multi-page or multi-screen work instructions that cannot be quickly and easily grasped do not meet the clarity test. Because most workers have neither the time nor the patience to struggle with unclear work instructions, they lose their practical value.

Accessible: Workers Can Get To Them

Work instructions are accessible when they can be located quickly and easily. "Quickly" means within seconds and "easily" requires a retrieval system that the worker knows, understands and trusts. An ideally accessible work instruction is displayed as a job aid in immediate full view in the workspace.

If someone with a question about the proper procedure must struggle to even locate the applicable work instruction, the typical worker will find an alternative such as trial and error, guesswork, and questioning an associate or supervisor. While these alternatives might produce the right answer, they lead to a decline in the significance and importance of the work instructions.

Consistent: They Match Worker Training

Consistent work instructions conform to a style guide developed specifically for procedures and work instructions. There must be rigid consistency of terminology so that the same word means the same thing every time. There can be no undefined acronyms and confusing technical terms. All instructions should follow the same format so that the user always knows where to find information such as required tools or control settings.

Consistent work instructions also demand that the material used for worker training is consistent with provided job aids.


In the absence of effective user-focused work instructions, we force the worker to employ a host of unsatisfactory alternatives including guesswork, trial and error, rumor, and tribal knowledge information transfer. The inevitable result is variation, deviation, reduced productivity and lost potential.

To achieve the desired quality benefits of standard best practice, effective work instructions need to be a fundamental first step.

Lean in Healthcare is the wave of the future. Healthcare in Minnesota is going ‘lean’

Adopting Toyota process principles shows promise for improving  

St. Luke’s in Duluth will spend about $1.5 million later this year to modernize its cardiac catheter lab in a strategy to capture larger market share. Expensive new technology is an old story in the healthcare industry, and widely viewed as a factor in the runaway costs that are forcing many businesses to scale back or drop their group benefits for employees. But how St. Luke’s has developed its project — and is beginning to run its overall operation — represents one of the most promising mechanisms for taming healthcare inflation.

St. Luke’s, SMDC Health System and a handful of smaller healthcare providers in Northeastern Minnesota all are adopting the “lean” principles of process efficiency and quality assurance that Toyota developed after World War II to become the world’s leading auto maker. St. Luke’s two-bed cardiac catheter lab is plagued with inefficiencies common to industrial and service business processes that are designed around existing facilities rather than for efficient work flow. When St. Luke’s added the second bed in its lab, the storage area for cardiac catheter supplies and equipment was relocated to an available room across a hallway, outside the lab’s sterile area.

As a result, the lab’s nurses and technicians have to keep seldom used sterile supplies on the mobile carts within the lab, making the already cramped space there even less efficient, said registered nurse Michelle Fleming, the hospital’s patient care services director. When a physician asks support staff for a special medical item, the physical obstructions become barriers to traffic patterns, she said.

Fleming identified the bottleneck using “value-stream mapping,” a lean technique for measuring process efficiency. “There are a number of times when a tech and nurse need to get equipment. We’re making way too many trips,” she said. So many, in fact, that St. Luke’s believes it will be able to handle current cardiac catheter patient volume with one fewer technician in the new lab. “We’re not going to lay off anyone,” Fleming quickly added. “Our hope is that with the additional efficiency we’ll be able to do more procedures without adding any people.”

The healthcare industry is just beginning to adopt Toyota Production System waste reduction and process concepts to increase work capacity, reduce cost, raise worker and patient satisfaction, standardize results and to build a culture for continuous improvement. While the design of the new cardiac catheter lab is its most striking embrace of “lean,” St. Luke’s has been at it since Fall 2007, said Jo Ann Hoag, vice president, chief nursing officer and the initiative’s self-described “administrative champion.”

It began with a 2007 presentation by the customized training team at Lake Superior College to Hoag and other senior St. Luke’s managers who embraced the concept and directed 64 executives into formal lean training at the health system’s expense. Two of those executives, Education Director Linda Basara and Michael Boeselager, materials management director, were named “Lean Committee” co-chairs with a mandate to train and implement lean principles that will change how all 2,200 employees at St. Luke’s do their jobs by 2013. To date, nine classes of 16 employees across departments have been trained as trainers to spread the lean gospel systemwide.

So far, the effort has reorganized the hospital’s laboratory and the storage areas that Boeselager manages. Jennifer LaMaurea, the lab’s blood bank manager, said lean process changes have helped shrink the bank’s inventory of red blood cells on hand by “30 units at $200 per unit. Lean objectifies the process for implementing change,” she said. Boeselager said the initiative is producing a “brush fire” of process improvements. Hoag said the lean process is creating teams across departments — laboratory, emergency room, nursing units and pharmacy to name a few — to make care more patient-centered.

To measure whether the initative is making a customer service difference, St. Luke’s has commissioned PRC Associates, the Omaha-based healthcare research firm, to conduct satisfaction surveys with discharged patients. “Where we have taken this on, patients are happy with it,” Hoag said. “This is a learning process, we’re on a journey.”    St .   Luke’s and at least eight other healthcare providers in Northeastern Minnesota are receiving Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership grants to implement lean from the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, passed through a local community/technical college. Steve Wagner, Lake Superior College’s vice president for workforce/community development, wrote the grant applications for the St. Luke’s and SMDC lean initiatives, each requiring a 3:1 match from the healthcare provider. He said St. Luke’s is receiving $288,000; SMDC, $397,000.

The SMDC lean coordinator declined a request for details about its project. Meanwhile, Gail Anderson, customized training representative at Itasca Community College, is coordinating lean grant projects underway at Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital in Grand Rapids; Falls Memorial Hospital and Good Samaritan Nursing Home, both in International Falls; Deer River Healthcare Center; Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin; and the Littlefork Medical Center clinic. “Each of these projects is customized to the institution,” she said. “Lean is very simplistic and easy to learn. Once it becomes part of the (institutional) culture, it becomes sustainable. We help develop the needs assessment and goals, and provide the curriculum to get there.” Anderson is a certified reviewer for Montana-based Lean Healthcare West, which developed the curriculum the Northeastern Minnesota healthcare providers are using to become lean.

Founder and President Cindy Jimmerson, a former trauma system developer and emergency healthcare provider, is a pioneer in applying Toyota Production System principles to the healthcare industry. She won a 2001-04 National Science Foundation grant and developed that curriculum for hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, community healthcare programs and health insurance companies. She said lean is the perfect anecdote for a healthcare system that easily wastes two-thirds of the money it consumes. “We’re spending $3 trillion annually and wasting $2 trillion, enough to insure everyone without spending an additional cent,” she said. “In the United States with all the available technology, science and education, competent healthcare workers are only as good as their ability to deliver.

“We’re swimming in money in healthcare, but it’s not being used effectively because broken processes are getting in the way,” she said. Lean can fix those processes and gets at embedded waste, she said. “If we want to be a Toyota, we need to do it differently.”


While there’s no doubt that lean manufacturing will result in lower material and labor costs and greater production revenues, there is less discussion about the benefits of lean in relation to green manufacturing

Using lean manufacturing principles to deliver green results


Here are a few examples cited in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “The Lean and Energy Toolkit” (www.epa.gov):

  • From 2005 – 2007, General Electric reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 250,000 metric tons and saved $70 million in energy costs.
  • A Baxter International facility combined Six Sigma and energy-efficiency efforts to save $300,000 in energy costs in one year.
  • Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America has reduced average facility energy consumption per vehicle by 30 percent since 2000.

It’s interesting that these three companies, very familiar to Lean Six Sigma communities, are bridging the continuous improvement gap between operational performance and environmental performance. In this article we will explore the linkages between lean manufacturing principles and the benefits of green manufacturing.

Foundational Green Reliability

When implementing lean within our organizations, equipment reliability is the predominant foundational element that enables lean operational performance. Embracing green manufacturing requires giving more focus to environmental and energy concerns during the implementation of reliability improvement projects.

Improvements geared toward improving equipment reliability have distinct linkages to environmental performance, such as reducing the amount of product and raw material waste through:

  • the elimination of catastrophic breakdowns through formalized root cause analysis
  • providing routine monitoring of system parameters through predictive technologies
  • preventing interruptions to production cycles with a focus on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Sustainable green Reliability Excellence (Rx) requires a focus in three holistic areas:

Green-Centered Maintenance – This approach evaluates the impact of functional failures on environmental performance and administers the appropriate condition monitoring and preventive maintenance actions. This will adequately predict when energy consumption becomes excessive, or material degradation has the ability to threaten the environment, effectively mitigating these risks before accruing operational costs. The result of these strategies is two-fold: 1) optimized environmental performance, such as energy consumption; and 2) operational costs are reduced or sustained.

Designing for Green Reliability – Whether your organization is considering upgrading existing assets or purchasing new assets, environmental performance impact must be quantified and considered in the decision-making process. In a model organization like GE, life cycle cost analysis is performed during conceptual design to evaluate engineered solutions for implementations based on the total life cycle cost. This helps identify the financial gains or losses resulting from predetermined operational and maintenance practices designed to ensure ideal levels of reliability, availability and maintainability.

When bridging the environmental gap, organizations like GE have begun to evaluate the energy consumption of each engineered alternative as a sustaining cost category. Those solutions or alternatives that effectively utilize higher efficiency motors, alternative fuels or inherent energy sources will cost less over the life cycle period. The additional benefit of a green-focused life cycle cost analysis is that it will be easier to identify oversized equipment that could be replaced by smaller, more energy-efficient alternatives.

In many cases, we tend to over-engineer our plant assets and, therefore, spend more than we should to operate and maintain the system or asset over the life cycle period.

Sustainable Life Cycle Management – From conceptual design of new assets to the disposal of depleted assets, all functions of your business must be integrated to efficiently manage plant assets over the entire life cycle period. Life cycle asset management, with regards to environmental performance, requires that your organization be capable of determining the environmental impact associated with components and materials installed in the manufacturing system, be that energy consumption or the generation of harmful byproducts and waste.

Sustaining businesses have demonstrated an ability to control cost and curb environmental impact through life cycle thinking and, therefore, have created additional value within their products which can be recognized by their customers.

Efficient asset management is implemented via systems and structures to capture data for the purpose of decision-making in eight aspects of the asset life cycle:

  • Design – conceptual design of new assets or modification of existing assets
  • Procurement – purchasing new assets or re-engineered components
  • Storage – holding new assets or components in stores until they are installed
  • Installation – installing new assets or components in the manufacturing process
  • Commission – initial startup of new assets or components
  • Operate – daily operational standards of practice
  • Maintain – routine maintenance standards of practice and maintenance strategies
  • Decommission – shutdown and disposal of manufacturing assets, or shutdown and handling of components which are uninstalled for reconditioning

From Lean to Green Manufacturing
The leading similarity between the benefits of lean and the benefits of green is waste, and so it makes perfect sense that in order to achieve higher levels of environmental performance, your organization must first adopt the principles and practices of lean manufacturing. Two examples from the EPA’s research on lean and the environment, Eastman Kodak and Baxter International Healthcare Corporation, illustrate this point.

Eastman Kodak Company has been focused on Reliability-Centered Maintenance since the early 1990s and built a lean business model upon its already excellent reliability foundation. From 1999 through 2006, Eastman Kodak conducted numerous kaizen events focused on energy reductions within its manufacturing processes by defining the problem statement as “what do we use energy to do?” The company found that there were two main areas where energy reductions would produce significant savings: 1) steps within the manufacturing process used to generate heat; and 2) the magnitude of energy used to turn motors and mechanical drive systems. Over the seven-year period, Eastman Kodak energy reductions resulted in savings of nearly $15 million.

Baxter International Healthcare Corporation, a worldwide leader in global healthcare products, found environmental performance improvements through the lean practice of value stream mapping (VSM). In one specific plant, VSM was used to walk through the manufacturing process in order to identify major water usage steps. Overall, 96 opportunities for environmental impact improvement were identified, prioritized and implemented, with an estimated energy reduction value of 170,000 gallons of water per day.

Other lean concepts such as operator care, kanban and SMED can potentially improve the environmental performance of your organization as well.

Operator care programs focused on developing standards of practice within the operating units decrease variation in the manufacturing process, which reduces the amount of product and raw materials waste.

For example, a global leader in alumina refining and the manufacturing of aluminum products successfully reduced energy consumption as a result of training operators in better standards of loading, starting and operating manufacturing equipment. Operator care programs have also helped this manufacturer improve workplace safety and reduce lost workdays.

Kanban, or pull-systems established within the manufacturing process, have greatly contributed to material and waste reductions. Kanban practices are designed to provide the right materials at the right time to support manufacturing needs. This concept focuses on reducing excess inventories of raw or work-in-process materials which cannot be consumed immediately by the production cycle. Cell-based manufacturing processes that signal a pull for materials based on the demand for product can significantly reduce raw material consumption, decreasing the amount of waste material delivered to landfills as well as reducing the demand on raw material resources.

SMED (or single minute exchange of dies) has the potential to reduce the amount of waste generated from raw and unprocessed materials left over in the manufacturing processes.

For example, an aluminum door and window manufacturing facility conducted SMED events to reduce the amount of paint wasted per changeover from 50 gallons per day to less than 10 gallons. Paint disposal costs dropped by as much as $280,000 annually, and paint and solvent disposal were reduced by more than 40 percent. Using a cross-functional team, they identified waste elimination opportunities that included:

  • Redesigning paint piping systems
  • Moving low-volume part painting closer to the paint booth to eliminate lengthy piping systems
  • Changing out hoses
  • Standardizing processes
  • Using alternative methods to clean the lines

Incentives to “Go Green”
As we’ve seen thus far, applying lean manufacturing principles toward environmental performance improvement has the ability to dramatically reduce the overall impact of manufacturing on the environment, but there might be other incentives for your business to focus efforts on going green. Besides federal government programs, such as the EPA’s “Lean Manufacturing and the Environment”, there are several state and local government incentives designed to encourage manufacturers to further help conserve national resources through Renewable Energy Certificates (REC).

In most states, RECs can be applied toward investments in alternative energy sources, utility loans and rate discounts, environmental grants, and even tax credits and exemptions, all of which help to further reduce the operational costs associated with manufacturing, as well as improve the image of your business. To learn more about government programs in your state, search the national Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies at www.dsireusa.org, hosted by North Carolina State University. If you have any questions, please contact us at g.tanzman@tanzco.net

This article was originally written by By Darrin Wikoff, CMRP, Life Cycle Engineering and edited to fit by Glenn Tanzman.

Bio about the author for the end of the article: Darrin Wikoff is a principal reliability consultant at Life Cycle Engineering, specializing in project management, business process re-engineering, Reliability-Centered Maintenance and EAMS/CMMS implementations. As a certified Change Management Professional, Darrin continues to coach and mentor many of the world’s industrial leaders through the rigorous process of implementing and managing reliability improvement initiatives in support of lean manufacturing. To learn more, visit www.LCE.com.

Sustaining Your 5S Efforts

5S too often is short-lived, but these six steps can help keep it running smoothly.

5S is probably the most common lean method applied. It is seemingly simple, progress is visual, and it involves everyone. However, the average lifespan of a 5S effort is a paltry one year. This is worse than doing nothing at all. Getting the organization to put this much effort into something and then not sustain it sends the unintended message that their efforts were not valuable. It is disrespectful.

So how do you sustain the 5S efforts? The following steps include actions to take during its installation, and afterward.

1. Communicate the purpose. The purpose of 5S is not safety, discipline, engagement, tidiness, being "tour-ready" or improving efficiency. Those are benefits, but the primary purpose is to be able to spot problems quickly. Look inside a NASCAR garage, and you are likely to see the cleanest garage you've ever seen. Why? Because if there is one drop of oil on the ground, I want to know about that problem right away. I don't want to find the problem 10 laps from the finish line. I want to find that problem immediately. 5S, when done right, allows you to walk into any area and spot abnormalities easily. People need to have a clear understanding of the purpose to be able to make good decisions about its use.

2. Audit at the leadership level. Most organizations get some kind of audit and check into place. Some do it from inside the team, some from peers from other groups, and sometimes from a central team. Audits are inherently wasteful but necessary. The leadership of the organization also needs to do a form of audit. What's the purpose of their audit? It's less about accountability and more about finding systemic barriers to 5S success through direct observation and engagement. These are the problems that leaders must solve to help enable sustainable 5S.

3. Periodically change your audits. Audits can become stale and routine. When they do, they stop becoming effective. Change the audit methods periodically. You might change the scoring, change the roles, change the frequency or change the evaluation method. Audits are about seeing what's working and what's not. Sometimes you need to look from a different angle. Changing how people view the process can help them see something they missed before, as well as prevent them from taking the audits for granted.

4. During a crisis, double your audits. If an area is in the midst of a crisis, be it production or quality or anything, what is the natural reaction? Do you drop the nice-to-have audits, or do you double them? Dropping is the common reaction but the wrong one. During a crisis, you want your process as stable as possible so you can focus in on the challenge or abnormal condition causing the crisis. If 5S is truly connected to helping you maintain a stable process, then it is more important than ever to sustain it. Not only does dropping the audit during a crisis send the wrong message, it can make recovery even harder.

5. Escalate problems. If audits find breakdowns in the process but there are no consequences, then what's the point? There must be an escalation process with consequences for failures. For example, one organization knows that if an area is out of control, they run the risk of serious problems. Therefore, if you fail one audit, you have a chance to correct things. But if you fail two, your area is shut down. And management must come to the area to figure out what is going so wrong and what to do about it. There must be an escalation of breakdowns in 5S for corrective action to be taken seriously.

6. Eliminate doors and drawers. You can only solve problems of an organization when you can find them. What's the purpose of doors on cabinets and drawers? Primarily, to hide the clutter. We don't want to hide the clutter —we want to eliminate it. Eliminating doors and drawers help make observations and finding abnormalities easier.

5S is relatively simple. But simple doesn't always mean it's easy. If 5S is worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Current Issues

Western manufacturers are surviving mostly on productivity growth and squeezed margins.