Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Value of Key Performance Indicators in a Lean Transformation

Hi everyone,
This month I am #crossblogging to share with you a column Ernie and I wrote for The Lean Post at the Lean Enterprise Institute.  Here is the link to it.   Also the post below.

How do we measure our progress in an organization? How do we know what type of indicators we are using and what do they tell us about the current state of our processes? How do we know when we get there?  What do we raise the bar on to show improvement?
These are just a few of the questions we hear from organizations that want to understand more about what data they are tracking and how they respond to what that specific information tells them. How much of it is truly value added to the company and customer?
What we do is break down the key performance indicators (KPIs) that organizations track into two categories: lagging indicators and leading indicators. Lagging indicators are results-oriented, in that they appear after something has happened. Some would say they’re historical in nature, since they are often a reaction to something that has already taken place in a process, perhaps months ago. In the car industry, for example, this could be a warranty claim a customer filed with the dealership for a creaky suspension. As the manufacturer, it takes a lot more effort to know what actually happened to cause the problem and when. In fact, it’s impossible to go back in time to re-create the exact scenario that allowed the discrepancy to happen. This can often put us in symptom-fighting mode, also known as firefighting. This mode is not always sustainable, nor is it especially value added.
Leading indicators, on the other hand, are KPIs that are tracking right at the process. This gives us a real-time measure as to when we may be out of standard or don’t have what is needed, when it’s needed, to produce our service or output. The beauty of leading (process-oriented) indicators is that while it can take months to get a report that tells the organization, “How are we doing?”, they can tell you what’s happening in the moment.
So for example, let’s look at safety—say a team member gets injured during their work process. This gets documented on an incident-rate report in most organizations. So think about it – I am tracking an injury after it happened. This is a necessary process in the majority of organizations due to OSHA or other safety mandates, but now I have to ask myself, “What does this information tell me about the process?” If the actual incident happened 1-3 days before the report came out, are we able to know what really caused it? Maybe, but it won’t be easy. That incident-rate report is a lagging indicator.
We find the majority of KPIs tracked are lagging (results-oriented) indicators. It seems to be a pattern across various types of industries – not just manufacturing. It is a common misconception that we should only track lagging indicators, as many feel they give us the most information.
But isn’t it better to have a process indicator that gives us a predictive factor before the injury actually happens? That would be more of a leading indicator – and that is where you can shift the focus from results after the fact, to process in the moment. Given the above example, maybe there were trends that were overlooked. Perhaps someone mentioned “This flow rack is very high and I have to reach several times a day.”  Maybe there was a near-miss incident that hinted at a larger problem. That information could be predictive to an injury, letting us address the problem in real time – not just waiting for something to happen before we take action.  
So, how do you start identifying your indicators?
One way is to take a closer look at your daily processes. Asking questions of your team members about how their process is going and whether or not there are issues can help you grasp the situation of predictive measure versus reactive. One way we have seen organizations do this is a “how’s your process” check. This creates a daily touch-point so the supervisor can see if there are any issues with processes. This is then logged on a visual management chart for Safety and posted daily. If something goes wrong it gives us a very specific window of time to track the discrepancy. This check can greatly reduce incident rates by shifting focus to the process itself (leading) versus tracking only after a problem has happened (lagging).
If an organization can shift a percentage of its lagging indicators to leading, they will see that the new focus on processes (and improving them through standardization) will begin to show the results they normally would be focusing on. Measuring the process in real time each day gives us a trend analysis that is perhaps a few hours old, versus a three-month quarterly report to which we will react in hopes that we make changes in something we are unsure of. I often say it’s like “throwing a dart at a moving target.”
So if you want to stay out of an endless “firefighting mode” with a team of hose-holders, then it’s time to change viewpoints and analyze your available measurements of a process’s success. There will always be a level of reactivity in an organization and that is normal in most businesses. But to do business each day in a reactionary mode is not good for long-term sustainability and growth. The key is to bring awareness to the indicators at your business – and you can do this through gemba walks, problem solving, creating standardized work, and better visualization (e.g. what is the current state versus the ideal state through visual management?). The more people can see, the more abnormalities will surface, the more the problem awareness muscle can be strengthened, and your culture can finally start to change. 
~Tracey and Ernie Richardson
For more information on leading and lagging indicators and their value in lean transformations, stop by Tracey and Ernie's Learning Session at the 2016 Lean Transformation Summit in Las Vegas this March. They will be joined by three of their clients from a lean transformation at Nevada's Kinross Gold Mine, in which using KPIs was critical to success. Learn more about this and other Learning Sessions on the Summit webpage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yes-- we look for Lean examples, Standardization, and JIT even on our vacation time!

Well Ernie and I were able to work in some vacation time to Hawaii this month (Jan).  It was my first trip there and Ernie's second.  We visited 2 islands (Oahu and Maui) and I have to say it was amazing and I hope to return one day-truly paradise for me.   I wanted to dedicate a blog post to "lean even on vacation" to illustrate no matter how much I try to get away from it, it's really just intrinsic to who I am (we are).  It was also a way to share a bit of our fun with a lean flare.

So as we arrived at HNL airport we noticed the awesome visual control system in the rental car garage as we exited.  They had people/movement detectors connected to flashing stop signs to let a driver know when someone was walking across giving them a leading indicator to stop in time.  There were several blind spots so this was a very good visual management countermeasure for safety.

Once we arrived at our hotel in Waikiki we made our way to the elevators and recognized technology that assisted with level loading process to help prevent wait time by a guest.  We have seen different versions of these with our travel but this one never allowed us to wait past 10 seconds--very efficient.  Once you enter your floor then it display which "specific" elevator door you should get on.   There were 8 different elevators in this area.  I would be nice to yokoten this idea putting in place in larger hotels everywhere :).

We saw various examples of 5S, but one I don't believe I have witness before was the "sweeping" of the beach.   Since we were acclimating to HST time, we had the pleasure of watching the sunrise over Diamond Head.  We noticed there was a beach sweeper (similar to an ice rink cleaner removing the marks and refreshing the ice).  The beach sweeper removed all the foot prints and sand artistry made the day before.  I was impressed and said "they 5S'ed the beach"--a fresh beach each morning to walk on.  I jokingly said, it looks like "vacuum marks" on a carpet.

Next we were honored to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial.  What an emotional experience.  We found that there was lots of standardization here.  The U.S Navy was a integral part of the entire process.   There were only 1300 tickets given out each day, and there are hourly trips outward to the memorial with a specific amount of people allowed each trip with a return of folks ready to leave, loading and unloading had a process to follow.   As we sailed out silently we were only allowed to use our phones while sitting with only use of the camera function.   Out of respect, we were instructed to have minimal discussions and if so very quietly.  No texting, or phone calls from the memorial, most were very compliant.

Diamond Head Crater was an amazing hike, we also realized some rules and standards for the National Park.   The park had hiking rules:

1. You had to stay on the trail (otherwise it could create further erosion issues)
2.  There were certain areas of the park that were off limits since it's owned by the U.S Government
3.  FAA is present inside the crater for communication with the US Coast Guard, Civil Defense and Emergency Services.
4.  No one is able to begin the hike past 430pm since the park strictly closes at 6pm.

We had the pleasure of getting an hour to swim with dolphins- a bucket list item for me.   Part of their protocol included us sitting and discussing our outcomes of the visit and also to learn about the dolphins, their personalities and environment.   They actually said the dolphins will choose us.   We were given a level of Job instruction training in regard to feeding, holding, petting and swimming with them.  We all wanted to be in a safe environment including the dolphins since we were in their "home".  It was interesting to learn hand signals to direct them as they followed a process.  Their trainers were amazing, and it was a very unique experience--one very standardized in all areas especially safety.

On this trip we experienced for the first time flying Hawaiian Airlines.   What an interesting airline.  We have been used to flying Delta all these years and they are an affiliate of Delta airlines but their standardized work was a bit different.  It was interesting to see a different process and learn as we went through it.  

1.  The Kiosk process was all inclusive, you not only signed in and printed your boarding passes but you also weighed and tagged your check bags.
2.   Only about 1/2 the staff was needed since everything was done by the customer.
3.  On the plane the refreshments were a foiled 4 ounce drink that was given to everyone, and the trash collected within 7 min making it a very efficient process/service- no cart necessary in the aisle. 
I'm sure it may be different for their longer flights, but their island to island flights were practicing lean in many ways. 

Another excursion of ours was whale watching, this was an experience to say the least.  We learned a lot about whale population and routines throughout the year.   The boat we were on had specific standardized work for us all to follow.

1.  No one was allowed to walk around until we were clearly out of the harbor area.
2.  When you stood up to observe you had to have a 3 point contact to walk around safely due to waves/swell.
3.  When aboard the boat you refer to the back of the boat as the stern/aft, the front as the bow, the left side as the port, and right is starboard.   
Honestly, it was difficult to remember it all, but part of their process.    If we spotted a whale we had to refer to the area of a clock they were at with the front of the boat being 12 o'clock.  This was necessary for quick reference not to miss a shot if all possible.   The whale are definitely unpredictable and on their own schedule, but so majestic!  Priceless!

How many have eaten a pineapple grown in Hawaii?   I am not a pineapple fan, but grew to enjoy them while there.   There is nothing sweeter than these and you can find them added with many different foods on the islands.   While visiting the Dole plantation we learned there was a specific process for cutting a pineapple.  They had a demonstration every hour to share their standardized work and also free pineapple.  They taught us how to minimize some of the waste by not eliminating all the core which many do (tribal knowledge I suppose), and how to lessen the acid once freshly cut.  It was a process we hope to replicate in the future. 

Tribal knowledge can be a good thing if "shared wisdom" is involved.    We met Una who was a local on Maui his entire life.   He learned his carving skill (standardized work) from his father, and has know passed on his knowledge to his children who now carve with him as needed based on demand.  We were blessed to get to see him finishing a piece we purchased as a keepsake along with a symbolic whale tail which can mean strength.   We learned that standardized work with the Hawaiian Koa wood is very specific and timely in order to produce high quality items.  It was very interesting to hear about the Job instruction training between him and his father and with his own children. 

Lastly was a great example of standardized work and job instruction training involving myself in regard to a paddle board lesson (my very first).    For 4 days we were unable to rent a paddle board due to the swell and currents.   Once it calmed and shifted I was able to take my first paddle board lesson.  Little did I know there was so much involved in sustaining this process (meaning not falling off into the water).  I had witnessed many folks even on the rough ocean days paddle with no issue and made an assumption that it would be fairly simple.  Boy was I mistaken, until you experience the facts about a process, don't make an assumption.  Go See! 
First my instructor and I started on the dry beach practicing what I would do when I got into the water.   So we did this for about 10-15 min preparing.

Once I was able to remember some essential standardized work steps we went out into the ocean to begin the process.

1.  First was to just get on the board and sit properly, paddle correctly and practice turning.

2. Secondly, to get a feel of the water and currents and learn where to go and not to go do to the shallow waters, rocks and reef.   Once I developed confidence sitting and paddling I was reminded of the standardized work process and asked to paddle on my knees as I felt comfortable doing. 

As you can see my instructor directly behind me, telling me what key points I am not following exactly and how to improve.  It was a great example of JIT.   When you are out there its hard to remember all the nuances, it was great to have the reminder in the ear as I was learning and doing simultaneously!  I spent a little while getting used to paddling and turns and was told when I was ready I could stand.   Now mind you, there was a specific process for this that created the most sustainability for staying on the board. 

So I followed the standard work process to the best of my ability being my first time.   I got the board moving and began to stand.  I will admit it was very awkward and have a whole new respect for paddle boarders and the leg muscles it takes along with upper body.  Wow! 

As you can see I did my best to replicate the process they taught me, I was a bit shaky but was able to recreate the process and stayed on my feet without falling off (a goal).   From this point I was up and down continuing to learn to sustain the process.  I was out for almost an hour and my fun was over, but I felt my body was spent and my legs were pretty sore for the flight home.   A good workout to say the least.   As I reflected it was a all about my instructors training technique and my ability to listen.  Something we can all improve on. 

Overall we found a lot of examples of lean, standardized work, problem solving, waste awareness, level loading, safety, 5S and many other lean aspects.  It was a great trip and I thought I would share a bit of our experience over our 10 day trip!   Hope you enjoyed!  Remember lean is all around us, just look closely!  Have fun with it!  We do!! 

Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sustaining New Year's Resolutions - Any different than sustaining Lean?

Happy 2016!!  Last year seems like a blur, we worked with some of our regular clients and gained several more across various industry.   It was a great year for LEArNing for all folks we were involved with.  We enjoy turning on light bulbs and will continue to do the same in 2016.   #movetheneedle day by day.

So for my first blog post of 2016 let's talk about New Year's Resolution's.   How many of you have one?  There are always various motivating factors involved with selecting one or several perhaps.

Here are some of the common ones out there I have heard:

  1. Join a fitness center and work out 3-4 times a week
  2. Begin walking/jogging/bicycling
  3. Weight loss program
  4. Stop smoking
  5. Spend more time with family
  6. Be more efficient
  7. Don't procrastinate
  8. New hobby
  9. Clean eating
  10. Save more money
Let's take the gym as an example.  I think fitness centers and gyms everywhere really look forward to the increase in January membership sales they attain through people wanting personal change.  I saw this meme on social media and had to grin.  Although a bit exaggerated there is some truth in it.  I even witnessed a marketing tactic by Planet Fitness at the Time Square event in New York City this past new year's eve event.   Great strategy to plant a seed in millions of minds!

So when we develop a plan or strategy for ourselves at the beginning of the year, how do we sustain it?  What mechanisms will we put in place to keep us accountable for our actions?  What if our work-load increases, or some other "un-planned" distraction takes us away?   Some statistics have shown that 62% of people tend to revert back to their comfort zones or previous ways after just 4 weeks of setting their goal. 

 I've often wondered what creates the "hook" for the folks that can create a habit (or new lifestyle) and get over the hump of the "push versus pull".  What I mean by that is often when we are creating a new habit it's a push.  You may have to remind yourself to go to the gym or go even force yourself when you really don't want to.   A "pull" is when you go because you want to, and you feel bad if you don't, not just mentally but physically.  Really, it has become part of your lifestyle and not necessarily labeled anymore.

So what is the magic behind the "push-pull" transformation?  I think each persons reasons or decisions are different in motivation.   For some it could be a health related issue the doctor has encouraged you to improve.   It could be setting an example for your children-- there are many that motivate us.  Most people have to see a "what's in it for me" to create the hook to sustain the activity to allow it to become part of a "lifestyle" not an "add-on".

As we translate this to lean and our work life there are some parallels.   So one of the first questions we ask is "why are you doing lean?"  "What problem are you trying to solve?-- because lean is a countermeasure."  We see organization's start out with great hopes perhaps after a conference, class or a new promotion.  We want to make a change, or impact for ourselves and others, but we often forget the "what's in it for me/them" hook.   Just as the gym example we have to know why and how this will begin to happen. 

If I'm a leader and I say - "Let's do lean, it's going to be great--here is what I need you to do", then I'm more or less "selling or telling", so would even say convincing.   If I don't engage in why it is important and involve the team and getting their buy-in then the stake doesn't go very far in the ground.  It's not deeply rooted and normally the "add-on" or "flavor of the month" will fade until the next "resolution" comes by and we give it a whirl but to no real outcome.  We find ourselves continuing to "push" because we never created the "pull" mechanism. 

I've often heard and even said that everything has a process.  Some processes are more complex than others but there is always a tangible to visualize I believe even in material and information flow.   If I look at process versus results then perhaps the process I used at the gym (cardio, weights, yoga, or cize) allows me to start seeing the results --which are the scales and the mirror.   Most people focus too much on the scales and mirror and not enough on the process that makes that transformation.   Similar to lean, the processes you use to engage people each day collectively create the results as an organization that translate to your mirror and scales from a business perspective.   

So for me lean thinking translates to so many things we all do in our personal lives.  We just have to find "why" we want to do or change something in our lives and find the hook that keeps us there.  I think if we ask the right questions of ourselves we can find what is necessary to go from push to pull.   So those of you that created a resolution--where will you be 4 weeks from now?  Create your own path through understanding why you need to be on it.  

Until next time
Ernie and Tracey Richardson

Monday, December 28, 2015

Want a eye opener? Yamazumi yourself!

Happy Holidays to everyone!  This is my last blog post for 2015, it's been a great and exciting year for us.  Teaching Lean Inc is looking forward to a very busy 2016 -- #lifeonplanes takes us to many places this coming year!  Follow us on our journey to #movetheneedle!

So I thought for a bit trying to come up with a end of year blog post and I brainstormed various subjects, some of which have been covered to some extent and some not as deeply.   I settled on one we discuss during our sessions that was taught to us very early on our learning path by our Japanese trainers.

So what is a Yamazumi chart?  Basically its a "stacked" bar chart that can illustrate various aspects of a process such as:

  •  Wait time
  •  Walk time
  •  Process time
  •  Machine time
  •  Set up time
  •  Rework/Repair
  •  Delay work
  •  Wait Kanban time
These are several of the elements to describe what can begin to create a yamazumi chart.    Other important factors to take into consideration are:
  • Process capacity
  • Machine capacity
  • Manpower capacity/level loading
  • Takt time (what does the customer need and it repeatable and attainable)
  •  Mix capabilities / level loading
What we find is that many organization (not just manufacturing) have a hard time answering these questions.   These were never asked in the beginning with a customer and assumptions, estimations, and opinions are made as to how to best produce our product, output or service.   Most are able to "wing it" and somehow at the end of the day, week or month we make it work.  But this process is often not repeatable/sustainable or the most value added way to do business in regard to company key performance indicators.  

Here is a picture of a Yamazumi chart being managed based on current state and what the standard should be.  

 As you can see there are many work elements (stacked magnets) that create the entire work process (some of which are the items above).   The red line going across is the standard takt expectation so we are clearly able to see the gaps at a glance.  This allows the trainer to re-balance or kaizen in order to meet the internal and external customer expectation.    It's a great visual tool to see abnormality very quickly as well as the team being involved with where they are in regard to the standard. 

Another valuable way I was taught the Yamazumi tool was to do this for my own personal work each day.   Basically it was a very intriguing way to learn what we actually "do" in a 40-50-60 hour work work and putting that work into categories like value add, non-value add, ancillary work, rework etc. 
Our trainers gave us this task to one understand how to track and measure, and two to gain an understanding of wasteful actions that we tend to accept as the norm.   So we tracked items like:

  • Training and development time (on the process/in classroom)
  • Gemba time (at the process)
  • One-on-one meetings
  • Staff meetings
  • Team leader meetings
  • Phone calls (differentiated by subject matter)
  • Andon call answer (or problem awareness discussions)
  • Kaizen time
  • Problem solving at the process
  • Scrap/Rework
  • Reoccurring problems
  • Human Resources 
  • Corrective action conferences (attendance issues etc)
  • KPI board management
  • Set-up work (before and after shift)
  • Shift to Shift meetings
  • Quality Circles
  • Safety task force
  • Productivity management
These are a few to get you started but by all means aren't meant to be an all inclusive list.  There are many items that come up daily we "react" to.  We have to determine whether or not its value add or non-value add to the customer/organization. 

When I document all the items I did for a full week I then began to put them into the categories that I mentioned above.   Some of them may go into a misc. category similar to a pareto chart.   Most you can categorize.   

What I found was amazing after doing the exercise.   A personal note- the more honest you are with your documentation and categorization the more you will learn.    After looking at all the categories and visualizing my week in a pie chart I made an important realization - that 30-35% of my work was actually non-value add to our organization and customer.   Now this doesn't mean I sat at my desk twiddling my thumbs, (some could be-lol) it means that there is no value in some action items you documented.  For example rework, or "do-overs" - having to deal with the same problems day after day.   Some would say only solving the symptom not the root cause.   There were many examples of that among other findings I was accepting as the norm.   Until I could actually visualize it some of the items were never considered as a gap to standard.  After that valuable lesson I never looked at what I did each day the same, it made me think at a different level and analyze actions and decisions I made and to teach that thinking to others. 

I also did this exercise with my own team leaders as a way to develop their thinking as well.  What we found as a team was enlightening.   We were actually able to re-balance a team leader to another area that was going through a minor model change.  We didn't have to hire another person, we utilized our current resources and maximized the value.   This was such a valuable lesson for me/us along our learning path (which never ends).   I encourage you to give it a try sometime.  Shoot for a 70-75% value added week.  It gives you a standard so you will be able to determine current state and see your gaps! As Nike says"  Just Do It! --- I say -- "Yamazumi Yourself!!" :) #yamazumiyourself !!  
Until next year
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Imagine a world without Standardization

We spend a lot of time with different industries across the U.S, and Canada working vertically with CEO’s to primary process owners and horizontally across the functional silo areas that create the order to customer value stream.  The majority of them understand the concept of standardization or standard work and feel strongly they are implementing the right things – some are very close.   Once we hone in on specificity of the steps we often uncover they are a bit vague, which can allow wiggle room for interpretation or preference by the individual.   One of our favorite responses when we discuss the importance of standardized work processes is – “but my job is creative and you can’t standardize my creativity!”  Our favorite response is – “we would never try to!”  We just want you to “create” in the most value-added way for the customer internally and externally taking in consideration of the greater product or service value stream.

Standardization is there for a couple of key reasons:

  1. 1.      To control the process not to constrict it (over-processing).
  2. 2.      To have a baseline/benchmark for improvement (kaizen).
  3. 3.      To have a documented process for training (JIT/TWI).
  4. 4.      To quickly see abnormality at a glance (problem solving).
  5. 5.      Elimination of unnecessary variation (quality/cost control).

So can everyone take a brief moment and imagine yourself about to have a surgical procedure and someone mentioned there wasn’t total accountability for the protocols taken to complete the surgery but they said we are “pretty sure” everything would be fine.  Are you good with the words “pretty sure?”  There are numerous standardized steps that must be followed in those situations to ensure patient health and safety.  I think we all are thrilled of the creative skills the doctor has gathered over their tenure, but our goal is to wake up with the issues resolved,  zero incidents, and not worry if everything step was taken or not.

Have you ever thought about our roadway systems without stop light signals?   We all know or should know the default “standard”, if the power goes out, that the intersection immediately implements a “4-way” stop process.   How many have seen the sustainability of the default process for over 5 minutes?    Most often we see chaos after a while and the potential for near misses and/or accidents to take place.    This situation is a great example of the quote I use – A good culture is what people do when you are not looking.   I know we all get frustrated when we get stopped by a yellow light, but I would rather have the standards in place than not mostly because I understand the purpose.

Lastly, if you have ever flown into a larger airport you know there is zero tolerance for not following the control tower standards.   What if several pilots decided that they wanted to get there faster and disregarded the instructions for what altitude, which runway, or time of landing.  Would you ever fly again if there was variation in that standard based on how creative the pilot wanted to be to bring us in based on their past training or experiences?

Point is, standards are all around us every single day, at stores, online shopping, banks, and countless other examples.  It’s amazing to actually stop and think about it in our personal lives- give it a try.   Our cultures drive us to put as much standardization that is needed at that given time knowing standards can change based on a situation/event or changing needs.  Since we were young we inherently know many of these standards through routine conditioning and have evolved as the world of technology and other thing have.   Think about the last time the high majority of you have gone inside to pay for gas at the pump.  We like this convenience and change, but we can’t seem to embed the same type of thinking in our work lives as easy.   Many are resistant to change even though it’s “suppose” to be better.   We have failed to explain purpose if this is where you find yourself as a leader. 

Taiichi Ohno said – “there can be no kaizen without a standard”, so if we don’t set a benchmark for improvement, training and variation then an organization/industry can leave themselves open for damaging situations not just with a customer, but their own branding.   There are a plethora of examples of companies not having enough standardization for quality and cost control and some weren’t able to change rapidly enough and lost customer trust. 

Just remember when we set a standard there must be a purpose for the steps involved (explain why it needs to be this way) if you are unable to clearly explain then you should reevaluate the decision process at each step.  Also create as much value as possible leaving the smallest wasteful steps out (reaching, walking, waiting and mental burden.)  Most importantly through this process involve your people, engage and discuss at the process - they know!

Until next time,
Tracey and Ernie Richardson


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Recognizing waste is a "Golden" Opportunity at Kinross Round Mountain Gold Corporation

Ernie and I have been blessed to be a part of the learning journey with our friends at Kinross Gold Mine, in Round Mountain, Nevada.  We had the distinct pleasure of meeting several of their continuous improvement team back in 2012, and it is been a true learning "excursion" for us all.   We often admit they are one of our unique clients in location and their gemba is just indescribable (see pic above). The term "going to the gemba" has been redefined for us at Kinross to say the least.  There was absolutely nothing that could prepare us for the trek outward to Round Mountain (4 hours from Las Vegas).

  The sheer natural beauty that surrounds the mine, residing at approximately 6065 ft. elevation; as well as the internal anxiety I had my first trip out.  So imagine if you can for a moment going "home" (within eyeshot of your work every day), and all your neighbors are your co-workers.  Imagine going to the local grocery store and you know everyone's face that surrounds you.  Think of a place where there is no traffic, no stop lights, no Walmart or shopping opportunities, no fast food or restaurant chains,  just people living simply between spectacular mountain ranges where a vast amount of wild animals roam freely. 
Each worker, regardless of their level in the organization, goes to their process each day as if they were an owner which invests them all towards their future.  Without the efforts put into succeeding, failure would most likely result in uprooting their families, one that now have children who work there.  The town of Round Mountain combined with the mine and the workforce have created an all-inclusive community for their people which includes a K-12 school, library, recreation center, fitness center, golf course, post office, gas station, grocery store, daycare and churches. 

Our Kinross family enjoyed watching us "acclimate"  at our very first session in 2013 to life between the mountain ranges, but what we all didn't realize that it was the start of a great opportunity to visualize together how to do business a bit differently.  We excitingly admit that after a "Kinross training session" we can feel the enthusiasm for change in the air and the urgent motivation from everyone to get back to their roles and make an impact.  The energy there is contagious, and the discipline and accountability for actions are inching towards the norm.  After almost two years of training (customized for Kinross by Teaching Lean Inc.) and demonstrating learned knowledge at the gemba their recent improvement efforts at the mine have shown early success.  This has created an environment where the majority of the workforce are empowered and have become invigorated by the opportunity to extend the mine life and improve the way they do business.  They are evolving towards an environment where employees feel like they can share their ideas and make change happen.  Much of their workforce has taken ownership in the overall improvement effort and the need to change for the better.

As many of you know the price of gold is controlled by the market so flexibility and adaptability is crucial to when prices are on the lower side.  As history has shown us when the price of gold drops; so can employment in the form of layoffs, and cutbacks and mines may have to close the doors to their operations.  As Ernie and I make that trek from Las Vegas to Round Mountain, we are often reminded along the way of the once booming towns that are now just an eerie remnant of what the market can do if an organization does not apply forward thinking.  Round Mountain Gold is working diligently through developing their people and improving processes to avoid another deserted town in the canyons of Nevada.  They are very aware that the price of gold and ore reserves will determine the mine life unless they are all willing (entire value stream) to do business differently. 

Everyone is vested and realizes their job security depends on their ability to think their way into mining more effectively and efficiently.   RMGC is comprised of 900 employees – approximately 1,000 (including contractors at the mine).  Their vertical roles start with their General Manager “equivalent President level", Department Managers, Superintendents, General Foremen, Supervisors, Leads, and workforce.  All the functional areas (silos) of the mine have to work together to optimize production & efficiency of mining/processing.

Some have been intrigued and asked - "What is the value stream of a mine?"  So at a high level I can describe that it starts with: 

Geological determination (where does the gold reside) >> Mine planning>>Mining>>Hauling>>Processing>>Milling>>Leaching>> Refining>> Gold Bar

Let me share just one example of how waste was discovered at RMGC through the development of people.  So looking a bit closer at the "hauling" value stream:

Some of the work is done with excavators and front end loaders, so the areas of focus that can impact company KPI's are-- (productivity,hang, load and operational delay time)

Once loaded, hauling is an integral part to getting the ore to the next step of the value stream which is processing.  RMGC utilizes a fleet of 785 (150 ton), 789 (200 ton), 793 (260 ton) type hauling trucks.  (I will have to admit the tires on some of these are almost as tall as my house).   The granular value stream steps they are keying on are:   Motion waste, truck exchange time, load time, travel w/load time, dump time, travel empty back to loading equipment.  This is all considered cycle time.

So, in short- optimum utilization of haul trucks (improve productive time) & loading equipment is crucial to their business:
        Reducing operation delays
o   equipment inspection
o   fueling
o   blasting
o   scheduled break times
o   shift & shift change

There are various value streams but looking at one focus area>> a 793 Haul Truck with a capacity of 260 tons, a grossly generalized number would be about 1 oz of gold per load (~$1,150/oz.) With 800 loads per day, and the improvement of overall utilization of equipment; an extra five loads per day can be achieved. This practice demonstrates the application of the "One Second Rule" we often use in our sessions and have written about in previous blogs.  So if waste can be reduced in the value stream, then five extra loads of ore moved per day equates to approximately 2,000 more ounces each year.  You can do the math.  Amazing when you look at each specific value stream how it can contribute to the overall in grand ways. We call this cost translation.  This is one of many examples of waste elimination that results in adding more value and positively affecting productivity and costs.   

So rather than accepting closure of the mine as the fate of many before them, the employees of Round Mountain Gold are proactively working together to raise the "gold" bar and continue to learn and build on the successes they are achieving each day.  They have to lead, empower, engage and challenge each other believing that future "mine life" is totally possible and attained through continuous improvement and people development.

Kinross Round Mountain Gold mine with the support of Teaching Lean Inc. will be telling their "story" of how they are changing the way they are doing business differently to extend the life of their mine and uniquely created community at the Lean Transformation Summit in March of 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.   If you are interested in learning more about them and being a part of the Summit, go to  

Ernie and I would like to personally thank:
Frank Wagener, Vicente Ramirez, and Deanna Hall for all their hard work and willingness to share some insight to their business practices and helping us share this very unique blog.  They are part of the continuous improvement team at Kinross Round Mountain, they are truly visionaries and change agents for Kinross, and we are thankful to call them friends.  We look forward to seeing your future evolve through people development.

Until next time, 
Tracey and Ernie Richardson 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lean Leadership "Unplugged" Webcast Recording

HI Everyone,
If you missed the live webcast today facilitated by Chris Burnham - Featuring myself, Ernie Richardson, Sam MacPherson, and Jamie Flinchbaugh.  We were discussing many aspects of #Lean #Leadership as a prelude to the Summit on Lean Leadership next month in partnership with Lean Frontiers next month in Atlantic Beach, FL.

Please check out this link to watch -

Come join us in sunny Florida next month!!!
Until Next time
Tracey Richardson