Saturday, September 26, 2009

WHY is asking "WHY" so important?

How many times have you thought you have solved a problem just to be plagued by its unwelcomed return? This is not only frustrating for you but think of the team members within your company trying to do their job and the "same ole" problems are hindering them each day. By NOT getting to the root cause of a problem this situation can be a costly act for the company, as well as break the mutual trust between you and your workforce since a leader's responsibility is to serve their customers (the team members).

It is important to ask WHY repeatedly when visiting the GEMBA to determine what is current happening versus what should be happening. In many cases we stop at a symptom to the problem because we are often pressured for results and quickly solving the problem without going past the symptom seems to be the best answer.

By repeatedly asking WHY, you can practice the "Go and See" trait to uncover the layers of symptoms that can lead to the root cause of a problem. Very often the first reason for a problem will lead you to another question then to another. Although some label it the "5 WHY's" you may find that you will need to ask the question fewer or more times than five before you find the issue that is responsible for the problem.

An important key factor to asking WHY is to determine the Cause and Effect relationship between the WHY's. This shows the relationship of given factors or cause that lead to the given situation "or effect" that is happening with the process. A rule or practice that I use is asking WHY or BECAUSE downward as we identify the root cause, and then to test the logic we ask THEREFORE upward back to the problem.

For example:

My car will not start (the problem)
WHY? The battery is dead (first why)
WHY? The alternator is not functioning properly (second why)
WHY? The alternator belt was broken (third why)
WHY? The alternator belt had worn over time (fourth why)
WHY? Owner had not replaced belt at recommended interval (fifth why) - ROOT CAUSE

So what happens if we keep asking WHY? How do we know when to STOP?

A couple of common rules I tend to teach by is:
  • when the problem changes context by asking another why.
  • when we tend to blame behaviors in people.
  • when it is out of our control or scope.
Let's look at an example that ask WHY too many times.
I overslept today (The problem)
  • WHY? My alarm clock didn't go off
  • WHY? The clock wasn't registering the time
  • WHY? The Clock was flashing on and off
  • WHY? There was a power failure or interruption
  • WHY? Lightning hit a nearby transformer
  • WHY? There was a storm
  • WHY? Barometric pressure changes in the atmosphere
  • WHY? Hot air and Cold air interact
  • WHY? Seasonal changes on the Earth
  • WHY? The Earth rotates.
When did we need to stop in that chain of WHYS? When could we have effectively countermeasured the problem?
If you are countermeasuring "storms" or "earth rotation" you have gone too far, this is out of your control. Will countermeasuring the storm solve the actual problem of oversleeping? These are the questions you ask to determine when you are at the actual root cause.
So the next time you are at the GEMBA remember a few of these rules to effectively getting to root cause and past a symptom. This will not only help your team members but effect cost and productivity as well. Till next time,
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Seven Mudas (Wastes)-- Are you recognizing them?

What is WASTE? What does it mean to a Company or to the Customer? When we talk about waste within a company we tend to classify it as any activity that takes up company resources that does NOT create value for the customer. Some say its work the customer is NOT willing to pay for. The problem is for many companies they do not recognize waste and tend to pass on these hidden costs. I suppose this is acceptable if the customer is willing to pay for it, but its optimal when a company can recognize its waste, therefore not passing this on. If recognized it can potentially create more profit for long term sustainability and job security. Its a win win situation for both the customer and company.

So what are we looking for out there? Do we have a process for recognizing waste?

Within the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno put waste into Seven different categories:
  • Over Production
  • Waiting
  • Conveyance
  • Over Processing
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Correction
Let's take a look at these a little closer.
Over Production happens when "Just in time" to the customer isn't followed. It allows you to produce, because you can, at a rate that is normally faster than customer demand. These products are then "stockpiled" for a "rainy" day or whatever reason to meet the need at any given time. This waste normally "hides" or "masks" problems since there are plenty of parts stored in any empty space found (Sometimes even warehouses). This is one of the worst waste categories there are because it leads to excess Inventory (another waste) which leads to increasing costs for the company and customer. Other aspects companies do not think about is the Quality control processes with Over Production, it is very hard to control versus a first in first out process.
Waiting takes place when an operator may have idle time when waiting on machines, parts, or production. If fluctuations happen in production volumes, waiting can be seen as more than process related. Entire lines can be effected by Over production, and part shortages can create a snowball effect to others in the process. As you will see these 7 Wastes are all interrelated.
Conveyance is necessary to many production areas in the form of "water-spiders" or production control logistics due to the nature of transferring parts from place to place. Many consider Conveyance itself to be muda or waste. What companies must look at is "how" we transport product or materials and are we doing it the most effective/efficient way. It's important to look at the shortest routes, maximizing space on the truck, the Heijunka (part leveling) of parts taken (highest demand to lowest) and contain sizes. These are just a few ways to look at waste in conveyance.
Over Processing is the one most often confused with Over Production. What is the difference you may ask? Over-processing is happening within a process at the Gemba (work-site) can be equipment, resources or people related. For example, if a machine/mold is responsible for cutting out the sunroof opening on the Roof Headliner wouldn't you want that machine to do it in the most efficient and effective way possible. One of the lessons the Japanese taught me was to look for unnecessary motion in equipment. In this case was the machine traveling open too far creating extra time for the cycle time? If the machine time could be cut by 10 seconds it can prevent team members waiting on the machine and add more value to the process instead. These are the types of Over processing wastes we were taught to look for in regard to equipment. Its a very common waste most overlook.
Inventory is related to Over production. Its a very costly waste to the company in regard to excess space, storage and quality control methods. Again it happens when "just in time" isn't being followed to customer demand or takt time. This can be in the form of raw materials, work in process, and finished parts.
Motion is one of my favorites to look for at the GEMBA. These are motions within the process that do NOT add value to the customer or product. These can be see as excess walk time, simple actions of picking up a hand full of screws and orientating them in your hand correctly, reaching too far or in unacceptable ergonomic positions, repetitive actions not being streamlined, and many others in regard to an operators path in completing their work or parts orientation. Sometimes motion can be interrelated to the Heijunka of parts coming down the line, if a flow rack isn't correctly stocked depending upon the part leveling then a lot of wasted motion can occur in unnecessary trips or steps to the flow rack. It's another common waste that is accepted as the "norm" at the GEMBA.
Correction means we do not get it right the first time. It's when we must recreate a product or part because of a quality issue or discrepancy within the process. It can also be in the form of inspection. If a operator doesn't build in Jidoka the first time, re-inspection may need to occur and this is considered a waste in time and manpower. If scrap or rework is high in your company then a daily go and see should be happening to determine current situation.
I hope this has helped to explain the Seven Wastes as described by Taichii Ohno.... if focused upon can change the way you look at your processes therefore adding value to the customer.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson