Saturday, May 20, 2017

An early release story from The Toyota Engagement Equation (Problem Solving)

Tracking Down a Perplexing Problem

Hey blog readers - I got permission to share just one of the many stories from The Toyota Engagement Equation.  This story is about going to see, and finding the point of occurrence.  It is a relentless attempt to find one scratch by a trainer and a supervisor!  Enjoy! More to come soon! The book will only be at a discounted rate about 5-6 more weeks.  Click the link above to pre-order! 

 One day a team member at TMMK noticed an intermittent scratch occurring on one of the interior parts. The team member  pulled the andon to alert the team leader, since it had occurred more than once. The team leader looked at the process carefully and confirmed that the scratch hadn’t been created by equipment, another part, or a person. A deeper observation of the standard work and discussions with the team member failed to uncover any potential causes that could be re-created. The vendor who provided the part was then asked to do a process confirmation to ensure that the defect wasn’t occurring within its processes. The supervisor at the vendor did the same level of checks. (At TMMK, we worked with our vendors so that they followed the same approach to these situations as we did.) After the vendor was unable to find any indication of the defect in its processes, the only logical conclusion was that the defect was occurring in the transportation of the parts from the vendor to TMMK. These particular parts were being shipped in truckloads (each truck was considered a kanban) of approximately 80 sets, that is, the number of sets needed for 80 cars. 
To find out where in the transportation process the defects occurred, the team decided to have somebody “ride” with the parts. They designed a safe way for the supervisor to sit in the back of the truck during the entire trip and equipped that person with a radio to pass on observations as they occurred. The first ride yielded no clues as to where the problem was occurring. The parts went in without a scratch, and came off the truck without any. The same occurred the next day, and after several days of this, it was becoming more and more a mystery as to why this was happening. Then, a few days later, the defect appeared again. Each side did their confirmations as before, and were honestly becoming a little frustrated. How could they ever get to the root cause of this intermittent problem? 
They decided that they would take another ride with the parts to just be sure there wasn’t something they had missed on the previous observations. Grasp the Situation.
As the supervisor boarded the truck along with the parts, he strapped in for the ride with eyes wide open. On this particular journey, something happened that hadn’t happened the other ride-alongs. About halfway between the two facilities, there was a jolt as if the truck had hit a large bump in the road. Most trucks aren’t equipped with the kind of shock absorption you get in a passenger car, so it gave a little “jump” to all the parts in the truck. The parts were suddenly lifted by about four to five inches, and then came crashing down. The supervisor radioed the driver and asked, “Did you hit something? We had a good bounce back here!” The driver said, “No, I didn’t see anything.” But then he added, “Usually I have to stop at the light here because this is a very busy intersection, but this time I made the light. 
There’s an indentation in the road just past the light, but we only get a bounce from it when we make the light and are driving at our normal speed.” After a few questions, the supervisor determined that the driver made the light 10 to 15 percent of the time, and the bounce had occurred when the truck was traveling at the speed limit of 35 mph. So the point of occurrence was identified as the back of the truck at the point where it crossed that particular indentation in the road, but only when the truck made the light and was traveling at 35 mph.
 This led to more precise observations. There were parts of the truck van that were more affected than others, and it turned out that the defects were coming from parts at the rear end of the truck that were at the bottom of their particular stack. It also turned out that some were covered with plastic foam better than others. So as you can see, the point of occurrence can be very elusive, and it can take a lot of observation, grasping the situation, and open discussion to uncover it.

Of course countermeasures were put in place to address the issue as short term and longer term since the indentations of the road path of the opposite traffic couldn't be fixed easily nor within their control.  This is a great example of the depth of going to see, otherwise they would have continued to fight symptoms! 

Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

PDCA thinking and the NCAA March Madness tournament

#Crossblogging with this week!

Click on the link to go to The Lean Post to view and give feedback!!

PDCA thinking and the NCAA March Madness Tournament

Check it out!!

Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardsoni

Friday, March 3, 2017

Valuing the Customer --My Lexus service experience!

Hello everyone, it's hard to believe its March already!  I wanted to share a personal experience with our blog readers with this post.   Ernie and I have been conditioned over the years to always look for different types of lean thinking examples in everyday life.   We often think the best examples are all around us we just have to look closely for them and ask questions if folks are willing to answer.   They can always say No, but what we find is if you take and interest in what someone does every day many take pride in what they do and our excited you asked.

We were home from work travel this week and my car was due for it's regular service at 10,000 miles and have a tire replaced from a nail picked up.   We live in Ormond Beach, FL so the closest Lexus dealership is Lexus of Orlando which is about an hour away.   I have been there before but this time I wanted to take a little deeper dive into their process and my service representative, who was very nice and willing to share part of her standardized work for each day; and how visual management, reducing wait-time for the customer, and ensuring communication takes place at each step of the process.

I know other dealerships may have some level of this but this isn't the norm from my experience (please share in the comments below your experiences).  I love that the "Relentless pursuit of Perfection" isn't just about building a Lexus, but also about servicing the vehicle after the fact.  

The process starts here with a scanner that reads the RFID sticker that is placed on the top back side of the rear view mirrors so the customer really never sees it.   These stickers are also placed on the Lexus loaner vehicles they give you while your car is being serviced.   The loaner car is numbered and the assigned to you.  When you return to the dealer to pick up your vehicle the scanner lets your customer service representative know you are on site and you are greeted by name when you exit the loaner car, they are already working on getting you out before you are out of the car.  Great reduction of wait time there.

This customer identification process is also visible to anyone in the service area in the form of  monitors placed throughout the drive-in lanes.  This gives you and them a quick visual as to where you are in the process.   It can also signal when manpower may need to be re-balanced and brought in to account for certain times of the day with a rush of vehicles that may have an appointment and some that may not.   It's a great leading indicator to adjust real time to the customer demand when everything can't always be planned.

As soon as you arrive it is as if you are on a time clock.  A individual supporting the service representatives places a visual placard on your car stating who you are, what time your appointment was and when you arrived.  This is to allow the Lexus service team measure how long it takes a vehicle to get in and out to it's designated area.  For my experience I drove in (it was busy service lanes were almost full)  I was out of my vehicle, greeted, asked if I wanted anything from the cafe', and was sent to my service representatives office.  About 4 min.   I witnessed my car being moved forward in the process to the next stage in their process.   Here is an example of the time care placard placed on each car to measure their takt time.

One of the aspects of the process I found that was so convenient for me was the text communication as to the status of my car at any given time.  Our world and market place is a lot more tech oriented than it ever has been.  There may be a smaller percentage that aren't able to communicate this way, but that is being flexible to the customer need.  For the majority the preference is to not play voice-mail tag during a busy work day, and real-time communication is much easier in the world of text messaging.  I had several communications back and forth regarding my service and it was resolved and decided on in less than a minute, a win-win for both sides.

After I returned for my vehicle I was telling my service representative Caitlin my background with Toyota and what I did for a living and that I was going to write a blog about my experience.  She was nice enough to take the time to show me the visual friend at her desk called Mimo.   Mimo was her small visual board cascading from the larger boards out in the service drive-in lanes. (Similar to micro to macro KPI boards) This let her know her "plan for the day" and where she was at any given time and what was next or anything not planned.   Notice I came up on the list and was being processed as my loaner car came through.  I just loved the real time communication, greeting and attention to detail for the customer.   Owning a Lexus is not just about the car but the total experience from purchase to service to daily driving.  They make each customer feel it and leave there knowing their time matters and their needs when they are there.   If you decide to wait on your car if its just an oil change there are massage chairs, Ipad stations, quiet cubicles to work, and a cafe with free food and drinks that will keep you comfortable while you wait with the ability to text at any given time for an update.

Lastly, Caitlin walked me through the paperwork, and took me to the car for a complete walk through for customer satisfaction confirmation.  I thanked her for the extra time she spent with me allowing the questions and pictures I captured to share my story.    I was thinking about a blog post the whole time I was there because I feel servicing your car can often frustrate folks even a bit of a drudgery in there.   I feel Lexus and probably other dealerships are trying to make the service an experience as much as purchasing or driving it daily.  I was impressed.  It's the little things that make you smile.  A personal card left on my dash thanking me for my time!  Which they made minimal!  Thank you, Caitlin and the Lexus of Orlando team for going above and beyond!   Also I loved the glimpse of the new LC500 brochure!  Could that be next-------------!!?? 

Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Looking for split seconds in NASCAR could mean a win or not!


Wanted to share my post on The Lean Post.   Crossblogging in order to share with others!  

Looking for split seconds in NASCAR could mean a win or not.  
Click here to read the post!!

Coming very soon a post about my experience with Lean thinking at my Lexus dealership! :)

Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Getting to Sustainability

Hi folks,
Happy New Year 2017!  Hope everyone's year is getting off to a great start!

I want to "crossblog" a column we wrote for The Lean Post through The Lean Enterprise Institute!

Here is the link to the column on the Lean Post! The Lean Post - Getting to Sustainability  You can also check out other daily posts there!  Great way to share many examples of Lean Thinking!

Getting to Sustainability

Most folks think of GTS as a simple acronym for “Grasp The Situation.” This is a helpful way to think about problem solving (PDCA), because it conditions ourselves to go and see in order to effectively grasp the situation.  In order to solve problems or make improvements, first we want to determine the current state and measure it against the known standard or the ideal state. The key is to measure; without a measure it’s very hard to know exactly what to improve, or whether there is improvement. 
Ernie and I have found that there’s not just one, or two, but in fact six powerful GTS acronyms that we believe form the basis of we call Toyota’s “Engagement Equation” (we have a book on this topic coming out in May of this year from McGraw-Hill.) We have come up with this set of principles as a way to share a process of thinking we were taught by our trainers at Toyota that was the foundation of our cultural climate. It’s a cyclical process that steps through PDCA thinking all the way through to continuous improvement.  Every step is tangible and requires an action, followed by questions and fact based answers, through go and see. 
Get To Sustain (GTS5) is one of them.
Sustaining gains from kaizen thinking is one of the hardest, and certainly most misunderstood, aspects of this work. It’s misunderstood because the actual change takes place at the beginning of the journey. Sustaining the improvement requires ongoing tracking and auditing, which we can categorize as change point management, or the discipline behind true continuous improvement. Some companies would say sustaining gains is much more difficult than creating the gains in the first place.
That’s because of a pattern we often see with companies practicing lean: a challenge when trying to “normalize” lean thinking on a daily basis. In some organizations people are often excited to find how much progress they can make as they internalize the potential of the tools they are learning to use. They often achieve dramatic gains. But then…the daily work or line of sight to the KPIs yields less and less tangible new progress. The novelty of the new approach wears off, and it gets harder and harder to visualize those gains. What started with a bang gradually becomes a daily whimper, a journey with no end—and with no end to the hard work. This can often lower the morale of an organization, especially when resources are removed.
This is the crucial moment where companies generally face the choice (whether they realize it or not) between fully committing to the hard work of lean transformation—or simply experiencing it as a flavor of the month.
Look, we know just how very hard sustaining the gains from any continuous improvement work can be. In our experience at Toyota, standardization was really the key to any continuous improvement initiative we did. As Taiichi Ohno stated, “without a standard there can be no Kaizen.”  So, for example, the minor and major model changes at Toyota required a micro level daily PDCA tracking system that met the macro (monthly and yearly) status in order to roll out a new model without ever stopping the line (the standard for today). The standardization behind that is the “DNA” (discipline and accountability) to know what the expectations are and having leaders constantly monitoring gap to standard. Without this thinking it would be a daunting task to sustain with the daily/monthly gains of progress needed to meet the 5-year long-term goal.
Every company that has made improvements will find their progress challenged by both external and internal factors. Markets and supplier capabilities and above all customer expectations are constantly in flux, while the basic challenge of keeping key people on board, make the notion of sustaining the gains seem more like an illusion than a daily practice. I think in our personal lives we really have high expectations of standardization and routines. For example, when we go to a grocery store we expect a high level of standardization. We like the aisles labeled, prices visible, and we get used to where things are so it lessens the amount of lead-time it takes to do our shopping. If a grocery store didn’t maintain or look at better ways to display their goods and decided to change that standard weekly or just put it out there in the middle of the floor, it would create frustration, chaos and lengthen our time shopping. When it comes to our professional or work life we don’t often see the same importance of standardization as we do for or local grocery stores. I ask folks to individually be the “model home” on everything they can influence first, so that those actions can then become the “pull” for others to want to learn more, versus a push system of learning.
We’ve found one of the best ways to GTS5—Get to Sustainability—is through the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These indicators fall into two categories: lagging and leading. Lagging indicators are results-oriented, in that they appear after the fact. Leading indicators, on the other hand, measure what is happening in a process in real time: they let us know when we are operating out of standard and provide an opportunity to respond immediately.  An easy way to explain the difference in leading versus lagging indicators is to ask an organization this question.  Would you rather manage your problems or have your problems manage you? If you look for leading indicators you will be able to be more predictive; if you focus on lagging indicators you will stay in reactive mode.


So, how should you start identifying and using your leading indicators? The key is by taking a close look at your daily processes. Go to the gemba and ask your team members how their processes are going and where they might be having issues. Consider a regular “how’s your process?” (HYP) check: a daily touch-point for supervisors to go see if people are experiencing any emerging issues. This gives you the capability to engage with the process owner and develop countermeasures in real time so it doesn’t get to the next process.
And never forget that the most important element of getting to sustainability has to do with your people. As leaders your job is to develop people, and so it helps to create indicators that reveal any real-time threats to the healthy culture you need for continuous improvement. When we worked at Toyota, for example, we saw how senior managers reacted immediately to circumstances that might lead to potential morale issues. If machinery wasn’t working properly, they were as worried about worker frustration as they were about delayed production.


So it was common for our leaders, all the way up to the President, to walk up to a team member on the line and ask, “how’s your day going?” and then “how’s the family?” Ernie and I both remember Mr. Cho visiting our areas several times, just asking questions and offering to help in anyway possible. Our thoughts truly mattered to him and to Toyota, and that was the biggest secret of sustaining our unique culture.
Remember that Get To Sustain is really a journey that never ends. Whenever there is success based on a new countermeasure, we know that this will not survive unless we work constantly to preserve the gains that we have made and ensure we have the proper standards in place to meet the internal and external customers.
Learn more at the Richardson's Learning Session "Understanding and Implementing a Continuous Improvement Culture in Any Organization" at the 2017 Lean Transformation Summit on March 7-8 in Carlsbad, Cali. Learn more and register here.

Until next time, 
Ernie and Tracey Richardson