Tag: Lean Operations

Lean Healthcare – Sunnybrook Surgeons given a hands-off way to Kinect

Kinect for Xbox 360 logo
Image via Wikipedia

An article in today’s Toronto Star titled “Surgeons given a hands-off way to Kinect” clearly demonstrates how improvements can be realized in our work environment.  One of the concerns in the operating room is maintaining a sterile field during surgery.  Doctors cannot physically touch any devices away from the sterile field for fear of breaking it and have only 1 of 2 choices if they need to review MRI’s or CT scans:

  1. Scrub in and out every time, which according to the article can add up to two (2) hours per surgery, or
  2. Hire an assistant to page through the records for them.

In the search for a better way, Matt Strickland, a first year surgical resident at the University of Toronto and electrical engineer, and Jamie Tremaine, a mechatronics engineer, who both studied engineering at the University of Waterloo, joined forces to help solve this problem.  Together, they devised a system using the XBox Kinect with the help of Greg Brigley, a computer engineer and also a University of Waterloo graduate.

Using their technology, doctors can now scroll through as many as 4,000 documents using simple hand motions, literally integrating access to information into the surgical process without jeopardizing the sterile field.

Why is this significant?

Matt Strickland was the assistant providing the necessary “documents” to the doctors performing the surgery.  This is a very impressive application of thinking outside of the box.  I highly encourage you to read the article.  Serendipity is seldom the source of repeatable innovations, however, in this instance we’ll take it just the same.

This example demonstrates another reason to include everyone in the problem solving process and also reaffirms that there is always a better way.  You just don’t know where your next solution will find its roots.

On a final note, I have to wonder if the creators of XBox even considered this application!

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics
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Lean – Sunnybrook Doctors Benefit From Gaming Technology

Contingency Planning For Lean Operations – Part III

Contingency Planning for Lean Operations – Part III

 

Deaths spark huge crib recall” was the main headline of today’s Toronto Star (24-Nov-09).  This recall was the result of 4 infant deaths and affects up to 2.1 million units sold.  Click here to access the full article.  This announcement has made headlines throughout North America and is certain to be featured on all of the major network news stations.

Managing a major product recall is likely one of the more significant events where contingency plans are fully executed and developed.  As tragic or unfortunate as the events may be, it is imperative for a company to manage the recall event in professional and responsible manner.  While it may seem difficult to prepare for an event that has not yet occurred, learning to anticipate the sequence of events to recovery and to script are necessary steps to developing an effective contingency plan.

What are the elements of an effective contingency plan?

We will be covering the elements of an effective contingency plan over the next few posts.  Before we get too far into the process, it is important to recognize that one of the critical skills required as part of the contingency planning process is the ability to perform an effective risk assessment.

It is not our intent to cover all aspects regarding risk assessments and analysis as this would require a book in itself.

A newly released book, The Failure of Risk Management – Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It, by Douglas W. Hubbard (copyright 2009) and published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., provides extensive insight and resources to perform effective Risk Management Assessments and Analysis.  The reasons why some risk management methods fail or are susceptible to failure are also covered in detail.

As exemplified in the opening article, there is no real means to measure the net effect or impact of a recall campaign of this magnitude.  Elements such as Consumer Confidence, Brand Loyalty, Loss of Life, or Warranty are difficult to value in tangible terms.

Unfortunately, there are too many examples of crisis events where the knowledge was available to rectify or fix the situation before any tragic event occurred.  As heard in many workplaces, “Why is that nothing is done until something bad happens?”

An effective contingency planning is not only designed to manage tragic or crisis events, it should also aid to identify potential failure modes that can be captured and addressed before a product is ever released for mass production or to market.  Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: (Highly unlikely …)
    • Jill:  What if the part fails?
    • Jack:  We’ll recall it.
    • Jill:  How will we do that?
    • Jack:  We have an excellent recall management process

What if the dialogue took a different turn as follows:

  • Scenario 2:  (More likely …)
    • Jill:  What if the part fails?
    • Jack:  What could possibly go wrong?  It’s perfect.
    • Jill:  Engineering said it barely passed the tests.
    • Jack:  Well, maybe we should take another look at the design.
    • Jill:  Great, you know we can’t risk a recall.

Developing a Contingency Plan – The Process

1.  Corporate Responsibilities – Charter

If contingency planning ever concerns an individual person in the company directly, it is the Chief Executive Officer or the president who are personally at risk of significant legal ramifications and also the greatest level of exposure.

This past year Maple Leaf Foods experienced a major Listeria outbreak at one of their food processing facilities.  Contaminated product reached the market place resulting in illness and loss of life.  A major recall was initiated and the company immediately initiated corrective actions.  During this crisis, the CEO took personal responsibility for public relations, communicating the strategy, and ultimately overseeing the recovery process.

The CEO or President should be leading the charge for the development of contingency plans and to assure their effectiveness.  To this end, it is also imperative that the team responsible for formulating the plan includes a cross-section of people from across the company.

The CEO or President will also want to assure that everyone is trained to respond to events that pertain their specific areas of responsibility.

2.  Contingency Planning – Form a Team

As we mentioned in our previous posts, contingency planning is an enterprise-wide process.  The collective intelligence of the team is greater than that of any team member.

You should consider the skill sets that may be required to support the team.  Although we are not suggesting that you need to be an expert in probability theory or statistics, someone having exposure to these types of assessment tools or an outside consultant may be worth the effort.

It is not possible for one committee to prepare contingency plans for every area in the company.  When forming teams, how the skills and levels of expertise required to support the team in one area may be vastly different for another area.  For example, Product Engineering and Operations will have different failure modes to contend with.

To ensure the appropriate resources are available, we recommend that  executive management or a steering committee are assigned to oversee the contingency planning and development process.

Based on some of the scenarios cited in this post, it would stand to reason that most CEO’, Presidents, and / or owners are primary stake holders in the Contingency Planning process.

More will follow:

  • Performing Risk Assessments
  • Contingency Planning Tools
  • Do The DRILL
  • Publish
  • Review

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Contingency Planning For Lean Operations – Part I

Contingency Planning For Lean Operations – Part I

Lean operations are driven by effective planning and efficient execution of core activities to ensure optimal performance is achieved and sustained.  The very nature of lean requires extreme attention to detail through all phases of planning and execution.  Upstream operations simply cannot tolerate any disruptions in product supply or process flow without the risk of incurring significant downtime costs or other related losses.

Effective risk management methods, contingency plans, and loss prevention strategy are critical components of successful operations management in a lean operation.  Risk management and preventing disruptions is the subject of contingency planning and requires the participation of all team members.

Successful contingency planning assures the establishment of an effective communication strategy and identification of core activities and actions required.  Contingency plans may require alternative methods, processes, systems, sources, or services and must be verified, validated, and tested prior to implementation.

Understanding and assessing the potential risks to your operation is the basis for contingency planning with the objective to minimize or eliminate potential losses.

Inventory represents the most basic form of contingency planning.  Safety stock or buffer inventories are typically used to minimize the effects of equipment downtime or disruptions in the supply chain. 

The levels of inventory to maintain are dependent on a number factors including Lead Time, Value, Carrying Cost, Transit Time (Distance), Shelf Life, Minimum Order Quantities, Payment Terms, and Obsolescence.

Why is this relevant?

Material and Labour represent two key resources that may be influenced by external factors that are beyond the control of any company policy or practice.  Internally controlled or managed resources such facilities, equipment, and tooling are less susceptible to unknown elements.  For the purposes of this discussion, we will examine Labour in a little more detail.

The H1N1 virus, originally known as the Swine Flu, is the latest potential health pandemic since the outbreak of SARS only a few years ago.  The government has been struggling to organize mass immunization clinics and to engage the media to aid in the cause.  In the meantime, the potential impact of the H1N1 virus on your operation remains to be an unknown. 

Experts have commented to the media that the lessons from the SARS outbreak have still not been learned.  One would expect that past practices would have already been adopted into new best practices from our experiences with other similar events in our history.

Government agencies at all levels (Federal, Provincial, and local) have mismanaged the activities required to procure and distribute the vaccine, and failed to provide an effective communication and immunization strategy to ensure the risk to public health was minimized and the at the very least understood.

The lack of coordination and accountability for the success or failure of the communication strategy, procurement and distribution of the vaccine, and other related activities are strong indicators that the planning process did not consider the infrastructure requirements and relationships needed between levels of government.

The lack of an effective communication strategy introduced confusion and speculation in the media and the general public.  Mass education only seemed to become more aggressive as incidents of severe H1N1 complications and related deaths were reported in the media.

If this really was a pandemic event, many operations today would (and may still) be adversely affected due to direct or indirect (supply chain) labour shortages.  Do you have contingency plans in place to address this concern?

It could be argued that “if we are affected to this extent, then our customers will be as well.”  This is not necessarily true unless your customers and / or suppliers are located in the same immediate area or region of your business.

People travel all the time, whether they are commuting to work from out-of-town or traveling to or arriving from a foreign country on business.  The source of exposure is beyond your immediate control. 

What other elements can directly impact labour?  We will explore some of these in our next post.  In the meantime, keep your hands washed and remember to cough into your sleeve.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Unexpected and Appreciated – Uncommon Courtesy:  This morning, a person cut into the drive through lane ahead of us – not realizing the gap in the line was there for thru traffic.  Recognizing the error in drive through etiquette and to make amends, we were pleasantly surprised by the “free” coffee at the pick up window.  Thank you ladies!

Variance, Waste, and OEE

What gets managed MUST be measured – Including VARIANCE.

It is easy to get excited about the many opportunities that a well implemented LEAN Strategy can bring to your organization.  Even more exciting are the results.

Achieving improvement objectives implies that some form of measurement process exists – the proof.  A clear link should be established to the metric you choose and the activity being managed to support the ongoing improvement initiatives.

Measure with Meaning

Why are you “collecting” OEE data?  While OEE can and should be used to measure the effectiveness of your manufacturing operations, OEE on its own does not present a complete solution.  It is true that OEE presents a single metric that serves as an indicator of performance, however, it does not provide any insight with respect to VARIANCES that are or may be present in the system.

We have encountered numerous operations where OEE data can be very misleading.  OEE data can be calculated using various measurement categories:  by machine, part number, shift, employee, supervisor, department, day, month, and so on.

VARIANCE:  the leading cause of waste!

Quality professionals are more than familiar with variance.  Statistically capable processes are every quality managers dream.  Unfortunately, very little attention or focus is applied to variances experienced on the production side of the business.

Some may be reading this and wonder where this is going.  The answer is simple, rates of production are subject to variance.  Quite simply, if you review the individual OEE results of any machine for each run over an extended period of time, you will notice that the number is not a constant.  The performance, availability, and quality factors are all different from one run to the next.  One run may experience more downtime than another, a sluggish machine may result in reduced in performance, or material problems may be giving rise to increased quality failures (scrap).

So, while the OEE trend may show improvement over time, it is clear that variances are present in the process.  Quality professionals readily understand the link between process variation and product quality.  Similarly, variation in process rates and equipment reliability factors affect the OEE for a given machine.

We recommend performing a statistical analysis of the raw data for each factor that comprises OEE (Availability, Performance, and Quality) for individual processes.  Analysis of OEE itself requires an understanding of the underlying factors.  It is impractical to consider the application of ANOVA to OEE itself as the goal is to continually improve.

How much easier would it be if you could schedule a machine to run parts and know that you will get them when you needed them?  You can’t skip the process deep dive.  You need to understand how each process affects the overall top-level OEE index that is performance so you can develop and implement specific improvement actions.

The best demonstration we have seen that illustrates how process variation impacts your operation is presented through a “process simulation” developed from Eli Goldratt’s book, The Goal.  We will share this simulation in a separate post.  Experiencing the effect of process variation is much more meaningful and memorable than a spreadsheet full of numbers.

Conflict Management and OEE

In some environments we have encountered, the interpretation of LEAN strategy at the shop floor level is to set minimum OEE performance objectives with punitive consequences.  This type of strategy is certainly in conflict with any Lean initiative.  The lean objective is to learn as much as possible from the process and to identify opportunities for continual improvement.

Management by intimidation is becoming more of a rarity, however, we have found that they also give rise to the OEE genius.  If performance is measured daily, the OEE genius will make sure a high performing job is part of the mix to improve the “overall” result.  This is akin to taking an easy course of study to “pull up” your overall average.

It is clear from this example, that you will miss opportunities to improve your operation if the culture is tainted by conflicting performance objectives.  The objective is to reveal sources of variation to eliminate waste and variation in your process, not find better ways to hide it.

Variance in daily output rates are normal.  How much are you willing to accept?  Do you know what normal is?  Understanding process variance and OEE as complementary metrics will surely help to identify more opportunities for improvement.

FREE Downloads

We are currently offering our Excel OEE Spreadsheet Templates and example files at no charge.  You can download our files from the ORANGE BOX on the sidebar titled “FREE DOWNLOADS” or click on the FREE Downloads Page.  These files can be used as is and can be easily modified to suit many different manufacturing processes.  There are no hidden files, formulas, or macros and no obligations for the services provided here.

Please forward your questions, comments, or suggestions to LeanExecution@gmail.com.  To request our services for a specific project, please send your inquiries to Vergence.Consulting@gmail.com.

We welcome your feedback and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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Problem Solving with OEE – Measuring Success

OEE in Perspective

As mentioned in our previous posts, OEE is a terrific metric for measuring and monitoring ongoing performance in your operation.  However, like many metrics, it can become the focus rather than the gage of performance it is intended to be.

The objective of measuring OEE is to identify opportunities where improvements can be made or to determine whether the changes to your process provided the results you were seeking to achieve.  Lean organizations predict performance expectations and document the reasons to support the anticipated results .  The measurement system used to monitor performance serves as a gauge to determine whether the reasons for the actual outcomes were valid.  A “miss” to target indicates that something is wrong with the reasoning – whether the result is positive or negative.

Lean organizations are learning continually and recognize the need to understand why and how processes work.  Predicting results with supported documentation verifies the level of understanding of the process itself.  Failing to predict the result is an indicator that the process is not yet fully understood.

Problem Solving with OEE

Improvement strategies that are driven by OEE should cause the focus to shift to specific elements or areas in your operation such as reduction in tool change-over or setup time, improved material handling strategies, or quality improvement initiatives.  Focusing on the basic tenets of Lean will ultimately lead to improvements in OEE.  See the process in operation (first-hand), identify opportunities for improvement, immediately resolve,  implement and document corrective actions, then share the knowledge with the team and the company.

Understanding and Managing Variance:

OEE data is subject to variation like any other process in your operation.  What are the sources of variation?  If there is a constant effort to improve performance, then you would expect to see positive performance trends.  However, monitoring OEE and attempting to maintain positive performance trends can be a real challenge if the variances are left unchecked.

Availability

What if change-over times or setup times have been dramatically reduced?  Rather than setting a job to run once a week, it has now been decided to run it daily (five times per week).  What if the total downtime was the same to make the same number of parts over the same period of time?  Did we make an improvement?

The availability factor may very well be the same.  We would suggest that, yes, a signficant improvement was made.  While the OEE may remain the same, the inventory turns may increase substantially and certainly the inventory on hand could be converted into sales much more readily.  So, the improvement will ultimately be measured by a different metric.

Performance

Cycle time reductions are typically used to demonstrate improvements in the reported OEE.  In some cases, methods have been changed to improve the throughput of the process, in other cases the process was never optimized from the start.  In other instances, parts are run on a different and faster machine resulting in higher rates of production.  The latter case does not necessarily mean the OEE has improved since the base line used to measure it has changed.

Quality

Another example pertains to manual operations ultimately controlled through human effort.  The standard cycle time for calculating OEE is based on one operator running the machine.  In an effort to improve productivity, a second operator is added.  The performance factor of the operation may improve, however, the conditions have changed.  The perceived OEE improvement may not be an improvement at all.  Another metric such as Labour Variance or Efficiency may actually show a decline.

Another perceived improvement pertains to Quality.  Hopefully there aren’t to many examples like this one – changing the acceptance criteria to allow more parts to pass as acceptable, fit for function, or saleable product (although it is possible that the original standards were too high).

Standards

Changing standards is not the same as changing the process.  Consider another more obvious example pertaining to availability.  Assume the change over time for a process is 3o minutes and the total planned production time is 1 hour (including change over time).  For simplicity of the calculation no other downtime is assumed.  The availability in this case is 50% ((60 – 30) / 60).

To “improve” the availability we could have run for another hour and the resulting availability would be 75% (120 – 30) / 120.  The availability will show an improvement but the change-over process itself has not changed.  This is clearly an example of time management, perhaps even inventory control, not process change.

This last example also demonstrates why comparing shifts may be compromised when using OEE as a stand-alone metric.  What if one shift completed the setup in 20 minutes and could only run for 30 minutes before the shift was over (Availability = 60%).  The next shift comes in and runs for 8 hours without incident or down time (Availability = 100%).  Which shift really did a better job all other factors being equal?

Caution

When working with OEE, be careful how the results are used and certainly consider how the results could be compromised if the culture has not adopted the real meaning of Lean Thinking.  The metric is there to help you improve your operation – not figure out ways to beat the system!

FREE Downloads

We are currently offering our Excel OEE Spreadsheet Templates and example files at no charge.  You can download our files from the ORANGE BOX on the sidebar titled “FREE DOWNLOADS” or click on the FREE Downloads Page.  These files can be used as is and can be easily modified to suit many different manufacturing processes.  There are no hidden files, formulas, or macros and no obligations for the services provided here.

Please forward your questions, comments, or suggestions to LeanExecution@gmail.com.  To request our services for a specific project, please send your inquiries to Vergence.Consulting@gmail.com.

We welcome your feedback and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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OEE and Standardized Work

Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE):  Standardized Work

After you start collecting OEE data for your processes, you may notice significant variance between departments, shifts, and even employees performing the work.  Of the many aspects that you will be inclined to investigate, standardized work should be one of them.

Making sure that all employees are executing a process or sequence of processes correctly and exactly the same way every time is the topic of standardized work.  The OEE data may also direct you to review how the processes are being executed by some of the top performers to determine if they are truly demonstrating best practices or simply cutting corners.

Lean practices are founded on learning by observing.  We cannot stress the importance of observing an operation to see first hand what opportunities for improvement (waste elimination) are available.  OEE data is a compass that directs you where to look; however, the destination for improvements is the process, the very source from where the data originated.

Establishing Standard Cycle Times

One of the first questions we usually ask is, “How were the standard cycle times determined?”  Was the standard based on best practices, quoted rates, time studies, name plate ratings, or published machine cycle times?

We recommend conducting an actual time study using a stop watch and calculating part to part (button to button) cycle times accordingly.  We have used the stop watch capability of the BlackBerry many times.  Results for lap times and total elapsed time are easily recorded and can be e-mailed as soon as the study is complete.

The sample size of course will depend on the actual rate of the machine and should be statistically relevant.  One or two cycles is not sufficient for an effective time study.

For operator “controlled” processes, we recommend involving the employees who normally perform the work when conducting the time study.  It doesn’t make sense to have the “office experts” run the equipment for a short burst to set a rate that cannot be sustained or is just simply unreasonable.

Many processes, those dependent on human effort or automation, are usually controlled by PLC’s that are also capable of providing the machine cycle time.  At a minimum, we recommend validating these cycle times to at least satisfy yourself that these are part to part or “button to button” cycle times.

For automated operations, PLC’s can typically be relied upon to provide a reasonable cycle time.  Without going to far into process design and development, you will need to understand the elements that control the process sequences.  Some processes are driven by time controls (an event occurs after a period predetermined period of time) versus those that may be event-driven (an event occurs based on satisfying a dependent “sensor on-off” condition or similar “event signal” mechanism.

The real key to understanding the process being studied is to develop a flow chart clearly defining each of the process steps.  It is of equal importance to observe the differences that may be occurring between employees performing the work.  Either the instructions lack clarity or habits (good or bad) have been developed over time.  Although templates exist to aid in the development of standardized work, don’t wait to find the right tool.

Using Video – Record it Live

We highly recommend using a video recorder to capture the process in action.  With the technology available today, video is readily available and a very cost-effective method of documenting your processes.  Video presents several advantages:

  1. Captures activities in real-time.
  2. Provides instant replay.
  3. Establish process or sequence event timing in real-time.
  4. Eliminates need for “stop watches” to capture multiple event timing.
  5. Can be used as a training aid for new employees to demonstrate “standardized work practices”.
  6. Can be used to develop “best practices”.
  7. Reduces or minimizes potential for time measurement error.

We have successfully used video to not only develop standardized work for production processes, but also for documenting and recording best practices for tool changes, set up, and checking or inspection procedures.

Standardized work eliminates any questions regarding the proper or correct way of performing the work required.  Standardized work procedures allow additional development work to be completed “offline” without further disruption to the production process.

Conclusion:

Of course, Standardized Operating / Work procedures are required to establish effective and meaningful value stream maps but even more importantly, they become an effective tool to understand the opportunity for variances in your OEE data, certainly where manual or “human” controlled operations are concerned.

It has been argued that OEE data in and of itself is not statistically relevant and we are inclined to agree with this statement.  The simple reason is that the processes being measured are subject to significant internal and external variances or influences.  Examples may include reduced volumes, product mix changes, tool change frequency, employee turnover, and economic conditions.

As mentioned in many of our posts, it is important to understand “WHAT and WHY” we are measuring.  Understanding the results is more important than the result itself.  A company looking to increase inventory turns may resort to smaller production runs and more frequent tool changes.  This will reduce Availability and, in turn, will result in a lower OEE.  The objective may then be to find a way to further reduce tool change times to “improve” the Availability.

The use of OEE data can vary in scope, ranging from part specific performance to plant wide operations.  As the scope of measurement changes, so do the influences that impact the net result.  So once again, we urge you to use caution when comparing data between personnel, shifts, departments, and production facilities.  Typically, first or day shift operations have greater access to resources that are not available on the “off’ shifts.

Perhaps the greatest “external” influence on current manufacturing operations is the rapid collapse of the automotive industry in the midst of our current economic “melt down”.  The changes in operating strategy to respond to this new crisis are bound to have an effect on OEE among other business metrics.

The ultimate purpose of Lean practices is to reduce or eliminate waste and doing so requires a rigorous “document and review” process .  The ability to show evidence of current versus proposed practices will reduce or eliminate the roadblocks that may impede your continuous improvement objectives.

While the post is brief today, hopefully the message is helpful.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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