Roadmap To Success

Dec. 21, 2004
Target improvements at waiting time, information flow.

Lean Investments LLC's partner Simpler Consulting has established a philosophy that targets lean improvements around specific "value streams," says George Koenigsaecker, president of Lean Investments. A key element of value-stream analysis, he points out, is to identify all the "waiting time" in a production process. "In batch production, about 98% of the time is actually waiting time, not value-adding time." It is important, Koenigsaecker stresses, to examine both material flow and the information flow that parallels it --including the information "triggers" that drive each step in the process. "That gives you a map of where your big time consumptions are. Then you target your improvement activities at those specific consumers of time -- the big non-value-added steps." It is important to ensure that the information flow supports the desired process flow. "You have to look at those linkages," he says. "As you make improvements, you have to separate yourself from your old [information] system to make sure it doesn't drive you to do the wrong things. You might find, for example, that your old MRP system is driving you to order all kinds of material that you don't need. "The key," Koenigsaecker says, "is that instead of doing disconnected improvement events you start with a road map, and the improvement events are plugged into that road map so that they pretty quickly build a value stream that is making good things happen." But that doesn't mean that perfection is achieved quickly. "As a rule of thumb," he says, "if you set up a cell, you will redesign it about a half dozen times until you get it to where you really feel good about it. . . . One of the unique things about lean is that every time you make an improvement in an area, it helps you to see the waste that is left -- waste that was hard to see before."

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