Outward Signs of Unstable Process Flow

March 5, 2013
If you have even one of these issues, you will have trouble with a lean implementation.

Most facilities that fail in lean implementations have weak quality systems.

More specifically, they have failed to create stable process flow.

If you have some or even one of these issues, you will have trouble, big trouble, with a lean implementation. And likely, very likely, the root cause of these issues lies in this same basic failing -- not achieving stable flow at takt.

Outward signs of weak quality systems with unstable process flow include:

  • Facilities schedule work for the week on Monday. By Tuesday they are “tweaking” the schedule. By Wednesday overtime is being planned. On Thursday some shipments are being “expedited,” and even after this arduous firefighting, some shipments are late or missed altogether on Friday.
  • They do not have 99%-plus first time yield at each workstation, or worse yet, don’t even measure it.
  • They cannot explain the “goodness” of processes with terms such as Cp and Cpk.
  • Rework is common
  • They not only have rework but also have lots of “inspect-sort-rework-resort-and-finally-ship” cycles in the production process.
  • Worse yet, many processes are actually designed that way.
  • They have lots of scrapped product, and it is measured in percentage points rather than PPMs.
  • Customer returns and customer “visits” consume a large fraction of management time. Often management must plan or reschedule the week/month around these visits.
  • It seems like someone is always filling out an 8D problem-solving worksheet. 
  • Responding to customer complaints is a frequent topic at the management and even production meetings. 
  • Almost always there is some product on third-party inspection or some type of quality containment.
  • There exists a continuing battle between the production folks and the quality folks, discussing “what is acceptable and what is not acceptable finished product.” 
  • The production folks think the quality folks are unreasonable, and the entire management team believes the specifications from the customer are way too tight -- even if they have not changed since the RFQ.

Read Also: Wanna Sabotage Your Lean Implementation Effort? Try This: Failure to create stable process flow is a basic failing of the simplest form.

Lonnie Wilson has been teaching and implementing lean and other culture-changing techniques for more than 40 years. His book, “How To Implement Lean Manufacturing” was released in August 2009. His new book on “How to Lead and Manage a Lean Facility” is under construction. Wilson is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. In addition to IndustryWeek, he has published articles in Quality Digest and is a frequent contributor to iSixSigma magazine. His manufacturing experience spans 20 years with Chevron, where he held a number of management positions. In 1990 he founded Quality Consultants, www.qc-ep.com, which teaches and applies lean and other culture-changing techniques to small entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 firms, principally in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In particular, he specializes in “lean revitalizations,” assisting firms that have failed or failing lean implementations and want to do it right.”

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