Learning to see

Last update: March 3rd, 2010
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Learning to see

I was touring a factory on a lean assessment, when I went across an area that was not supposed to be assessed.

The sight of operators hastening to cope with their chore caught my attention. I spent some time looking at them and taking rough data.

The technique is very simple, known as work sampling: you randomly pick up the type of occupation of the workers at the very moment you look at them.

Their activities can be split into added value task, cost adding tasks and pure waste.

What shocked the top management was the resulting diagram showing that half the work force spent its time waiting for parts, walking to get them or move them around.

Globally, half the people could do the entire job if the layout and workstations would be set up properly, a time study performed and relevant work standard provided.

The potential yearly savings would count in millions.

The half-mad, half-happy CEO was amazed that such a simple method could identify such big savings, when the only solution they envisioned was investing in automation.

What is important is not the method, it is learning to see.

Learning to see is the title of the instruction manual written by Mike Rother and John Shook, Shingo Research Prize awarded, teaching step by step to use Value Stream Mapping. Further more learning to see is what managers need to get aware of all wastes surrounding them.

Author Chris HOHMANN is Managing Partner in an international consulting firm.



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