Walk Through the Target Work Process
We next prepared ourselves to complete the walk through. To get the
team ready, I explained what a walk through is and why it is done. The
purpose of the walk through is to gather more information about the work
process, the work areas within which it is performed, and any instances
of waste. With this information, the team has the facts needed to define
a mission and set goals for the event. Team members literally walk through
the process from beginning to end, if time permits, focusing on learning
about the work process and detecting instances of waste. The team makes
observations, asks questions, and listens to what workers say. After
the walk through, the Kaizen event co-leader conducts a separate personal
interview of each operator to gather his or her ideas about ways to improve
the process. We find a personal interview for gathering worker judgments
is better than asking the questions during the walk through, as it provides
the worker greater privacy.
In planning the walk through, I saw that we could not observe every
operation as it is performed within the one hour allotted for the walk
through. Therefore, I made selections and got the team's feedback. We
wanted to physically walk through each area in which work is performed
so that we could get a sense for distances and the flow of work. At a
minimum, we wanted a "talk through" on each activity. Before we began,
my co-leader instructed the team in how to detect waste. This instruction
is critical as it provides team members with a fresh way to view their
work activities and their workplace. This fresh perspective opens their
eyes to previously unseen improvement opportunities.
Nathan provided the talk through and demonstrations of the cylinder
preparation process. We wanted to see where Nathan got his paper work
and unprepared cylinders, how he hooked up a cylinder, where the vacuum
and purge equipment were located, and where he moved his prepped cylinders
once he was done. This all sounded like a lot of transport activity and
setup, both of which are forms of waste in that they do not materially
contribute to the final product but do consume resources. Also, we were
interested in seeing the start of the vacuum and purge operations and
especially how cylinders are hooked up to the manifold. We were concerned
about the ergonomics of the activity as well as with safety. Additionally,
the vacuum and purge operations ate up a lot of cycle time, so we wanted
to see if we could detect any ways to speed machine operations. Before
we observed the activities, Nathan told us how he reviewed the paperwork
on each cylinder he prepared, then got the cylinders from storage and
checked the test dates stamped on them. We observed the hook-up of several
cylinders. Afterward, Nathan showed how he placed a collar on the prepped
cylinder and told us about the additional paperwork he completed.
Next we observed the fill process. We could observe each operation up
to the filling activity itself as, together, they required no more than
14 minutes to perform. We were especially interested in the cylinder
prep activity, as this seemed to indicate a repetition of work that maintenance
had already completed. We also suspected that the rolling operation after
the cylinders were filled might be important to see. We thought that
there would be lifting involved which could have safety and ergonomic
implications. Reggie led us through the blending process, demonstrating
the operations we wanted to see.
The value of the walk through was evident. First, we saw that the prepping
activity inside the blending process did not repeat work done in maintenance,
but did seem as if it might better belong to that process. This activity
involves scraping off old labels (usually four, some of which do not
come off easily) and doing touch-up painting of bare spots on the cylinders.
While observing the rolling operation, I discov- ered that the platform
on which the cylinders rested while they were rolled rotated to a vertical
position so that the movement of the cylinders onto the rolling machine
did not require lifting. The cylinders were moved to the platform in
its vertical position and placed on a support connected to the rolling
platform; the platform was then tilted back to its horizontal position
for rolling. The operators moved cylinders from place to place two at
a time, tilting them on edge and rotating them in the direction they
needed to travel. This avoided the need to lift and carry cylinders.
Also during the walk through, Nathan noticed that a vacuum pump with
piping was mounted up on a wall, seemingly away from the processing.
He asked about it; it turned out to be a spare vacuum not in use. This
discovery would play an important role in the solutions generated later
in the week.
With the walk through over, the team members regrouped to pool their
observations and share whether they had detected instances of waste.
The team made 51 non-redundant observations of waste during the walk
through. The team categorized this list by type of waste, which involved
looking at each observation, deciding what type of waste it represented,
and recording it on a flipchart page titled with that type of waste.
This activity provided the team an opportunity to practice what it had
learned about the different categories of waste prior to the walk through.
It also would provide us with a rapid visual assessment of which types
of waste were most dominant in the work process. We needed this analysis
to build our fact-based direction (i.e., mission, goals, and do's and
Travel/transport and setup were the forms of waste with the most examples;
the categories of wait, hazard, and interruption were next in order of
frequency of observations. With respect to travel/transport, the operator
had to travel to get labels, valves, nets, leak soap, wrenches, and orders.
Every step used time. Almost all the prepping work process and most of
the blending work process was setup. Each involved getting cylinders
ready for reuse or preparing them for machine operations (vacuum, purge,
vent, and roll). During these machine operations, the operator waited.
Workers also waited for orders to be processed and put into the pickup
bin. Some of the hazards observed included the operator not wearing a
face shield and cryogenic gloves, a cable exposed on the floor (trip
hazard), a door stop on the oxygen blend booth that did not work, and
the operator not wearing earplugs. The normal processes of prepping and
blending were each interrupted by having to sort cylinders, make repairs,
deal with power surges, and answer questions about orders. Equipped with
our profile of waste in the work process, we were ready to build the
mission, goals, and do's and don'ts that would guide us during the remainder
of the week.
Build the Mission Statement
Building the mission statement required us to work from the waste we
observed to the effects it had on overall performance of the work process.
We then took this work process problem and asked ourselves how that affected
business success. We came up with this mission: To expand profit margins
and ensure customer satisfaction with on-time delivery by reducing cycle
time and the unit cost of blending nonflammable gas mixes for ABC Gases
and all its stakeholders.
To finish our work, we needed to compare this mission based on what
we observed in the workplace with the mission developed from the scope
document (see Exhibit 4, page 26). They matched, so we went with the
language of the scope mission since that was already approved by the
key stakeholders. Note that at least 20% of the time, the two versions
of the mission statement do not match, and the team then needs
to reconcile the differences. That is why we make sure that the key stakeholders
are available to us during the week of the event.
Set Goals for the Kaizen Event
Setting the goals was even easier than defining the mission. Basically,
we took the top five forms of waste we had discovered during the walk
through and stated a goal to reduce the presence of each. The goals we
set based on the walk through were: reduce travel and transport by 25%,
reduce setup by 50%, reduce wait time by 50%, eliminate all hazard items,
and reduce interruptions by 50%. The team estimated an amount of reduction
based on what it saw and how much change it felt was needed to improve
the work process and produce the promised business results. (The precise
reduction is not that important at this point. Once we do the process
observations during Task D2. Evaluate the Target Work Process,
we have exact quantitative information with which we can better specify
We checked the goals set based on the walk through with those set based
on the scope. They were consistentas usual, however, the walk through
provided a richer set of goals than had the scope since it built the
goals using far more information than is available from the scope document.
We accepted the goals based on the walk through and added to them two
goals from the strawperson direction that addressed unit cost reduction
and cycle time since we felt that the key stakeholders might want to
see these goals in the list even though we had already stated them in
Define the Do's and Don'ts
We had no new information about do's and don'ts from the walk through,
so the team adopted those already specified based on the scope. Exhibit
8 (next page) shows our final direction. Compare it to the strawperson
direction I developed based on the scope document (Exhibit 4, page 26).
Close Day 1
At the end of each day, the team reviews the day's agenda, noting what
it accomplished and completes an exercise that evaluated what went well
during the day and what went poorly. This is called a plus/minus exercise.
We use it to identify how to improve our process during the next day
of the event.
At the end of Day 1, the team indicated that it valued the Kaizen presentation,
as it provided an understanding of what team members were being asked
to do. They liked the way things were organized, since it allowed the
team's work to move along without any hitches. They also liked the mapping
activity, which was the first time the operators in the team had seen
a visual representation of all the tasks they did in completing their
jobs. Another valued experience was the discovery that there is a lot
of difference in the way operators worked and that the work standards
gave them latitude to change. Previously, each person was operating under
the notion that the work had to be done the way he or she was doing it.
This discovery excited the team members, because it seemed to say that
they could make change. Finally, the team thought that it had gotten
a lot done in one day and that team members had followed the ground rules,
especially that about using their WWO skills. On the negative side, apart
from walking around the plant on the walk through, there was a lot of
sitting and talking time which, while productive, was not the team's
preferred way to spend time. The team would rather be doing things. Given
the Kaizen hands-on approach, I knew that we would correct that problem
in the following days.