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Kaizen in Action


Day 2 - Evaluate the Target Work Process

Once again, the team started at 8 AM. My co-leader and I arrived early to be sure that our meeting area was still set up correctly. Once the team arrived, I began our work with a brief review of the purpose of the event, our approach, and what we had accomplished thus far. I asked the team for any thoughts or comments about our progress to date before we looked at the day's agenda. There were none, so I previewed the day's agenda with the team members and got their feedback.

The focus for Day 2 was Task D2. Evaluate the Target Work Process (Exhibit 9, next page). This task provides an exact measure of the types and amounts of waste in the operations of the target work process and a baseline against which to measure the Kaizen event's achievement of its goals. It also identifies for the team the specific behaviors that, if changed, would eliminate waste. The team had three main activities to complete: (1) gather information about the target work process, (2) analyze the amounts and sources of waste, and (3) summarize the results of the evaluation.


Gather Information

The night before, my co-leader and I had reviewed what we knew about the target work process so we could draft a plan for gathering information about it. The plan had to answer five questions: (1) how many observations will the team make of the target work process; (2) what operations will it observe; (3) which operators; (4) in what order; and (5) who will perform each role (e.g., process observer, timekeeper, distance measurer) in making the observations. We prepared a draft plan to speed our work and ensure that the information we gathered was reliable.

Given the variability in the reports about the cycle time to complete the blending work process and the manner in which it is done (i.e., interweaving the work of different orders), it seemed to us that the team needed to observe multiple cycles— meaning the processing of multiple orders—so it could average the times across these orders to understand the cycle time for one unit of output (i.e., one order or two cylinders). Our plan recommended observing the completion of three orders (six cylinders) since that seemed to provide the team with enough observations to average and still allow it to finish its evaluation by day's end. Our plan included only one observation of the cylinder preparation work process, since that seemed to have a consistent estimate of cycle time and was regularly done in a batch of 12.

According to our plan, the team would make its observations on the day shift. It would focus on the operations performed by workers as opposed to machines since we lacked sufficient time to do both. Nathan would be the operator for preparing cylinders and Reggie for blending gases and filling the cylinders. Our plan had Vincent doing the process observation since he was familiar with both jobs. As process observer, Vincent's job was to record and describe each work activity executed by the operator using the Process Observations Data Sheet. I took the utility role, which includes collecting examples of documents that the workers receive or produce as a part of their jobs. My co-leader assumed the documentor role and would enter the information collected by the team into our electronic forms. We assigned Thomas to the timekeeper role, James to handle distance measurement, and Clarice to do the spaghetti charting. The timekeeper reports the end time for each work activity using a stopwatch so that the cycle time of each work activity can be computed. The distance measurer reports the distance an operator moves while executing his or her job using a distance wheel. Vincent, as the process observer, would call for the time and distance measures and record them along with the identity of each work activity on the Process Observations Data Sheet. The spaghetti charter charts the movements of the operator as he or she transports, travels, and searches in the performance of the job.

When the team met, I shared our plan and got the team's feedback. All agreed that the plan made sense. Before we started implementing it, I gave each team member a description of the role he or she was to perform and had the member read it; we then discussed the roles together as a team. It is important that each person understands what he or she needs to do. My co-leader distributed the materials each team member needed to do his or her assignment and provided Clarice with 12 copies of the workplace layout form I had previously produced. We reviewed safety guidelines and made sure everyone put on their safety gear. We then moved into the workplace to complete our information gathering.

Gathering information took us about five hours. The team made the observations of the cylinder preparation process, then took a break for lunch. After lunch, the team completed observations of the blending process. My co-leader entered information about each process into the forms included in the electronic Kaizen Tool Kit. I brought him the observation sheets as Vincent completed them; the co-leader entered them into our Process Analysis Sheet, a spreadsheet that automatically computes a summary and distribution of value added and waste. This allows the team to move quickly to the analysis activity once it finishes gathering information.


Analyze the Amounts and Sources of Waste

Given our automated spreadsheet, analyzing the amounts and sources of waste requires only that the documentor complete the entry of the process observations (activity, time, distance) and assign each work activity to the category of value added or a category of waste. The spreadsheet is designed to compute the value-added ratio and total time per waste category and to chart the information depicting the distribution of time by value added and waste categories. We built separate spreadsheets for the cylinder preparation process and the blending process so that we could attack each on its own basis.

It took 141 activities to complete the cylinder preparation work process. The process was made up of three types of work: paperwork (getting, reviewing, filling out, filing, organizing, and discarding forms, tags, and orders); readying the cylinders for preparation (locating and getting cylinders, checking the cylinders for damage, hooking cylinders up to the manifold); and prepping the cylinders (venting, vacuuming, and purging their contents). The vent, vacuum, and purge cycle occurs twice as per the work standard. Interspersed through the process is travel, transport, and search for paperwork and cylinders. The worker traverses some 1,255 feet each time he or she does this work process.

The cycle time we observed for preparation of a batch of 12 cylinders was 2 hours 19 minutes, and 30 seconds. None of the activities could be classified as value adding because none materially produce the product the customer seeksthat is, gas of a specific blend. The process takes a used cylinder and refurbishes it for reuse by the company. Cylinder reuse is the standard approach in the industry to providing vessels for transporting the customer's gas and controlling cost. The entire process, however, exists by the choice of the producers. The customer has not specified that he or she wants the blended gas in a used cylinder, for example. We recognized that the customer had indicated that price was an issue and that the company had decided that reusing cylinders would help it address that concern. That calculation is the producer's judgment and satisfies the producer's assessment of what it feels it can do. The fact remains that the customer has not requested this solution. If a customer did specify that the gas he or she receives be delivered in recycled cylinders, then at least some portion of this work process would be value adding.

Exhibit 10 presents the distribution of waste observed in the cylinder preparation work process. The analysis of the cylinder preparation work process showed that 65% of the work time was consumed in waiting for machine operations to finish. These machine-driven operations were vacuuming the cylinders and purging any remnants of old products from them. The team observed that if it could speed up these machine operations, it could greatly reduce waste in the work process. The remainder of the time was used in setup activities (20%), unnecessary processing (8%), travel/transport (6%), and search (1%). Almost all of the unnecessary processing involved transferring information that was already recorded on the order sheet to other documents. This added documentation was not required by the work standard but had evolved in response to the preferences of different individuals, some of whom were no longer at the plant.

The blending work process was made up of 336 activities to complete three orders (six cylinders). These activities fell into five categories: paperwork (getting, reviewing, filling out, filing forms, etc.); machine setup (testing for leaks, checking the scale, etc.); cylinder preparation (scraping and replacing labels, doing touch-up painting, etc.); blending gases and filling the cylinders; and packaging (labeling, netting, moving cylinders, etc.). The worker traverses some 3,602 feet to complete the process for three orders. The total time to produce the required outputs was 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 14 seconds, resulting in an average cycle time of 48 minutes and 25 seconds per unit of output (one batch of two cylinders)—assuming that the blending operator does not need to do the cylinder preparation work process.

Exhibit 11 presents the distribution of waste observed in the blending work process. The analysis showed that 8% of cycle time was used in performing value-added work. This was the percentage of cycle time during which the blending and filling occurs. The remainder of the time was waste, including 28% setup, 22% travel/ transport, 19% wait, and 18% unnecessary processing. Most of the unnecessary processing involved paperwork: for example, the operator recorded the results from testing the scale used in the blending booth. Discussion with the team revealed that no one ever uses that information and no one could recall the reason for its being collected. Nathan observed: "That scale is checked and maintained by its manufacturer on a monthly basis. I have been here 15 years. The scale has never failed a test. Even if it did fail, I would need to fix it immediately. I could not continue the blending process. I have never referenced that log book, nor has anyone else." "Shooting the cylinder" was also cited as unnecessary. This involves reading the bar code on the cylinder and associating it with an order. It seems important, but, as it turned out, the information is not used. Vincent, a supervisor, offered: "The cylinder has a label on it that says what is in it. There is an order form that goes with the cylinder. It has an order number and specifies the blend that should be in the cylinder. No one uses the bar code. Everyone uses the label and the order."


Summarize the Results of the Evaluation

As my co-leader completed the analyses of the work processes, Clarice prepared a visual display of operator movements during cylinder preparation and blending. She selected up to five sheets of the spaghetti chart of operator movement for each work process, copying them onto overhead transparencies. She then produced a single overlaid visual display of movements for each work process. This gave the team a good way to judge the orderliness of movement in each process.

The team reviewed the printed reports of the process observations including the pie charts depicting the distribution of work by value added or category of waste. It viewed the spaghetti charting for each work process and pooled its observations of safety issues. The team then prepared a summary of findings for each work process (see Exhibits 12 and 13).

Before we could call our evaluation complete, we needed to determine whether there were any differences between the goals currently defined for the event and those suggested by the results of the process observations. There was one difference. The degree to which interruptions detracted from the performance of the blending work process was less striking when time was considered and not as significant as unnecessary processing. We therefore replaced our goal for reducing interruption with a new goal for reducing unnecessary processing, as we were looking for the maximum benefit from our efforts. The team also felt it needed to separate out a set of goals for each of the work processes. Finally, the team adjusted the reduction targets for four of the goals based on the measurements it made during the evaluation but verified that the new targets would still accomplish the event's mission. Exhibit 14 presents the final direction for the Kaizen event.


Exhibit 14. Final Direction for ABC Gases Kaizen Event



To increase profit without increasing price and elevate customer satisfaction with on-time delivery by reducing the cycle time and cost of the nonflammable blending work process for ABC Gases and its stakeholders.


Cylinder Preparation
  • Reduce wait time by 25%.
  • Reduce setup by 20%.
  • Reduce travel/transport by 25%.
  • Eliminate all hazard items.
Nonflammable Blending
  • Reduce setup by 20%.
  • Reduce travel/transport by 25%.
  • Reduce wait time by 50%.
  • Reduce unnecessary processing by 50%.
  • Eliminate all hazard items.
  • Reduce unit cost.
  • Reduce cycle time.

Do's and Don'ts

Must or Can Do's Can't Do's
  • Can make decisions about improvements in the blending process as long as there is no negative effect on the other organizations with which blending interfaces.
  • Must get agreement from another department prior to executing a change if the proposed change requires an adjustment by that department in how it operates.
  • No overtime. Event should stay within regular working hours.

Close Day 2

Once we finished the evaluation, we completed our close-of-day activities. First I reviewed the day's agenda and noted what we had achieved. Next, we completed our plus-minus exercise. The team felt that one plus for the day was its use of the WWO skills which helped keep the team working together on issues. Team members also liked the process observation activity because it provided hard evidence about how much they do in their jobs and how real the waste is that frustrates them. They also were excited about the possible fixes that began to emerge and just how much real improvement those fixes could make. They had no minuses for Day 2. Before we finished for the day, I alerted the team as to tomorrow's focus.

Kaizen Desk Reference Standard Excerpt: Kaizen In Action  
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