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Kaizen in Action


Day 3 - Solve the Performance Issue

The team started at 8 AM. As usual, 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 the session 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 and got its feedback.

The priority focus for Day 3 was Task D3. Solve the Performance Issue (Exhibit 15). In this task, the team conceives and selects the best ways to achieve the Kaizen event's goals and elevate the performance of the target work process. The team had four main activities to complete: (1) generate improvement ideas, (2) trim improvement ideas, (3) conduct an experiment, and (4) select improvement ideas. The team would only conduct an experiment if it needed to test whether an idea would be effective in eliminating waste.


Generate Improvement Ideas

There are two main techniques a team uses to generate improvement ideas: brainstorming and "ask an expert." In brainstorming, team members voice whatever ideas come to mind as ways to eliminate a form of waste. In ask an expert, the team uses the input of other employees in the work process; this input is collected in response to the pre-event flyer and in the course of the personal interviews done during the walk through. When available, the team also uses the improvements stored in best practice databases and improvements already in use at other work sites. Our pre-event preparation indicated that neither of these latter resources were available in this case.

The team brainstormed improvement ideas to each work process separately, since each work process had a separate set of goals and process observations. We began with cylinder preparation. In our Kaizen method, we first build brainstorming sheets as a focusing aid. Each sheet is a flipchart page on which a separate goal is recorded. Below the goal, the team lists examples of the waste targeted by the goal. These examples are taken from the Process Analysis Sheet. The examples listed on each brainstorming sheet are the most resource-consuming instances of the waste the team observed during its process observation. Exhibit 16 presents the brainstorming sheets for the cylinder preparation goals.

We split building the sheets among the team members so it took only 10 minutes to prepare them. We next proceeded to generate improvement ideas. We worked on one goal at a time, with a time limit of 10 minutes for brainstorming solutions. The team read over the examples as a way to focus brainstorming. I stood at the easel and recorded the ideas as team members offered them. In brainstorming, any idea is accepted and listed. Our rules are simple: (1) one speaker at a time, (2) say whatever comes into your head, (3) no one judges any ideas during brainstorming, and (4) keep generating ideas until time is up. After the team finished brainstorming ideas for all the goals, we returned to each goal and looked at the input other employees had provided about how to improve the work process. We added those ideas to our lists if they were not already included.

Once the team finished generating improvement ideas for the cylinder preparation work process, we built brainstorming sheets for the blending work process (Exhibit 17) and repeated the brainstorming procedure.


Trim Improvement Ideas

After generating improvement ideas for each goal, the team's task was to review each idea and explore whether it was worth pursuing further. This meant that, for a given idea, the sense of the team was that doing the improvement would not be prohibitively costly, would be effective in advancing the achievement of the goal, and would not harm safety. If an idea satisfied these concerns, it was retained. If it did not, it was dropped from further consideration. If the team was uncertain about the idea, we did an experiment to test the question about which we were unsure. The key to this trimming process is having the team thoroughly explore each idea with the person who offered it so that everyone understands just how it would work. Frequently, team members have very different notions of what an improvement idea as recorded on the list really means. The use of WWO skills is critical in drawing out the meaning of each idea. This benefits the team later when it proceeds to execute the improvements.

After discussing each idea for improving the cylinder preparation process, the team voted whether each was worth pursuing. All the ideas passed the "worth pursuing" test. The team next explored the improvement ideas it generated for the blending work process. Here, three ideas raised concerns; the remaining ideas passed the team's "worth pursuing" test. The first idea raising concern was moving the label scraping operation from the blending work process to the cylinder preparation process. Nathan was not happy with the notion of adding work to the cylinder preparation process. He understood that it made sense in terms of the type of work it was, but reminded us that he currently did not have the time to get the process done as it stood. He asked, "How am I going to get it done by adding still another operation to it?" The team took the concern seriously. Without Nathan's sign-off, this improvement would not be made. Through discussion, the team worked out with Nathan what the likely time savings would be on the cylinder preparation process when we made all the proposed improvements. We then struck a deal with him. Reggie, speaking for the team, offered: "If we don't get down to this cycle time for cylinder prep, then we will put the label removal and painting operation back into the blending work process." Nathan agreed with the offer. Reggie added that he would show Nathan a technique the fill operators used to remove labels that seemed to work well.

The next idea that raised concerns involved eliminating the vacuuming, purging, and venting operations in the blending work process. Vincent summed up the feeling of those who supported the idea: "We are just duplicating what has already been done in cylinder preparation. We never see any benefits from it." But other team members felt that eliminating this operation was a risky step and needed to be tested before it could be pursued. The team decided to do an experiment on this idea.

The last idea raising concern involved reducing the rolling time for filled cylinders from 10 minutes to 5. The rationale was that the added time was unneeded. Reggie said: "We had to do this [reducing rolling time] a few times last year to get products out to customers who were screaming for them because they were so delayed. Our backs were to the wall. We did it, and we had no problems. Maybe we can do it regularly?" On the other hand, some team members worried whether we could reach the mixture levels of the blended gases that we promised our customers by rolling cylinders for just five minutes. Again, the team felt an experiment was needed.


Conduct an Experiment

An experiment tests the effectiveness of an improvement idea. It provides the information needed to rate the value of an idea in eliminating waste so that the team can make the most intelligent selection of improvement ideas. We structure an experiment by using a template that guides the team in defining the question it is exploring, the method it will use to develop information about the question, and the test it will apply to judge what the answer to the question is. This experiment protocol is also useful when the team must submit a formal request for a change in a work standard. We add to the protocol the findings of the experiment and attach it to the submission as evidence supporting the request.

The team developed and then executed protocols for each experiment. The protocol for the rolling experiment is presented in Exhibit 18, along with the results found. The reduced rolling time proved effective in ensuring the proper mixing of the blended gases. Eliminating the added vacuuming of the cylinder in the blending process also proved effective, as it did not result in added impurities in the cylinder. The experiments took an hour and a half to complete. Clarice, Reggie, and Vincent did the experiments, while the remainder of the team moved to the next task.


Exhibit 18. Experiment: Testing the Effects of Reduced Rolling Time

Purpose Determine whether reducing the current standard rolling time cylinders from 10 minutes to 5 will produce an adequate mixing of gases.
Conducted By Clarice T., Reggie B., and Vincent L.
Total Time 30 minutes
Hypothesis If we compare the mix achieved after rolling a sample of three cylinders of the most complicated nonflammable blend for 5 minutes with the mix realized after rolling for 10 minutes, then we will observe no difference.
Resources Three B-size cylinders each with a blend of 10% N2/He. This blend of gases is the most difficult for which to achieve a proper mix.
Measure Analyze gas to determine mix.
Decision Rule If we find that the mix of the N2/He gases analyzes at 10% for each cylinder after 5 minutes of rolling, then we will conclude that rolling for 5 minutes is effective.
Description A 10% N2/He mix was blended in three B-size cylinders. The N2 (the heavier component) was added first; the He was added second. Three cylinders were rolled on a cylinder rolling device for 5 minutes. The cylinders were analyzed, and the level of mix achieved was compared to the target level (10%).
Results The mix in each cylinder analyzed at 10% after 5 minutes of rolling, the same result achieved by rolling for 10 minutes.
Conclusion Five minutes is sufficient to allow mixing of gas components when the heavier gas is added first and the lighter gas second.
Learning No additional learning.


Select Improvement Ideas

The team members not involved in conducting the experiments reviewed the list of ideas for improving the cylinder preparation work process to determine their priority for execution in the event. We used a voting method to rank the ideas, placing at the top the ideas that were most effective, least costly, and most "doable" within the confines of the event. The team then performed the same voting activity for the list of ideas for improving the nonflammable blending work process and included the two ideas under study simply because removing them, should they fail, would be easier than adding them. The team then decided which of the ideas on each list—beginning with the highest priority ideas—it could implement in the event. Any remaining ideas were placed on a follow-up action list to be pursued after the event. One idea placed on the follow-up action list involved installing a switch in the blending booth for the oxygen pump. This would not have been costly (estimated at $200) but would have greatly reduced travel/transport, as the oxygen pump was some 100 feet from the blending booth and had to be accessed repeatedly. When discussed by the team, there was enthusiastic support for the idea but a firm conviction that it would take a great deal of conversation with the Engineering Group which would have to approve the action—and which was against such an idea. On this basis, we put the idea on our follow-up action list.

The team listed the improvement ideas selected for execution in the event on a separate flipchart page (Exhibit 19, next page). When Clarice, Reggie, and Vincent finished the experiments, they returned and reported the results to the team. Both experiments proved the effectiveness of the improvements tested, so the list of ideas for implementation in the event did not need to be adjusted.

Close Day 3

Once we finished listing the improvement ideas we would implement in the event, we completed our close-of-day activities. I reviewed the day's agenda and what we had achieved. Then we completed our plus-minus exercise. The team again felt that one of the pluses for the day was its use of WWO skills, which helped especially when it explored the different improvement ideas brainstormed. The other big plus was the brainstorming exercise because, team members said, they could get all their ideas out and no one stopped them short. They had no minuses on Day 3. Before we finished for the day, I alerted the team as to the focus for the remaining two days.

Kaizen Desk Reference Standard Excerpt: Kaizen In Action  
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