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Kaizen in Action


Days 4 and 5 - Act to Improve the Target Work Process

As usual, the team started at 8 AM and 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 statement 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.


Exhibit 19. List of Selected Improvement Ideas


Improvement Idea

Goal Affected

  Cylinder Preparation Process  
  Establish a lower minimum purge pressure. 1  
  Reduce the level to which cylinders need to be vacuumed (now 200 psig). 1  
  Hook unused vacuum pump in tandem to current vacuum pump to speed vacuum and purge operations. 1  
  Install hand wheels on pigtails of the prep manifold to speed hook-up of cylinders.1 1  
  Have storage bins for each type of cylinder valve adapter mounted on manifold.1 2, 3  
  Replace wrenches used in hook-up operations and have a separate set for prep area.1 2, 3  
  Organize cylinders in storage area by expiration date (soonest in front).1 2  
  Shift preparation of 296 Ar/O2 to blending area.2 2  
  Place trip protector over exposed line from computer network to printer. 4  
  Counsel worker on use of earplugs. 4  
  Nonflammable Blending Process  
  Eliminate vacuum, purge, and vent in blending area. 3  
  Move painting and scraping of labels to cylinder preparation process. 1  
  Replace wrenches and locate in blending area. 1, 2  
  Install a battery charger in blending area. 2  
  Place prepped cylinder storage area closer to blending area. 2  
  Have nets stored at blending workstation. 2  
  Reduce rolling time. 3  
  Eliminate allocation of cylinders. 4  
  Eliminate logging of scale testing data. 4  
  Use only one card per batch; use sticker on card. 4  
  Do scale check once a week. 4  
  Print lab addendum from bar code machine. 4  
  Eliminate recording pressures and weights on fill orders. 4  
  Fix door stop on blending booth. 5  
  Counsel worker on use of face shield. 5  
  1. Worker input obtained from either the personal interview conducted during the walk through or in response to the pre-event flyer.
  2. This blend is always filled using a cylinder that previously contained the same gas. The cylinder only needs to be vented, not vacuumed and purged—therefore, the most time-consuming operations completed in the cylinder preparation work process are not necessary.

The priority focus for Days 4 and 5 was Task D4. Act to Improve the Target Work Process (Exhibit 20). This task makes the changes in the work process and workplace that eliminate waste and produce business benefits. This is always the most satisfying part of a Kaizen event for team members as they see their efforts translated into results. The task has three main activities: (1) create action plans, (2) execute improvement ideas, and (3) measure results.

The night before, my co-leader and I had prepared a "What, Who, When" chart that detailed our image of which team members would work on the different improvement actions. Splitting up the team to execute different actions would allow us to get changes made faster. We set a goal for each improvement idea as a guide for the team members who would execute it. Before we began making changes, I shared the chart with the team and got its feedback. We then made a few adjustments to better match people and assignments.


Create Action Plans

Before making changes, the team reviewed each improvement idea to identify any that seemed either complicated or potentially risky in that a mistake in implementation might have a significant consequence with respect to cost, time, or impact on the work. For these ideas, my co-leader and I worked with the team members to complete an action plan to guide their execution of the improvement. An action plan ensures that you have the resources you need and understand the steps you must take to execute the process improvement successfully. The only change idea the team felt needed an action plan was deploying the unused vacuum pump in tandem with the current vacuum pump to speed the vacuum and purge operations in the cylinder preparation work process. Exhibit 21 (next page) presents the action plan for this improvement idea.


Execute Improvement Ideas

The excitement of Kaizen team members peaks when the opportunity arrives to execute their improvement ideas. It is at this point in the event when they experience the satisfaction of actually making improvements in the work process and work setting. Before we begin, we once again review safety procedures and ensure that everyone is wearing safety gear. At this event, the execution of most of the improvement ideas went smoothly. Some items required extra effort. We had trouble locating a supplier for the hand wheels we wanted to place on the pigtails of the cylinder prep manifold. These wheels allow hand tightening and speed cylinder hook-up. When we thought we would have to give up on this change, Nathan remembered that he had ordered some of the same hand wheels in the past. He thought they had come in, but did not know what had happened to them. Some team members searched the maintenance area and finally found the hand wheels, none of which had been used.

One of the blending process improvements raised some concerns. The process observations showed a great deal of unnecessary processing associated with writing information tags for each cylinder. On the tag, the operator recorded the type of blend, the weight of the mix, bar code numbers, order numbers, and other information. Creating these tags was not part of the work standard, but something that the lab desired and was added to the process informally. Executing the improvement idea to eliminate these tags meant convincing the lab technicians that the hand-written tags were not needed. Clarice reported that the lab technicians had grown accustomed to the tags and would not agree to their elimination.

To address this concern, Clarice and the team assigned to making this improvement prepared a presentation for the other lab technicians. The presentation showed the technicians how much waste was associated with writing the tags and how the same information that appears on the tag was already easily available. (The information appears both on the order that accompanies the cylinders and in a database that the lab uses.) She included in the presentation a demonstration of how the information could be printed from the computer onto the lab addendum, a form used by the lab. The presentation worked, and the team was able to execute the improvement. Clarice felt that the key to success was showing an understanding at the start for how the lab technicians used these tags and why they felt they were necessary. In her words: "We needed to show that we were including their needs in our solution and not just satisfying our needs."

Kaizen Desk Reference Standard Excerpt: Kaizen In Action  
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