I have been a facilitator with Think Perform for over 4 years, and worked with Lean principles throughout my working career in the automotive components industry with ongoing exposure to the Toyota Production System. My first exposure to facilitation was with Futuris Automotive as the company trained all their staff to a Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices, although much of my working days would be spent mentoring in the workplace.
With Think Perform I have facilitated training at companies such as Iplex, Rocla, Ferrocut, Golden North Ice Cream, Swan Hill Engineering, Alspec, Seeley, Fletchers New Zealand and also mining hospitality sites at Port Hedland and Mildura.
What would be the one thing that you hope participants take away from their Think Perform course?
For me, it is the realisation that they have the power to implement change, it doesn’t need to be big change, they just need to think about their daily work and identify “What bothers me? What bugs me? What can I do to make my job easier while improving efficiency and quality?” Some of the biggest impacts have been the smallest changes because of the impact it has on the individual in reducing their frustration and improving their morale.
Simple, well planned changes that have a positive impact on the employees will have a positive flow on effect on their customers, be them internal or external, leading to improved customer satisfaction and the building of an ongoing rewarding relationship.
What are common problems that participants face when learning or applying Lean concepts and techniques? Do you have any advice to overcome this?
The common problems I see are related to change. Participants are sometimes not willing to share their ideas as they feel they may not be listened to, or even worse, negatively treated by fellow employees. This may be from previous experiences when their ideas were not supported by their management team so they feel their ideas are not valued or appreciated.
The advice I give them to overcome this is:
- Firstly the management team is investing in the participants by Think Perform being on site, it’s just not the cost of the program, but also the time the participants are away from their workstations, the management team want to see improvements to justify their investment.
- When they generate an idea for change, they need to word it positively by being “Above the Line” and not just to come up with an idea, but also to generate what the improvements will be, they could relate to productivity, efficiency, reducing waste, safety and employee well being.
- The final piece of advice would be if they are apprehensive, then we can get together and I can champion the discussion with the management team for, or with them.
What is your favourite Lean/Continuous Improvement tool/technique/concept?
I have always liked 5S because it is a key concept in so many other Lean and Continuous Improvement Tools. If you are problem solving you need to have your information organised, usually we 5S the information into an A3 or even collecting data on a chart or graph is an example of 5S with data.
Likewise visual management is linked to 5S, just a simple shadow board where tools are stored and returned to, is a great example of visual management and 5S. My participants have shared many experiences of how they have implemented 5S not only in their workplace but also in their home, just to make things easier.
Everyone will have examples of 5S in their own home ranging from their cutlery drawers, wine racks, perhaps even your sock draw.
What is the best/most unique/most interesting way that you’ve seen clients apply lean/CI tools and techniques?
One of the best and most effective tools/techniques used was at a site which produced plastic injection moulded parts, and one of their processes was to pack boxes from a bulk container, e.g. boxes of 12 from a container of 200 parts.
The issue stemmed from safety signage which stated that hearing protection must be worn in the area, so all employees would stop and put their earplugs in whenever they entered the area even if the machine was idle and not working.
The site then conducted noise assessment testing around the area and redefined the area with a border of a blue and white line. The signage was then update to read “Hearing protection must be worm when past blue and white lines when machine is operating”.
The solution reduced the needless use of earplugs, resulting in a cost saving to the consumables, and also proved to be more efficient for the forklift drivers, with an estimated half an hour savings per shift per day, while also reducing frustration and increasing morale.
Any last tips/advice for readers?
Make the most of your opportunities to improve, be vocal at your Toolbox meetings, but remember always be “Above the Line” don’t let yourself be the person that always complains, be the one who has ideas, solutions and reasons to improve. Concentrate on the basics, lots of small improvements implemented over a span of one year add up to a huge improvement at the end of that year, help make your workplace one that values their employees as they strive for Continuous Improvement.