Lean Tips



Quickly deployable solutions to everyday issues


The Daily Stand Up Meeting

How do you know if you are doing a good job – and more importantly, how does your team know it?

Lean best practice is to hold a Daily Stand Up meeting every morning with the following 3 objectives:

  • Assess how well the team performed the previous day
  • Identify the issues or concerns the team has that could affect their performance
  • Discuss the plan for today

The kind of metrics we’re looking for are things relevant to the team – the things that make the difference between a good day from a not so good one for them.

Asking about problems is crucial. It demonstrates that you’re listening to the team and gives them the opportunity to raise issues or concerns such as the risk of line breakdown, non-compliances, courier / delivery ambiguities and to check for understanding – ie that the team have everything they need to do a good job today.
Whilst some problems might be sorted there and then, others will need escalation or further analysis.

The important point though is the two-way dialog that you encourage: getting input from the shop floor is vital to driving sustainable change.

The last point here is to share the plan for the day: this includes everything that might take the team away from their standard work, such as receiving goods that require an offload – inspection of returns items – or planned maintenance shutdowns

Covering these 3 simple elements creates a focus at the start of the day to motivate, communicate and inform.

Holding a Daily Stand Up meeting won’t make you a Lean company, but all the best Lean companies hold one at the start of each day.


Reducing the Waste of Motion (Warehousing)

How much time do your Warehouse team spend walking around the warehouse?

We estimate that every metre walked takes around a second and in warehouses we’ve worked with, some of the pickers manage 25,000 steps each day… so that’s around 20km walking and not necessarily adding value.

Reducing the waste of motion means your staff can spend more time fulfilling customer orders and less fetching and carrying goods from the shelves and racking.

Start by identifying the most frequently picked items, or groups of items. Plot them on a plan of your warehouse to identify where the picks are clustered and then work out a logical location closer to the pack and despatch areas. It may make sense to keep items in family groups to reduce confusion between items (and pick errors), but the main factor we’re considering here is how to reduce the number of steps walked and therefore the time taken in picking.

For many items it can make sense at this point to separate stock holding into ‘pick locations’ and ‘bulk locations’, with the pick location holding a couple of days of buffer stock and replenished from bulk. Best practice is to control pick stock with a Kanban or visual signal to replenish – and the replenishment activity then becomes part of the everyday routine.

In some businesses, this additional step might be considered as adding unnecessary complexity, but remember that our primary purpose here is to ensure that at peak demand, there is less movement needed to meet customer demand – and therefore all orders can be fulfilled with the minimum amount of motion.

Lastly, we would recommend you ask your team to video themselves during a typical day. Then play back the video with them, getting them to suggest other changes they could make to reduce unnecessary motion. After all, they’re the ones doing the work – so they should know best what’s taking the most time.

Improvements to layout will reduce non-value added activities and give you the ability to meet customer demand with less effort and the changes will add to their quality of life too!


Standard Work and SOPs

Standard work is the concept of people doing the same thing, in the same way in a consistent and best practice manner.

It’s like taking the same route every day between two points on a map – you start at the same place, pass the same landmarks along the way, so you can monitor your progress as you go before arriving at your destination. The route is standardised and you can tell if you’re running late by your progress along the route.

Standardisation provides a stable basis to set consistent quality and drive performance improvement. And it’s not just confined to manufacturing, it applies to…

  • How you process a sales enquiry or invoice
  • How you service a piece of equipment
  • How you assemble a product
  • How you pack and despatch a piece of kit

In fact it applies to every value adding process in your business!

If your team have a different way of working each process, how can you drive consistent quality and increase productivity?

As Taichi Ohno, the architect of Lean at Toyota said, “Without standardisation, there can be no improvement’.

For example, a client company assembling and despatching electrical goods had 4 technicians each with their own method of putting together the same product. The result was different wire lengths, wiring routes, assembly times and potentially different quality levels across the team. Part of our work with them was to develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to drive consistent methods, quality and timings across the team.

So – what do you need to do?

  • Get the team to understand the need for standard work
    Measure current quality and productivity to create a performance benchmark.
  • Challenge the team to work together to adopt the simplest and quickest approach using best practice.
  • Record this approach as your Standard – using pictures, diagrams and a stepwise approach to create a written Standard Operating Procedure.
  • Then follow up by monitoring performance and promoting continuous improvement using the Plan – Do – Check – Act methodology.


Continuous Improvement & the PDCA cycle

Making Continuous Improvement happen every day in your business is the ideal for an effective and efficient operation, but to make it work well requires:

  • A culture where innovation and improvements to working practice are encouraged.
  • A standard routine to raise problems, debate and investigate their root causes and test possible improvements

The PlanDoCheckAct methodology or Deming cycle is the means by which teams can create Continuous Improvement to their everyday work.

  • Plan: You need your team to come up with ideas for improvement, backed up with evidence to support why it should help.
  • Do: Try it out! Put in place the changes the team are suggesting. Making this happen is true empowerment and demonstrates your respect for their thoughts…
  • Check: Check to see if the improvements you’ve trialled have helped improve performance or not… for example, taking less time to do a task, higher quality achieved or a shorter cycle time in production…
  • Act: Either adopt the changes as your new way of working (ie your new Standard process), or adjust and try out another method.

However, making Continuous Improvement part of your everyday life takes time and effort.

You need to create the means by which Problems can be raised. We recommend this as an element of your Daily Stand Up meeting.

Allocate time on a regular basis for structured problem solving. Include a cross section of your staff to get their buy-in and follow a consistent Root Cause Analysis and problem solving process.

Whilst you might have your own ideas, you need to respect what the team tell you. They’re the ones working the process every day so should be best equipped to know how to improve it.


Spaghetti Maps - Reducing the waste of movement

How can we identify the waste of material movement and create flow in our production processes?

Many companies don’t realise that excessive transport of goods around the site can add significant waste to their business. We can monitor this using a Spaghetti map.

Start by mapping the major process steps within the site – from goods in to despatch, and then plotting the movement of goods between workstations. There’s plenty of movement between steps and plenty of walking around the site.

When you total up the orders for a couple of days, you can visualise the waste through the spaghetti that has been created on the map.

Each metre walked takes around 1 second, so that’s a lot of time and effort expended in moving goods around the site, which could be channelled into reducing cycle time and reducing the risk of damage.

What do you need to do?

Re-work the layout of your major production processes. Work from goods out back to goods in, noting doorways, walls and ventilation and power requirements.

Create work cells where possible to promote the flow of work in a logical sequence of production steps from start to finish.

Link processes with controlled amounts of stock where needed using a First In – First Out approach.

Spaghetti maps are a useful tool to identify and reduce the waste of movement of goods around your site whether you’re in production or operating a pick ‘n pack warehouse.


Inventory control - an intro to ABC analysis

If you run out of fast moving stock whilst your warehouse is full of redundant or low value lines – then this tip is for you…

Do you buy what you sell or need to sell what you’ve bought is a key strategic question. And Procurement plays a critical role. The ABC Analysis is a good way to analyse your stock holding and compare your stock levels with the most active SKUs you sell.

You’ll need to download Sales history by SKU to study and analyse in a spreadsheet format. We recommend you use 3 months sales, or more if you need to consider seasonal sales patterns.

Then chart the cumulative % of Sales against the SKUs. Adding the 80%, 95% and 98% levels identifies key markers which demonstrates the reliance of the business on certain core stock lines.

These markers define your A stocks, the B’s, C’s and D’s… but you can use your own levels – the principle is the same: to determine how much of your sales, is reliant on a few SKUs.

And the results can be quite astonishing. We’ve recently been working with a multi £m business where the top 5 lines made up half of their sales…

And with many slow moving lines absorbing cash and taking up valuable shelf and warehouse space.

So, once you’ve analysed the data, it’s time to take action:

Ensure the stock level of As is healthy. Talk to your suppliers to iron out supply chain difficulties, and help them to help you.
And the D products need to be discounted, de-listed and cleared out to make space for more lines.

There’s a load more work that can be done with supply chain analysis and stock control, but the ABC analysis is a powerful tool in the Lean toolbox to ensure the optimal use of your cash and space.



What do we mean by Turnbacks?

A turnback is anything in a series of sequential steps that causes the pace of work to stop or need correction.

They’re usually found in Admin processes and may only cause delay to a process – or might cause knock-on effects and defects further down the value chain.

Examples include:

  • Orders logged by a Sales team with an incomplete or wrong address.
  • Technical drawings required by production, that are received late or with errors.
  • And customer deliveries that can’t be made because of a stock error.

Turnbacks can be really frustrating but tend to occur simply because of poor communication and this is usually at the handoff between teams.

For example, we might map Turnbacks happening in the handoff between Sales and Customer Services, or between Customer Services and Operations…

How do we solve them?

Firstly, record where in your processes your Turnbacks occur. We recommend a simple tally chart to give you a picture of where to focus your efforts.

Then discuss with the appropriate team, creating a Pareto chart of the main culprit areas.

From this, you should be able to feed into your standard PDCA problem solving routine and develop the best actions to take.

Turnbacks happen in every business but tackling them in this way will help to limit their affect whilst at the same time re-inforcing your Lean Management processes.


What Does Good Look Like?

You manage a team of people and need to monitor their performance, but how do you know if they’re doing an average job or performing exceptionally? Do you know what ‘good’ looks like?

We find many teams do the same job day after day because it’s always been done that way and they don’t know any different, but this means your team performance has stagnated.

Lean teams embrace continuous improvement but the starting point is to create metrics and measures. As Peter Drucker, the Management Consultant and prolific author said…

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

But what do we need to measure?

In short, any time or quality-based activity that your team perform. If it moves, or is a regular activity, then count and record it. This should be in every area of every business: Manufacturing, Distribution, Sales, Service and Admin too.

Effective metrics:

1). Monitor tangible activities such as the number of pieces made, or sent out, the number of calls or POs raised or queries answered per period of time

2). Are within the control of the team to influence

3). Are preferably linked back to your corporate objectives

Start by recording metrics in an area of the business over a period of time so you get an idea of standard performance or capacity. Then once you know what normal looks like you can start setting objectives and targets.

Now you have something to review every day and you’ve set a baseline for improvement.

Creating the culture for Problem Solving takes time – but it is worth it!

Still Confused About How Lean Can Help? Contact us for more information

Don’t wait to see if things will improve. Delays will only impact your company and your customers and serves your competition.

So don’t delay, contact us today.