Monday, June 24, 2013

Toyota Kata: A Better Approach to Developing a Lean Culture

We recently held a Lean Leadership training program in Orange County, California.  One of the key topics we covered was the improvement kata, developed by Mike Rother.  We feel that this methodology is a key to spreading and teaching lean thinking throughout an organization.  The concept involves utilizing a routine of practicing A3 Problem Solving (or Toyota Business Practices) utilizing 5 key questions that a coach or mentor asks his/her learner/mentee.   In the following video, a student describes the improvement kata:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lean Accounting

Lean Accounting is a topic that has gained in popularity over the years for one very simple reason: traditional accounting sometimes encourages managers to make the wrong decisions.  Why would this be?  Traditional accounting is based on the model of mass production: building more is encouraged, without regard to whether the customer needs it or not.  Traditional cost accounting systems many times encourage production managers to build product, to reduce cost.  This looks good on "absorption" reports, but the important question for the lean thinker is, does this actually improve our ability to produce what is needed when it is needed for our customer?  Furthermore, does this truly increase profitability and cash flow?  If we undergoing a lean transformation, we need metrics and accounting systems that encourage the right behavior toward our goals.  Lean accounting becomes an essential part of this transformation.  Lean accounting provides managers with the right information: it answers essential questions such as:

  1. Are our value streams profitable?
  2. Are we producing what the customer needs?
  3. Are we leveling our workload and reducing inventory?
  4. Are we reducing lead-times?
  5. Are we improving productivity?
We have created a brief video on the topic (above).  Because this topic is so essential to success, we are including it as part of our upcoming Lean Leadership training class, which will take place on June 12-13, 2013 in southern California.  For details, visit

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Type B Pull System - Sequential Pull Systems and FIFO Lanes

When people talk about pull systems, they are often referring to a replenishment pull system, sometimes called a type "A" pull system.   What is often missed is that there is an alternative to a type "A" pull system.  We call this a sequenced or sequential pull system.  This type "B" system works well when maintaining a sequence of work but controlling the time and quantity between operations is important.  Unlike a replenishment pull system, a type "B" pull system does not require storing inventory by part number between operations.  Instead, jobs, parts, or information is stored in FIFO (First In First Out) lanes that limit the quantity and maintain the sequence of work between operations.  Both type "A" and type "B" pull systems are excellent, and each has its place within a manufacturing, healthcare, or other service organization.  And, in case you were wondering, there is a type "C" pull system, but this is really a mix of "A" and "B" in which some products are utilizing replenishment pull and some are utilizing sequential pull through the same value stream.  Following is our new video on the topic of sequential pull.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is a Kaizen Event?

Kaizen events have been utilized since the 1980's to improve processes within factories, offices, and healthcare facilities.  However, they are often misunderstood and implemented incorrectly.  We have created a very basic and humorous video explaining the basics of kaizen events.  On March 7th, we are holding a one day workshop that covers this topic: Kaizen Events: 5S, Visual Controls, and Mistake Proofing,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lean Management: What is Catchball?

Our January 2013 newsletter is out, and our topic for the month is Lean Leadership.  One sub-topic within lean leadership is the concept known as catchball.  Anyone who has been involved in a lean transformation knows that a good working relationship and system for communication between upper management, supervision, and front-line workers is critical to success.  Management sets the vision and goals, but the workers actually have the know-how to make improvements to their processes.  Catchball is one technique for making these relationships work.  We've recently created the following video to explain the concept of catchball.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lean Culture Plus Training Announcements

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!  We've created a new lean cartoon covering the topic of lean culture for you to enjoy below.  We also have some announcements regarding our Lean Manufacturing Certification and Lean Healthcare training programs.  Through the end of December, pricing is discounted for early registration for these programs, both of which will take place in Orange County, California.  If California is not convenient for you for training or you are constrained by budget, please consider our convenient, self-paced Online Lean Training programs.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Election Season and Lean Thinking

Another presidential election is upon us in the U.S.A.  This means that debates will soon begin between the candidates.  Given the state of the world economy and the worldwide unrest, one would think that the debates will mostly cover these topics.  But, what if we injected the question of lean thinking in the debates?  For a little levity, we did just that.  Below is a cartoon of a debate in which the question of lean thinking is asked.  As usual with our cartoons, lean thinking steals the show:

On another note, if you are not consumed with this politcal season and have some time to learn more about lean, visit us in San Diego in October.  We have an upcoming lean certification program on October 23-25.  For more details on this program, please visit Lean Manufacturing Certification.