Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why you should start thinking 'lean'

Here’s a concept that may have great benefit to you and your organization. In its various forms it’s known as “lean”, Six Sigma and The Toyota Way. There are other names as well. No, they’re not all identical. Each has its own unique variations and its own distinctive vocabulary. But at the heart of each is an identical concept — the development and implementation of processes to drive out waste. Wasted time. Wasted effort. Wasted product. These are the most obvious wastes.
You don’t have waste? Well, let me ask this in another way. Do you have enough manpower and material to do the job you're required to do? Do you have to work within a budget?
Do you ever get frustrated because a particular task you’ve assigned didn’t get done in time? Or it didn’t get done correctly? Do you have a tough time keeping your crew focused and on job? Do you often have trouble finding parts or tools? Or keeping your equipment repaired or maintained?
If you took a look at your processes — a hard, critical look — my guess is you’ll see a lot of waste in your operation, regardless of its size.
Taking the more positive approach: Are you committed to improving yourself, your employees and your department or operation?
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Systems such as The Toyota Way (“lean”) and Six Sigma might work well in manufacturing, but they have no application in, say, a parks & recreation department or university grounds department.
My guess is that you would be wrong on that. Dead wrong.
I’ve been following the progress of dozens of landscape companies that have embarked on the “lean” journey thanks to the support of outdoor power equipment manufacturer Ariens Company, Brillion, WI, and a year-long program guided by consultant Jim Paluch of JP Horizons. That program is about half way done, and the participating landscape folks that I talk to say that their ongoing “lean” training is paying huge dividends in making their operations more efficient. They’re proving that implementing processes to reduce waste and encourage continuous improvement work equally well for contracting companies.
More recently, I saw Six Sigma in action at the Jacobsen Parts Distribution facility in Charlotte, NC. The place was spotless, and the manufacturer of mowers and other wheeled outdoor power equipment was the model of efficiency. Obviously, the employees there were keen on fulfilling one of the tenents of Six Sigma, the "5 S's" — Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain.
I’m convinced that“lean” (to one degree or another) can work in any situation that involves and requires a cooperative effort among a group of people — whether it’s a large group or a small group. Or whether it’s manufacturing, retail, service or a single department within a larger entity, say a city parks and rec department, or a university grounds department.
But, it’s not an easy undertaking. In fact, it’s very difficult; not to start, which many organizations do, but to sustain. In almost all cases (let’s make that “all” cases) it requires the drive of a knowledgeable and dedicated person to get the program up and running. And, more importantly, to sustain it. Remember, this is an ongoing program to improve and drive waste from your operation or department.
I have yet to meet anybody in the parks and rec or athletic field maintenance world that has attempted to implement “lean” processes into his or her operation, but I hope to. And I hope they’re willing to share their experiences with the rest of us.
If you’re curious about Six Sigma or The Toyota Way or “lean”, there is a huge amount of information on the Internet. Google it and give it a look to see what you think.
(By:Ron Hall, Athletic Turf News)

Business Process Improvemet Using Six Sigma & Lean Six Sigma: Kuala Lumpur - 11-12 Dec 07

No comments: