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Improving Efficiency by Understanding Your Processes

September 5th, 2011

The ultimate goal of any manufacturing process should be to create value. Value is anything your company does that creates something that your customers are willing to pay for. As an example, an employee tightening a bolt on a piece of equipment is generating value. An employee hunting around to find the right wrench to do that job is not generating value and is, therefore, generating waste. The ways that companies can increase the amount of value they generate are surprisingly simple, in many cases, but require work to identify.


There has been extensive work done on identifying waste. The Japanese auto companies were some of the leaders in identifying where money is lost in the manufacturing process and, given their successes, the value of these methodologies is easy to understand. Inventory is one of the sources of loss that everyone is familiar with. There are others, however, including over-processing, the movement of resources unnecessarily and waiting that all conspire to drain a company’s resources while providing no benefit to the company. Eliminating them starts by understanding them.


If an employee is striving for excellence, for example, that is always a good thing. Sometimes, however, employees will do more work than needed on a product. This translates directly to waste. Communicating this to employees without making it seem like you’re asking for lower-quality work is difficult, and potentially destructive to morale. A consultant knows how to address these issues and to communicate that the overall goal is to create a better product, something any dedicated employee is generally enthusiastic to do. The many sources of waste in your company can be eliminated and, by doing so, you can increase efficiency and develop better processes. This helps profitability and helps your company compete in today’s global marketplace.

What is a Visual Workplace?

August 9th, 2011

More and more companies are turning their factories and production lines into visual workplaces and for good reason. Visual workplaces help keep communication going and they urge people to work as a team and not just as individuals. They also help to keep things going on schedule. But, what actually is a Virtual Workplace?

visual workplace


A visual workplace is defined as self-regulating and self-explaining environment. It is characterized by the presence of visual devices that help guide people and help them set their priorities. In such a workplace, visual devices help keep things ordered and help keep things running on schedule.

Visual Devices

Visual devices are an important part of a virtual workplace. Some functions of virtual devices include:

• Showing Area Designations – Visuals showing the names of the specific areas in the work floor will help orient new employees and it will also facilitate travelling from one area to another.
• Preventing Accidents – Even reminders as simple as a board that says ‘Wet Floor’ can decrease the incidence of accidents.
• Preventing Defects – Visual reminders of the right way and the wrong way to do assemble something can keep workers on tract.
• Providing Easy Access – Visual devices showing the ideal places for personnel access can reduce confusion and make things go faster.
• Sharing Common Work Priorities – This is another way to keep people on tract and keep them

Devices should be tailored to the type of workplace you have. Employees should also be properly informed about how to work with the devices properly.

Factories are not the only ones that can benefit from a visual workplace. There are many companies that are looking at the possibility of it and of visual management for offices. Taking down barriers to improve visibility and setting common long term and short term goals can work will certainly help improve efficiency.

Tips for Effective Lean Leadership

March 5th, 2011

Lean leadership is an important practice for any company that wants to be more efficient. It is a targeted form of leadership that is more focused on moving things forward instead of managing every single detail. It is important in change management and in the success of companies who want to implement lean manufacturing.

Here are some tips to help make lean leadership more effective:

Lead and Teach

Many leaders forget the teaching aspect of the role. To become an effective leader, one needs to be able to teach. This is especially necessary when there change is implemented and when there are new techniques and business strategies to be learned. Leaders should not just be experts, instead they should be a resource where employees can go to for assistance.

Find the Middle Ground Between Fear and Comfort

Fear is going to cause a lot of stress and it may even lead to dissent among employees. On the other hand, comfort can lead to decrease in production. Lean leaders must learn to eliminate these two scenarios or at least find the middle ground between them.

Tension and Not Stress

They also need to learn how to build tension instead of stress. Tension will keep things going at a steady or at a faster rate. Stress will slow things down.

Provide Forward Work Instead of Just Tasks

When there is a goal to be met, it is important for a leader to not only delegate a job but also to provide a progressive workload. Have employees move towards a goal. It is also necessary to appraise a team’s performance based on its goals.

In addition to the above, it is also important for a lean leader to be an information conduit instead of being a rigid enforcer of rules. There has to be an open communication between the leader and the people they work with.

How Lean Strategies Can Help Your Business Thrive

November 12th, 2010

The lean strategy actually concerns an antiquated manufacturing process invented by Toyota.  However, its strategies are very helpful in helping new business owners to focus on priorities and eliminate wasteful processes.  The basic goal of lean strategy is that the company saves the same value but stops the over expenditure of resources. Read More »

Tips for Building Relationships

November 3rd, 2010

It’s not only important to be an expert in your field or area of expertise.  This might get you in the door with potential clients, but creating genuine relationships is what leads to the long-term relationship(s) that you’re seeking.  When you create a relationship with someone, you seek their trust and confidence in your approach, offering, or advice.  Here are a few tips that should help you increase your chance of building a lasting relationship.  Read More »

Tips for Transforming Organizational Culture

October 27th, 2010

Changing culture is probably the most important ingredient to any successful change initiative.  Rather you’re a leader with authority or a change agent without authority, getting the culture behind the change is the only certain way to sustain the results you put in place.

 A leader once tried to convince me that I, as a change agent, operated much like a salesman.  Not giving it a lot of thought at the time, I thought to myself, I’m the furthest thing away from a salesman.  It didn’t dawn on me right then and there, but it wasn’t a traditional salesman he was referring to.  It made me think, we’re all salesmen to some extent.  As leaders of change, we’re trying to sell a vision, a need for change, ideas, concepts, and ultimately what’s in it for them. Read More »

Making Improved Procedures Stick

October 6th, 2010

If you’ve had your company assessed for efficiency, you were likely given a lot of recommendations. Implementing them is always a challenge, but you have to make sure that those procedures become a part of your everyday workflow. Oftentimes, the consultants who provide the assessment can also help implement the procedures. You have to make sure that they’re sustained, however, and that is actually part of one of the most effective ways to increase efficiency, the 5Ss. Without a commitment, none of the proven methods of increasing workplace efficiency will work for long. Read More »

Increasing Efficiency in the Workplace

September 23rd, 2010

Since the Industrial Revolution began, managers have been trying to make their workplaces more efficient. In the era of Taylorism, this often meant reducing the workers to the level of machines, tasking them with repetitive, mind-numbing jobs that gave them no sense of importance or ownership over what they did. Today, the various philosophies of industrial efficiency take into account the human element and, in the process of making the industry more efficient, they also make that industry more conducive to happy workers who understand their importance in the company’s success. Read More »

Deploying Lean: Don’t Wait until it’s too Late

August 8th, 2010

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the analogy of the burning platform, but in essence it is the case for action.  Don’t wait until the fire is a blazing until you take action.  Often times businesses wait until it’s too late until they find that sense of urgency to take action.  A downturn in the economy, a lost proposal or client, winning a large contact with no contingency plan; whatever your burning platform might be, I encourage you to continuously develop and execute a strategy that’s forward-looking. Read More »

Balancing Day-to-Day Responsibilities and Continuous Improvement

August 1st, 2010

With a new year come new challenges and new opportunities.  In order to improve we must strike that right balance between day-to-day responsibilities and continually improving.  It’s never easy, but if you don’t take the time today, and may cost you a lot more in the long term. Read More »



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