Lean IT: A Proactive Approach To Problem Solving

Lean IT: A Proactive Approach To Problem Solving

I was recently sitting at my desk running through a checklist of improvement opportunities when I focused on several key issues within our company server room. While none of the problems had adversely affected operations or customers, my team had agreed that a proactive approach is certainly much better than a reactive one.

Over the past five years we had kept every piece of equipment and software. We would tuck them away in the corners of the server room or other cabinets "just in case" someone needed it. Over time the pile accumulated to the point where we could barely see the floor. Additionally, due to security reasons we had locked the cleaning crew out of our server room which undoubtedly led to a dust build-up. The dust build-up clogged the server air filters as well as the server room AC air filters.

My team realized that we were so busy helping other departments in the business that we forgot to maintain our own issues that had accumulated over time. We decided it was time to conduct a kaizen event.

  • Identify Problems And Potential Problems. It might sound like an elementary or obvious step, but it is sadly overlooked by many professionals. Many times we forget to identify the problem and jump in head first with no clear focus in mind. Identifying and communicating the problem also ensures that all parties involved are on the same page. Identifying potential problems can mitigate future tribulations.
  • Gather and Populate Lean Problem Solving Tools. For this kaizen event we chose to complete an A3P and several 5 Why analysis. While there are several lean tools that can be utilized to solve simple or complex problems, an A3P helps one or more individuals stay focused on solving the right problems. The 5 Why analysis helps an individual identify the root cause of a problem by repeatedly asking why until the originating item is identified.

    A3P A3P - Problem Solving Document
  • Take action. Utilizing the A3P agenda, we worked through each assigned task to implement the improvement. We also implemented kanbans, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and 5S.

An example of a problem with disastrous potential was around color copies from the printer. Colors copies cost 5 to 9 times more than black and white copies on our leased office printers. Over time I realized that copies were being left on the printer nightly both in black/white and color. Rather than covering up the waste and throwing them away each night, a box was placed on top of the printer that contains the list of unclaimed documents. A message was placed on the box that asks everyone the question, “What type of process improvement could be made to eliminate the waste in this box?” It gets everyone thinking about ways they can change their process to help eliminate the wasted paper and money being spent.

So, problems solved, right? Not exactly. We had certainly completed our projects and organized the server room. Typical improvement projects would stop here. But lean thinking teaches that we must sustain our processes and focus on continuous improvement or we will find ourselves right back where we started. To sustain the improvement, we implemented schedules to check the room organization and cleanliness as well as conduct weekly audits. Identifying a problem at an earlier stage results in less time spent correcting it. The principle of continuous improvement holds that "no problem is a problem."

As professionals, we should continuously ask ourselves, “compared to yesterday, are we better today?”

Written by Christy Burnett, Information Technology Manager at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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