Lean Problem Solving: Providing Visibility for Everyone to See

At LeanCor, we operate by lean supply chain guiding principles. These principles include collaborating and using process discipline to create a lean problem solving culture.

In order to create and sustain a lean problem solving culture, you must make the problem solving visible.

But what exactly does visible mean? What is needed to achieve this visibility? It is only realized with massive investments in technology?

Here are the top three strategic focus areas for visibility in lean problem solving.

  1. Understandability

GT gemba Value Stream Mapping - Visibility

It is alarming how little some managers know about their logistics and supply chain processes. Although the system produces results in the end, its workings can be puzzling to the typical executive. Traditionally, logistics has not been a boardroom topic, in many cases considered an evil cost of doing business and one that simply needs to be minimized. However, the tides are turning and logistics is beginning to gain momentum in corporate boardrooms. Some of this change is proactive and some is reactive. The proactive change is driven by organization that recognizes that improved logistics functions can provide a competitive advantage. Reactive organizations are being forced to study their supply chain due to changing global dynamics and increased supply chain security requirements.

So how do we begin to understand and show some lean problem solving to provide visibility to the organization?

A good way to start lean problem solving is to map out your current process, a learning tool also called value stream mapping. Also, adding visibility to everyday standard work for all to see. These two concepts are instrumental in order to understand a logistics system as well as make the entire network visible to the organization. Understanding starts with mapping the logistics network and how the processes work in the network itself.

  1. Measurability

Measurement is extremely important to capability and visibility. For instance, to determine a systems capability, we need some way to measure it. To understand a system is to define it in mathematical terms. This would obviously require some lean problem solving, as most of us know, implementing an effective measurement system is hard work. First, we determine what to measure, and then we collect accurate data and try to sustain the measurement system over the long term. The setup is the most important part of the work. Effective measurement systems begin and end with what you measure, so the greatest challenge is deciding what to measure.

One thing to keep in mind is the voice of customer (VOC), as well as how to design processes that will meet our customers’ expectations. Consequently, our measurement system needs to address these focus areas, starting with the customer. This provides an excellent lesson in business. When in doubt, start with the customer.

From a lean problem solving point of view, all measurements can be categorized into one of the follow three areas:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • Quality (including service)

With these three categories in mind, we can construct a measurement system with visibility into the logistics network.

  1. Actionability

Lean logistics systems are capable. Capable logistics systems are predictable, stable, and visible. Visible systems are both understandable and measurable. Building a logistics system that is visible and measurable allows us to apply lean problem solving in our day to day activities, which will lead to visible improvements.

Making adjustments requires people with time and skills. Actions require a system that has the capacity to change as needed. For example, some organizations have paperwork processes that do not allow last minute changes. Even though you could add to the shipment on the trailer, you are blocked by the computer system that will not allow it. These types of constraints are unacceptable when action is the priority. It should not surprise us at this point that making logistics network actionable is more about communication than anything else.

Without disciplined processes, attempted action tends to result in confusion and operational service failures. When you focus on action areas, disciplined processes, and communication channels, waste can be eliminated on a day to day basis. When actions are integrated into an efficient measurement system, the logistician can articulate the value of improvements made each and every day.

Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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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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