Monday, September 23, 2013

Lean Journey 1: Defining Value, Eliminating Muda

Day one of the Lean Journey.

I was tempted to begin writing a history of "Lean" thinking, but It's been done better by others, and in the interest of avoiding "muda" (oh, I didn't mention we'd also be learning some Japanese along the way too) I'll just give some recommended reading as we go.

So I'll be taking a Lean Journey through my house, looking for ways to build habits that both improve my quality of life at home, keep things cleaner and reduce the amount of time I have to spend thinking or worrying about chores.

When you start a lean journey, you can start on a micro or macro scale. Since we've got a lot of different things moving through the house, and I'm the customer, operator, and co-manager of the department, We'll start from a macro scale. Either way you go the lean journey must take both sides of of the micro macro coin into account.

Lean at a macro scale deals in "Value Streams." A value stream takes some input and turns it into a more valuable output. As we begin, I'll be looking at laundry as my first value stream. My value statement (since I'm the customer too) is that I want "clean, pressed clothes that are easy to find and get to, and a neat dirty clothes inventory."

Japanese Word of the Day: 無駄 (Muda): Waste, Futility, Uselessness

The whole Lean Journey starts with two concepts: Value and Muda. Value is what I want, Muda is the crazy messed up way I get there. Some companies (like me) have trouble meeting their statement of value, which is another problem, but the "least waste way" is almost always the best way to get consistent quality. So let's start there and handle quality control later.

Muda takes many different forms, but almost all of them are covered by the acronym: TIM WOOD
7 Wastes TIMWOOD

Waste in the Laundry Value Stream.
  • Transportation: I have to take my clothes up and down the basement stairs every time.
  • Inventory: I don't have holding costs associated with my clothes, but having an inventory of dirty clothes in my room isn't helping anybody
  • Motion: Running up and down the stairs to start the washer, load, unload etc. I'm not moving anything but myself so it's motion waste. Also bending way over to unload the dryer, or climbing over my bed to get into my closet to load it.
  • Waiting: waiting for machines to finish, clothes waiting in the washer for me to move them to the dryer
  • Over-production: One that isn't there, I can't produce too many clean clothes from my dirty ones.
  • Over processing: Washing things too often (jeans), folding underwear, matching socks
  • Defects/Rework: Sending things through the dryer again because they are wrinkled.
It's important to note, that while some wastes can't be removed, or are impractical to remove (the plumbing for the laundry is downstairs), they should still be noted. I can't move the dryer upstairs, but I could lift it up on some sturdy blocks to eliminate some of the bending to get into it. I wouldn't have thought of that unless I was trying to think of everything.

In our next episode I'll be introducing value stream mapping and going to "gemba"!

A Little Lean Journey

By now you've all gotten a pretty good chance to read a lot of my creative work, but now, as an exercise to keep myself sharp as I drift further and further from school I'd like to take some time to explore my other passion. The one that I spent 5 years in school studying. Industrial Engineering.

Now, if you've read my International Contest speech you've seen that I've said pretty clearly that I don't think like an engineer. This should clarify that statement a little, and hopefully teach you all something about what I plan to do with my life. (Unfortunately, I don't have the writing chops to do it for a living just yet.)

I'm going to endeavor to make this as entertaining as possible (what good is a teaching tool if your students can't get through it?) but at the end of the day this is an educational journey, and it's primarily for my own edification (although if an employer happens to be looking at this, all the better.) If' it's not your cup of tea, skip to some of the more creative posts. Otherwise, let's take a little lean journey together.