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By Barry Jeffrey, Sep 9 2014 09:02AM

If you are familiar with the principles of Lean then you will be aware of the fundamental principle that there is waste to some degree in every single activity we perform, whether it is at work or in our day to day business.

You will also be aware that in general waste is split in 7 types or categories. Defective products, Waste incurred during transportation, overproduction, over processing, holding inventory, Waiting and excess motion.

But my question to you is. Did you realise that this is only part of the big picture in understanding 'waste' its effects and how to address it.

To fully understand this we need to go back a step and really try to understand some of the core fundamentals of Lean. Let's start at the very beginning and understand why the removal of wastes within processes is judged so important.

The single most important factor in developing a lean process is the 'Voice of the customer'. Understanding what the customer needs, in what volume, and when it is needed.

Having understood this, the next step is to develop a system that will deliver to the customer needs on time, to the correct quality, in the right volume. Sounds simple but this is where the problems start. If the process is not flexible enough to meet the changes in customer demand inefficiencies creep in and hence level of wastes within the process grow.

This is where most peoples understanding (including many lean practitioners) of waste starts to break down.

You may have heard the term 'Muda'. Muda translated from Japanese is Waste. However this is only part of the story.

When Taiichi Ohno Sakichi Toyoda, and Kiichiro Toyoda, originally set out to develop the Toyota production system, they recognised that the root causes of waste in a process were much deeper than many consider today.

They defined 3 types of waste, MUDA, MURA and MURI

What has happen is that Muda has been given much greater attention since over time it has been well defined into the 7 categories I mentioned earlier. Because of this, many Lean practitioners have learned to see just Muda they fail to see in the same prominence the wastes of Mura (unevenness) and Muri (overburden). Normally whilst they are focused on getting their process under control they do not give enough time or consider the impact of the other two types of waste.

So let's take time to consider both Mura and Muri.

Mura or unevenness occurs at a number of levels within a process and needs to be considered when Just in time it being put in place. Consider this, what happens when we reduce or remove inventory (one of our 7 classic wastes). Well, now that the safety buffer has been removed, the process will be put under strain to deliver in a much more responsive way. The entire value chain will be asked to flex up and down in speed. The impact of this change can be devastating to the organisation. Manning levels have to be adjusted (If cost and efficiency are to be maintained), Suppliers will be asked to change deliver schedules at short notice. Maintenance schedules may need changing, in fact a whole plethora of issues arise and all takes time to manage. Also, because of the need to produce at peak volume at any time in theory, equipment, workers, inventory and all other elements required for production must always be prepared for peak production. This is adds both cost and waste.

Unless systems and processes are put in place to do this, waste starts to creep back into the process.

Toyota considered this in the development of the Toyota production system and took it into account with the concept of Heijunka or production smoothing. The concept of Heijunka may at first appear to contradict the Just in time and lean production philosophies, however it must be remembered that done correctly well small amounts of well managed strategic stock will both aid efficiency and lower overall cost.

In the general concept of Heijunka is to try and smooth the production rate within acceptable limits. There are a number tools and tricks to this which are again linked to the original thoughts behind the Toyota production system.

For example. Toyota's final assembly line never assembles the same automobile model in a batch. Production is levelled by making first one model, then another model, then yet another. The pattern or order of the 3 models is the adjusted to smooth the daily rate based on customer demand (takt time). This flexibility is one of the key reasons for having a mixed model process. But in order to achieve this Standard work must be well defined and implemented otherwise the waste of 'MURI' will be the issue.

Muri or overburden, generally occurs when Standard work is not well defined or when addition tasks have been placed upon someone through a process change without consideration to their over workload or line balance.

Within most companies it is the case, but the importance of Standard Work cannot be underestimated. A smooth process with well trained people has a number of other benefits. When everyone knows the standard condition, and the standardised work sequences, heightened morale is seen along with improved quality improved productivity and reduced costs.

So when you are next observing a process for waste, look a little deeper. Look for the 3 M's consider MURA and MURI and be a 'Lean Waste Detective'.


By guest, Feb 29 2012 09:20AM

In today’s ever changing marketplace we are constantly faced with the challenge of meeting ever tighter budgets, with fewer resources, whilst delivering improved quality of service provision.

As a College leader you can see the bigger picture of how the community, local economy, politics, social and demographic changes are impacting on the College. Painting a clear picture of the future is a key leadership skill to engage stakeholders and create momentum towards the vision.

Finding a way to adapting to change and getting the staff engaged in the change process is critical to success. Without this engagement you will struggle to deliver the changes required, and plans will be compromised

Over the past few years, some Colleges have started to adopt the Lean Six Sigma approach to enable them to release the skills of staff and deliver significant improvements in quality and efficiency.

So what is Lean Six Sigma and where does it come from and how does it work?

‘Lean’ started in the automotive industry and was famously led by Toyota who developed a process called the Toyota Production System or TPS. This powerful concept centres on getting a clear understanding of what the customer wants. Once this is understood all wasteful activities are challenged and where possible, removed from the processes throughout the business, since they in principle do not contribute to delivering value in the eyes of the customer.

Waste can take many forms in everything we do. Wastes such as waiting, motion, over processing and errors occur in a College environment like everywhere else. Once trained and armed with this understanding of Lean, College staff learn to see again through a new perspective and start to eliminate unnecessary steps and wasteful practices.

‘Six Sigma’ originated in the electronics and the mobile phone industries. Companies such as GE and Motorola were at the forefront of its development. It’s toolset is used to make processes much more reliable and robust. We can clearly see with the improvement in reliability and reduction in costs of these types of products that Six Sigma has played a major part in enabling this to happen.

The Six Sigma structured approach to the improvement of a process is very powerful and the project method can be readily applied to the College environment.

By combining Lean and Six Sigma and blending the appropriate tools, many Colleges have been very successfully in making dramatic improvement to processes.

The adoption of this process started in the College sector with an AoC sponsored project to look at shared services and how Lean Six Sigma could be used to improve processes before they were worked in collaboration.

Cross College projects in the West Midlands in 2011 and in London Colleges in 2012 demonstrated the benefits of the Lean Six Sigma approach giving a cross functional team the opportunity to deliver a significantly improved process as well as improved team working and morale.

Since then a number of individual Colleges have adopted the approach. Processes as varied as enrolment, student services, fee collection, payroll, examinations, registers, admissions and marketing have been tackled and significant improvements have been see.

Recently, tiered training specifically designed for College staff has been developed to support the process. This commences with a one day Yellow belt training programme and develops though Green belt to a practitioner’s course for Project Leaders. All this is aimed at developing internal skill sets.

It is clear from the first few years in the sector that good projects have to be selected and the right support from the top of the College is crucial. However, the potential benefits mean that all College leaders need to seriously consider the Lean Six Sigma approach to leading College improvement activity.

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