By Jon Miller | Post Date: February 13, 2008 8:49 PM | Comments: 4
There are many misguided ways to explain or to think of lean management. We've discussed some of these in the 10 common misconceptions of lean manufacturing previously. It may not be complete but it is correct to think of lean as the Toyota way and summed up as the pillars of kaizen and respect for people. Likewise lean thinking can be summed up as the endless pursuit of the elimination of waste. Zero thinking is a broader yet more sharply focused set of fundamental principles that underly the type of process management we call lean today.
Zero thinking is the refusal to become complacent accept as "normal" things such as accidents, inventory, defects or delays. Although undeniably real, these things must be thought of as abnormal and things to be addressed and eliminated through concerted continuous improvement efforts. We can get to zero thinking step by step, starting with what is most essential and often easiest to address, and then advancing to more complex problems within process management.
These are the seven steps of zero thinking, as we understand them:
1. Zero accidents. Safety first must be a way of life and not just a slogan. Without serious workplace-centered and people-centered daily attention to safety, there is no credibility to other aspects of lean management.
2. Zero defects. This is a much longer road than zero accidents and requires an early start and long-term commitment. Fundamental behavior and attitude changes come first, followed by the more technical aspects of problem solving and prevention. Without safety, you don't have a workplace and without quality you don't have a product.
3. Zero delays. Continuous flow of material and information results in finishing the work you started as quickly as possible. This has the benefit of helping you get paid quicker for the work you have put in, avoiding spoilage of your work, as well as getting feedback from your customer sooner. Questioning delays forces us to look at the reasons why we put things down rather than finish them, and then to connect and balance processes so that work moves along smoothly. Much of the time this is due to problems in planning and information flow.
4. Zero inventory. We place inventory in the middle of the list because we shift into looking at material and information flow from a systematic level when we aim for zero inventory. Lowering inventory exposes previously hidden problems throughout the entire process from placing orders through delivery. In simple terms, to compromise on the zero inventory philosophy is to compromise on making problems visible. Zero thinking is a practical philosophy of not compromising the pursuit of these ideals.
5. Zero breakdowns. We might think of breakdowns as accidents that happen to machines and equipment. We need to take care of our valuable physical assets and hardware as well as we take care of our people. People and machines process material and information to make us money. Zero breakdowns comes in at step 5 so that we can prioritize breakdown prevention in ways that support safety, defects, delay and inventory improvement objectives.
6. Zero changeovers. The ideal process is available to produce whatever is needed whenever it is needed. This level flexibility is only possible when there is no artificial economy of scale driven by the desire to avoid time lost to changeovers. Equipment and processes must be designed to make zero changeovers a reality (changeover activity may happen but do not result in lost capacity).
7. Zero waste. Are you surprised to find waste placed last? Since we are addressing some of the 7 types of waste directly in the list above such as inventory, defects and delay, we must think of waste in broader terms here to include wasted space, energy, polluting the environment and even the waste of existing talent or the potential for people to learn and achieve excellence.
None of these are discrete steps that start and end prior to the next step beginning. Think of them as a series of parallel activities that have staggered starting points but go on forever. The purpose of placing the starting point for each of the zero thinking steps in sequence is twofold: you can't focus effectively on seven areas at once, and you need to know where to start and what to do next. The timing at which you start the next step (while continuing efforts with the previous step) will be different with each organization. You will know if you started the next step too early, take a half a step back and firm up the foundation before moving forward.
One can always argue that inventory is a must-have for warehousing and distribution businesses, or that zero breakdowns does not apply to a pure service organization that has no physical assets to speak of, such as a psychiatrist. The seven steps to zero thinking were organized in that way based on our experiences in manufacturing-type processes so it is very possible that other arrangements are possible. They seem to work fairly well as they are in the various environments we have encountered. However they are organized, we need zero thinking because there are a lot of other areas to work on such as zero emissions, zero landfill, zero carbon...Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.