If you are involved with manufacturing these days, you’ve no doubt heard about Lean Manufacturing. I’ll not go deep into this area here, but one fascinating (for me) aspect is the thread (in some quarters) that ERP and computer systems are the enemy of Lean. On the whole, I don’t disagree – process improvement, kanbans, and attacking muda are typically very physical exercises; roaming the floor, walking through the processes (gemba walks), reorganizing workspaces for flow, designing and simplifying standard work – all very visual, participatory efforts that continue over time (constant improvement). Computer systems can just get in the way – metrics and measurements that require extra data entry, or inflexible processes that can’t be changed quickly. Much of Lean thinking is common sense and practical, applied thought – computers can over-complicate things!
However, it’s that visual, participatory nature of process improvement that can be something of an obstacle, especially if you’re working in an extended organization with many locations. It’s difficult to gain insight over the assembly process unless you’re standing at the bench, twisting and turning to reach for components. It’s hard to design practical speed improvements for changeovers if you aren’t there handling the tools / molds. And it’s often extremely difficult to get the folks who know how to do this stuff (operators) to effectively document their work!
Enter the YouTube idea (which I freely admit is not my own, but the originator has no problem sharing his insights). Travel budgets are shrinking, time away from the shop is tough – but all I need is a 5 minute show-and-tell of a process. Why not a quick video? It’s hard to describe how I can easily, visually manage WIP until you stand in that one key spot on the floor, and see how the sight lines to the various workstations all line up perfectly. Why don’t I just show you …
What about Twitter? Well, eMails, blogs, and wikis are really just fancied-up documentation tools, and nobody likes to create documentation. But Twitter can be terse, instant, and informal – not too intimidating for the itinerant author. Heck, sending tweets about ideas and observations on the job would be very much like sending text messages from your cell phone, an increasingly common, popular, and non-threatening task. The bonus, however, is that Twitter traffic can be broadcast (unlike your typical point-to-point text) and saved to a database for further review and insight.
Now, the public YouTube and Twitter sites are probably not the way you want to implement these ideas; much of what we’re Tube-ing and Tweet-ing is company confidential. Corporate IT should get involved – either host it yourselves or properly vet a third party site for access & availability, storage & security.
… finally, a chance to walk into the COO’s office and say “tweet” with a straight face …
Interested in more Lean Manufacturing resources? Here’s the best of what I’ve found on the ‘net … check ’em out!