Bill Gaw's, Best-in-Class,
Basic No. 8: Cycle
If your self directed work team can focus on only one LEAN project at a time, let it be the reduction of cycle times. Why cycle times? Because they have a huge impact on a company's bottom line.
Long cycle times are a
symptom of poor manufacturing performance and high non-value added
costs. Manufacturers need to focus on the continuous reduction of
all cycle times. Achieving success requires a specific management
style that focuses on proactive problem solving, rather than
"fire-fighting". In this process, management takes on a
coaching roll, bringing all their people into the process and
supporting them in their efforts to improve
satisfaction and profitability.
Product build/test cycle
time is an important element of the total production flow process
and provides an excellent focus for a process improvement program.
Product build/test cycle time is calculated as the hourly work
content through the longest path of the
lean manufacturing process. In
the sequential production process, the product build /test cycle
time can be calculated by starting at the end of the process and
following the longest, cumulative, single path back through the
process, regardless of whether it traces the main path or trails off
to a sub-assembly path. Many manufacturers have increased their
on-time delivery performance and product profit margins by
implementing a program of build/test cycle time reduction. The main
focus of such a program is the elimination of all non-value-add
activities along the path of the product build/test cycle.
In a Harvard Business
Review article by Joseph L. Bower and Thomas M. Hout, the authors
makes a good case for "Fast-cycle Capability for Competitive
Power". They observe that people in fast-cycle companies think
of themselves as part of an integrated system, a linked chain of
operations and decision-making points that continuously delivers
value to the company’s customers. In such organizations,
individuals understand how their own activities relate to the rest
of the company. They know how work is suppose to flow, how time is
supposed to be used.
Many have used our
Best-in-Class Manufacturing Team Training Program to change old paradigms.
Many have used our Best-in-Class Manufacturing Team Training Program to change old paradigms.
In small companies, this
way of thinking is usually second nature. People find it easy to
stay focused on creating value because almost everyone works
directly on the product or with a customer. Policies, procedures,
practices, or people that interfere with getting the product out the
door are easy to see and can be dealt with quickly.
As companies grow,
however, the system-like nature of the organization often gets
hidden. Distances increase as functions focus on their own needs,
support activities multiply, specialists are hired, reports replace
face-to-face conversations. Before long the clear visibility of the
product and the essential elements of the delivery process are lost.
Instead of operating as a smoothly linked system, the company
becomes a tangle of conflicting constituencies whose own demands and
disagreements frustrate the customer. "I don’t care what your
job is," the overwhelmed customer finally complains. "When
can I get my order?"
Fast-cycle companies –
especially the big ones – recognize this danger and work hard to
avoid it by heightening everyone’s awareness of how and where time
is spent. They make the main flow of operations from start to finish
visible and comprehensible to all employees, and they invest in this
basics training. They highlight the main interfaces
between functions and show how they affect the flow of work. They
compensate on the basis of group success. And, most important, they
reinforce the systemic nature of the organization in their
Fast-cycle companies differ from traditional organizations in how they structure work, how they measure performance, and how they view organizational learning. They use time as a critical performance measure. They insist that everyone learn about customers, competitors, and the company’s own operations, not just top management.
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