Lean Roadmap Newsletter
Becoming a World Class Organization 
26th Edition  
The topics for this edition are:
    • Lean in a "Job Shop" or "Engineered to Order" Environment
    • The Lean Leader Coach Series Continues with "Employee Empowerment" Part IV

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Lean in a "Job Shop" or  

"Engineered to Order" Environment

Since implementing Lean creates organizational flexibility, Lean applies more in a "job shop" environment than in a high volume production environment.
by Vince Fayad
How many times have we, as Lean, Six Sigma, or Quality professionals, gone into various companies and been told that these tools do not apply to us. "We are different." "We are not Toyota, we do not make the same thing over and over again." This negative perception of what Lean is, all but blinds organizations to what is possible. These companies do not realize that most manufacturers have all the same processes. The point is that what comes out at the end of these processes may vary from customer to customer or from order to order.


These processes are generally: order procurement, engineering, purchasing and parts manufacturing, and assembly. 

Engineered to Order Step 1

In the early 1990's, the author was working for a company that manufactured highly engineered pumps, custom made pumps for customers such as Fluor Daniel, Halliburton, and Bechtel.  As we began to implement World Class Manufacturing (the term "Lean" had not been coined yet) we discovered that one of the biggest problems in this process were the errors associated with something called a Factory Order Packet (FOP) or Manufacturing Work Order as some people might call it.


The FOP was the mechanism the sales team used to convey the customer's requirements and specifications to Engineering. When we asked, "How often do we receive a complete, correct, and accurate FOP from Sales?" The answer was, "Never!" Every FOP sent to Engineering was incomplete, incorrect, and/or inaccurate. But would this stop Engineering from working on the order? No! The company, more specifically Engineering, always felt the need to start working on a job even though the FOP was not right. They all felt that we now have the order and the clock has started ticking.


The end result was a team of engineers working on a job that could not be completed right the first time. They would start working on one job, get part way done and have to stop because they did not have all the correct/accurate information. Engineering would spend most of their time inspecting or reconciling (both are wasteful activities). While they were waiting to hear back from the salesperson or the customer, they would start working on another job. The same thing would happen with the next job and then the next.

Engineered to Order Step 3 

What tends to happen now is, even if a team of engineers do get a complete and accurate FOP (FOP #3), they may very well get pulled off that job because they now have the additional information for FOP #1 and that job now becomes the hottest job in the company. The result is that the Engineering team bounces from job to job increasing the opportunity for an error to occur.


The number of FOP work-in-process packets was out of control until we developed a Kanban at the interface between Sales and Engineering. This included instilling the discipline to never start a job until we had a complete and accurate FOP.  In fact the FOP would not be allowed in the Kanban until it was complete and accurate.  Then it would get "pulled" into the engineering process. I can hear all the skeptics saying right now, "That will never happen or work in our company." What we found was the Engineering team could now do the job they were hired to do. We found that all jobs were able to be processed through Engineering faster with less error. The entire System Cycle Time was reduced as a result of this initiative. 

Engineered to Order Step 2

We also found the same thing happening in the manufacturing process. For example, we found that Assembly would start assembling a job before all the component parts were in the "kit."  We would start one job and get part way through the assembly process and have to stop because we ran out of a part or had incorrect parts in the kit. It was not until we established the kitting process and instilled the discipline that no one would start a job until all the correct parts were in the kit, that we truly demonstrated significant progress. We were able to significantly reduce our System Cycle Time and the number of errors at assembly.


In addition to creating these Kanbans and establishing a true "pull" system in the company, we also established WIP caps for Engineering and Assembly.  Based on the number of hours it would take to engineer a certain job or the hours it would take to complete an assembly, we would only release a certain number of jobs based on the available resources in each group.

Engineered to Order Step 4 

There is a formula we use in Lean that states Cycle Time is equal to Work in Process divided by Exits.



Cycle Time = ------



Simply stated it means that if our capacity stays the same (we did not add engineers or assemblers) the more WIP we have in the process, the longer our Cycle Times will be, and the longer it takes to complete a job from start to finish.


There were some hiccups in changing the culture in the organization and the actual implementation, but the results were amazing. Jobs were able to be completed in less time with fewer errors.

The one positive impact that was not expected was that both engineers and assemblers were able to do the job they were hired to do because they did not have to spend all their time running around trying to get information or find parts to complete an assembly. People actually enjoyed coming to work and contributing to the success of the organization.  
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Certified Lean Facilitator Training (Manufacturing)

 Appleton, WI
This Certified Lean Facilitator "public" training session will be hosted by Goodwill Industries in Appleton, WI.
You can attend just one class or start the journey to becoming a Certified Lean Facilitator by attending all 3 weeks.
Session dates are:
Week 1 - March 22, 2010
Week 2 - April 12, 2010
Week 3 - May 17th, 2010
For more information and pricing, Click Here
For scheduling, call us at 260-637-8064 or e-mail info@wcmfg.com

Certified Lean Facilitator Training (Administrative/Service)

Mechanicsburg, PA

This standard Certified Lean Facilitator training session will be hosted by CenterPoint Engineering Inc. Centerpoint is a construction engineering firm.  

You can attend just one class or start the journey to becoming a Certified Lean Facilitator by attending all 3 weeks.
Session dates are:
Week 1 - March 22, 2010
Week 2 - April 19, 2010 
Week 3 - May 17, 2010 
For scheduling, call us at 260-637-8064 or e-mail info@wcmfg.com
For more information and pricing, Click Here
    The Lean Leader Coach Series -     
"Employee Empowerment" Part IV 
This series is intended to provide tools, tips, ideas, and coaching for leaders whose organizations are implementing Lean as their operating system.
by Mattie Watson

We will close this series on empowerment with the concept of mentoring - a hot business topic in recent years.  It's role in a Lean Enterprise is very important but first we need a definition of this activity.

Webster defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide."  (The word coach is often used interchangeably with mentor.)  The implication is that the mentor is wise, loyal, and willing to coach or advise.  A mentor is generally older than the protégé or mentee and always more experienced in the field.  The mentor models behavior, demonstrates techniques, and explains issues for the benefit of the mentee.  Clearly, leaders who are holding on to day-to-day involvement in the company will not have time for this commitment. 

Mentors teach by sharing their knowledge or wisdom.  It's not about telling the protégé how to handle a situation.  Rather, the mentee can use the mentor as a sounding board and explore options for handling difficult or unfamiliar situations.  The ultimate objective is to benefit the mentee - NOT the mentor.  Mentoring takes time and commitment.  In the context of a Lean Enterprise, where empowerment is critical, mentoring serves to develop specific skills the protégé needs to perform optimally in their position while also creating trust between the mentor and mentee.  Without trust, empowerment is impossible.

The mentoring relationship may be formal or informal.  In the formal arrangement, the mentee has usually asked for the commitment.  In some cases, a formal outline of what is and is not included in the relationship is defined along with the amount of time to be spent weekly and other expectations.  This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflict.  Other times, the mentoring relationship is much more informal - occurring only when a teachable moment presents itself.  In either case, every leader should act as a mentor to subordinates. 

It is not feasible for a leader to formally mentor every person who works for him or her.  In some cases, people in the organization are not interested in the benefits of mentoring.  If these associates are still engaged in their jobs and are embracing empowerment daily, then it is not necessary for a formal mentoring relationship to be developed.  Good leaders, however, still engage in informal mentoring as situations present themselves - the teachable moments.  There are others in your organization who should be mentored more formally.  Supervisors, top performers, and highly motivated associates fall into this category.  The question you should ask is "who is the right mentor for this person?"  Someone else in the organization may be better suited to an individual because of personality, temperament, or gender. 

The benefits of mentoring in a lean organization are many.  Remember, a mentor models behavior.  Mentoring, then, is an excellent way to demonstrate the desired behavior not only to the mentee but also to anyone else in the company who observes your actions.  A mentoring relationship - formal or informal - builds trust by breaking down the perceived barriers between levels in the organization.  Modeling desired behavior and breaking down barriers between leaders and followers demonstrates that the leader is changing.  This helps create an environment where associates are willing to make some changes of their own and accept empowerment.  

The teaching that the mentor does comes from experience.  Sharing your stories of success and failure is an excellent way for the lessons to take on relevance.  I once worked for a manager who told me of a rather spectacular failure he had early in his career.  He told the story with a great deal of humor and we both had a great laugh.  That's the key.  He laughed, too, at his own failure.  Clearly, the incident had not ended his career (although he thought it had at the time).  While he did not specifically say that failure is not fatal, I was able to walk away from the conversation with the understanding that a professional can survive making mistakes.  As a result, mistakes are less fearsome and have been, in fact, some of my best learning experiences.  In addition, the connection I made with this manager as he shared his story changed our relationship in a positive way.  It can be easy to think of bosses as somehow better than we are since they are in a position of higher authority.  But his story also showed his human side.  A person, like me, trying to do his best but not always succeeding.  It made him more approachable and less threatening. 

Being a mentor is significantly different from being a boss.  It can be much harder because you must connect with other people on a deeper level.  Yet, it is also easier because there are no pretenses to uphold.  You are free to be more natural.

If you need more information about mentoring, there are roughly 15,000 titles in the business books category on Amazon.com.  Good luck!

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Next Edition    
  • Dealing with the "Resistance to Lean" at the Supervisory and Middle Management Levels
Larry Rubrich
WCM Associates LLC
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