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Lean Software - A whole other Zone

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    It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Lean Zone.

    Is it a coincidence that today happens to be October 22nd? The very same date the original Twilight Zone series premiered? I think not. So why lead into a discussion about Lean Software with the opening sentence of every episode of the Twilight Zone? Because, the underlying message of both Lean and the Twilight Zone is rooted in reality, even if we're not entirely positive what that means all the time. "A mix of the supernatural and civics," as the New Yorker put it in 1983. Well, so is Lean: Lean Principles, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Software. Let's fast forward to the year 2525, shall we? Okay, 2020 it is.

    Your Plants Are Lean Machines

    Your organization has made some really terrific strides in the ways of Lean. Your teams hold Kaizen events on a regular basis. Kanban has proven to be highly beneficial in reducing inventory waste. 5S means everything is where and how it's supposed to be, organized, neat, and orderly, all nicely accounted for: a place for everything and everything in its place. Daily Gemba walks around various parts of the manufacturing plant are helping folks see issues like never before.

    Heijunka means no more extremes of feast or famine in production: Level loading has given the operations people their weekends back. You have implemented visual indicators - Andons, taped off areas, you can see how the product is flowing; nice and easy, continuous like. Any bottlenecks or constraints are immediately visible. You're checking things off your list left and right. Tic, tic, tic.

    Time to celebrate! Take the rest of the month off, why don't ya? Whoa there, Nelly! Don't put the cart in front of the, well, in front of Nelly here. Yes, you've done some great things. You are very proud of the efforts of your teams, as you should be. But - and you knew it was coming - you're not finished, are you? Everything is not perfect, nor will it ever be. That doesn't mean you stop striving for as close to perfection as you can get.

    The Need to Improve Never Ends

    Hmm. What to do? Suddenly this thought pops into your head. Your kids had to take a couple of months off school recently, even before summer vacation started. To your great surprise, they really buckled down and got after it. Now, what made you think about that, I don't know. But the important thing is you did. Again, coincidence? I think not.

    So take some pointers from those kids of yours. They said, "It's easy, Mom & Pops!" and then some tween speak about computers. I didn't catch all of it. "Hey, I'm pretty good with computers. Facebook and solitaire and what not. I'm going to look into this the first thing on Monday." Fast forward to Monday, October 5th.

    You start poking around, Googling and such. See how tech savvy you are? Thinking, thinking. Lean, lean, lean. Hey, look at that! Who knew there was Lean Software? I am a genius! We're already doing so much. What does Lean Software do? What can Lean Software do? I'm thinking, "Well, it's Lean, so that's gotta be where the focus is. Lean. Maybe it can help identify waste and highlight opportunities for improvement."

    Lean Software

    "So, what can some Lean Software do that I'm not doing?" chortle, chortle as I scoff derisively, not entirely convinced. Trying not to get defensive while debating with myself, I think, "I'm doing all of this stuff already. Well, pretty much all of it. Well, a bunch of it. And, yeah, I'm using a clipboard and some spreadsheets and a bunch of people have to write stuff by hand. But, hey, it's not like anyone was doing anything before." Oh, great! Now I've gone and hurt my own feelings. I'm sorry, Buddy.

    Wait a second. Who are these guys?

    ... provides lean manufacturing tools that go above and beyond the typical CMMS, MES, or ERP software. Go live in 30-45 days and love every second of it ...

    I'll admit, I'm pretty intrigued at this point. So, I start looking into this further. This is more than Lean Software. This is a Lean Execution System. They'll help me more closely monitor production. That would be great! Lean Software should help us track and monitor what we're producing and how long it takes us. That way we know we're not building too much. So, right there. Eliminates waste by letting us know not to overbuild.

    I can track scrap? By categories? All right, this is cool. So, not only do I know exactly how much we're producing, I can see the parts that we can't count: why not, how many, and where they're coming from. That would eliminate a lot of guessing and finger pointing.

    But wait, there's more

    Check this out! Yes, I'm still talking to myself. Don't you do that? Well, work from home for a while and then talk to me. So, where was I? This Lean Software will tell us exactly where our problems are and how often they're occurring. No more wondering if the machines are running. I can see right here what lines and machines are running and what's down. How long it's been down, and how many times this machine has been down for the same reason over the past week. And I can, wait, what? This Lean Software will notify me if something happens? During the night or on a weekend? No more dreading what I'm going to hear about on Monday morning? "Already got that handled, Boss!" I'll say gleefully.

    It says here that I can put in a Dispatch if a machine stops running. Anyone can put in a Dispatch. And get maintenance or engineering out to the line. Wow. If they can get the machine up and running, then everybody's back in business. If they need to do more work later, or replace a part, they can create a Follow-Up Dispatch or write a Work Order and plan a time to take the machine down. Amazing. Then I won't get yelled at by both sides: operations and maintenance. Make that three sides, if this means accounting won't be yelling either. That would be great! There's a way to Schedule this work. We can make sure the spare parts we need will be available and the technicians can pull up any documents or drawings they need while they're out on the line. I think I'm in love. Where have you been all my life?

    But wait, there's more! We can track our Lean activities with this Lean Software. What's this called again? L2L. Leading2Lean. This is amazing! We can log all of our 5S activities right in this system. Then everyone knows what it's supposed to look like. All the folks on our teams can submit their ideas for improvements by turning in a Kaizen. We could get rid of that stupid employee suggestion box by the lunch room. I know I said I wasn't going to get all Kumbaya on you, but you've gotta admit, this is pretty amazing. We can share what's working well for our plant with other sites. That would be so great! We've been looking for a way to do that!

    Okay, what's the catch? Am I on Candid Camera? Am I being punked? No, it says right here: L2L can do all of this remotely. They don't even have to step foot in the plant, ever. I won't have to give up my office again to the junior achiever with the pocket protector who promised a miracle a minute month after month after month? Who never had anything to show for his presence except Miracle Whip? Stains?

    I keep reading... "If you can post a picture online in Friend's World, you can use our Lean Software." Well, our team members can definitely post a picture online. They can train our people to use this in a week and have us up and running in a matter of weeks. The hair on the back of my neck is really starting to stand up now! This is exactly what we've needed.

    You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Let L2L guide you on your Lean Software journey.