When it comes to the topic of making changes, many people tend to focus on making big changes to create a big impact. However, big changes often take extended amounts of time and resources to fully implement, and many people and businesses alike do not have the feasibility to always enact big changes. Instead, it is often wiser to focus more on small changes that in the long run will add up to big results. In the business world, lean manufacturing is a concept that goes hand-in-hand with the notion of making small changes towards improvement. Essentially, lean focuses on preserving value but engaging in less work to do so.
Each Small Improvement Counts
In order to really demonstrate the value of making small changes, let’s consider some possible scenarios.
· Employees start each work day by punching in using an I.D. badge. As each employee takes his or her turn to punch in, there is often a line of employees that tends to build. Depending upon how close it is to start time results on how long the line is. Anyhow, the door to the warehouse is located immediately to the right of the time clock, and once an employee punches in they must open the door to enter the facility. However, when the door is opened it blocks the time clock for others to punch in. If you think about it, it is purely an issue of a poorly positioned time clock, but it is also a source of loss in productivity. As employees wait to punch in, they must also wait for the person to enter through the doorway so they can punch in as well. Making a small change such as relocating the time clock to a different wall in the entrance could easily solve this issue and save valuable time each and every morning.
· An auto body shop has an ongoing problem with missing tools. Day in and day out employees waste valuable productivity time looking for misplaced tools. Furthermore, when the tools aren’t recovered management has to spend more of the budgeted money to purchase new tools to replace the missing ones. In order to combat the problem of missing tools, a quick and fairly easy alternative would be to implement the use of foam tool organizers which can be customized to fit any tool and will neatly cradle each tool in a designated position. This would allow employees to easily find tools when needed, and also hold employees accountable for returning tools when they are finished with using them.
· A warehouse facility promotes the practice of recycling and places recycling bins right at the entrance of the facility and signs are also posted regarding recycling as well. However, the warehouse is quite large and the only recycling receptacles are placed way at the entrance of the facility. However, trash cans are located in multiple areas throughout the warehouse floor. It is quite a bit easier for employees to simply toss plastic materials, scraps, and soda bottles in the trash versus walking all the way to the front of the facility to use the recycling receptacles. If on average it takes each employee two minutes to walk to the front of the facility to use the recycling bins, and each employee does so at least once if not more times per day, the loss in productivity would add up tremendously. A quick and easy fix would be for the recycling receptacles to spread out throughout the facility, ideally next to trash receptacles so employees can access them easily and quickly and not be as tempted to use the trash receptacle for recyclables.
Start the Process
If you took a team of employees and brainstormed the possibilities of small improvements that could be conducted quite easily, you would be shocked at the savings that could accumulate. Time, money, and resources are all things we want to save and by implementing small, yet meaningful changes, you can be well on your way towards creating a more efficient and effective work environment for all.
- Lean: Is Forecasting Feasible?
- Overproduction is Overrated
- Going Lean: Five Common Misunderstandings
- Employee Involvement: It can Make or Break LEAN
- The Benefits of Lean Management
- Genchi Genbutsu