5A Framework: A Holistic Approach to Transformation.

In this case, we were brought in to help a high-volume medical product company reduce the lead time it took to create a product assisting individuals with diabetes. This organization used a typical batch operation defined by process boundaries. Individual functions were siloed to optimize their respective areas of operations. It was prime time for this company to embark on their Lean journey.

For a fairly simple production process involving molding, printing, and packing, it took this company nearly 10 days to ship the product to the customer. The real value creating work to make the product (minus processing time) took just under 20 minutes!

To begin improving this value stream, we needed to work on culture change. Team members largely did not see the value of lean concepts or methodologies.

  • We got started by conducting awareness sessions for team member on how to identify wasteful activities.
  • We walked the gemba (the actual workplace) with cross-functional teams to understand those sources of waste in the operations.
  • Then together we mapped the current state Value Stream Map (VSM). This led to a number of revelations.
  • We trained team members on how to establish the future state VSM and mapped this out in phases.
  • We established a time-bound improvement plan to achieve each phase of this larger future state with work areas and ownership clearly defined.
  • After the initial excitement of identifying so many opportunities to eliminate waste in the value stream, leadership asked for our help to charter a long-term lean transformation plan for the entire company.
  • We introduced the concept of Hoshin Kanri (Strategy Deployment) to help leaders define their True North goals and connected all lean activities to those goals. We used the Hoshin X-matrix to identify focus areas where Lean initiatives would be undertaken (again, with clear metrics, ownership, and timelines). This provided the organization with both clarity of purpose and gave them a sense of the why/what/how aspects of the transformation work.
  • As the engagement progressed, we facilitated relevant transformational projects and encouraged a culture of problem solving and experimentation. We established flow in the work cells and introduced the concept of leveling. We also helped team members create standard work to create a rhythm for meeting customer needs. We also worked with this team to connect disjointed processes using pull mechanisms, also avoiding overproduction.
  • To sustain the change work, we coached particular team members within the company to carry the work forward as lean coaches and helped this company set up a Kaizen promotion office. To date, we’ve stayed connected, coming in from time to time to provide coaching on specific projects.
  • Within 6 months, this team saw a 70% improvement in customer lead times, working capital needs, and operational costs.
  • We made progress on culture change, primarily thanks to the Value Stream Mapping exercise and Gemba walk, which opened this team’s eyes to the possibilities in front of them.

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