Archive for category Shingo

Introducing C.A.O.S. – The Chosen Acres Operating System. “Lean Practices” in the Dairy Industry

Mark Graban recently posted a funny story about government websites losing something in their translation to Spanish.  In Washington state, the term “Lean Practices” translated as “Skinny Cow Handling”.  See the story here.

While funny, is it too far from the truth?  Perhaps “Skinny Cow Handling” can be translated as “Lean Practices”.

Back in September, 2011, I wrote about a man who I met at the Clinic while I was doing Patient Experience rounding.  I shared our discussions about the “Lean Practices” he was applying in his work as a consultant to dairy farmers.  I found the work that he was doing fascinating and we established a friendship.

Well, I am happy to share more with you.  Jeff Weisel, CEO of Chosen Acres Consulting, Inc. has produced a video that demonstrates a little of what he does, but more importantly highlights what his customers have to say about the products and services that he offers.

I’ve been serving as an adviser to Jeff for the past few years, helping him to present his services as an overall operating system that serves the dairy farmer, their cows and the “plow to plate” value stream.

Jeff and his family have been serving the dairy industry for over 30 years.  Jeff’s passion and concern for cows has led him to some remarkable discoveries that has not only made life better for dairy cows, but has also produced higher quality milk, higher productivity per cow, higher pregnancy rates for herds, and lower costs for the dairy farmer.

What first attracted my attention the work the Jeff is doing was his business card.  The message on his card was “In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection.”

chosen acres business card

His work with “flipping” milking parlors was straight out of a lean transformation text-book.  Jeff starts with an assessment of the farm to identify opportunities for improvement.  Since the milking parlor represents the quickest return on investment, Jeff works with the farmer to plan a “flip” or in lean terms, a week-long kaizen or rapid improvement event , where complex equipment is torn out and replaced with simpler equipment that the farmer can fix himself, if necessary.   Jeff provides instructions for the milkers and helps to install a new management system.  With quick financial gains from the “flip”, farmers are then able to work with Jeff’s assessment to improve other aspects of their organization – from feed and water, to bedding to waste recycling.

I had the opportunity to visit one of the farms Jeff was preparing to flip, and then to come back to observe the results of the flip and to talk with the dairy farmer.  The transformation was startling.  Not only were the cows producing more milk, it was a higher quality of milk, the use of antibiotics had decreased and the use of bovine growth hormones was eliminated.  The farmer was very pleased with the results.

Jeff showed me all around the farm and talked about the assessment tool that he uses to assess the farm’s current state and what it will take to reach the next level.  It was like going on a Shingo site assessment.  Jeff not only looks at the parlor, but he looks at the entire organization.  The water and feed supply – critical inputs to the process of making milk.  He looks at the bedding stalls, where he says you should see cows laying comfortably, chewing their cud which is when they are making milk.  If the cow is uncomfortable, she will produce less milk.  Lameness, a condition that affects the hoofs of cows causing extreme pain ,is also a major contributor to lower milk production.  Farmers looking to increase efficiency have actually contributed to the poor health of their herds and the lower quality products.  In the lean community, there is a term used to describe the mis-understanding of lean.  The term, coined by Mark Graban is LAME.  Lean As Misguidedly Executed.  In the dairy industry, lame is a real condition that negatively affects the health of the herd and the strength of the farm.

Jeff’s work concentrates on the milking parlor, since that is the primary source of disease.   Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands, caused by the cow’s environment.  It causes the cow extreme pain.  The infection causes an increase in somatic cells to fight the disease.  These somatic cells get passed through the milk supply, leading to poor quality milk.  The treatment for this disease is through the use of antibiotics which, despite great lengths to contain, eventually get passed on for human consumption in the milk supply.  As a result of mastitis and lameness, milk production can decrease, leading to the introduction of bovine growth hormones intended to increase production.  These hormones also get passed along in the milk supply.

Jeff research and practice over the past 20 some years has led him to focus on eliminating the cause of mastitis and lameness.  His work is reminiscent of the work being done in healthcare to eliminate the causes of Hospital Acquired Infections.  Jeff recognizes that current farming practices, incorporated in the name of efficiency,  are actually contributing to the problems facing the dairy industry.  Jeff’s focus on the health of the cow has led to great results for the dairy herds and their farmers.

His biggest problem to date?  Getting farmers to change their thinking to adapt his practices that go against what they’ve been taught by universities, pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians and equipment manufacturers.  It is very reminiscent of the healthcare industry.

I’ve been impressed with Jeff’s work and am happy to share it with others.  Jeff and I will be co-presenting at the upcoming Shingo Conference in Sandusky, OH on May 7th.  I hope you can all come to hear Jeff’s story as well as the other great presentations on the agenda.

We are also working on arranging a site visit as part of the Shingo agenda for Friday, May 9th to the local dairy farm where I first observed Jeff’s work.

Could the humble cow actually be the start of the Healthcare Value Stream?

Let me know if you will be attending the Shingo Conference.  I’d love to see you.

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An EPIC (Engine Plant In Cleveland) story

Working at Ford in the early 1990’s, I had the privilege of learning about lean manufacturing from some of the best lean thinkers at the time.  Looking to develop and implement a production system, Gifford Brown, our plant manager, sought the assistance of key ex-Toyota Georgetown powertrain leaders.

Russ Scaffide, John Allen, Dwight Clark and Bill Costantino joined the Cleveland Engine Plant 2 (CEP2) team as consultants and helped author and implement what was then called the Cleveland Production System.

The Cleveland Production System (CPS) became the forerunner to the modern Ford Production System (FPS), and its implementation at CEP 2 led to the plant being recognized with the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing in 1996.

My role (as a cost analyst at the time) in the development of the CPS, in addition to taking the handwritten model and creating the slide above, was to proof-read the documents that were created.  I was new to manufacturing, however, my prior background at what was then Ernst & Whinney‘s National Marketing headquarters in Cleveland, included conducting secondary market research on potential client companies, their industries, officers, directors and our competitors.  We used this data to support the writing of major audit and management consulting proposals, which we were also responsible for proof-reading – a valuable skill that I’ve used to learn as much as I can throughout my career.

Proof-reading the early documentation of the CPS gave me the opportunity to learn about this new way of thinking in manufacturing and because I had less to un-learn, I was able to pick up on the concepts quickly and contribute to the discussion.

The model – and its implementation – with Ford and UAW leaders responsible for jointly championing and teaching the individual elements, served as a visual reminder of our responsibilities.  Our role was to take all of these lean tools, systems and principles and create value for the customer through continuous process improvement and the identification and elimination of waste.

Attending the initial training, then eventually becoming a trainer for the system, there was one thing that always bothered me about the model.  The model placed itself at the center, rather than the customer.  Our model seemed to put all of its weight on top of the customer and never seemed quite right.

I sought to reconfigure the model as a “Focus within a Framework”.  I placed the customer at the center of the model, and then built the framework with the “pillars” of the system – People, Added Value, Just-in-Time, and Performance Measurements.  Once the focus was placed within the framework, I then used the elements of the production system to create the web.  As our plant was a supplier to Ford assembly plants around the world, I used the (new at the time) catch phrase “Worldwide Web” to attract the attention of attendees at a joint Ford / UAW quality conference in Dearborn in 1996.

My Magnum Opus

My use of a spider’s web as an analogy for a production system came from several places.  First, my favorite bedtime story to read to my kids was E.B. White‘s Charlotte’s Web.  In the story, Charlotte, a spider, weaves words into her web to describe Wilbur, a runt pig who is in constant fear of being slaughtered as he fattens up.  Charlotte seeks to save Wilbur by pointing out his better qualities in such “web posts” as “Some Pig“, “Terrific”, “Radiant” and finally “Humble”.  I started to view a production system much like a spider’s web. (I’ll discuss the irony of the word “Humble” being the word that finally saved Wilbur in an up-coming post.)

The other influence on my spider thinking came from a student who I was supervising in my first job out of college at a major retail store.  She was working in the evening and when asked about getting stock out of the storeroom and onto the shelves, commented  “if it wasn’t for the customers, I would be able to get my work done.”  This view of the customer as a nuisance fit nicely with the transformation in thinking required to move from mass (where the customer is sometimes viewed as a nuisance) to lean, (where the customer is nourishment).

In my web analogy, the contrast between the way that humans view flying insects as a nuisance and the way that spider’s view flying insects as nourishment emerged.  In fact, a spider’s existence is dependent upon its ability to capture and hold onto insects that move in and out of its “Window of Opportunity”.  Much like customers’ disposable income should be viewed as the lifeblood of any organization.

If the spider’s web doesn’t cover the entire opening, potential nourishment can fly through without being captured.  If the web breaks, the ability of the spider to quickly react and fix the problem directly impacts the spider’s future viability.

An organization’s leaders are responsible for identifying the organization’s Window of Opportunity, providing a focus on the customer, and creating the systems that enable employees to create value to capture and hold onto customers.  Quick reactions to breakdowns and weaknesses in the systems when identified, are necessary to maintain organizational stability and provide continued growth.

Principles – the focus and the framework of any organization –  linked through systems and tools enable employees to create and provide increasing value to customers.  Thus, our “Window of Opportunity” defines  how well our Principles connect to our customers and our ability to create value through the continuous improvement in our systems and tools and the identification and elimination of waste.

Continual assessment of the effectiveness of our systems and adjustments when and where necessary will determine the amount of nourishment we receive.

Unfortunately, the model, which I found attractive and intuitive, never caught on as the CPS morphed into the FPS.  However, the learning I obtained from creating it and thinking through all of the various messages it conveys have helped me as a frame of reference when assessing other lean organizations.  It was especially helpful the following year when I moved to Cleveland Engine Plant 1 to implement the new Ford Production System in a plant that was in a slightly different emotional state.  I’ll share that story in my next post.

Are you capturing your customer’s disposable income that is moving in and out of  your Window of Opportunity?  Are your systems complete and connected?  Do you react quickly to signals your customers are sending,  indicating their presence in your window?  When your systems are weak or broken, do you respond immediately to minimize the loss of potential customers?  Do you view your customers as a nuisance or nourishment?

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The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and other high-performance teams.

USAF Thunderbirds

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As I sat working in my office, my attention was diverted by the sights and sounds of the Air Force Thunderbirds practicing for this weekend’s National Air Show in Cleveland.

From the Press Release announcing their performance,  

“The six select Thunderbird pilots will put their distinct red, white and blue F-16 Falcon jet fighters through a choreographed hour-long performance each day at speeds up to 500 mph and as close as three feet from each other. The Thunderbirds are the U.S. Air Force “Ambassadors in Blue” and represent the United States at approximately 35 sites both home and abroad each year.

The Cleveland National Air Show is a Labor Day Weekend family tradition and one of the largest annual events on the North Coast.

Watching these planes maneuver around the buildings of downtown Cleveland and out over Lake Erie inspires awe at the union of pilots, planes and teamwork.  To hear their sound and feel their power as windows and ground shake demands your attention and respect.

I had the good fortune of being a member of the Shingo Prize Site visit team in 1999 that visited the Lockheed-Martin manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, TX where the F-16 Falcon jets come to life.  It was a treat to observe the interaction of design engineers, process engineers and assembly line workers transform a bunch of metal, wires and other assorted parts into a finished jet fighter as it traveled down a one-mile long assembly line. 

Not only was the facility a great place to see, but the team of examiners gathered to assess the organization was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of working with.  The team’s co-leaders were George Koenigsaeker, a 2010 inductee into Industry Week’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame and Ross Robson, former Executive Director of the Shingo Prize and Shingo Prize Academy member.  Also on the team was Larry Anderson, Lean Gold Certified, past Chairman and co-member with me on the AME/ASQ/Shingo Prize/SME Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals committee.  It was truly a high performance team and quite a learning experience for me.

Describing teamwork is a lot like defining quality.  The statement “I know it when I see it” applies.  However, it doesn’t go deep enough to fully understand the work and dedication required behind the scenes to make the visible product satisfying to both customer and team member.

Achieving, then maintaining high performance is hard work and comes with few shortcuts.   Members of high-performance teams receive their reward from the purpose of their work, the satisfaction from their interactions with each other,  and ultimately the outcome of their dedication.

What high-performance teams have you been a part of?  What are some other examples of high-performance teams that are well-known?  What characteristics would you use to describe a high-performance team?

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

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In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection

Shingo PrizeDid you ever have one of those chance encounters with an individual that makes you sit down and really think about what just happened?  It happened to me recently.

Our Neurological Institute has a “go to gemba” process where each of our administrators spend at least a week each quarter, making daily rounds in our in-patient unit to talk with patients and determine if we are meeting their expectations for care.  I have found the interaction with our patients  some of the most gratifying work that I’ve done while working at the Clinic.

Last week, while connecting with our patients, I had a chance encounter with a very interesting man.  He took the time to let me know where we had fallen short in our care of a loved one.  He was not upset or angry, he felt the need to share his experience and I seemed open to listening, so we talked.

As we continued our conversation, a familiar language started to emerge and I found myself actively engaged in a discussion of root cause, errors, defects, visual management, standard work, etc.  We were talking lean.

“I work with dairy farmers,” he said.  “I focus on preventing the diseases that you detect and fix.”  We continued for a little while until he had to leave.  I told him I would be back in the morning. He handed me his business card and I saw his Guiding Principle – “In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection for healthy, comfortable, well fed, pregnant cows.”

A Frisian Holstein cow in the Netherlands: Int...

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Being a student of lean, I recognized the principle of “Pursuit of Perfection” and wanted to learn more about how this principle has been applied in the dairy business.  Over the next two days, we spent a total of nearly three hours discussing the opportunities he saw for us to improve our patient care processes and he shared with me the details of his consulting business where he helps dairy farmers focus on quality at the source and increase milk production through the reduction of disease.

Without a college degree or a lean certification or any formal lean training, he has mastered the application of lean principles, systems and tools as described in the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

His simple philosophy – listen to the cows.

He told me about how milking parlors are built for the efficiency of the farmer; however, their design results in decreased milk production from the cows (workers).  Automation and technology take the farmer away from the cows and is creating a whole host of quality problems – from diseases,  passed on through their milk and beef to humans, to increased costs due to inefficient milk collection techniques that cause cows to produce less milk.

This 80-stand rotary dairy in Northern Tablela...

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We talked about the backwards way our current health care system places its emphasis on treating diseases, rather than preventing them.  He told me about his application of lean principles such as lead with humility, respect for every “cow”, flow, scientific thinking, constancy of purpose, systems thinking, and value for the customer.

My head was spinning.  I was drawing parallels with the tools of lean such as visual management, standard work, quick changeover, error-proofing, preventive maintenance, etc.   Could the humble cow be the start of the Healthcare value stream?

I’ve made the transition from manufacturing to healthcare and have seen how the principles of lean apply across multiple, diverse industries, including lean dentists and lean government.  This was the first time I was really exposed to the potential of lean – at the source – in the supply chain of the food and farming industries – before the production or processing stages – and recognized the connection to the healthcare industry – a strange customer of the current food processing business.

We traded contact information and vowed to continue our discussion.  We’ve asked him to serve on our Patient Advisory Council and he’s asked me to help spread his message on disease prevention.  It sounds like a good deal so far.

As my father once told me, “The more you know, the more you find out you don’t know”.  I learned a lot last week and recognize that I have a lot more to learn.

Dairy cows at Comboyne, NSW

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Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Stephen R. Covey‘s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, first published over 20 years ago continues to influence many people and help us all become more effective.  In 2010, Covey formed a partnership with the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence  strengthening the awareness of successful principles-based organizations

I have great respect and interest in what The Shingo Prize has been doing and in the transformational work underway at the Huntsman School of Business,” Covey said. “Companies that have implemented principles taught by The Shingo Prize have made dramatic and measurable progress in achieving operational excellence.”

Of the 7 habits mentioned in the book, perhaps the one that resonates most with me is number 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”    To a lean thinker, this habit forms the basis for following the principles of “Lead with Humility” and “Respect for every Individual”.  This is not a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge.

To “Lead with Humility” means we must admit that we don’t know it all.  My father told me long ago, “the more you learn, the more you’ll find out you don’t know.” 

Did you ever go from feeling like a genius one moment,  to feeling like you just don’t get it in the next moment?  When talking with a group of like-minded thinkers, the discussion just seems to flow and everyone is nodding their heads in agreement – sometimes jumping in to finish each other’s thoughts. 

Leaving this familiar place and go into areas where our subject matter knowledge isn’t as developed can sometimes feel over-whelming.  Change always comes with an anxious dilemma.  How do I share what I know without coming across as a know-it-all, yet still influence the direction of a group when they are struggling to find their way?  Welcome to the world of continuous improvement. 

As lean practitioners know, the hardest part of our job is to balance our desire to just do it, versus our desire to teach others how to do it.  We are sought out for our expertise, yet it is the lean leaders job to leverage the expertise of the people currently doing the job.   To be able to lead people to where they need to be by asking questions, rather than providing answers is one of the most satisfying aspects of the change management process.

Transitioning from manufacturing to healthcare has been a great learning experience for me.   There has been a lot of observing, listening, asking questions and where appropriate some talking.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead some great teams that have yielded very good results.  I’ve also been disappointed when I’ve transitioned off of projects and the team’s old behaviors resurface and the initial gains slowly start to evaporate.  This is usually because not enough work took place upfront to understand the culture of the team.  The work required to change the culture of a group by leading them out of their comfort zone to one of continuous improvement is always harder than changing a work process itself.

As I continue to seek to understand the field of healthcare and lend my expertise to making things better, there is a constant balancing act.   A thought shared by fellow bloggers,  Matt Wyre and Tim McMahon .  At times it is exhilarating, others times, totally frustrating.  In times of frustration, I often turn to this poem that I first came across in one of my MBA text books on organizational development. 

   In Broken Images
by Robert Graves

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and clear in my broken images.

He, in a new confusion of his understanding;
I, in a new understanding of my confusion.

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The Excellence Experience.

My first understanding of lean can be traced back to a specific six hours early in my career spent helping my plant manager, Gifford Brown, prepare a presentation to a group of suppliers. 

I had recently transitioned into the training department and had been teaching many of the lean tools classes that we offered to all employees.  My supervisor and I were called to Gifford’s office and he started the conversation by indicating that he needed our help in capturing his thoughts to prepare  the presentation, but before he turned us loose, he  first wanted to educate us on the finer points of lean.  My supervisor and I looked at each other hesitantly (after all, we were already teaching this stuff, what more could we learn?).  For the next three hours, Gifford methodically explained lean to us. 

He started with the concept of leadership expecting excellence from employees by empowering them with systems and tools that supported their desire to improve their own work.  He explained the cultural aspects of lean that are necessary before the tools can be effective.   He linked all of the lean tools into a systems perspective describing how they all interacted with and were dependent upon each other.   This was pretty standard stuff that we had been teaching already as part of our overview of the Cleveland Production System, the forerunner to the modern Ford Production System.

What was different though was that Gifford went on to explain that there was no prioritization to the implementation of the tools.  The starting point for implementation was first trusting, then involving employees, who would start to pull the tools they needed as they sought ways to improve their work processes.  

The layout of the refurbished Cleveland Engine Plant 2 had been worked on for months to maximize the flow of materials and minimize waste.  Gifford started to explain how the departments were laid out to support principles such as respect for people, flow, just-in-time, and value to the customer.  Once the layout was maximized, a visual management system and a total productive maintenance philosophy was incorportated in equipment design to support  quick changeovers, level production schedules and minimum in-process inventory.  A zero defects mindset was established, where standard work was developed by the front-line workers and workplace organization was established through on-going 5s activities with all employees.  Visual management systems highlighted abnormalities, PDCA problem-solving techniques were utilized by teams to address abnormalities and error-proofing devices were developed to address root causes of problems and eliminate or correct the errors that were leading to defects. 

We had been teaching the tools all along.  Gifford was now presenting the overall system in a  fashion that didn’t stress one tool at the expense of another. Instead it was implement the tool that was most needed to continue the implementation of another tool at a higher level.  Start and go as far as you can until you realize that you need something else in order to continue to improve.  Your expectations and how you address abnormalities along the way will lead you to where you want to go.  So when setting expectations, leaders should Expect Excellence!

I took pages of notes and walked out of the discussion with my head spinning – it made so much sense.  I put together a presentation that tried to capture all that I had heard and then one week later, spent three more hours with Gifford editing and refining the presentation.

The slide on leadership expectations  had a diamond clipart picture with the words “Expect Excellence” on it.

It has served as a continual reminder to me when trying to teach the principles of lean leadership.

Next post – Excellence in Action!