One year in retrospect and my blog’s second anniversary

In these last days of 2015, here is the year in retrospect and my blog’s second anniversary.

On December 28th, 2015, my blog counted 271 posts. There is only one reblog, so 270 posts over two years are mine. 2015 saw 90 new posts published, roughly one every four days. I thought I was more productive…

I’d like to thank all visitors passing by. 2015 attracted 21,6k visitors to accumulate 44,5k views. For more facts and figures, thanks to WordPress, click the picture below:

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

5 reasons 5S make the world a better place

5S is usually seen as very basic, simple methodology, easy to get through. The reality is totally different and most companies fail to implement a significant and sustainable maturity level of 5S.

For those not familiar with and wanting to learn more about 5S, check my Quick Beginner’s Guide to 5S.

Here are 5 reasons and few examples why 5S make the world a better place.

Please note they are nothing else than some high level consideration and there is much more to 5S than that!

Safety

A tidy clean place is usually a safer place. Compared to dark, dirty, cluttered workspace, a 5S one provides better visibility and overall safety.

Better visibility reduces risks related to hidden hazardous items and situations. It improves the perception of potential risks and helps people to behave, like walking on the pedestrian reserved lanes.

Cleanliness make abnormalities visible, thus prevent risks like slipping on spills.

Decluttering prevents tripping or piled items falling down.

Quality

5S came (back) to the West in the heyday of Total Quality Management, when improving quality was a matter of keeping up with japanese competitors. Quality work and making quality product is not compatible with messy, dirty workplace.

In a cluttered and dirty place it is more likely to have quality defects, like for instance scratches or stain on a panel. Many such quality issues require painstaking rework or even part replacement, which are both wastes.

A screw, nut or bolt can go unnoticed on a dirty and cluttered workbench, leading easily to be forgotten on (re)assembly.

Efficiency

In a 5S environment, items and information can be found immediately without lengthy searches. Saving time is important for reactivity and for adding more valuable and/or enjoyable activities.

In a true 5S work environment, it is possible to share more tools, jigs and fixtures or files because everything is better organized and made visible. More sharing means less buying, thus saving unnecessary expenses.

True 5S workplace requires less space, which in turn requires less walking or transportation and possibly monetary savings.

In 5S places, fewer material gets lost and there is no need for frequent replacement or duplicate inventories.

Image

“High performance companies are beautiful” says my boss, suggesting a tight correlation between the care to keep the company tidy, clean – and generally speaking good looking – and operational performance.

A good 5S image gives confidence to customers, partners, investors and talents, while it provides pride to employees and representatives.

The outlook of a company accounts much more than generally thought in suppliers’ assessments or audits. Poor condition will make auditors suspicious and look closer to details.

Customers will probably be reluctant to buy from a poor looking supplier, fearing that quality or even safety of the goods or services will reflect the company’s look.

Environment

5S helps to use just required quantities, which consumes lesser raw materials and energy, reduces waste, sewage, pollution and the like.

5S workplace are less likely to have pollution issues by accident or lack of rigor/discipline.

Tidy smaller workplaces require fewer air conditioning or heating, less lighting.

Constantly cleaned areas are easier to keep clean and require less aggressive chemicals to remove smear and stains.

This is not greenwashing but concrete actions.


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Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile is an idiomatic metaphor for describing an extra effort to please a customer. It may sound like a management legend until experiencing it.

My little story could have been a scenario base for a Hollywood Christmas movie, but it was only my experience as a stranded Frenchman in Great Britain. With a happy ending, nevertheless.

It started with a traffic jam on one of the infamous British motorways, a late December afternoon, leading to miss my Eurostar train to get back home in Paris.

The taxi driver did his best to catch up, jeopardizing his driver’s licence and potentially our lives dashing on the heavy-traffic motorway and later in the narrower roads to the station. Despite all his efforts, he dropped me too late and… on the wrong side of the station.

When I managed to get out of the taxi at Ashford International station, my train had left very few minutes before. The last train stopping there that day.

In the hall, the Eurostar counter was closed and nobody in sight. While mentally searching for a solution a door opened and a lady in Eurostar uniform appeared. I briefly explained her my situation and the lady kindly accepted to help me, opening the closed counter and restarting a computer.

I immediately felt treated like a customer expects to be, but seldom is, more accustomed to see service providers, vendors and suppliers try to escape the chores, especially if they are not really supposed to do what you’re asking for.

My helping lady went through a seemingly painful IT process to exchange my ticket, which was a bit special, keeping her temper, positive mind and friendliness.

After getting my ticket for the next train the next morning, I asked if there was a hotel nearby. I prepared myself to ask the very same question one of the waiting taxi drivers, not really expecting this information from my helping lady.

To my surprise, not only did she recommend a nearby Bed & Breakfast, but offered to call them and check for vacancy and after this was done, took time and great care to explain me how to get there on foot, dragging my luggage. She even suggested me places to have a dinner!

That was customer care!

This lady indeed walked the extra mile and as we were not in a Hollywood Christmas movie, I assume she was truly engaged in her job.

I did get home eventually (that’s my happy end of the story) and hope the company recognizes the value of such engaged employees.

To this lady, again: my deepest gratitude.


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6 questions to frame your brilliant development idea

I was fortunate to interview Eli Schragenheim, well-known expert of Theory of Constraints, during his visit in our offices in Paris, October 2015. This interview is about the 6 questions to challenge, question, test or frame any new development of technology, product or service.

These 6 questions are:

  1. What value does it bring?
  2. What current limitation does it eliminate or reduce?
  3. What do people do now, without your development?
  4. What should users do in order to draw full value of your development?
  5. What features must be included?
  6. How do you integrate?

The 6 questions originated with the book “Necessary but not sufficient”, co-authored by Eli Goldratt, Eli Schragenheim and Carol Ptak, published in 2000. The 6 questions are still really actual as startups are hype.

During this interview, I made a link with the Lean Startup movement, the Minimum Viable Product concept.


Eli Schragenheim posted a series of articles based on these s 6 questions on his own blog.


Read more about how Theory of Constraints can help Startups


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What is Little’s law? What is it good for?

Little’s law is a simple equation explaining how Waiting Time, Throughput and Inventory are related.

Wait Time = Inventory (or WIP) / Throughput

Here is a video about Little’s law:

Fine, what is Little’s law good for?

Well, if a process lead time is too long, chances are that work-in-progress (WIP) is too high. For a given processing rate (Throughput), the lead time will be equal to WIP/Throughput. To reduce the lead time the process Throughput must be increased or the WIP reduced.

Throughput is usually limited by some constraint: machining speed, resources available and so on. It may not be easy to increase Throughput.

WIP on the other hand can generally be controlled by limiting the inventory or the work to be done entering the system upfront.

In this video, Philip Marris explains how to reduce WIP by controlling the flow of work entering the system. Even he does not mention Little’s law, it is indeed used to reduce Inventory.


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Eli Schragenheim on How can Theory of Constraints help Startups?

Startups are hype. I started asking myself how long known methodologies or management philosophies like Lean or Theory of Constraints can possibly help starting companies?

When Eli Schragenheim visited our offices in Paris, France, in October 2015, I fetched the opportunity to ask him this question: How can Theory of Constraints help Startups?

In this video, Eli shares his views.

Recorded in Paris, France, October 2015 in the offices of Marris Consulting.


>More of this series


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How can Theory of Constraints help Startups? Introduction

Startups are hype. I started asking myself how long known methodologies or management philosophies like Lean or Theory of Constraints can possibly help starting companies?
In this series, I’ll try to answer this question.

More posts to come on this subject. Follow me on twitter to keep informed.


 

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Your next bottleneck is elsewhere (and in the future)

Theory of Constraints provides the five focusing steps, an iterative improvement process which aims to focus efforts on the sole system constraint (often a bottleneck).

These five steps are:

  1. Identify the constraint (bottleneck)
  2. Exploit the constraint; improve capacity utilization
  3. Subordinate all non-constraint resources to the constraint
  4. Increase the capacity of constraint if relevant
  5. Repeat step 1 if the constraint has changed

The final step is an invitation to continuous improvement, but also a warning: do not let inertia, passivity and acceptance of the status quo become the constraint.

Yet one other aspect of this warning remains mostly unknown.

While teams work hard to exploit the bottleneck resource and recover some wasted capacity, they do not anticipate that the next bottleneck is located elsewhere in the future.

Most teams working to elevate a capacity constraint do not imagine that the additional capacity that will be recovered requires immediate anticipated loading.

Indeed, most of the time, once the goal is reached and the bottleneck is no longer the constraint, they “expect” to see another bottleneck emerge in their area, as if they were playing whack-a-mole; hit one, wait for the next to pop-up.

Chance are that the next bottleneck will probably not be found within their perimeter. The next bottleneck can be upstreams, in another department or with some supplier.

The next bottleneck will instead most likely be found either in development, engineering, marketing or sales. And it will come as a surprise due to lack of anticipation.

The next bottleneck may be the order book, as sales nor marketing did not anticipate the loading of the recovered capacity. It may be development, unable to bring forward the launch of the next product.

It lies in the future is a warning about the necessity to anticipate it and the probable time lag before the anticipated efforts pay off.


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How Lean can help startups – Introduction

This post is an introduction to a series of articles dedicated to Lean and start-ups, more specifically: how Lean can help start-ups.

Lean was revealed as “Lean Manufacturing” before spreading to virtually all business sectors and evolve to Lean Management.

Lean has long been seen as an approach (approach or philosophy) specific to existing businesses seeking to transform and adapt themselves to their new competitive environment. Yet if Lean was indeed born in an already established business in bad shape (Toyota), its principles, methods and tools are not limited to these kind of cases.

It is therefore likely that, although not yet much reported in the literature, cases of Lean applications can be found in the early foundation stages of new companies or during the takeover of firms.

It would be very surprising, considering the fame of Lean, that entrepreneurs would not have heard of, or would refrain to inspire themselves from Lean.

How can Lean help startups?

Let’s remind the Lean principles in the context of a startup:

  1. Define value (created) from the perspective of the customers, users or beneficiaries
  2. Create corresponding value stream
  3. Ensure smooth and fast flow of value to the customer
  4. Meet the expectations and demands (pull flow from customer)
  5. Strive for perfection

For this to be possible and viable, an entrepreneur must allocate the proper resources and refrain from the temptation to develop or deliver unnecessary features. This would most likely lead to resource consumption without creating value in return, what is usually considered waste in Lean lingo.

A start-up may seem Lean by definition:

  • With limited resources available, entrepreneurs are assumed to be naturally inclined to be careful with resource management, reasonable and acquainted with the (Lean) concepts of waste
  • Time-to-market (i.e. speed) is obviously a critical success factor, just as is the speed at which the financial flow from sales is returning, hence an assumed entrepreneur’s obsession with flow and speed

But this is not certain. Common sense is less common than one might think.

Moreover, all entrepreneurs have not necessarily been exposed to the benefits of Lean. Finally, even familiar with Lean, entrepreneurs do not necessarily think about its application in the context of a starting business or the creating of a spin-off.

That’s the reason for this series of posts: How Lean can help startups


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The origins of Logical Thinking Process

The Logical Thinking Process is the name of a book from Bill Dettmer as well as the name of a complex problem solving process inspired by Goldratt’s Thinking Processes. Over time, while teaching the original Thinking Processes, Bill realized it can also  be used for strategy deployment, not only complex problem solving. In this video interview, Bill Dettmer tells Philip Marris about the origins of the whole.


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