How do we get the “real picture” of how our business works, how data flows and where there is waste in our flow?

Lean Enterprise would have us conduct GEMBA, walk the system and see what the true picture is. Lean also concentrates on eliminating MUDA (waste) from our processes. Well is this not what we are trying to achieve through constructing B&ITs and, latterly, DAVs? These basic synergies made me think. What can OBASHI learn from Lean Enterprise? (and vice versa?)

The Seven Wastes.

Shigeo Shingo first highlighted the 7 Wastes when attempting to lean a process. He stressed that maximum effort should be put into eliminating these wastes to create maximum value, in minimum time at maximum quality. Admittedly Shigeo was considering a manufacturing process (the Toyota production system) but these wastes map nicely to the service, and indeed, any industry.

Correction. This waste of time and expense generated when a product must be reworked, rescheduled or re-inspected. This could be through poor design, inappropriate tolerances or poor communication. Understanding the data flow relating to the process and where bottlenecks or weak connections exist can help remove the opportunity for this waste. Where there is increased risk of defects occurring through poor data flow why not plan contingencies. I would imagine that Sony would have considered security redundancies had they identified the risk of the loss of client information. They are now rectifying a correction waste in both improving security and recovering from damage to their corporate brand.

Over Production. The bakers dozen is a flawed concept. Why produce 13 when your customer requirement is 12? It is human nature to prepare just-in-case contingencies although this generates waste. In a high defect industry it may be a requirement to introduce buffers to ensure customer demand is sated, however, the ability to understand the requirement and articulate it throughout the business can alleviate this waste.

Movement of Material. Why am I interested in material for a data flow tool? Well consider the movement of data as a waste. Yes, we can buy ever faster applications, systems, hardware and infrastructure but ultimately we are only providing a cosmetic fix to the waste generated. Better to integrate processes, infrastructure and hardware to lead to an elimination of the waste. B&ITs and DAVs should allow us to identify these opportunities and make savings.

Movement of People. The same of is true of the waste generated in moving people. Toilet breaks, smoking, even collecting printing are wasteful in a pure lean enterprise. I am by no means suggesting nappies and at-desk-smoking. Rather, by understanding our data flow and areas where the person is left redundant, we can make better use of their time. Again DAVs will us to identify these times and make best use of them.

Waiting. By understanding when data, people or processes are caused to wait we can seek ways to either make use of the time (concurrent activity) or seek to reduce the waiting period. A specific piece of hardware that is used for a sole purpose and only activated for 1hr a day is creating 23hrs of waste. Can the use of B&ITs identify opportunities to eliminate this waste?

Inventory. Any element that is not in the customer’s hand is not adding value. Superfluous data, redundant processes and technology all contribute to this waste. The identification of these may not be immediately apparent unless we conduct a though capture stage in our project lifecycle.

Process. I am not an IT specialist, my background is in explosives (fun but not particularly relevant), but in my experience an IT guru will push capability upon me because it is the “best” or the “fastest”. We must understand the quantity, both most likely and worst case, of data flow in addition to security and speed requirements prior to embarking on a costly procurement exercise. These requirements can only truly be measured through a detailed requirements analysis. I would suggest that OBASHI will underpin this type of analysis.

Of course Lean does push its own modelling techniques, logical process flow, value streams and workflow diagrams are in abundance. None of these relate to the use of IT in the system of interest. I would suggest that in combining the OBASHI methodology with the lean goals (improve quality, eliminate waste, reduce lead time and reduce costs) will generate a very powerful tool to the business interested in reducing its data flow.