Matt Hrivnak

Kaizen: There's always another future state





Since I am very active in the market, particularly with equity options and around earnings, it is very important for me to always get the most up to date information and to maintain a well-rounded macro outlook.  Every weekday, one of the outlets I turn to for this is Bloomberg Surveillance; both the television and radio versions.  I tune in because they have the best guests (from academia to hedge funds to the banks) and they cover the widest breadth of topics.  They also have the most knowledgeable and well-connected hosts in longtime stalwarts Tom Keene and Mike McKee (and I am not just saying that because Tom Keene is also a former RIT hockey player and alum).

This morning, as to the routine, I was tuned in and enjoying the commentary and earnings coverage.  And then it happened (you may need to sit down).  While covering the Caterpillar (CAT) earnings release, Mike McKee uttered one of the most blasphemous and suffocating phrases known to the continuous improvement world:  Lean is cost cutting.

When he made the comment, McKee was reading commentary notes directly out of the earnings release that quoted Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman, and was simply trying to relate the topic to the audience.  The exact quote from Oberhelman in the release: “We can’t control the business cycle, but we continue to drive improvements in our business. We’re implementing Lean to drive improvements through our businesses and executing our Across the Table initiative with dealers to improve our market position, service performance and value to customers.”

While the comment was innocent enough, it is an overarching theme that you hear time and again from those that are truly disconnected from the process of continual improvement.  In the wrong circles (e.g. a board room), it’s a dangerous thought and it that may very well lead your operational excellence initiatives down the drain.  Cost cutting comes with the connotations of reducing head count, giving more work to those still employed, buying cheaper (lower cost at the expense of quality) raw materials, and cutting corners.  These are all negatives. I do not know of one successful lean deployment that was thought of as a cost cutting measure.

It’s a fact that lean does result in lower costs, particularly operational and material usage costs, but it is not the driver.  Lean is about company growth, not about cost cutting and reduction.  Think about Oberhelman’s quote:  Lean will allow you to “continue to drive improvements” and “value to customers.”  The goal of lean ultimately ensures companies the satisfaction of addressing the customer’s exact wants by providing them highest quality goods–at the lowest possible cost, with the shortest lead time, and still striving to improve these metrics on the next order. Achieving such goals is much easier said than done because it requires a fundamental cultural commitment from the entire company.  Caterpillar did a pretty good job of trying to explain lean today.

In the glossary of terms within the earnings release was this: “Lean — A holistic management system that uses a sequential cadence of principles to drive the highest quality and lowest total cost to achieve customer requirements.” Somehow, in the world of finance, that definition gets shortened to “cost cutting.” This hinders the overall acceptance and implementation of lean.  This is 2015, we are twenty-five years past the publication of The Machine That Changed the World.   We should be past this point.

Spreading the true essence of lean has been our goal from the beginning and it will continue for years to come.  You can ask any manager which of these they’d prefer and the answer is always the same, the latter:

Supply your customers with a lead-time of 4 weeks, a production cost of $100, and a 5% possibility of a defect; or,

Supply your customers with a lead-time of 1 day, a production cost of $70, and a <0.10% possibility of a defect.

But when managers investigate the methods that get to that point, the short term thinking and middle-manager mentality takes over.  The discussion immediately turns from ‘what is going to satisfy the customer the best?’ to ‘what’s going to make our numbers look the best on our internal metrics and receive the most applause on the next earnings call?’  Business is about doing what’s right for the customer.  Remember, the customer pays the company’s bills and employees, not the employer.  Lean is about optimizing this relationship by reducing the waste inherent in the current state process.  Shigeo Shingo (1909-1990) noted this while trying to describe this very topic in his writings about his work with Toyota, “When you buy bananas all you want is the fruit not the skin, but you have to pay for the skin also. It is a waste. And you the customer should not have to pay for the waste.”

Does the customer care that you had to ship Product A from the manufacturing floor to storage and then back to the floor for processing?  Of course they don’t, and they really don’t want to pay for it or wait the extra time for their order to be delivered because of the delay it causes.  One does not fix this with cost cutting.  It’s done with a holistic review and improvement of the entire value stream through continuous improvement.  The results? The customer being provided with the value they deserve.

In the right mindset, lean is powerful.  Lean has legs.  Lean has the right tools to propel companies towards excellence:  jidoka (built-in quality), kaizen (continuous improvement), buy-in at every level, value stream thinking, proper identification of waste, just-in-time, single piece flow to takt time, SMED, 5S, poka-yoke, supermarkets, pull systems, kanban, heijunka, standardized work, gemba walks, job instruction training, kata, OEE, etc. Which one of those tools says to you cost cutting? That’s right, none.  Reduced costs are a welcome by-product of all those initiatives.

There will never be another company that can replicate The Toyota Way to its very core, but any company that tries to implement the same tools and culture, I applaud.

In full disclosure, I do not currently own any Caterpillar shares or options; however, I may reconsider now that I know their dedication to lean is strong enough to reference it in an earnings release at the risk of being singled out as “cost cutters.”

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

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As we discussed before, it’s obvious that basic principles of Lean can benefit a large number of people if incorporated into their daily lives.  One recent example is the new Amazon Dash Button; originally rumored to be an April Fools’ Day stunt, but that has since been properly vetted and confirmed by some reliable sources. Even if it turns out to be a joke, we’re still going to talk about it!

Simply put, this is just your basic pull system that many of us have utilized for years in our manufacturing or business lives.

The way it works is that when one notices they are running low on certain products (select major brands at this time), they simply press the button and that signal is provided to your home Wi-Fi and an order is sent to Amazon for replenishment.  It requires the user to first setup the Dash Button by syncing everything together through the Amazon app on a smartphone.  The end result is supposed to be a seamless reordering process for Amazon Prime members on the items they use on a regular basis and that often require wasteful trips to the store when they inconveniently run out.  Check it out by clicking the image below (not a referral link, just a regular old link).

 

Amazon_Dash_Button

 

Sound familiar? It should.  Think about your basic pattern production, replenishment pull systems:  material is consumed and some type of signal (kanban, empty bin, etc.) is sent back to the producing area to replenish the same standard quantity and type.  Just like we discussed in Kanban the Milkman a while back.  In this case, the kanban is the signal being sent electronically from the button.  Simple, straight forward and easy.  All one has to do is consume the product and press the button.

Actually, this could come back to manufacturing one day as well as they are reportedly offering the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service for any of your products.  This could have huge implications on manufacturing, logistics and supply chain planning if incorporated properly.  I’d see it as helping smaller manufacturers and businesses more than larger organizations as they are often the ones that don’t have access to sophisticated planning software or systems that use similar technology.  With Amazon’s growing infrastructure and partners, small companies would easily start benefiting from their massive scale and associated technologies, like this replenishment service.  The proof will be in how it all tests out and how far they can eventually push the technology (see below); it has to be proven first.

As long as Amazon is able to deliver quickly and keep the cost to roughly that of your average purchase of the item in store, then it works for me.  I like the move forward in the Lean aspect of it; however, I don’t think that I’d want twenty or thirty different Amazon Dash Buttons placed around my house.

Optimally, I’d like to see it taken a step further with some sort of proximity sensor (RFID or otherwise) that reorders the product when it recognizes the empty container in the trash bin or when it leaves the property, etc.  The active user element of having to push the button to replenish is not entirely fool-proof and still leaves room for stockouts to occur when someone uses the last of the product.  I think we’ve all taken the last of something and put an empty container back or not informed someone that we’ve used it up!

For more information on the Amazon Dash Button:  https://www.amazon.com/oc/dash-button

Recommended reading on related topics: Creating Level Pull by Art Smalley

 

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

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One of my favorite shows on TV in the past few years has been ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ on BBC, and now on FOX.  After the second or third episode that I saw, I started thinking that each episode seemed to be very much a kaizen event:  quick bursts of energy focused on problem solving and imrovement.  Ramsay’s goal in each of the episode is generally the same:  to turn a poorly performing restaurant into a successful one.  Along the way, he encounters a number of different obstacles from inexperienced owners and egotistical chefs to poorly designed menus with too many choices.

 

The three or four days (according to the show) that Gordon Ramsay is in his transformational role always begin with Gordon sampling a few dishes during lunch time and then providing feedback (always negative, because let’s face it, it’s TV for one thing, and secondly, these restaurants would have customers if the food was good).  Later in that same day, he will attend the dinner seating; stalking and observing the kitchen operation and customer reactions.  At the end of that night, he meets with the entire restaurant staff and delivers his bad news.

 

The second day starts with Gordon introducing the staff to new dishes that he has created to: a) standardize the menu with fewer, but higher quality choices, which also allow for the use of pull systems and easy inventory control measures, b) provide the staff with the taste of food that is possible from the same equipment they already use, and c) to simplify the dinner service for that night offering these new items as specials.  Additionally, he will often take some of the staff members to visit successful restaurants in the area to observe the differences.

 

Between the second and third day, Ramsay’s staff of decorators does a make-over on the restaurant with new paint, table settings, etc.  This provides a fresh new standard for the restaurant going forward, and something for the employees to maintain.

 

In the beginning, many of the owners and chefs do not see anything wrong with their business, but still admit that they are losing money and need help.  Throughout the process, they eventually open their eyes to the problems and begin the difficult process of changing.

 

While this show lacks the team participation aspects of a kaizen event, it still shows the drastic positive changes that are possible within just a few days.  (He still manages to listen to all of the concerns of the employees and incorporates them into his new ideas.) The changes may not always be permanent, but a lot of the simple standards Ramsay puts in place seem to stay put; preventing the restaurants from falling back to their unsuccessful ways that led them to the show in the first place.

 

Here’s the link:  http://www.fox.com/kitchennightmares/

 

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

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Yes, that’s right, the new hit CBS show ‘Undercover Boss’ is an engaging, and often times touching, CEO gemba walk.  Albeit sneaky, the gemba walks taken by these CEO’s are just as illuminating as the walks done by lean practitioners and kaizen event participants everyday.

 

For those unfamiliar with a gemba walk, it is a walk (i.e., plant tour) taken by managers (or lean participants) to GO AND SEE the actual work as it is being done today.  This removes all of the confusion and distortion of facts that is inherent in multi-level management situations.  The individual that is performing the walk will typically have a goal in mind at the beginning of the walk.  For example, they may want to look at a particular area, or at a particular type of chart that is used throughout the plant in various locations.  In addition to this goal, they will often ask questions of the supervisors and operators.  The most common would probably be “How often does that happen?” and “Is your supervisor aware of this issue?”  During a gemba walk, one can uncover many more issues than sifting through production reports and printouts.  There is no substitute for GO AND SEE.

 

While some of the ‘Undercover Boss’ show may seem staged, the overall show is terrific and you really have to applaud these CEOs.  Each of them has been very understanding of their employees and at the true issues causing many of the problems they encountered.  Once the CEOs took the chance to GO AND SEE, they started the process of improvement.  It all comes back to the basic question, “how can you correct an issue that you don’t know exists?”

 

‘Undercover Boss’ is fantastic and I encourage anyone that is looking to improve their operations to watch a few episodes just to get familiar with the overall idea of the gemba walk.  Now, one thing to keep in mind is that on the show, the employees do not know that the CEO is the person they are working with.  On a gemba walk, there are no secrets.  The people taking the walk should (at least some of them) be known to the employees being observed.  Otherwise, you will create distrust within the organization and your lean efforts are doomed to fail.

 

Here’s a link to the show:  http://www.cbs.com/primetime/undercover_boss/

 

Now, GO AND SEE!

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

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It’s frightening to see the negative media coverage afforded Toyota regarding the recall of their automobiiles due to the ‘sticking’ accelerator issue.  Without a doubt, you would not see such a political hit job done on GM or Chrysler now that they are owned by the government and a majority of the major media outlets are in lock-step with the White House.  If negative media coverage of Toyota helps sell more GMs and Chryslers, then you’ll see more of it – especially if a particular network is pining for an interview with the President.

One story I saw this morning about the recall said that Toyota must obviously not know how to correct the problem because they have stopped selling 8 models, etc.  The real story is that Toyota is doing what it does best, and that’s servicing the customer right.  They are practicing one of the key pillars of the Toyota Production System:  Jidoka.  Essentially, Jidoka comes down to recognizing a problem, stopping production before you create any more bad products, incorporating a proven solution and then restarting production.  On a micro level, this prevents bad product from being made AND from being passed onto the next station.

If this was another car manufacturer, they would still be making and selling their defective cars while trying to work on a solution.  Toyota, on the other hand, has decided that it will take responsibility now, service the problem and service its customers.  Sure, they could act like some of their competitors might and continue to sell the thousands of cars each day and then send letters saying ‘hey, your car has a recall, bring it in’, but they won’t, because they know the only people keeping then alive is their customers and they know they have a bigger responsibility to the community, and first and foremost reason as to why they won’t do that – because it’s not the Toyota Way!

Comments (2) Posted by matt on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

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There are several versions of the 80/20 rule, but primarily it is used to describe an extended version of the Law of Diminishing Returns.  When I say extended, I mean for a certain length of time like an improvement or project plan that might span years.  For those individuals who are not familiar with the Law of Diminishing Returns, here is a quick definition followed by two examples.  The Law of Diminishing Returns states that you have a basic cause and effect relationship, where an increase in variable X somehow affects variable Y, positively or negatively.  At first, when X is increased, Y is greatly affected, but as X is increased, its affect on Y becomes less and less.  This is the fundamental idea behind the Law of Diminishing Returns.  

 

An example of this law:  quenching your thirst on a hot summer day.  After working several hours outside in the hot weather, you come inside and decide to take a drink of water.  The first glass of water is like some sort of magical water, making you feel much better; every sip quenches your thirst.  As you keep refilling your glass, each glass after the first adds very little enjoyment, until finally, you are sick of drinking water and no longer want it.  Big improvement up front and that quickly scaled off.

 

Another example:  installing a light bulb on a lamp on the ceiling.  One person could easily handle this, but two would be safer so that the second person could hold the ladder.  Adding a third or fourth person might help keep the ladder in place, but beyond that, no benefit is being added to the installation of the light bulb.  And so, as you add people, it begs the question, “how many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

 

Now that we have covered the basics behind the 80/20 rule, let’s see where it gets its name.  In reality, it is really a mixture of 80s and 20s that form the 80/20 rule.  The fundamental breakdown of the phrase is that 80% of your benefits come from 20% of your efforts.  This is often times used by quality experts to sort out root cause as it is routinely found that 80% of a company’s defects are coming from about 20% of their known problems.  That is, they might have 5 different quality problems, but only 1 of them makes up 80% of the cost associated with the problems.

 

Where do the other 80s and 20s come into play here?  Well, that’s easy.  If 80% of your benefits come from 20% of your efforts that means that you still have 20% of your benefits to come with the last 80% of your efforts.  This is the major sticking point of this rule:  Implement and then perfect!

 

Here is a visual of the 80/20 rule as it would appear on a graph.

 

 

80 20 rule graphed

80 20 rule graphed

 

Some companies perform improvement projects that show great results of upfront, but they never finish the last 20%. Other companies spend all of their time trying to perfect an application before they implement it, resulting in very little success and long drawn out timelines.  

 

Use the 80/20 rule to your advantage.  It is the essence behind continuous improvement.  You might get the big bang for your buck out of the initial investment, but over the long run, you can still pick up another 20% worth of benefits before the well runs dry.  That is, if it ever does 😉

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

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I haven’t posted in quite a few months because I’ve been extremely busy.  My wife and I moved into our new house in April and it’s been nonstop working since then; working on and contributing to surveys, articles and books, performing actual work, house work, yard work, visiting family, etc.  

 

I’ve been doing some work in the past few months with MassMEP.  These guys are great.  They perform a lot of Lean training and facilitation of Kaizen events, and generally, help companies start a structured Lean journey that can be followed once MassMEP has finished its onsite work.  Like most manufacturing support entities, MassMEP gets the majority of its funding from the state government; in their case, Massachusetts.  They’ve been plagued lately by budgetary concerns as the MA state government was going to be appropriating money meant for MassMEP (and others) to pay off debt that the state has racked up.  This is, of course, a prime example of the pitfalls of big government and a major injustice to all of the companies in MA.  Each company pays into a Workforce Training Fund that is specifically setup for workforce education, which includes things like Lean and Six Sigma training.  So, if the MA state government would move those funds to other debts, it hurts the MA companies that would take advantage of the program in two ways:  First, they lose that money they are paying into the program.  And second, they lose out on the thousands/millions of dollars they could save (or grow) had they been able to get the Lean Sigma training and implementation.  A lot of manufacturers have already been to the state house to fight for the Workforce Training Fund money and it seems to have paid off so far, but there is still more that needs to be brought back that was put in by the manufacturers.

 

Lastly, I’ve been working on a lean simulation file that includes a basic template for setting up and running a lean simulation in a classroom setting.  I’ve been asked countless times for something like this, so I’ve been sitting down a few hours a week to put something tangible together that can be shared by anyone to explain and really showcase the benefits of Lean to their colleagues and company executives who need convincing.  More on that in the future, and when it is complete, I will post it on this site.

 

-MH

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Friday, August 14th, 2009

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By all accounts, the following quote came from Shigeo Shingo (of course, I wasn’t there to hear it said, but he gets the credit),  “When you buy bananas all you want is the fruit not the skin, but you have to pay for the skin also. It is a waste. And you the customer should not have to pay for the waste.”


Update to original post:  Officially reported by Norman Bodek as having been used by Dr. Shingo at an APICS conference in Las Vegas, as “When you buy bananas you only want to eat the inside but you also have to pay for the skin.  This skin is a waste.”  Special thanks to Norman, and to Paul Akers (who is probably the greatest proponent of lean in the past 10 years via his company FastCap, his travels and his online presence) for posting Norman’s writings.

The truth in this quote is rock solid, but one important fact that people often over look is the type of waste that the banana peel actually represents.  At one time or another, every lean practitioner/participant has been run through Ohno’s 7 wastes:

  1. Overproduction:  producing too much, contributing to the other 6 wastes
  2. Waiting:  people/processes waiting for supplies or go aheads to produce
  3. Conveyance:  unnecessary movement of parts/supplies
  4. Processing:  incorrect or unnecessary processing
  5. Inventory:  more on hand than is actually required
  6. Motion:  operators making unnecessary motions, looking for tools/supplies
  7. Correction:  inspection, rework, etc.

Now, you can find one of those categories in which to put the banana peel, but what type of waste is it?  What do I mean by that?  Well, is it Type I or Type II waste?

  • Type I Waste (Type I Muda):  anything that creates no value, but that is unavoidable due to current technologies, machine or resource limitations, etc.
  • Type II Waste (Type II Muda):  anything that creates no value and can be eliminated immediately.

The banana peel, while obviously being waste, is an unavoidable necessity to the development, harvesting, and delivery of the fruit to the customer.  I would prefer to buy the banana in its organic sleeve and pay a few extra cents instead of buying it peeled, rotten and mushy.

Perhaps the banana industry will find a way to genetically engineer a skinless banana that stays fresh as long as banana in the peel, but until then, I’ll take my banana with its Type I Muda attached!

Comments (2) Posted by matt on Thursday, April 16th, 2009

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I get a lot of questions about proper training and how to ensure that something will be taught, and learned, correctly. Training is so important when it comes to following a system and without it, you might as well have no system at all. The best book I’ve ever read for training is definitely Liker and Meier’s Toyota Talent: Developing Your People the Toyota Way They breakdown all of the necessary elements for great training while giving you some great insight into the Toyota way of talent development.

Of the more prominent topics is Toyota’s use of the Job Instruction (JI) method. This method is an easy four step process that can be applied to any process and in all circumstances. Below I’ve given a quick and dirty breakdown of the process:

1. Prepare the trainee(s) – Setup the trainee(s) for success, tell them the basics of the job, find out what they know about it already, and try to build their interest in the job.
2. Thoroughly present the job/operation – Talk about each major step of the process and why it is important while demonstrating each one (one at a time), listing all key elements and why each key element to that step is important. Clearly describe the needs for each step and respond to any questions from the trainees. If any portion is too much for a trainee to handle at one time, slow it down and allow them to master (fully understand) the current step before moving ahead.
3. Have the trainee perform the job/operation – Watch the trainee (or each trainee) perform the operation, have them correct any errors or issues they encounter. Have them perform it for you several more times, while they also explain all major steps and elements to you (the trainer). This gives them a sense of mastery and allows them to take the lead on understanding the needs for each step and why each one is important to perform correctly, every time.
4. Sustain the training through following up – Inform the trainee who they can ask for further help. Check on them frequently; assign them certain tasks or goals. Overtime, lesson the observations, while encouraging further understanding and development through a suggestion or question system. Leave yourself or another trainer available for help.

Those are the major points of the Job Instruction method and can be applied to all processes with very little effort. The more important aspects of job training need to be in place and prepared ahead of time, like a well standardized process and capable, knowledgeable trainers. Teach using the Job Instruction method and your associates will develop a much better sense of belonging and well being, while at the same time, ensuring you are getting top quality production.

Just remember – “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Thursday, April 9th, 2009

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Organization, The Visual Home/Office, and 5S

How organized are you?  The information covered on the next few pages will change your approach to organization forever.  Many shows on cable television are based on this thinking, whether they come out and say it or not.  What I’m talking about is the organizational standards created by Toyota, and now used throughout many companies.  In fact, when most companies begin their Lean journey, they start with this:  5S.

5S is the acronym for this organizational program because there are five steps and each begins with the letter “S”.  The Japanese terms for these are:

  • Seiri – tidiness
  • Seiton – orderliness
  • Seiso – cleanliness
  • Seiketsu – standardization (standards)
  • Shitsuke – sustaining of practices

 

When translated into English, they are commonly shown as:  Sort, Set-In-Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  Let’s start from the top.

 

SORT

Just as it sounds, you need to pick and choose what you want to keep and what you can get rid of.  The main point is that you want to separate the needed items from the unneeded ones.  I know I could have used words other than “needed” and “unneeded” but that is the main point of this – keep only what you need!

 

In manufacturing, a good rule of thumb is the 48 Hour Rule:  if you don’t need to use it in the next 48 hours, get rid of it, or put it back in its place.  This rule works well when organizing a kitchen, garage, or workshop, but you can expand the time frame depending on your particular project.  Some people say a month, others 6 months, and some even say years.  At any rate, the main thing is:  if you don’t need it now, and you don’t need it soon, statistics say that you probably don’t need it at all.

 

A second good motto to follow is:  When in doubt, throw it out!  SORT is the hardest step for anyone that is a pack rat.  People in my family, I won’t say who, have a very hard time getting rid of things.  They, like many others, believe that they have something that is salvageable and that someday it will be worth a lot of money.  However, for the majority of the items out there, that is not true.  Of course, every once in a long while you’ll find a 1909 baseball card worth $500,000 or maybe even an original copy of the Constitution in the back of an old frame, but chances are, it’s worth little to nothing.

 

To make SORT a little fun and perhaps, even a little fulfilling, try some of these ideas:

 

1)      The classic yard/garage sale.  This is a great idea because once people see that no one wants to hand over cash for their junk, they are more apt to let go of it.  Also, an added bonus is that anything that sells:  gets the item out of your hands AND gives you some extra spending money!

2)      Another version of the yard sale is the online auction.  Join any of the major auction sites and list as many products as you want.  If it sells, then good, you get money and you get rid of it.  It not, then you know it’s time to throw it away – move on.  The only downside is that you will have to pay a small insertion fee up front on most of the sites.

 

I like this option the best, because it really allows you to see that if no one in a world of 6,000,000,000+ people wants to buy your stuff, who else is going to be willing to buy it?  Get rid of it!

3)      Give as much of it to charity as you can.  The Salvation Army and Good Will Stores always have need for old clothes and household goods.  Just make sure they are in good condition.  They will also accept children’s clothes and toys.  The best benefit of this option is that you can claim your donations when you file your taxes for the year in which the items were donated.  When you bring items to the donation site, ask one of the employees there for a donation claim form.  You fill it out there and they keep a cop and give you one for tax filing.  They will also give you a guide that it to be used for estimating the value that you should claim based on the items donated, the total number of items and the overall condition of each item.

4)      The last creative idea – if you have children – is to get them involved.  They love to help out, and the lesson of letting go will really grow with them as they get older.  A lot of American children have way too many toys as it is.  So, an idea here is, explain to them that some children have no toys at all and that they should give a few of their extras to those less fortunate.  This will be rewarding, not only for you, but also for your children, as they will learn to share.  And all this will contribute towards ridding your house of clutter.

 

One more thing about SORT – Don’t forget to recycle anything that can be re-used!

 

SET IN ORDER

Now that you’ve sorted out everything that you no longer need, it’s time for SET IN ORDER.  This step is really the first step towards organization.  It covers a broad range of areas, but the message is still the same:  arrange items in a set manner so that they are easily accessible, returnable, and at the same time, out of the way.  One term that makes it easy to remember is:  A place for everything and everything in its place.

The basic premise is that by arranging things in a logical and accessible manner, you will be more efficient in your actions, and over time, more apt to keep order because it will be evident when something is missing or out of place.  Uses for this stretch from a desk in an office to a workshop in the garage to the refrigerator, and even to things like a bathroom or laundry closet.  So, now that we’ve only retained what we actually need, let’s arrange it.

 

There are a few key ways of organizing to use here:

 

  • Common use items (i.e., items used together)
  • Arrange by Frequency of Use (i.e., storing items that are used most of the time in an easily accessible space)
  • Arrange by Sequence of Use (i.e., storing items in the same sequence as they are used)
  • Bulk area that an object occupies

 

The first one is pretty self explanatory; arrange items that are commonly used together.  In most cases, this is already done.  Looking at a house on a macro level, this would be the different areas of the house and what they contain.  In the garage or shed, people generally keep tools for upkeep and improvements.  This is the same for the kitchen and the bathrooms.  On a micro level, you would look at only one of those areas, like the garage.  Here you sort it into subgroups; like tools for yardwork and tools for housework.  That is why grouping commonly used items is usually the first way we arrange things.

 

Another way is to arrange items by frequency of use.  The more you use something, the easier you should be able to retrieve and return it.  Just as that sounds, you want to store things so that they are more accessible than other not-so-frequently-used items.  Some good examples of this:  In a bathroom, you use hand soap every time you visit, but you only use the shower/toilet cleanser once a week, so you’d store the hand soap on the sink and the cleanser in a closet or cabinet somewhere within the bathroom.  Working in your garage, you use your hammer and screwdrivers for 80% of your jobs and your jigsaw for only 20%.  Same deal here, you’d store your hammer and screwdrivers easily within reach, while the jigsaw would lie tucked neatly away in its own home until you need it.

 

Does this sound like common sense?  Well, it is, but too many times people forget the power of organization.  Okay, back to the organizing.

 

The next way to store is by sequence of use.  This may sound like storing things that are commonly used together, but it’s not quite the same thing.  This takes it all one step further.  While it’s true that most of these items are used together, the sequence they are used in is the driving force in their storage.  A basic example from manufacturing that I can use to describe this would be working on a hamburger assembly line that makes burgers with lettuce, tomato, and ketchup.  So, if the work goes from left to right, you’d store these items in this sequence, left to right:  bottom half of the bun, hamburger patty, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and finally, the top bun.  That example may seem a little hokey, but it gets my point across.  Again, there are so many different cases in which you can apply this method.

 

Finally, another way to store things is by the bulk area an object occupies.  The bigger something is, the harder it will be to store in one of the previous methods.  For anything like this, simply create a home for it and store it there.  Common examples are lawn mowers, laundry baskets, kitchen appliances, large mixing bowls, etc.

 

Now, we’ve learned how to store in order, let’s learn how to give everything its own home.  Some common methods for creating “homes” include:

 

  • Labeling
  • Outlining
  • Color Coding

 

I really take labeling to the extreme.  Every where that I have worked, I was required to “5S” my desk.  Because of this, I had labels everywhere!  And because of that, I was able to stay organized.  If you look at my desk you’d see labels that said, “stapler”, “calculator”, “notepad”, etc.  Now, when I tell people this, they generally give me a weird look and don’t understand why anyone would do this.  And many other people in the office often felt this way as well – until they started working at their newly “5S’d” desk.  That doubt quickly turns around, and many can’t go home at night until they find their missing stapler.

 

Let’s get started, here are some tips for Labeling:

 

  • Use a label maker – it is much neater than hand writing and provides labels that are easy to remove
  • If possible, put a label on the item itself and also on the spot that it occupies.  If it is missing, you will know instantly and if someone else finds it, they will know where to return it.

 

A second way of creating “homes” for objects is thru the use of outlining or shadow boarding.  This is primarily affective in areas that you can use paint or permanent marker.  A good, real world example includes the use of lines to create parking spaces.  An at home use is generally done in a home workshop (but can also be done with utensils and items in the kitchen).  This would be your typical shadow board.  Basically, tools are hung on a pegboard or wall and then either outlined or the shape of the object is painted on the board.  So, if you remove the hammer, you’d see either an outline of a hammer or a silhouette of one.  If it is missing, it will be very evident.

 

Another good way to practice SET-IN-ORDER is color coding.  You can use color coding throughout your house, office, tool shed, etc.  Some people consider this part of the 4th S (Standardize), but it really fits in well for both steps.  Color coding really gets things organized because it is one of the only ways to make something visually distinguishable, which again is that Visual Factory aspect of Lean.

 

Some people think that I’m crazy when I suggest color coding certain things, but we grow up surrounded by colors telling what’s what.  For example, stop lights, green means go, red means stop, and yellow means slow down except for in New England where it means speed up, no matter how far from the intersection you happen to be.  Red is usually a sign of a problem or warning.  At any diner in the U.S., decaf coffee is poured from the orange rimmed pot, while regular coffee comes out of the black (sometimes brown) rimmed one.  And my favorite example, casino checks/chips.  Throughout the gaming industry, casinos generally use the following color code:  $1 chips are white (or blue), $5 chips are red, $25 are green, $100 chips are black, $500 chips are purple, and $1,000 chips are orange.  Then they add more colors on the edges to help indicate how many are stacked together.  With these edge spots, they can also look down from any camera in the casino to see if someone was paid too much or not enough, and in some cases, they use these spots to prevent cheating and quickly identify losses due to cheating.  From the examples I’ve just shown, color coding has a reach, far beyond manufacturing facilities.

 

In industry, color coding is usually used to distinguish one production line’s tools and materials from another.  Here each area, line or cell will be given its own color.  Tools, jigs and dies will be the same color as they area it is used in.  So, if another area loses a tool, it can be found and easily identified by any other area.  This also comes in handy when workers tend to take each others tools.  No one wants to be working in an area with red machinery and tools, and be using a yellow wrench.  Anyone can see from a distance that this tool does not belong to them and that they have obviously gone against policy and stolen someone else’s tool.  This same concept can be really affective if applied in a home.

 

For anyone that has multiple children, you’ll find this particularly useful.  Assign children a certain color that they use to identify themselves – but be sure that you let them pick it!  (If you have more than one child that wants the same color, ask them to give a second choice that can be used as a minor color.  E.g., John and Jim both want yellow.  John also likes grey, while Jim like black.  So, here you could give John yellow with a grey stripe, and Jim can be yellow with a black stripe).

 

I know you might be thinking that this seems crazy, but for younger children it really helps them identify their own things and take care of them, while at the same time they learn to respect the belongings of others.  Common things to try this with:  tooth brushes, lunch boxes, toys, tools, clothes, etc.  Remember, most children like the fact that they have their own color and that they picked it, so many see this as a game rather than a way of keeping them organized.

 

Aside from children, color coding works well for most household areas.  Some items are already color coded when you get them, like salt and pepper shakers that you use in the kitchen.  Here are some basic ideas to get you oriented with color coding:

 

  • For chemicals, like cleaners – use bright colored stickers such as red or green to indicate very harmful ones from lighter, safer chemicals.  You can also use a simple color sticker to represent any products with bleach or ammonia.  Make chemicals that react strongly together have two different labels, and create a small reference chart to remind everyone to not, for example, mix the red and green ones.
  • Stickers in the kitchen can tell you about the seasoning or taste of something.  I like to use this on wine bottles.  If you think about salsa containers – they have green for Mild, yellow for Medium, and red for Hot.  Well, I do the same thing for wine that I store in my house.  After opening and tasting the first bottle of a case, I am able to put a sticker on the back of the bottle that depending on the color, reminds me that this has a “smooth, mellow” taste or a “spicy, dry” finish, etc.
  • Create a schedule for sticker colors to use in the fridge and cupboards.  I like to put 8 different stickers on the items in my refrigerator and cupboards.  Items in the cupboard get a date within that sticker as well.  Each sticker is a different color and represents a different week over two months.  I do this so that when I go to use something in the refrigerator, I know whether it is good or bad.  I have a tendency to leave things around and they go bad.  When I started doing this, I was able to not play the guessing game and keep my refrigerator only filled with items that are still edible.  You can put a date on the sticker if that helps you too, but the main thing is still that it enables you to identify the good items vs. the bad items.

 

More and more companies are using color coding outside of their plants as well.  Most notably, within the past few years, Target® has recreated the prescription pill bottle.  I’ve always said that they “5S’d” it, since they looked at it from a customer standpoint, took out the waste and put in more value added features.  They improved the human factor side of the product and most customers responded favorably.  Each family member is given a color, so that each bottle is distinguishable by sight, they’ve made the font bigger, more organized and detailed, but still readable, drug facts and warnings.

 

Another good use of color is from the computer and consumer electronics industry.  All of the components that connect to the back of the computer are color coded so that the peripheral connector matches the connector on the computer.  Some people said it was brilliant.  I just say it’s simple, common sense.

 

SHINE

The 3rd “S” is really something simple:  SHINE.  All this means is to clean up and make things sparkle or shine.  This is sometimes referred to as Spick and Span as well.  The point is the same, however, once we have SORTed and SET-IN-ORDER, it’s time to clean up what’s left.  During SHINE, there are three main goals:

 

1)      Getting the area or workplace clean

2)      Maintaining its appearance

3)      Installing and using preventive measures to keep it that way

 

Here are some common practices to help achieve this:

 

  • Painting
  • Lighting
  • Removing clutter
  • Dust collection
  • Minimizing leaks and spills
  • Conducting routing maintenance (i.e., preventive maintenance)
  • Use of root cause analysis

 

There are many more that I could list, but you get the point:  CLEAN UP!

STANDARDIZE

After cleaning your separated items, it’s now time to STANDARDIZE everything.  STANDARDIZE can be done in a variety of ways, which will include some of the SET-IN-ORDER process like color coding and visual identification practices.  In industry, STANDARDIZE is used to make the 1st 3 S’s “unbreakable” by installing a system of standards that is to be followed by everyone within the organization.  This is where roles and responsibilities are handed out and training occurs to get everyone used to the 5S vocabulary.  Also, a lot of emphasis is put towards the use of visual factory techniques – color coding, checklists, and labeling that reinforce a “copy as you see it” approach.  In a home or office, the same techniques and approach work well.

 

Here are some strategies to get to standardization:

 

  • Use 5WHYs and 1 HOW – Keep asking WHY until you get to the root cause and then ask HOW to fix it.  Some very basic examples:

Industry:

  • WHY are you spending half your day mopping the floor?
    • Answer:  Because oil is always leaking from the machine.
  • WHY is oil leaking from the machine?
    • Answer:  The secondary gasket isn’t strong enough to hold the oil.
  • WHY isn’t it strong enough?
    • Answer:  The primary gasket is missing.
  • WHY hasn’t it been replaced?
    • Answer:  The maintenance department can’t get the screw off.
  • WHY can’t they get the screw off?
    • Answer:  They don’t have the right tool.
  • HOW:  I will have them order the proper tool, and replace it.

 

Lifestyle:

  • WHY have I gained 20 pounds in the past year?
    • Answer:  Because I eat too many bad foods.
  • WHY do I eat at bad foods when I shouldn’t?
    • Answer:  Because I don’t have time to prepare and eat well.
  • WHY don’t I have time?
    • Answer:  I get up late every morning and need to rush.
  • WHY do I get up so late every morning?
    • Answer:  I don’t get to sleep until the early morning.
  • WHY don’t I get to sleep until then.
    • Answer:  I stay up watching late night television.
  • HOW:  Ignore (or record) late night television and go to sleep.

 

 

  • Suspension of toys, food, tools, etc. – when people forget or ignore the 1st 3 S’s that you’ve installed, punish them this way so that over time, the system is reinforced and eventually sustained.
  • Incorporate Poka-yokes (this is talked about in depth in another section) – means “error-proofing”  – some examples:  locks on chemical cabinets, used of baby or puppy gates, putting things out of reach, etc.
  • Eliminate as many variations as possible, examples:
    • Tool unification – use only Phillips head screws and screwdrivers on all home projects
    • Tool substitution – wing nuts instead of wrench turned bolts
    • Method substitution – eliminate the bolts and use clamps (many areas where this can apply – especially workshops or the kitchen)

SUSTAIN

Of the 5S’s, SUSTAIN is by far the hardest to fully accomplish; partly because it is a never ending process of ongoing improvement, but mostly because it requires constant monitoring of the first 4S’s.  In manufacturing, it is relatively simple because you can reward or punish certain people or work areas, while at home, it may involve only you, which in turn, requires much more self discipline and control.  Regardless of the troubles, here’s how you keep it going:

 

·         If you have children or others that are living or working in a 5S’d environment (e.g., your newly cleaned/organized kitchen), let them know beforehand that they will be required to keep it neat and orderly.  If you were able to STANDARDIZE well, then they will already have good tools to use in order to SUSTAIN.

  • Perform audits.  This lets anyone involved know where they stand and what needs to be improved.  Auditing yourself can be tough, but it does provide you with how well you’ve been able to keep it up.
  • Take pictures of the area at its cleanest point and then put them in the area.  This has the effect of putting a “fat” picture of yourself on the refrigerator when you want to discourage yourself from eating.
  • Use checklists – daily, weekly, whatever is most suitable for you.
  • Assign yourself and others involved tasks to be completed on a scheduled basis.  Reprimand when they have not been completed and give acknowledgement once completed.
  • Do as much as you can to keep it going – signs, pictures, reminders, notes, etc.  Make the awareness remain at a very high level of visability.

 

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Thursday, October 9th, 2008

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ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization (Organisation internationale de normalisation), is an organization that is familiar to most people, but at the same time, requires much explanation.  ISO is headquartered in Switzerland and was founded in the 1940s.  It’s a standard creating entity made up of representatives from several countries that meet, form subcommittees, create and update procedures that are to be used, copied, and/or adapted to one’s business in an attempt to ‘standardize’ operations and improve quality.

Many companies see competitors that have an ISO certification banner hanging on the outside of their building or a .jpg on their website indicating that they have ISO 9001 QUALITY!!.  But what does that really mean?  To tell you the truth, no one knows for sure.  In some cases it means a lot, in others, it doesn’t.

ISO is an organization that strives and survives off of the buying and selling of the unnecessary efforts of other companies.  Each ISO system is different, not only from ISO 9001-2000 to ISO 14000 and so on, but also within each company that employs it.  It really comes down to, in a good portion of the companies, to ‘say what you do, and do what you say’.  But how far does that really get you?

In my opinion, ISO is a great help, if your company is drastically behind the times and has no means of standardization or procedure creation.  However, for most practical applications, it falls significantly short.  All of the companies that I’ve worked for that were ISO certified benefited no more from their ISO system than they did from their own standardized procedures.  In fact, many got worse with their quality levels because of all the red tape and the overwhelming amount of steps to update, change, and even implement new procedures.

Companies need to rely more on their own resources, be accountable for their own processes and procedures, and learn to become a learning organization that continually reviews and updates said procedures in a way that allows for some kind of betterment, to both their customers and their employees.  These days, there are too many companies that are spending good portions of their profits to become ISO certified and to maintain their multi-leveled ISO procedure file for the sake of saying they are ISO certified. 

For good companies that have an evolved awareness of quality and standardization, ISO is nothing more than a bureaucratic overrun of unnecessary red tape, expensive audits, and a faux selling point in the belief that ISO certification will trick your customers into thinking your quality is better.  Quality is determined by the company and its empowered operators, not by their ISO procedures.

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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One of the single most effective projects that I worked on in the past five years was also the simplest; in fact, I proposed this change in my first week of work.

During my interview, the engineering director took me for a walk through the plant.  It was obvious that a lot of changes needed to be made.  He complained, “Every time we have a defect in this cell, we have to scrap the whole lot, 50 pieces.”  I was shocked that a man with a title of “Engineering Director, North America,” could not see the solutions that were right in front of him.

My initial reaction was to ask a question, “Have you tried reducing your lot size?  Maybe cutting your lots in half?”  His response was even more dumbfounding, “What do you think that would do?”

So, I went on to describe all of the benefits of Single Piece Flow, and added the obvious fact that if the company requires the entire lot to be scrapped because of one defect, then you would only be scrapping 25 instead of 50 every time that one occurred.  He really got the point once I asked him to think about it on a larger scale, “How many would you have to scrap if you had a lot size of 1,000?”  Of course, he said, “1,000.”

When I got there, the process looked something like this:

There was an obvious disconnect between each process, even though the stations were literally five feet apart.  Each station operated as its own entity, not caring whether or not it was receiving or shipping defective products.  The operators were there simply to put in their time and collect their money.  They cared nothing for the products they were making and took no pride in quality workmanship.  If something failed at one of the inspection stations, then the entire lot was scrapped – big deal – they did whatever someone told them to do for eight hours and that was it – product or no product.

As you can see by looking at the diagram of the process, they had incorporated inspection stations.  Inspection is a large portion of waste in many manufacturing processes. Sure, it may be necessary in some instances, but the inspection should still be dealt with in-process instead of having it as its own workstation.

By having inspection as three entirely separate workstations, defects accumulated in lots of 50 waiting in queue and valuable resources were tied up in labor, fixed overhead and much desired floor space.

As a result, I suggested eliminating inspection from the process.  Well, I should say, I suggested eliminating the wasteful aspects of inspection. Because we are dealing with electrical devices that are tested to a standard, the cables must be checked during manufacturing to certify the product as passing the standard, so the inspection needs to be in there somewhere.

I suggested that we put the inspection testing equipment within the previous station’s area (i.e. the pre-inspection station, e.g. wire insertion, pre-mold, mold), to be checked one at a time as they are made.  The results showed instantly!

  • In each of the cases, the inspection operator was eliminated and added to other cells for more value added work.
  • Each of the pre-inspection stations would make one unit and test it instantly.  If there was a problem, it was solved immediately and no other cables would be tainted by the same issue.
  • Additionally, in all cases, the inspection portion of the manufacturing could be done (by the testing apparatus) while the operator was preparing the next sample.

At this point, we also rearranged the cell so that it was in the classic ‘U’ shape which cut the travel distance by 100’.  It had been segmented into two lines, with two operations being 110’ apart from another, this was shortened to 10’.

Single Piece Flow - 1st change

The bottleneck of the entire line was the Pre-Mold operation which was considerably slower than the other processes (the Wire Stripping and Crimping operations were very slow also, but each had 3 workstations, as these were inexpensive compared to a molding machine).  This was also the highest offender when it came to quality issues.  At this step, the individual wires were consistently getting snipped by the mold, causing complete electrical failure of the connector.

Before the improvements, it was easy for this process to make upwards of 200 bad cables before the Inspection station got around to discovering their was a problem! Because it was the bottleneck, it was absolutely imperative to always keep the Pre-Mold operation filled with work.  To achieve this, we setup a sequenced pull system that started with a supermarket between the Wire Insertion w/ Inspection operation and the Pre-Mold operation.  To keep the supermarket fed, we introduced FIFO lanes upstream.  The supermarket handled multiple varieties of cables because the Insertion operation was the first step in the system where product variety appeared.

In the operations upstream from there we used FIFO lanes because the product mix was entirely the same.  Each was held to a maximum storage amount; the supermarket with 5 and the FIFO lanes with 2.With the addition of the FIFO lanes and the supermarket, we were able to work at the pace of the bottleneck.

Granted we were able to speed up the processing of the bottleneck through a SMED event, which required machine design from the maintenance department, but it was still the bottleneck regardless.  To simplify things for a relatively naïve (in a lean sense) manufacturing group, we made the Pre-Mold operation the pacemaker and scheduled all work through that one point.

Efforts to justify the purchase of another molding machine for that area were just not cost effective. (As part of the SMED, we added a second bottom half to the mold which could be loaded while the current cable was being molded.  After the current one finished, the top half lifted up and the other bottom half slid into place, and the molding continued while the other bottom half was unloaded and reloaded for the next cable.)

Single Piece Flow - Final

Since we were so constrained by the Pre-Mold operation, we were able to use the same operators that ran the operations upstream from Pre-Mold to run the operations on the back end of the system.The results speak for themselves:

  • Output of quality products increased from 1.20 units/hour to 5.56 units/hour.
  • Quality problems and rework was down by 90%.
  • The number of associates went from 14 to 9, allowing those additional 5 people to be moved to areas where they could perform more value added work.
  • Associates saw the real effects of their work, taking on more responsibility and having more respect for themselves, the jobs that they perform and the products that they produce.

 

Comments (2) Posted by matt on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

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One of the toughest aspects of the Toyota Production System (TPS) for people to understand is why single piece flow is so important, and how it works.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve answered questions and statements like these: 

“What is single piece flow?”

“If we make one, move one, then our efficiencies will fall and we can’t have that…”

“Why use smaller batch sizes?”

“How will smaller batch sizes help?  We’ll just have more changeovers and our costs will go up.”

“We can’t achieve single piece flow and if we are able to, it will be too costly for us to operate that way.”

“Our customers will never get their orders if we do that because all we’ll ever be doing is changing over and setting up machines…” 

When it comes down to it, single piece flow is the best way that a manufacturing system can be set up.  Now, in most industries, systems are setup that will never allow for single piece flow in the traditional sense because of machining capacities and capabilities.  Examples of this are piece work items that are manufactured automatically by machines that have multiple machining heads that are performing the same task concurrently – something like the minting, pressing and stamping of coins – multiple dies punching hundreds of coin blanks out at one time, etc.  With time and revolutionary machine designs, single piece flow would ultimately be possible. 

In order to highlight the benefits of single piece flow, I’m going to use a list that is characterized by Liker in The Toyota Way (if you don’t own it, buy it – it is well worth the money), pages 95-97.  I’ve kept the list the same, but have added my own reasons as to why these benefits occur: 

  1. Builds in quality – this is the aspect that is most overlooked by opponents to single piece flow.  Since you are not dealing with batches, in particular, large batches, any defects can be correctly instantly or removed from the system at that time by the operator.  Defects are fixed or removed instead of being passed on.  Defects also become more noticeable and do not become hidden amongst a batch.  The most significant benefit is that any quality issues are more apt to begin and end with that one particular unit.  This happens because the defect is located, a cause is determined and a solution is remedied (PDCA in action).
  2. Creates real flexibility – because you are dealing with a lot size of 1 you can end production for that product at any point throughout the day within the number of minutes it takes for that 1 unit’s cycle time to elapse.  This is improved with the advent of SMED as changeovers are reduced and a larger mix of products can be produced within a shift, servicing more customers than a system processing larger batches of products.  If processing a lot size of 20 takes 5 hours of machine cycling time to complete, then processing a lot of 1 will take .25 hours.  In this way, you would be able to switch products and start producing something else after 15 minutes, instead of waiting 5 hours for the previous lot to complete its cycle.
  3. Creates higher productivity – operators focused on single piece flow are working on mostly value added activities leaving less time for non-value added time to interfere.  In addition to this, as each piece is processed, it can be moved onto the next workstation and processing can begin there – eventually you will get to the point where you are producing units at an output rate nearly equivalent to your slowest individual process (i.e. theory of constraints).  Also, any quality issues can be quickly removed or remedied within minutes on a single piece as opposed to reworking an entire lot, this saves larges amounts of rework time that would normally bog down a production line and utilize operators in a completely non-value added manner.
  4. Frees up floor space – because single piece flow naturally works within a cell there is less space for the accumulation of inventory between processes.  A cell is setup to maximize production floor space and improve communication between processes to improve quality and increase throughput.  There is no waste associated with defects, scrap, unneeded stacks of raw material, stacks of finished goods waiting for the next process – none of that because as soon as inventory is created (in the form of 1 unit) it is absorbed and processed by the next station and so on, down through the line.
  5. Improves safety – single piece flow means that there is no need for large batches to be shuttled back and forth, over thousands of feet within a production facility.  All of the processes are arranged in a cell with minimal space between them.  Again, inventory does not build up and will not require movement, batch sizes are 1 so bins and containers used to move products will be very small, allowing for operators to lift small, light packages instead of large, heavy packages that may contain multiple units.
  6. Improves morale – this is a natural phenomenom that occurs because each operator gets to see the outcome of their hard work instantly.  This instant gratification builds a passion for creating well-made, quality items.  Overtime, operators will pride themselves on high levels of quality and products that they produce because they can actually see the benefits that they add to the product – and each one they produce is, in and of itself, a unique special well crafted item.
  7. Reduces cost of inventory – simply due to the fact that you have less inventory of raw materials, inventory of WIP, and inventory of finished goods means that your company will be able to dedicate their capital and resources in other areas instead of overhead.  Additionally, any inventory that becomes obsolete because it is sitting around waiting to be processed will no longer occur.  This could mean expanding by purchasing new capital or technologies, improving existing work centers, giving more benefits, providing higher salaries to attract a better workforce.
Comments (0) Posted by matt on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

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Recently, I facilitated a kaizen event which was targeted at dramatically reducing the setup time of a Former-Winder twisting machine in a textile plant.  Naturally, we performed a SMED event; dedicating 3 days to the event and 2 days of prior videotaping (performed by me, under ‘normal’ conditions). A little background on the Former-Winder’s operation.  It is a machine that takes in raw material Yarns or Ends, twists them together into a strand, and winds them onto a 3 foot long bobbin.  The Yarns/Ends used can number anywhere from 2 and go up to 150 in some cases.  The bigger the yarn needed, the more raw material packages that will be required.  These raw material packages are put up onto fixtures, called Creels, that hold them while they feed out yarn.  The pictures show the creels in this case.

Raw material creel 

After loading the creels, the operator needs to install gearing that produces different levels of twist in the finished strand.  Creating a small sample allows the operator to perform a quick in-process check after changing the gears.  If it is okay, the operator puts in an empty bobbin and starts the machine.  If not, then he changes gears with engineering’s help (that’s what the ISO documentation says at any rate). Watching the video we put together this timeline, identifying the CURRENT STATE (i.e. the way in which it was currently being performed)External Setups in GREEN and the Internal Setups in RED:

  • Get & read traveler (1 min.)
  • Check prioritization (1 min.)
  • Get gears (15 min.)
  • Install gears (5 min.)
  • Return gears to proper place (1 min.)
  • Clean/grease machine (5 min.)
  • Program computer (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Obtain/order material (45 min.)
  • Creel placement (20 min.)
  • Create material space (10 min.)
  • Get/prepare cart (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Teardown (16 min.)
  • Return material (several trips) (9 min.)
  • Prepare & inspect creel (foam donuts, check eyelets, inc.) (2 min.)
  • Check for/install small packages (10 min.)
  • Get/install new packages (several trips) (22 min.)
  • Untie packages & feed thru eyelets (38 min.)
  • Setup distribution plate(s) (13 min.)
  • Setup wax tank (if necessary)
  • Locate & get proper die (5 min.)
  • Install die (1 min.)
  • Return old die to proper place (1 min.)
  • Feed machine (6 min.)
  • Run (.5 min.)
  • Chalk for twist (TPF) (.5 min.)
  • Stop & check TPF (.5 min.)
  • Sign off by other person (.5 min.)
  • Make adjustments (6.5 min.)
  • Run (couple minutes)
  • Stop & calculate weight/counts (repeat if necessary)
  • Check traveler for QTY (.5 min.)
  • Run Machine

—————————————————

76% Internal:  179 min = 2.98 hours

24% External:  58 min = .97 hours

Total Time:   237 min. = 3.95 hours

We then went through this list and created a ‘theoretical’ best case scenario that showcased the true Internal and External Setups.  Some of these are not even possible due to current technologies owned by the company:

  • Get & read traveler (1 min.)
  • Check prioritization (1 min.)
  • Get gears (15 min.)
  • Install gears (5 min.)
  • Return gears to proper place (1 min.)
  • Clean/grease machine (5 min.)
  • Program computer (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Obtain/order material (45 min.)
  • Creel placement (20 min.)
  • Create material space (10 min.)
  • Get/prepare cart (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Teardown (16 min.)
  • Return material (several trips) (9 min.)
  • Prepare & inspect creel (foam donuts, check eyelets, inc.) (2 min.)
  • Check for/install small packages (10 min.)
  • Get/install new packages (several trips) (22 min.)
  • Untie packages & feed thru eyelets (38 min.)
  • Setup distribution plate(s) (13 min.)
  • Setup wax tank (if necessary)
  • Locate & get proper die (5 min.)
  • Install die (1 min.)
  • Return old die to proper place (1 min.)
  • Feed machine (6 min.)
  • Run (.5 min.)
  • Chalk for twist (TPF) (.5 min.)
  • Stop & check TPF (.5 min.)
  • Sign off by other person (.5 min.)
  • Make adjustments (6.5 min.)
  • Run (couple minutes)
  • Stop & calculate weight/counts (repeat if necessary)
  • Check traveler for QTY (.5 min.)
  • Run Machine

—————————————————

11% Internal:  26.5 min = .44 hours

89% External:  210.5 min = 3.51 hours

 

This gave us a starting point for base lining and making improvements.  “How could we improve our current setup process to be as close to this as possible?”  First, we took all of the ‘current’ internal setups that were really external setups, and made them into external setups, changes shown in BLUEThis saved about 25%:

  • Get & read traveler (1 min.)
  • Check prioritization (1 min.)
  • Get gears (15 min.)
  • Install gears (5 min.)
  • Return gears to proper place (1 min.)
  • Clean/grease machine (5 min.)
  • Program computer (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Obtain/order material (45 min.)
  • Creel placement (20 min.)
    • Preparation (10 min.)
    • Physical move (10 min.)
  • Create material space (10 min.)
  • Get/prepare cart (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Teardown (16 min.)
  • Return material (several trips) (9 min.)
  • Prepare & inspect creel (foam donuts, check eyelets, inc.) (2 min.)
  • Check for/install small packages (10 min.)
  • Get/install new packages (several trips) (22 min.)
  • Untie packages & feed thru eyelets (38 min.)
  • Setup distribution plate(s) (13 min.)
  • Setup wax tank (if necessary)
  • Locate & get proper die (5 min.)
  • Install die (1 min.)
  • Return old die to proper place (1 min.)
  • Feed machine (6 min.)
  • Run (.5 min.)
  • Chalk for twist (TPF) (.5 min.)
  • Stop & check TPF (.5 min.)
  • Sign off by other person (.5 min.)
  • Make adjustments (6.5 min.)
  • Run (couple minutes)
  • Stop & calculate weight/counts (repeat if necessary)
  • Check traveler for QTY (.5 min.)
  • Run Machine

—————————————————

57% Internal:  134.5 min = 2.24 hours

43% External:  102.5 min = 1.71 hours

So, after a few hours of suggestions, some time working the setup process on the gemba, we were able to make a second pass, saving around 72%!  We designed a new creel that could have one side loaded with the current job and a second side that could be prepared for the next job.  This required a 30 day list be made up and completed because of the nature of the maintenance work needed and a few other action items that were external to the SMED event itself:

  • Get & read traveler (1 min.)
  • Check prioritization (1 min.)
  • Get gears (15 min.)
  • Install gears (5 min.)
  • Return gears to proper place (1 min.)
  • Clean/grease machine (5 min.)
  • Program computer (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Obtain/order material (45 min.)
  • Creel placement (20 min.)
    • Preparation (10 min.)
    • Physical move (10 min.)
  • Create material space (10 min.)
  • Get/prepare cart (if necessary) (1 min.)
  • Teardown (16 min.)
  • Return material (several trips) (9 min.)
  • Prepare & inspect creel (foam donuts, check eyelets, inc.) (2 min.)
  • Check for/install small packages (10 min.)
  • Get/install new packages (several trips) (22 min.)
  • Untie packages & feed thru eyelets (38 min.)
  • Setup distribution plate(s) (13 min.)
  • Setup wax tank (if necessary)
  • Locate & get proper die (5 min.)
  • Install die (1 min.)
  • Return old die to proper place (1 min.)
  • Feed machine (6 min.)
  • Run (.5 min.)
  • Chalk for twist (TPF) (.5 min.)
  • Stop & check TPF (.5 min.)
  • Sign off by other person (.5 min.)
  • Make adjustments (6.5 min.)
  • Run (couple minutes)
  • Stop & calculate weight/counts (repeat if necessary)
  • Check traveler for QTY (.5 min.)
  • Run Machine

—————————————————

21% Internal:  49.5 min = .825 hours

79% External:  187.5 min = 1.71 hours

We looked heavily into streamlining the leftover Internal Setups and determined that most of the streamlining had already been done. These machines (literally, these same machines) had been working in this plant since the 1940s and people had come up with quicker and better ways of doing things in that time.  Of course, we are still working towards streamlining and looking for those opportunities daily.

So, some team work, some more aware operators and better methods will allow us to service the internal customers of this process a lot faster, in the exact quantities they need and that means we can service a much greater variety of product lines within the same timeframe as before!

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

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It is always important to recognize people’s efforts and to strengthen team building.  One way to achieve this is through the inclusion of memorabilia that states the purpose of a certain project or cross functional team, or even a company wide goal that may span years.  Here are a couple of examples of a button and a mug that were handed out during my days at General Cable.  The button, which lists the plant’s Lean Sigma goals of reductions in Scrap, Rejections and Inventory, were handed out to all associates working in the plant. 

The mug, which simply states “General Cable Lean Associate”, was given to anyone who participated in any Kaizen event.  Several other items were used for motivational purposes and to show the company’s gratitude.  I still have several golf shirts and a jacket that say similar things to these on them.

The main point is to allow every associate and every team member to feel that they are part of something bigger – something worth working towards.  Along the way, each one of these buttons, mugs, etc. remind you of the task at hand.  General Cable’s Lean Sigma program has worked well for the company since its launch back in 2002 (BGC).

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Monday, May 19th, 2008

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Although SMED was clearly developed during the 1900s, there are several cases from throughout history that can be referenced when trying to explain SMED.  The very basic idea of SMED, i.e. preparing and completing External setups while the machine/process is working on the current job, while streamlining Internal setups, etc. (if you are new to SMED, check out my article SMED…What is SMED?), can be seen in common processes that are around us.

The most common of these, which is more or less the cliche reference now because it seems every Lean trainer uses it, is the quick changeover of tires witnessed by Nascar and Indy racing fans at every race.  When you think about changing a tire, you think of several elements, like:

  1. Getting your tools
  2. Loosening 4/5/6 nuts
  3. Jacking up your car
  4. Pulling off the old wheel
  5. Putting on the new wheel
  6. Individually picking up the nuts and resetting them
  7. Tightening the nuts
  8. Putting the old tire in the trunk
  9. Putting your tools away

I assume it is something like that for most people.  Now, the quick connection they make here is that in an auto race, the pit crew is completely ready with their power tools, 1 guy jacks up the car, another takes the a) in cart racing, 1 (and only) nut off while maintaining it in the tooling head, b) in Nascar, the nuts are fixed to the wheel so only tightening is required, another guy removes and replaces the tire, and the nut(s) is tightened, etc.  You can see how that works.

Well, when thinking about SMED, there is a better example that I like to use.  So far, I’ve been a little on my own referencing this and some of my professors had a hard time grasping the concept of this being related to SMED.  Eventually, they saw my point and some of them use it in their classes to this day.  Unfortunately, this is not the most pleasant example of a SMED because of the nature of the resulting action, but it really gives a solid example of SMED.

Since the beginning of firearms, reloading has been a critical, essential, and frankly, a crucial aspect of warfare.  For any of you who are not that knowledgeable when it comes to the evolution of the gun, I’ll fill you in.  After the first couple hundred years of firearm development, the gun was stuck in a period of lackluster progression.  At the time of the American Revolution, muskets, a smooth bored muzzle loading rifle was the most widely used rifle in the world.  Due to the loading nature of the musket, a well trained infantryman could fire about 3 or 4 shots per minute.  Looking at this from a process standpoint, this gives us (assuming ~3 shots/minute):

  • Setup time:  20 seconds (includes aiming)
  • Cycle time:  ~1/10th of a second

The process for loading a musket, looks something like this:

  1. Stand the musket on its butt end, with the open barrel facing the sky
  2. Get out the gun powder (from a powder horn)
  3. Pour the required amount of powder down the barrel
  4. Put the powder horn away
  5. Get out the ball (i.e. bullet) (from a snap enclosed pouch)
  6. Put the bullet in the barrel
  7. Pull out the rifle’s ram rod from its casing on the side of the barrel
  8. Stick the ram rod in the barrel and push the bullet fully down
  9. Put the ram rod back in the side casing
  10. Pick up the musket
  11. Cock the hammer (which contains a piece of flint for creating a spark)
  12. Get out the powder
  13. Pour some more powder on the flash pan
  14. Put the powder horn away
  15. Aim the rifle
  16. Pull the trigger and hope the flint sparks and ignites the powder, firing the gun

That’s a lot to accomplish in 20 seconds. A small pictorial of an American Revolutionary War soldier is below (source:  http://www.americanrevolution.com/images/ContinentalArmy.jpg)

Like many processes, loading a rifle was held back because quicker changeovers were not possible due to technological issues and lack of progress in that area.  Slowly, the technology did improve and the flint-lock hammer was replaced with a preloaded percussion cap (like the kind you can buy in a toy store that makes a loud pop) that could easily be placed on a pin, before being struck by the hammer. 

 

This removed the clumsly action of pouring small amounts of gun powder into the flash pan while attempting to hold your composure.  Around the same time, ammunition companies began packaging the gun powder and the bullet in a paper encased packet that required the soldier to reach into only 1 compartment instead of 2.  The soldier would simply pull out the packet, bite off the end, and stick it in the front of the barrel.  So, after removing these small, but time consuming external elements, the process looked something like this:

  1. Stand the musket on its butt end, with the open barrel facing the sky
  2. Get out the paper packet
  3. Bite off the top and place the rest of it in the barrel
  4. Pull out the rifle’s ram rod from its casing on the side of the barrel
  5. Stick the ram rod in the barrel and push the bullet fully down
  6. Put the ram rod back in the side casing
  7. Pick up the musket
  8. Cock the hammer
  9. Get out the cap
  10. Place the cap on the pin
  11. Aim the rifle
  12. Pull the trigger

This type of rifle was used extensively around the time of the American Civil War.  At the same time, bullets were being improved through new packaging techniques that encased the bullets and powder in a metal shell that could be loaded into a moveable turret as you would expect to see on a revolver.  Much like the one pictured below:

 

It took another 25 years or so for this technology to be moved from pistols to rifles, but eventually, the rifle went from muzzle loaded to a pump action carbine to a bolt action rifle to the extremely fast firing machines guns used today.

With the development of the encased bullet, there was no longer a need for a percussion cap and the loading process looked something like this:

  1. Preload a small batch of bullets into a ‘clip’ (does not need to be done during battle)
  2. Attach the clip to the gun (again, the first clip can be done during down time)
  3. Aim the rifle
  4. Pull the trigger
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4, as necessary

So, as they do, things progressed and eventually you end up with a mechanism like we see today.  Almost all of the external setup elements have been removed from the gun loading process, however, there is always room for continuous improvement. 

An Uzi (shown), can fire up to 1,200 rounds per minute (rpm)!  That’s 20 rounds per second or .05 seconds per bullet!!  Some machine guns are capable of firing at rates up to 3,000 rpm.

By advancements in technology that allowed external setup times to be reduced and internal setup times to be eliminated (and the streamlining of all other internal setup times), firearms have seen a throughput increase of 40,000% (using the musket and uzi as examples – (1,200 rpm / 3 rpm) x 100%)!  That kind of increase is unheard of in most manufacturing operations, but can be seen from time to time when dealing with automation.

 How about that for an example of how much improvement you can get from a SMED?!

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

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Over the years I have collected several quotes from various Lean and Six Sigma professionals, historians and trainers.  I have listed most of them below and will continue to expand the list as time goes on.  Enjoy!

“A bad system will defeat a good person every time.” – Deming 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but habit.” – Aristotle 

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.” – Chinese Proverb

“Quick and Crude is better than Slow and Elegant” – John R. Black, William F. Christopher, from A World Class Production System: Lessons of 20 Years in Pursuit of World Class

“We will win and you will lose. You cannot do anything because your failure is an internal disease. Your companies are based on Taylor’s principles. Worse, your heads are Taylorized too. You firmly believe that sound management means executives on the one side and workers on the other, on the one side men who think and on the other side men who only work.” – Konusuke Matsushita

“Lean is not a program, it is a total strategy.” – Alex Miller, Professor of Management at The University of Tennessee

“Due to the set-up times, the tendency is to produce in batches that are larger than the order quantities. This supposedly utilizes the equipment more efficiently, reduces set-up costs, and reduces unit product cost. But any production in excess of immediate market demand ends up as finished-goods inventory. The result of producing these large batches in today’s competitive marketplace is poor customer service despite high levels of inventory.” – M. Michael Umble and Mokshagundam L. Srikanth. Synchronous Management: Profit-Based Manufacturing for the 21st Century. Spectrum Publishing: 1997.

“Finished goods are products that we have made that no one wants.” “Raw materials are products that we have bought that we don’t need.” – Tom Greenwood, Director of the University of Tennessee Lean Enterprise Forum

“Implementing Lean concepts and principles is not a technological issue, it is primarily a management and human resource issue.” – Kenneth E. Kirby, Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at The University of Tennessee

“We do not suggest that you throw your MRP systems away. MRP should be used for purposes of planning and pull mechanisms should be used as much as possible for purposes of execution.” – Kenneth E. Kirby, Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at The University of Tennessee

“Many people think that Lean is about cutting heads, reducing the work force or cutting inventory. Lean is really a growth strategy. It is about gaining market share and being prepared to enter in or create new markets.” – Ernie Smith, Lean Event Facilitator in the Lean Enterprise Forum at the University of Tennessee

“Kanban is like the milkman. Mom didn’t give the milkman a schedule. Mom didn’t use MRP. She simply put the empties on the front steps and the milkman replenished them. That is the essence of a pull system” – Ernie Smith, Lean Event Facilitator in the Lean Enterprise Forum at the University of Tennessee

“If you do what you always did, you get what you always got.” – Gerhard Plenert and Bill Kirchmier. Finite Capacity Scheduling: Management, Selection, and Implementation. John Wiley & Sons, Inc: 2000.

“Failure to change is a vice” – Hiroshi Okuda

“There are three kinds of leaders.  Those that tell you what to do.  Those that allow you to do what you want.  And Lean leaders that come down to the work and help you figure it out.” – John Shook

Again, with any of the lean quotes I present, I try to be as accurate as possible.  If you see any discrepancies, please email me.

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Thursday, May 8th, 2008

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Eliyahu M. Goldratt & Jeff Cox gave us several good quotes related to manufacturing in the book,  The Goal:  Excellence in Manufacturing (later called The Goal:  A Process of Ongoing Improvement).  The book, a work of fiction, leads readers into the concept of the Theory of Constraints through an easy to read novel setting.  These are some famous quotes from The Goal:

“Make the bottlenecks work only on what will contribute to throughput today … not nine months from now. That’s one way to increase capacity at the bottlenecks. The other way you increase bottleneck capacity is to take some of the load off the bottlenecks and give it to non-bottlenecks.” – quote from The Goal

“If we reduce batch sizes by half, we also reduce by half the time it will take to process a batch. That means we reduce queue and wait by half as well. Reduce those by half, and we reduce by about half the total time parts spend in the plant. Reduce the time parts spend in the plant and our total lead time condenses. And with faster turn-around on orders, customers get their orders faster.” – quote from The Goal

“An hour saved at the non-bottleneck is a mirage.” – quote from The Goal

“I say an hour lost at a bottleneck is an hour out of the entire system. I say an hour saved at a non-bottleneck is worthless. Bottlenecks govern both throughput and inventory.”  – quote from The Goal

Again, with any of the lean quotes I present, I try to be as accurate as possible.  If you see any discrepancies, please email me.

Comments (1) Posted by matt on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

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Taiichi Ohno (1912 – 1990) was a Toyota executive and one of the chief architects of the Toyota Production System.  He wrote several books about Toyota, most notably Toyota Production System:  Beyond Large-Scale Production and Workplace Management.

These are some famous Taiichi Ohno quotes:

“All we are doing is looking at the time line, from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes.” – Taiichi Ohno

“The only place that work and motion are the same thing is the zoo where people pay to see the animals move around” (not exact phrase) – Taiichi Ohno

“Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen” – Taiichi Ohno

“Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not have to sweat?  The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity.  People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work’ they go there to ‘think’” – Taiichi Ohno

“Costs do not exist to be calculated. Costs exist to be reduced.” – Taiichi Ohno

“The key to the Toyota Way and what makes Toyota stand out is not any of the individual elements…But what is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner, not in spurts.” – Taiichi Ohno

“The more inventory a company has, the less likely they will have what they need.” – Taiichi Ohno

“Data is of course important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.” – Taiichi Ohno

Again, with any of the lean quotes I present, I try to be as accurate as possible.  If you see any discrepancies, please email me.

Comments (2) Posted by matt on Monday, May 5th, 2008

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Shigeo Shingo (1909 – 1990) was an Industrial Engineer who worked as a consultant with a number of companies before finally being brought in to further develop the Toyota Production System.  His most notable contributions and accomplishments include SMED (quick changeovers), Standard[ized] Work and methods of error-proofing.

These are some of his most famous quotes:

“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” – Shigeo Shingo

“When you buy bananas all you want is the fruit not the skin, but you have to pay for the skin also. It is a waste. And you the customer should not have to pay for the waste.” – Shigeo Shingo

“A relentless barrage of ‘why’s’ is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo.  Use it often.” – Shigeo Shingo

“Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.” – Shigeo Shingo

“The best approach is to dig out and eliminate problems where they are assumed not to exist.” – Shigeo Shingo

“Are you too busy for improvement? Frequently, I am rebuffed by people who say they are too busy and have no time for such activities. I make it a point to respond by telling people, look, you’ll stop being busy either when you die or when the company goes bankrupt.” – Shigeo Shingo

Again, with any of the lean quotes I present, I try to be as accurate as possible.  If you see any discrepancies, please email me.

Comments (0) Posted by matt on Sunday, May 4th, 2008

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