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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: Think Traps! (Part Two) – Debate Club

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018



by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


Last time we introduced the concept of Think Traps – preconceived notions you bring to the table when brainstorming a solution to a problem. We talked about Confirmation Bias (you look for evidence that supports what you already think and discard anything that doesn't) and the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy (you find "evidence" by creating patterns in data that agree with your hypothesis and ignore patterns that do not support).

Today we're going to examine two other Think Traps – ones that lay dormant in the brainstorming stage and wait to show up until you're trying to conclude. This is a situation that often occurs AFTER the data has been collected, the problem has been analyzed, the root cause has been identified, and the team is at the precipice of taking action to solve the problem. This moment can also be referred to as Debate Club…as in…the first rule of Debate Club: you do not talk about Debate Club. As you go through your potential solutions, here are two big ol' fashioned Think Traps to be aware of and hopefully avoid:

Slippery Slope
Politicians are often fond of this ol' chestnut! If we let this happen, pretty soon this, this, and this, and this, and this, and this will happen, and it'll be anarchy and ruin everything, so we'd better not even try. If we upgrade our scanning devices to make it easier to enter SKU numbers and print labels, they may not be compatible with our computers, and then we may have to upgrade our cell phones as well to match the operating systems of our new computers, and if we upgrade our cell phones, many come with apps that let people watch movies and these movies cost money, and pretty soon this will all lead to our staff just sitting around watching movies all day on our dime! Okay…that was a ridiculous example, but hopefully the theory is clear. This is a dangerous mindset as it appeals to our "worst case scenario" lizard brain thinking and can definitely SEEM logical when you're in the fray of brainstorming…because it FEELS like you are doing proper due diligence. But the problem is that it is simply not fact based and very often subscribes to the "Oh, if we can't do everything we should do nothing" mentality. A good way to stave the effects of slippery slope is to hold firm to your data and your logic. If a potential problem that could arise with a new solution comes up, take a moment and fully explore it. Do some research. Has this similar situation occurred before with other companies?

Ad Hominem
Meaning "to the person," Ad Hominem arguments are a variation on shooting the messenger. It's attacking the person presenting the idea instead of the idea itself. Usually it's a sign of a weak counter argument or even an indicator of insufficient data on both sides, but it could also be a business culture issue ala "Oh, YOU are Operations and this is an IT problem, so you couldn't possibly understand!" Full disclosure, it could technically also be a personality conflict issue (I HATE Hanrahahn so I'm not ever going to use his ideas), but certainly none of that is present in YOUR gembas, right? It's a powerful deterrent to debate as nailing someone's credibility is quite effective at getting their ideas disregarded. A good workaround is to stage (not literal) boxing matches with each solution up for debate. Make and announce the rule of "We let the idea live or die on its own merit."

We'll explore a few more of these next time to hopefully help you avoid pitfalls as you journey towards conclusion. Until then remember, thinking is the best way to avoid Think Traps!

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com 
McRaney, David. You are not so smart: why you have too many friends on Facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways youre deluding yourself. Gotham Books, 2012.
Chartrand, Judy, et al. Now You're Thinking!: Change Your Thinking... Transform Your Life. Pearson FT Press, 2014
https://www.thinkwatson.com/the-red-model/red-critical-thinking-model


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

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Tags:  Kaizen  think traps 

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The ABC's of PDCA: Part 4 – ACT Right

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 19, 2015
Updated: Saturday, November 14, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


What a long strange trip it's been (that's a logistics and a Grateful Dead reference) and with this month's article we will not only complete the PDCA methodology, but also bring to a close our journey through the world of Kaizen.

By this time in your PDCA process, you've PLANned, DOne, CHECKed and have a pretty good idea that you've solved root cause with your well-documented and thoroughly worked problem. You've gathered data, brainstormed and implemented a new process, and used the same data to prove that your solution works – the sky has cracked open, Dame Fortune hath smiled down, and you have solved your issue. The new process you implemented in DO was validated in CHECK and now all that is left is to make the change permanent(ish). In other words, you've discovered the solution and now it's time to ACT on it.

The ACT phase is the final step of improvement and is actually the simplest because you've already done everything before. You've made your rule, you've followed your rule and now you have improved your rule – so, it's time to make a new rule. That is what the ACT phase is – take this new process you've created and standardize it.

Update Your SOPs and Train Your Staff
You might be surprised how many times process improvements are created that move mountains but ultimately fail because key staff are not made aware of the change; then again, you might not be surprised. It is the moment when you've solved an issue that standardization becomes critical. You must update all documentation, including your keen visual tools.1, 2 Then get a bunch of folks in a room and tell them all about it. Teach them how to do it. Show them the updated visualization tools and then make them sign a roster – that adds accountability to the employees and to management.

Share It with the World
Or at the very least, the rest of your company. You have just solved a very daunting problem. You are probably not the only team that has (or eventually will have) this issue. Sharing with the rest of your peers is a great way to save them the energy of floundering around in the dark. This is a concept called "best practices."

Improve Your Improvement
You have solved this issue and made this particular process better, but that doesn't mean you let it drop off of your radar. Continue monitoring, look for opportunities and Do it all again! That is the beauty of Kaizen and quality. You make the rule, follow the rule and improve the rule, which leads to a new rule! Then you follow that rule and look to improve it and the band plays on and on. The key to a robust Kaizen culture is to never stop looking for opportunities to improve. Remember the red car from an early article: Always question basic assumptions, even if they are newly created basic assumptions.3

In Conclusion
Remember, Kaizen is not, or ever has been, a means to reduce people into cogs in a machine. Its purpose is to empower employees to take ownership of the processes they perform and to give them to the ability, the language and, quite honestly, the challenge to make them better. It's a tool for management to support wisdom of the organization and by doing so, lets the processes that are working work so that only the anomalies stick out and get attention.

Author's Note
As we complete our journey with Kaizen, please allow me to express gratitude to all those who came along for the ride. This has been an incredibly rewarding "baker's dozen" of articles, live talks and webinars, and I am proud to have been a (small) part of all your business lives. To ask questions, share stories, and keep in touch, please feel free to shoot me an email at kaizenrules1@gmail.com. Best wishes in all your Kaizen endeavors!

[1] http://www.rvcf.com/blogpost/1149227/208559/Yusen-We-Have-a-Problem--Visualization-Part-One-What-s-Going-On
[2] http://www.rvcf.com/blogpost/1149227/210900/Yusen-We-Have-a-Problem--Visualization-Part-Two--WHAT-To-Do-What-To-DO
[3] http://www.rvcf.com/blogpost/1149227/205211/The-Beauty-of-Anomaly-The-Power-of-Why


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The ABC's of PDCA: Part 3 – CHECK, Please!!! – OR – We Can Learn a Lot from Hollywood

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


Continuing our PDCA Journey…

There's a moment in a lot of movies; a couple are at dinner – perhaps a first date – and something happens. One of them says something or does something and the other has a revelation, "WOW! This is going great! Let's take it to the next level." Or, "WOW! This is not working out. Let's cut our losses and run." Either epiphany, the exclamation is always the same – "CHECK, please!" – and it's comic gold. It's not (entirely) coincidental that the moment in PDCA where either the new process works or doesn't is called the "Check" phase.

Let's imagine that some savvy Hollywood producer decided to make KAIZEN RULES! The Movie. What would the cinematic version of these articles look like? Would it be a comedy, drama or thriller? Who would direct it? Would it be shot on film or in digital? Most importantly, who would play the author? Brad Pitt? Ryan Gosling? Don Rickles? Why can we spend time rating the super hunks instead of delving deep into Kaizen? Because the Check phase is the simplest of all the PDCA steps. You have already gathered data and stated the issue and goals in the Plan phase. The Do phase took the team through root cause analysis all the way through implantation of a new process. In the Check phase, there's really only one thing to do…

See if It Worked

Compare "apples to apples." If you did a time study of the process in Plan, conduct a time study in Check. Is it faster? If a KPI was gathered in Plan, collect that same data for Check. Is it better? If you analyzed cost per unit in Plan, analyze cost per unit in Check. Is it cheaper? If the answer is "Yes," congratulations, you have improved your rule! It's time to move onto the final chapter (and, sadly, the final article on Kaizen), the "Act" phase (coming next month) and make a new rule. Victory. In film terms, "Cut, print, check the gate…we're moving on."

But…

If it is not better, faster, or cheaper, chances are root cause was not solved and it's time to go back to the Do phase – and this is where Hollywood comes into play again. There are three lessons that can be learned from the most successful studio executives regarding this critical moment – the "back to the drawing board" moment – the moment when it just isn't working.

The first lesson we can learn from Hollywood is:

Know When to Say When
Have you ever watched a new TV show that you love only to discover it's been canceled after one episode? "Why!?" you rail to the hills, "They didn't even give it a chance!" Studios have such clear cut metrics regarding how much a show costs to make and how much advertisers pay based upon a certain percentage of viewers (ratings – the ultimate KPI); executives know that if a certain viewership isn't achieved, their revenue projections won't be met and money will be lost; thus, they must act quickly on that data and pull the show, often replacing it with reruns of an already popular show. The takeaway from this is, as Kenny Rogers so eloquently sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run" (The Gambler was a TV show, so this ties in more brilliantly than one might initially think). Don't be shy, if you see your Check metrics aren't supporting the new process, you should cut your losses and try again. The faster ineffective solutions can be discarded, the faster something that works will be revealed.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes it is not easy to give up on a new process, especially when there were high expectations and many hours spent to create it. However, there are two other great lessons we can learn from the Hollywood boardrooms to help with this:

Let the Idea/Process Stand (or Fall) on Its Own
Don't become emotionally attached to an idea, even if it's your own. This is not easy, because now we are entering the realm of ego and ego is a stubborn collaborator. But, if Tinseltown, home of the biggest egos in the world, can drop a show by the hottest producer with the hottest stars, certainly we can let go of an obviously ineffective new way to unload a container.

Be Careful of Group Hysteria
Sometimes if an idea was created in a passionate heated "Aha!" moment, people that were there in the room tend to hold onto it as if it is infallible. The collective "Eureka!" moment is a dangerous thing to go beyond. People do not tend to let this go because, after all, if none of us is as smart as all of us and all of us came up with this, then if it doesn't work, what does that say about each of us? (See above, re: ego). In this moment, look at your Check data again and remember that there is a famous tale in Hollywood where a group of executives made a film version of Moby Dick where, in the end, Captain Ahab not only kills the great white whale, he survives and gets the girl. What girl??? Exactly.

Next month we conclude our "baker's dozen" series on Kaizen with the Act phase. Do not miss this final chapter or you'll have to sit back and patiently wait for the Hollywood reboot.


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the OCTOBER 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The ABC's of PDCA: Part 2 – DO The DO

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 10, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


Continuing the discussion on PDCA Methodology (Plan/Do/Check/Act)…

At this point in our metaphorical "diet/exercise" program (see last month's article) the "before" picture has been taken. Operations should have a snapshot of the process as it looks today – nothing's been done, nothing's been changed. The procedure has been documented, data collected, a problem specifically stated and a goal S.M.A.R.T.-ly created (say that out loud…it rhymes….this was not accidental).

Now that all this data has been gathered, it's time to DO something with it…

This is the phase in the diet/exercise regimen, where the heavy lifting occurs – action is taken. Most of the PDCA process is spent in DO. To be honest, some of it is nebulous magic. Some of it is diligent problem solving. Some of it is pure blind luck. Basically what is about to happen is the team is going to, metaphorically, throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks (determining what sticks is another phase – CHECK please!). Hopefully this will be an educated throwing of a bunch of stuff at the wall because the team has spent quality time gathering the information in PLAN. But there is some trial and error about to take place. Hats should be collectively hung on to…

Some free advice: before even attempting to analyze any data or figure out a solution, please take a moment to do two things:

  1. Stop the bleeding. First rule in first aid, first rule in PDCA. If there is a major issue that has caused this, do whatever it takes to mitigate the damage. Whatever. It. Takes. If there have been a series of mis-ships and you have a very unhappy customer on the phone, telling them that you've formed a blue ribbon PDCA team and are just entering the DO phase may not cut the proverbial mustard. Before you DO, make sure you put a Band-Aid on the problem. Yes, that may mean approving extra overtime or adding an extra set of eyes (or four) to the process and, yes, this is operation's expense, but the meantime fix will give you the breathing room to really address the problem. And speaking of breathing room…
  2. Hansei. Take a moment to Hansei. This is a Japanese term and is (as nefariously appropriated by the author) a moment of reflection. "Yes, a mistake was made and we pledge to fix it and do better." This doesn't mean that operations are a failure or that anyone is a bad [insert job title here]. It just means mistakes were made. Oftentimes, not any of the readers of this column, of course, but oftentimes the first step in dealing with a problem is searching through e-mail to find that one message that proves "See it's not my fault" and there is plenty of time for post mortems after the problem is solved. Take a moment. "Yes, we goofed. We're going to fix it."

Obviously these two steps are only applicable in the event of an actual service failure. Having said that, feel free to Hansei at any time. Ponder ways to improve even on projects that were total successes – but don't forget to also reflect on your awesomeness!

After first aid and reflection occur, there are only three steps to the DO phase.

Three simple steps.

Three simple, but not easy steps.

These three steps are the majority of the journey.

FIND Root Cause
See last month's article for more on the critical importance of pushing to find the actual root cause, not just "a" cause. Your time and your resources (your money) will thank you.

BRAINSTORM a Potential Solution
This is the "fun" part. The part where, for the first and probably only time, you will be encouraged to sit in a room and talk about stuff. Hopefully you've genchi genbutsu'ed enough in the PLAN phase while gathering data. You can afford to sit and talk a bit now. You have root cause. You have the old process. How are they not connecting? What could be done differently. Take the conversation down as many roads as you can. Really put the idea on trial and once a general consensus is met and no more holes can be poked in the suggestion…

IMPLEMENT the New Process
That's it. Give it the ol' college try. Start small – one operator or one shift or one order. Put the new process in place – and don't worry about making it formal at this point. You don't know if the new process is going to work, so you should roll it out with as little hoopla as possible. This is not the time to update SOP's or retrain anyone. Just find a few operators and quickly show them what to do and then, let them DO it.

Next month (CHECK please!) we will discuss how to evaluate whether or not the new procedure works.


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the SEPTEMBER 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The Towel: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Ask Why – a Slight Diversion on Root Cause

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 13, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


There's a story. As of this writing, it is unknown to the author as to whether it is factual or anecdotal, but it's a great story and illustrates a great point so here it is…

A famous and fancy hotel chain, let's call it XYZ Inn, was having a problem. Customers were unhappy. The guest comment cards were coming back with alarming negative reviews. Bookings were down. Repeat business was evaporating. All this on Alan Smithee's* first day as manager. Left with a lobby full of unhappy customers and a pile of angry comments, Alan knew he'd have to act on this situation or risk losing the hotel even more money. What to do…what to do?

Alan looked around and thought, "Hmmmm….it's three o'clock and the lobby is full of people; wasn't check-in at one? How could this be?" A quick glance at some of the cards revealed that this was not a rare instance: "stood in the lobby for an hour before I could check-in," "check-in took too long," and "missed my tee time" were among many similar complaints. A quick calculation showed Alan that eighty out of one hundred negative cards featured a late check-in time as the reason for their ire. At the very least, if he got to the bottom of this late check-in thing, he'd be on the right track. So he delved into the problem.

He asked the front desk clerk, "Why is it taking so long to check people into their rooms?"

The desk clerk replied, "Because the cleaning crew doesn't turn over the rooms fast enough; we need more cleaning staff!"

Sounded like a good idea, but Alan was steeped in the mystical trainings of Kaizen, so he knew better than to accept basic assumptions. He knew that he'd need to genchi genbutsu. He must visit the gemba.

So he went into the hotel proper, the west wing, third floor. Sure enough there was flurry of frazzled and hectic activity from the cleaning crew. He found a suitable representative.

"Why are you unable to turn over the rooms in a timely enough fashion?" he asked.

"Because the towels are folded all wrong!" the crew member replied. "Every towel has a big XYZ on it and it's supposed to line up perfectly centered when we hang it on the towel rack, but we're finding they are folded all lopsided and off center so we have to open and refold every towel, which is taking a minimum of 20 seconds per towel per room and that is exponentially adding up and causing delays. You need to fire everyone in laundry!"

Sounded like a good idea, but once again, Alan knew better. Genchi genbutsu again. So he went to the laundry in the basement. He found a staff member.

He asked, "Why are the towels coming out of here with the logo lopsided and off center?"

The staff member sighed. "It's ol' Bessie there," he said as he pointed to a huge lumbering machine in the corner. "She was the top of the line in automated towel folding in '78 but alas…she has seen better days." As Alan watched, the staff member threw in a pile of towels. Bessie roared to life and after a series of clanks and bangs, freshly folded towels began rolling out. The logos on the towels were off center.

The staff member sighed again. "I'm afraid we are going to need a new towel folding machine. Bessie just ain't doing the job anymore."

Alan nodded. Certainly this was it. He'd found the solution. And all he'd have to do is spend a metric ton of money to solve the problem.

"Okay. I guess we need to place the PO," he said. And as he started to leave, the spirit of Kaizen fluttered deep within his heart and he stopped. He turned. He looked at the towels, the neatly folded, lopsided logoed towels. Something didn't feel right. He stepped forward and grabbed a towel. He unfolded it. He held it up. He gasped. The staff member gasped. A random passerby gasped as well, but didn't really know what was going on.

The logo was off center. The towel was printed wrong. Alan quickly went through the rest of the towels. All had lopsided logos. Bessie, it seemed, was not ready to retire. She had done her job admirably. Alan ran from the laundry area, up the lobby and into his office.

"The towel's the thing!" he cried. "The TOWEL!!!"

A quick and angry call to his vendor, followed by an emergency rush custom job and an air freighted shipment led to a brand new order of towels with the logos right where they were supposed to be – in the center. The folding machine folded, the cleaning crew cleaned, and there were no more problems. In no time, check-ins were back on schedule, tee times were met, people were happy, and Alan was promoted to Vice President. Everyone agreed that it had been their suggestion that had saved the hotel.

The moral of the story: Don't make assumptions. Always ask why. Dig deeper to find the root cause of the problem – it may be in a place you would have never thought to look at first glance.

*not a real person


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The ABC's of PDCA – Part 1

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 9, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, July 7, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


It's summer time – beach season – the time when many commit themselves to a fitness plan in order to shed a few extra pounds or get back into shape. This is a great correlation to what happens in a gemba when a problem is discovered. The last few months' articles have given tools and (hopefully) inspired you to standardize processes and put visualization in place so that you can easily identify members of The Anomaly Family (see last month's article). But what happens when an anomaly is discovered? Action must be taken. This problem must be solved; this process improved. This is the FINAL step of Kaizen (Make the Rule, Follow the Rule, IMPROVE THE RULE).

When we talk about problem solving or process improvement, there is no better methodology than PDCA – Plan. Do. Check. Act.

This month's article will explore the Plan Phase.

Thinking again to our beach fitness program, what's the first thing one does when embarking on a new exercise regimen (besides having one last huge meal that is really bad for you)? Typically the first step is the dreaded "before" photo. A subject takes a few pictures in horribly unflattering positions – front, profile, back – of what he/she looks like at this moment in time. If really motivated, he/she may even take a few measurements, get blood work, or get pinched by the evil calipers to detect body mass indexes and fat percentages and blood glucose levels. Data. Data. Data. All of this is so that, triumphantly, at the end of a long hard fought battle, he/she may look back upon this day and know that the hard work was worth it all. But first, the embarrassing part. This is the Plan Phase. It is a snapshot of what the process looks like today. Nothing has been done. No action taken. No data analyzed. It is the "before" photo. And it is critical.

The Plan Phase has three components:

1. Describe the Problem
There are many schools of thought on what constitutes a good problem statement – some have even distilled it to a formula. A quick Google search can yield as many templates as one could ever use. However, for our purposes and for Kaizen in general, don't worry so much about format or form, just focus on capturing an accurate assessment of:

  • What is happening?
    • Late deliveries
    • Late shipment
    • Mis-ships
    • Employee turnover
    • Customer dissatisfaction
    • Errors
    • Accidents/injuries
  • Where is it happening?
    • On the outbound side of XYZ orders
    • At the kitting station for ABC Domestic
    • All accounts in the new facility
  • How long has it been happening?
    • For the last two months
    • Since this peak season
    • For as long as the account has been active
  • What are the ramifications if not addressed?
    • We lose business $$$
    • We have to hire more staff which will decrease profits $$$
    • We have to pay to correct mis-ships $$$
    • $$$
    • $$$ (starting to get the picture??)

Be specific. Make sure that everyone involved in the project understands exactly what is happening. This is much more important that making sure the commas are in the right place on the statement!

2. Collect Data
Remember, process improvement is like a fitness program or diet: before anything is done, we need a snapshot. Document the process – hopefully this is already done as you are a fan of this column (it could happen) and have applied the concepts of Article 3 to your Gemba – or verify that the process that is documented is being followed (there have been cases where problems have been solved at this level, merely by discovering that there was no procedure in the first place or that the procedure was not being properly executed). Once the process is documented, define and gather applicable metrics: time studies, CBM's per employee hour, customer satisfaction rating, etc… Take time for this. Make sure at the end of the day there is a real understanding of the reality of this process – what steps are followed and how long, how fast, and how well they are being performed.

3. Create a Goal
Like the problem statement, entire wings of libraries can be filled with books on goal setting. An internet search for "S.M.A.R.T. goal" will yield fertile crops of knowledge. Again, our purposes here are geared more towards clarity than format, but S.M.A.R.T. is a great jumping off point for creating a clear goal. For lack of a better turn of phrase, a S.M.A.R.T. start is to make sure your goal is:

Specific – "Bring about world peace" is not specific; "reduce carbon emissions by 16%" is.

Measurable – If a goal is made, there really needs to be a way to know if it's been achieved. If you stand on the scale in 6 weeks and the number is less than before, "Congratulations!" You've achieved your fitness goal.

Achievable – Can this be done by the resources currently available? (Watch Austin Powers for the "100 BILLION DOLLARS" scene for further explanation.)

Relevant – Will achieving this goal actually impact your life or business in a significant way. (Increasing the margin on bi-annual LCL shipments to Antarctica by .27 cents is not really going to accomplish anything.)

Time-bound – Build in a deadline or you risk never accomplishing the goal.

At the end of the Plan Phase, you should have a clear idea of what is happening (backed up by data) and what you intend to do about it. But remember, no actions have been taken at this point.

Next month's article will explore the Do Phase.


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the JULY 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: (How to) Do the Work

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 11, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


Define "work."

Not thinking in terms of one's job or place of employment, explain the physical process known as "work." It is a word that many understand, conceptually, but cannot articulate a true definition.

To simplify, for the topic at hand, let's define work as using effort to bring about a desired result. This definition has two important components – effort (force is being exerted) and result (there is a clearly defined goal). The goal is what makes it work. Effort without a goal is merely an exercise or, to wax a little whimsical, it's play.

The concept of work can be further broken down. A teenager is told by a parent to mow the lawn. As the teenager sets out to accomplish this goal through effort (to work), there are three distinct aspects of the task that will actually be performed. These are the components of work in which the teenager will engage:

Genuine Work
Also known as the work. Value added steps. The act of pushing the lawn mower across the yard so that the blades can chop off the tops of unruly grass is the genuine work of mowing the lawn.

Supplemental Work
"What you gotta do to do what you gotta do." Supplemental work is pieces of the process that don't directly accomplish the goal but prepare for it. In the lawn mowing task, checking the oil, putting gas in the mower, and picking up sticks in the yard all fall under the category of supplemental work. These tasks don't actually accomplish cutting the grass, but they are integral to performing the end task. The goal of supplemental work is streamlining; it's automation – make it easier, faster, cheaper in order to get to the genuine work done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Muda (Waste)
Or non-value added steps. The opposite of work. Muda comes in many forms, the most common of which are:

  • Waiting: The teenager forgot the keys to the shed and has to wait until Mom comes home.
  • Errors: The teenager put gasoline in the oil compartment and now has to take the mower to the shop.
  • Excess of Inventory or Equipment: There are three lawn mowers in the shed and the teenager doesn't know which to use so he/she has to create a "pro/con" list for all three.
  • Unnecessary Movement (people or equipment): The lawn mower is at Grandma's house.
  • Space Not Being Utilized Properly: There is a pile of other lawn equipment in front of the lawn mower that has to be moved for access.
  • Over-processing or Unnecessary Tasks: The teenager first has to take pictures of the lawn to post on Instagram.

Needless to say, the goal in dealing with waste is to eliminate it. Cut it out. Don't try to streamline muda. Get rid of it. You won't be 100% effective, but going in with that mindset is always the best policy.

It is in understanding these components of work and being able to identify (document) them that an organization can begin to experience true quality improvement.

When a big order appears on the horizon or there has been a service issue/failure and an organization finds itself having to get a larger quantity of work done – having to ship more product or perform more service or make more inventory than it normally does – the standard response is often to throw resources at the task. Hire more staff. Approve overtime. Rent more equipment. Implementing these countermeasures will, technically, result in more genuine work (100 people will produce more effort than 20 people) but – and this is a huge caveat – in doing so, the same percentage of supplemental work and, more dishearteningly, the same percentage of muda will also be produced. This is because, in situations where problems are solved by "throwing money or people at them," the process isn't improved, merely amplified. To put it in more fiscal terms, if twenty people doing an inefficient process, rife with muda and redundant supplemental tasks that result in wasting an hour of their time, end up ostensibly being paid to do nothing for an hour, is it somehow better to pay 100 people to waste that same hour just because the end result is technically more work not being done? After all, who pays for that wasted hour?

The goal of Kaizen is to examine processes and refine them as to steamline the supplemental and eliminate the muda; what is left behind is more genuine work from the same resources – more bang for your buck, so to speak – maximizing the twenty workers on hand in order to accomplish the genuine work of 100 without the added waste. That is the true advantage of Kaizen.

Next month's article will begin to focus on the process of using PDCA to improve. Until then, remember, in physics, work / time = power. The same is true in logistics!


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the JUNE 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The Anomaly Family

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


When delving into the practical aspects of Kaizen, one of the most effective uses of standardization and creating/following rules is to illuminate anomalies. If processes are standardized and every operator in the gemba is following the rules, if something happens out of the normal set of operating guidelines, it is going to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. These divergences from the norm reveal opportunities for improvement.

Although there are many causes of anomaly, each will generally fall under one of three varieties. These archetypes of inefficiency form one happy family of distraction.

They are sometimes known as "The Three M's" but for our purposes, imagine them as wayward kin.

Meet, The Anomaly Family: Muda. Muri. Mura.

Muda

The easiest to identify is also the hardest to extricate. Muda is waste. Muda is any step that does not directly add value to the task at hand. It comes in many forms:

Time – the worst Muda as it's a non-renewable resource. Time wastes include waiting (for product, information, staff, equipment etc.; just remember, when you are waiting, you are wasting) and error correction (also referred to as "re-work"; it is a great time expenditure when errors require the process to be done again).

People – improper planning/forecasting (e.g., expecting 20 containers but only receiving 10) can often lead to having a "bunch of folk" just standing around. This is especially frustrating when you have associate employees who are guaranteed a minimum, quickly adding dollars to the waste pot.

Equipment/Materials – As discussed in last month's article on 5S, too many tools and too cluttered of a Gemba can lead to inefficiencies. A story is told of an industrious employee working on a kitting project who decided to "pre-make" all his shipping boxes before starting the process; he reasoned that he would not have to stop during the procedure to make them. However, the resulting mountain of boxes created obstacle after obstacle as he tried to navigate around one hundred unstable cartons!

Movement – Also in line with last month's 5S article, tools and materials should be close to the work space. If the operator has to move the product to the tool or himself to the product (and that includes crouching or stretching to reach something), there is huge Muda in the space between; in fact, there is a great White Paper on the subject called "The Seven Deadly Wastes of Logistics," written by Joel Sutherland of LeHigh University and Bob Bennett, formally of Toyota.1 The goal with regards to Muda is to eliminate it. Don't try to merely reduce or streamline. Cut it out.

Muri

It is said that opposites attract. If Muda were to have a boyfriend, his name would be "Muri." Muri is the yin to Muda's yang. If Muda is too many people standing around and not enough work, Muri is too much work and not enough people.

Muri is strain. Overburden.

Imagine date night. A couple going out after a long hard week. They enter a restaurant. The place has thirty tables but only twelve or so are currently occupied. "Great," they think, "we'll sit down right away." They head for the host who informs them, "I know it looks like we're not full, but we have a policy that says if every server has four tables, then we consider ourselves full and there's a twenty minute wait." In this situation, one could point out that this restaurant, with its thirty tables, has only staffed for twelve. This restaurant has more customers than its policies allow it to effectively serve. This restaurant is experiencing Muri.

An operator trying to pack a box for shipment who has to constantly bend over to pick up the product is experiencing Muri (and probably back-pain to boot).

An unexpected shipment of ten containers arriving on a day that was staffed to handle four brings Muri along for the ride.

Mura

Muda and Muri got married and had a child: Mura.

Mura's middle name is "Inconsistency."

It is unevenness.

Sometimes there are too many people and not enough work (Muda) and sometimes there is way too much work and not enough people (Muri) and because there are not effective systems in place to predict and maintain a proper workflow, there are inconsistencies in the degree to which customers' expectations are met.

The goal to which any organization should strive is to have the right amount of people, materials, information, equipment, and work at the right time. The goal is a seamless flow of work.

Kaizen is a means toward achieving this. Integrating a robust Kaizen culture into a Gemba with standardized processes (Making the Rule) and visualization/scoreboards (Following the Rule) will set up an environment where anomalies are quickly identified and instantly addressed (Improving the Rule) and as Kaizen is ingrained more and more into an organization's operational DNA, it becomes easier to predict potential anomalies before they occur.

[1] http://www.distributiongroup.com/articles/SevenWastesofLogistics.pdf


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the MAY 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: There are 5 S's in SUCCESSES(S)

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 9, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


There's an infamous tale told ‘round the Logistics Summer Campfire: The Mystery of the Vagabond Forklift. In the olden days, folks didn't seem to mind too much about organization or putting things in their proper place and most shifts at this warehouse ended like The Flintstones: a whistle would blow, drivers would shout "yabba dabba doo!" (not really) and jump off their lifts, then they'd run toward the door and clock out into the great blue yonder. The machines would remain where they were last used and the incoming shift would go on an Easter egg hunt for forklifts. Six rooms, twenty lifts and ten minutes of scrambling…per shift…per day. The inefficiency of it all compounded like interest on a car loan.

This practice continued, unchecked and unsolved, until that fateful day a forklift was almost sent to Mexico. The shift ended. The buzzer buzzed. The operator turned off his lift and left – with the lift still in the back of an outbound trailer. Yabba dabba don't!

Upon receiving the call from security asking if said forklift was really intended for export as it was clearly NOT listed on the paperwork, an embarrassed warehouse manager remarked, "Gadzooks…we need to immediately implement something to mitigate such circumstances." (This has been cleaned up a bit for publication as what he actually said involved a few colorful metaphors, delivered tersely with much volume.)

What he needed in that moment was a way to simplify the gemba so that work could be performed with minimal stress caused by disorganization.

The solution to this problem has FIVE S's: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. These five small steps for gemba, when properly implemented, can be a giant leap for productivity.

Step 1: Seiri (Sort)
This first step is the hardest of the five. It has reduced the strongest and most disciplined of operators into staring slack-jawed at their work stations, hands wringing, sweating, stammering, muttering "but I really need this," over and over as they pick through tools, documents and probably – honestly – a little garbage here and there.

To seiri, take a look at the work area, whether it be a desk, a work station, a room or even a warehouse floor. Look with critical, laser-focused eyes. Identify the tools used for each process and remove all the non-essential ones. Remove them. Get them out of the gemba. This includes, broken items, outdated documentation, trash and anything and everything else that is no longer used or useful. "But I may need it someday" items can be stored, but shouldn't be on the floor or work area.

This is not easy. Entire television networks are devoted to shows about people unable to seiri. Be strong. Purge. Do it again.

What should remain are the items used daily to complete the tasks at hand and nothing more.

Take a deep breath. The hardest part is over.

Step 2: Seiton (Straighten)
Give each tool a proper home. Lay out the workflow and place commonly used items in easily accessible places. Arm's reach is a great place to start. A good place to continue is to label the places so that items can be returned. Now this is normally an aspect where some balk at the concept – imagine nightmare rigid layouts where only one pen is allowed on the desk at a time and there is a circle where one's coffee cup must always go – sip, return, sip, return. However, that road is tread by organizations that have been practicing the 5 S's for decades and have mastered the fundamentals to such a degree that they can entertain such focused initiatives. The only concern with a coffee cup at this point is that it's removed (and washed) when empty.

Consider the embarrassed manager and the wayward forklift. By creating a forklift parking area, it suddenly becomes exponentially easier to track the machines.

Imagine a home workshop with a pegboard wall adorned with various tools – saws, hammers, pliers, etc. – and outlines of each tool drawn on the board. It only takes a glance to see that the saw is missing. This is the 5 S's at its very best.

Don't think this only applies to physical tools. Documentation can also benefit. After expired or unnecessary documents are purged, the remaining useful documents can be added to a (clearly labeled) folder and placed in a (clearly labeled) file cabinet. Go the extra mile and post the document retention rule on the file cabinet. "Keep for seven years" or "move to storage in three months" will answer questions many haven't thought to ask.

Step 3: Seiso (Shine)
Now that the heartbreak of seiri has dramatically reduced the amount of items in the work area and seiton has given each of them a home, don't waste all that good work by allowing clutter and trash to creep back into the mix. Add the seiso (shine) stage to the daily work. Return items to their seiton homes when not in use and clean up the area at the end of the shift; build time into the schedule for this purpose, which will lead nicely into…

Step 4: Seiketsu (Standardize)
Make it a habit. That's it. Once the work is complete, make sure that it is also constant. Document the new process. Train all employees. Add visualization to the rules (see last month's article). There may even be opportunities, especially if multiple operators perform the same function, to roll out the same layout across the team. Work to integrate the new organization and cleanliness routine into the DNA of the gemba. And to aid in this…

Step 5: Shitsuke (Sustain)
If the habit has been made more tangible by documentation and visualization in the seiketsu step, add checks and balances to make sure that the wonderful improvement is sustained. Unofficially add to the manager's end of day walk-through that he/she should visually evaluate the work station and if anything is missing/askew, immediately correct. Officially, a monthly "5 S Walkthrough" can be conducted. If monthly seems too aggressive, try quarterly. Just add the element of evaluation and accountability. If this is something that is regularly monitored and enforced, it will be followed.

Once again, the purpose of this (or any of the elements of Kaizen) is not to stifle the human spirit by turning a person into a robot doing the same rote task all day – the purpose is to free the employee of clutter and disorganization and streamline the process so that he/she can spend more time on performing tasks (genuine work) rather than trying to figure out how to do them (supplemental work) or, worse yet, searching for the proper tools (waste).

In the end it is the clearing of the chaos around us that allows us to perform with full focus and maximum effect.


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the APRIL 2015 RVCF LINK

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: Visualization Part Two: WHAT To Do, What To DO?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 12, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.


Last month's article introduced the concept of visualization and explored how it can be an effective tool to monitor processes, identify anomalies and keep track of "how we are doing." This month will focus on another equally powerful aspect: visualization as a means of communication. As mentioned previously, the core principle of Kaizen is "Make the Rule, Follow the Rule, Improve the Rule." Visual methods are the simplest yet most effective way to convey said rules and ensure all who enter the gemba are on the same proverbial page. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an arrow is worth a million "Hey you're going the wrong ways."

There's a great moment in the 1984 movie Starman in which Jeff Bridges' character, an alien, drives Karen Allen's car through the red light at an intersection and nearly gets them into an accident. As Karen Allen yells at him for not obeying the traffic lights, Jeff Bridges replies "I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast." The moment works on many levels, mostly because it illustrates an unwritten rule that most drivers follow with regard to traffic lights. However, from a Kaizen quality perspective, it also demonstrates the power of a visual rule. How a stranger to our planet could discern the rules of traffic flow without speaking the language, knowing the customs, or being trained in advance is a testament to the effectiveness of using visualization to communicate. Admittedly, yes, the Starman got the rule about yellow lights wrong, but that misunderstanding led to an anomaly, which was quickly noticed and addressed by Karen Allen's character, proving, once again, that visualization is also a great way to monitor a process. He was correct about red and green without being told and, as Meatloaf might say, "two out of three ain't bad."

Obscure 80's sci-fi aside, visual rules make up a huge part of daily life. Besides the obvious traffic examples (traffic lights, speed limits, merging lanes, deer crossings), visualization as means of communication is prevalent – how else would society know not to drop a hair dryer in the bathtub without a keen visual rule on the label? How else would someone who's just lost a dollar in the candy machine be aware of the dangers of rocking it to get that stuck bag of peanuts? Visual rules rule.

Moving into the gemba, visualization can be used easily and effectively. Thinking of a warehouse floor, a simple (not necessarily quick, but simple nonetheless) application is to create traffic patterns for powered industrial vehicles (lifts, pickers, golf carts) and pedestrian walkways for employees and visitors on foot. This will not only affect efficiency as traffic will flow more easily, but it will also greatly improve safety awareness. Forklifts and pedestrians seldom combine well and having a designated path (maybe with a few sporadically placed footprints and a big red forklift in a circle with a line through it) is a great way to ensure safe passage.

Another great warehouse/factory practice is to have a set of color-coded cones used to delineate the status of a product. The stack with the green cone is complete and ready to load. The stack with the purple cone is staged but needs to be verified. The stack with the red cone is segregated due to OS&D. A quick poster with the color code clearly defined and an even quicker training session later, everyone knows the status of each stack.

There are a multitude of opportunities for visual rules; any process done daily and repeatedly by many can have some aspect communicated visually. The sky and the imagination of the manager is the only limit.

On a side note, even though the opportunities are more obvious, do not think visualization only works on a floor where a physical process is performed. Office environments can also implement visual rules. Whether color-coding (smaller cones) various stages of paperwork, identifying inbound/outbound work, or even creating an efficient work area by labeling the direction of the workflow (new stuff, what you're working on now, what your finished with), the opportunities are there.

We live in a wondrous, global society and the reality of that is we often find people of many different backgrounds working in a gemba. Sometimes there are language barriers to contend with when the aspect of communication is present. Using a visual rule transcends any vernacular obstacle. After all, an arrow is an arrow in English, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Farsi, or any other language. A red hand or a green footprint means "don't walk" or "walk," respectively, regardless of your personal country of origin.

Next month we will conclude this journey of visualization at its logical destination: the Five S's. Until then, remember…even the Wizard of Oz had a visual rule in place. How would Dorothy have ever reached the Emerald City without first following the yellow brick road?


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

CLICK HERE to return to the MARCH 2015 RVCF LINK

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