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Product Family Matrix

Hello, Lean Implementers!!!

I hope you’ve had a productive month with lots of Lean Wins. Today I’d like to change gears away from high level strategy to the tactics of a Lean Transformation.

A Lean Transformation is more than a collection of Kaizen Events, although you will definitely have some. It’s also more than just moving waste from one operation at the expense of another. A Lean Transformation starts with a vision of the ideal value stream and is a strategic method with the goal of creating flow throughout the value stream at the pull of the customer. The first step of a Lean Transformation…even before a Value Stream Map…is to identify your product families.

Product Family Matrix

A Product Family Matrix (PFM) is simply a tool to categorize your end items into families based on processing steps. It’s not necessarily the models you sell, nor is it just similarly designed products. A Product Family is a group of products that have similar processing steps and work contents, typically evaluated downstream of the pacemaker.

The PFM is created in 4 steps: Outline, Population, Work Times, and Families.

Outline: The outline is simply a matrix with all products down the left side of a spreadsheet and all the processes across the top. This will form the foundation of the PFM, and should include all operations, alternate routings, sub-assemblies and end items.

Population: This step is where the matrix is populated with the operations for each part. For example, if part XYZ goes through the steps Lathe, Mill, and Deburr, you would place an “X” under those operations for that part. Populate all parts with their main routings (including both standard routings and tribal knowledge) and identify any alternate operations with an “A.”

Work Times: Fill in the work content times for all operating steps. This will help to identify wide variations in the work contents of parts that could otherwise be in the same families.

Families: Finally, group the parts according to the processing steps they share with other parts. If the PFM is relatively small, a simple visual sorting can work. If it’s too big, you will have to utilize some automation tools to identify families.

One the PFM is completed, individual Product Families will reveal themselves. While somewhat laborious, developing the PFM is a critical step at the beginning of a Lean Transformation to ensure we are working on the right things. Properly selected Product Families will help to remove some roadblocks to flow when we get to the Layout stage of the Lean Transformation. If the PFM is not done correctly, or not at all, you can very easily have barriers to flow and know even know where they come from.

Next time, we will build on the PFM by selecting the Pilot Product Family to work on and creating Current State, Future State, and Ideal State Value Stream Maps. Until then…Stay Lean!!!

Strategy

Happy New Year!!!

I hope 2012 got off to a great start for everyone. I like to use the time around new year to re-evaluate my 1 and 5 year plans. I think of it as my personal “Strategic Planning” session. From that perspective, I’d like to talk about Lean Implementation strategy at a high level.

With the right Leadership and the right Vision, developing a Lean Strategy in the next step. “What is Lean Strategy” you ask. In fact, “Lean Strategy” is simply the business strategy applied after securing lean commitment, leadership and vision. In other words, once the leadership team in on board, and are “thinking towards Lean,” traditional strategic planning takes on a new direction…becoming the Lean Strategy. Ultimately what we’re looking for is the top down approach to implementation, starting with a recognition that waste exists in our processes and to be the most competitive supplier possible, we must drive out waste wherever it lies.

Lean Strategy is more that doing a slew of lean events around the factory and office, although you will get your chance to do that. It is a concerted approach to identifying what value is from the customer’s perspective and the plan to make that value flow non-stop throughout your supply chain. The strategy should answer questions like:

  •  What does our customer value?
  • What competitive advantages do we currently enjoy…and what advantages do we need to develop or strengthen?
  • What does the customer perceive as our weaknesses? What are our unrecognized weaknesses?
  • What do we value as an organization?
  • What is our mission?

We must answer these questions from a Lean perspective to take us to the next step of developing the top level goals, which I’ll talk more about next time.

Vision

Together with Leadership that we discussed last week, vision is another key success factor. Lean Practitioners must develop and share the vision of a waste-free company. Without that vision, lean activities, while locally beneficial, fail to align with the “big picture.” Aza Badurdeen, a lean practitioner and writer even went as far as saying “lean initiatives without proper vision will lead to more confusion and problems than elimination of waste.”

Remember that the function of a “vision” is to show where the company is going in terms of its own values and purpose. Likewise, a well-developed Lean Vision places Enterprise Excellence squarely in the company’s focus. Ideally, the company’ vision statement will incorporate where they are going with Lean…not as a program, but as part of the culture.

After developing the Lean Vision, successful practitioners are able to share that vision in a way that everyone in the organization understands and supports it. A good way to tell if the vision is properly shared is to ask several people in different functions and at different levels what their understanding of the Lean Vision is. If they all respond similarly, you’ve probable done a good job sharing the vision. If not, there’s work to be done. Keep sharing and communicating the vision until everyone is of the same accord.