Randy Dicknoether from Plant Ops describes his experience using Lean at Waterloo.
How have you been using Lean in Plant Operations?
I have been using Lean principles in my custodial work since I started at Waterloo a little over two years ago. I have training and experience in both Six Sigma and Lean principles through my past involvement in manufacturing.
The first Lean tool that I used at Waterloo was 5S. In a nutshell, 5S is a way to organize a workspace so that all tools and supplies are identifiable and accessible. There’s a place for everything with everything in its place. I applied 5S to what was then a chaotic, hazardous, inefficient janitor’s room where tools, consumables, and equipment were stored. What emerged after 5S was an ordered room that eliminated waste in a number of ways, the most significant of which was time spent looking for stuff I needed.
After 5S I decided I was going to break down my work activities into identifiable blocks and time how long it took to complete them. In other words, I mapped the value stream and established a baseline time. Once that was done it became easier to identify where my time was being spent and which activities, when combined, would save time. It’s far from the magnitude of rejigging an entire production line but it was fun to do with the result that I produced the same amount of work in less time with less physical effort.
One of the other things that I’ve been promoting, which is more a byproduct of the Lean process than a tool, is team building. Through open discussion and the exchange of ideas a small group of us in my work area have found value in the collaborative approach to working. This leads to better and more consistent ways of doing things which, in turn, leads to greater productivity and a happier, more engaged staff.
What have been the benefits of using Lean?
One of the benefits of being part of a Lean culture is that work becomes less of a chore. In an environment of continuous improvement people are more apt to adopt the attitude of “what if” and “why not” as opposed to “so what” and “why me”. The structure of the work environment changes too: the boss becomes a facilitator; staff generate and implement ideas; people become engaged and take ownership in changes they have helped to create.
In my area I have minimized the time spent looking for the things I need to do my job. I have minimized the time spent moving stuff around. I have minimized the time moving myself around. Tackling all these “wastes” has meant less frustration for me and more output with less effort.
What recommendations would you have for others interested in getting started with Lean?
A successful Lean initiative starts with identifying a problem and finding ways to fix it, regardless of scale. Big projects need big plans and project managers and timelines and audits. Small projects, such as what I’ve been doing here as a custodian, don’t need big plans - they just need enterprising people willing to effect change for the better.