26 Mar 2012

How to Start a Real World Lean Transformation by Live Simulation

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globaldesign_eb-150x150Visions of reducing inefficiencies for real-world Lean transformation in manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain operations are only the tip of the iceberg.   Imagine what a live workplace simulation workshop can do for your organization.

A couple of questions are often asked: “Why does anyone need Lean?” and “Would the time and expense of a live simulation workshop be justified?”

Let me answer this first question. If you’re not familiar, Lean is a continuous improvement initiative focused on providing customer value and eliminating waste from processes. The end result is a streamlined operation  able to deliver higher quality products on-time while using fewer resources.  For an explanation of Lean basics you may refer to an earlier blog article .

A live factory simulation workshop is a hands-on technique used for more than twenty years to demonstrate basic Lean concepts. The simulation mode brings in a fictitious operation to serve as a learning tool.  Simulation exercises are conducted to demonstrate different types of waste, and their elimination, as well as relate the techniques learned to “real world” scenarios.

The format of a simulation workshop is divided into several sections or rounds to represent each of the shifts (or days) of the fictitious production facility. Participants are part of the process – through every wheel, screw, and nut assembly. Much like a sports game that excites and draws everyone together to win, Lean simulation workshops have this same effect.

First round starts by intentionally demonstrating the chaos and waste commonly found in a traditional manufacturing environment. Lean principles are gradually introduced and practiced during the subsequent simulation rounds. Discussions open up to talk about what works well and what waste may be eliminated from the process.

Quality rejects, inventories, product quantities shipped, on-time delivery, and profit/loss are tracked and reviewed after each round, so that the effect of waste elimination is clearly identified and quantified.  The simulation continues to introduce the Lean tools and concepts during each round until the final round represents a Lean Enterprise.

At this point, the total benefit of the Transformation can be assessed.  In addition to improved customer satisfaction resulting from product quality and on-time delivery, other physical and financial benefits are demonstrated.  A Lean transformation involves cultural change, and therefore, essentially everyone in the organization should be part of the simulation exercises. Teamwork and the desire for continuous improvement are emphasized throughout the workshop.

Simulation materials may range from actual products like pens and switches to more whimsical demonstrations using Lego assemblies, wooden toys, and paper airplanes. The goal is still the same: eliminating waste. In fact, office simulations have, in a similar way, focused on the elimination of  paperwork and information capture not integral to business objectives.

One of the most difficult choices people have to make is to commit to starting this journey to implement Lean practices. Often the sentiment is that a simulation takes too much time.  In particular, one business owner recently told me “we don’t have the time to stop production to do that kind of training.”

Is there ever ‘the right time’? Most business people would suggest, now, more than ever, is the right time. To prove this point, a Lean transformation would realistically open up opportunities for business, improve the bottom line, and conserve time and expense. That is exactly what happens in a successful Lean transformation. The simulation workshop has become a necessary first step for a successful implementation.

The QMA network of quality experts offers workshops and facilitation to guide organizations on their Lean journey. We don’t claim to be visionaries or missionaries, just that we’re able to demonstrate the most cost effective ways to build more value into the business.

In our experience facilitating Lean transformations, a live simulation provides a higher level of understanding and fully engages employees in accomplishing these business goals through a successful Lean transformation.

The hands-on experience, combined with our in-depth Lean expertise and guidance, enables participants to relate their own “real-world” experience. And the round-to-round factual comparison of Lean practices and benefits, in my opinion, make simulations a superior method of preparing an organization for a successful Lean transformation.

One further note: Workshops of this kind would typically take a full day.

QMA has developed the “Zippy Toy Car” Simulation (another way to say we get it done quickly), a dynamic four-hour workshop of  three rounds that covers the  most important concepts as compared to longer workshops.

The Lean concepts you learn can be literally taken back to your workplace and practiced the same day. The shorter and dynamic format maintains a high level of energy while reducing the investment of time.

Our popular Lean Office simulation workshop takes place at the “Department of Approvals”, a simulated service organization workshop, participants progressively implement Lean tools to experience a transition from a traditional office setting to an efficient Lean service environment. Participants continuously track progress of improvements by collecting data in a report card and monitoring performance measures through each simulation. The workshop leads management and workforce teams through the application and use of Lean tools in making immediate process improvements.

Our training is designed for in-house delivery, but is periodically offered as a public workshop.  Our next workshop,co-sponsored by ASQ South Florida, is scheduled for April 20, 2012.  See our events page for more details: http://webuildqualitytogether.com/events.html

Have you experienced a Lean simulation?  Do you think it is worth the four hour investment and expense?


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