Tag: Process Improvement

Lean Quick Reference Guide

Jitendra Badiani

Lean Quick Reference Guide

This guide is intended to be used as a reference to support a Lean implementation.  Implementing tools alone does not lead to a successful transformation.  It is vital for long-term success to focus on people and culture.

There are many more tools that could have been included in this guide.  25 Tools have been listed below however please feel free to suggest tools that you would like included in this guide to make this a more robust and valuable tool. You can send your suggestions to info@focusedimprovement.ca.

5S Methodology to organize and keep the work area organized.

1.Sort (eliminate that which is not needed)

2.Set In Order (organize remaining items)

3.Shine (clean and inspect work area)

4.Standardize (write standards for above)

5.Sustain (regularly apply the standards)

Improves safety.  Organizes workplace, and helps reduce waste.
Andon Visual feedback system that indicates production status alerts when assistance is needed and empowers operators to stop the production process. Acts as a real-time communication tool.  Help bring immediate attention to production line stoppages/problems so they can be instantly addressed.
Bottleneck Analysis Helps identify the constraint – which part of the process limits the throughput. Helps focus prioritize the efforts, defines the benefits and by removing or lessening the impact of the constraints improves throughput.
Continuous Flow Manufacturing where work-in-process smoothly flows through production with minimal (or no) buffers between steps of the manufacturing process. Eliminates many forms of waste (e.g., over production, over processing, defects, motion, inventory, waiting time, wasted resources and transport).
Gemba Walks It is the action of going to see the process, understand the work, ask questions, and learn. Helps to staff understand the full breath and impact of the problem, gathering data from all sources and make the decision quicker.
Level Scheduling A form of production scheduling that purposely manufactures in much smaller batches by sequencing (mixing) product variants within the same process. Reduces lead times (since each product or variant is manufactured more frequently) and inventory (since batches are smaller).
Policy Deployment Align company strategy to the tactics of middle management and the actions performed at the process/plant/business levels. Ensures that progress towards strategic goals is measured, communicated, consistent and thorough.  Sets clear and accountable actions and direction.
Autonomation Design equipment to partially automate the manufacturing process (partial automation is typically much less expensive than full automation) and to automatically stop when defects are detected. Helps employees monitor multiple stations (reducing labor costs) and combined with Gemba Walks many quality issues can be detected and improved immediately.
Just-In-Time (JIT) Pull material or information based on customer demand and when needed rather than pushing parts through production based on projected demand. Helps reduce inventory levels. Improves cash flow and reduces space requirements.
Kaizen or Rapid Improvement Event A focused activity where a small cross-functional team tackles a problem in a structured format to solve and implement process improvements. Methodology to make rapid process improvements, reduce defects, increase throughput, generate teamwork and get employee buy-in.
Kanban (Pull System) A method of regulating the flow of goods both within the factory and with outside suppliers and customers. Based on automatic replenishment through signal cards that indicate when more goods are needed. Eliminates waste from inventory and overproduction. Can eliminate the need for physical inventories (instead of relying on signal cards to indicate when more goods need to be ordered).
PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust) An iterative methodology for process improvements:

•Plan – establish a plan and expected results

•Do – implement the plan

•Check – verify results achieved and log learnings

•Adjust – adjust your plan

Helps increase the knowledge around an improvement opportunity by applying the scientific method.  Translated to PDCA:

•Plan – develop a hypothesis

•Do  – develop expected and run an experiment

•Check – evaluate results

•Adjust – adjust the experiment and  try again

Poka-Yoke (Error Proofing) Design error detection and prevention into processes with the goal of achieving zero defects. Helps remove expensive defect identification via inspection and improves flow/throughput
Root Cause Analysis A problem-solving methodology that focuses on resolving the underlying problem instead of applying quick fixes that only treat immediate symptoms of the problem. Helps to ensure that a problem is truly eliminated by applying corrective action to the “root cause” of the problem. (i.e., Fishbone, 5Y’s, etc.)
Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) Reduce changeover time to as minimal as possible by:

•Converting setup steps to be external (performed while the process is running)

•Simplify internal setup (e.g., replace bolts with knobs and levers)

•Eliminate non-essential operations

•Create standardized work instructions

Helps reduce process downtime,  manufacture lot sizes, reduces inventory, and improves customer responsiveness.
Six Big Losses Six categories of productivity loss that are almost universally experienced:

Breakdowns, Setup/Adjustments, Small Stops, Reduced Speed, Startup Rejects and Production Rejects

Helps provide a framework for attacking the most common causes of waste in a process.
SMART Goals Goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific. Helps to ensure that goals are effective.
Standardized Work Documented one of the most powerful lean tools.  It is to document the current best practices including Takt time, work sequence, and standard inventory.  Standard work documents are “living” and serve as a baseline for Kaizens. Helps eliminate waste by consistently applying best practices. Forms a baseline for future improvement activities.  Standard work documents are written by employees performing the task.
Takt Time Takt time is the average time between the start of production of one unit and start of the next unit.  The production starts are set to match the rate of customer demand. Takt time helps a simple, consistent and intuitive method of pacing production. It is easily extended to provide an efficiency goal for the plant floor.
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) TPM is a holistic approach to maintenance. It focuses on proactive and preventative maintenance to maximize equipment uptime and performance. Helps create a shared responsibility for equipment, encourages greater employee involvement, increases uptime, reduces cycle times, and eliminates defects.
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) A tool used to visually map the flow of information, process steps and data from production. VSM helps map the current state of a process, exposes waste and provides a roadmap for improvement through the future state.
Visual Factory Visual indicators, displays, and controls used throughout manufacturing plants to improve the communication of information. Helps make the state and condition of manufacturing processes easily accessible and very clear – to everyone.
Waste Anything in the process that does not add value from the customer’s perspective. Eliminating waste is one of the Lean tenants.  Reducing waste is one of the goals of Lean.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Metrics or performance indicators which measure important variables. By selecting the right KPI’s it helps align and align strategic goals, helps expose opportunities, and sets expectations/targets which actions can be measured against.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Framework for measuring productivity loss for a given manufacturing process. Three categories of loss are tracked:

·Availability (e.g., downtime)

·Performance (e.g., slow cycles)

·Quality (e.g., rejects)

Provides a benchmark/baseline and a means to track progress in eliminating waste from a manufacturing process. 100% OEE means perfect production (manufacturing only good parts, as fast as possible, with no downtime).

About Focused Improvement Consulting: Focused Improvement Consulting is a boutique consulting company that solves ‘tough’ process and business problems. Our team of business and Lean Six Sigma experts work shoulder to shoulder with your employees and act as catalysts for change to build a culture of continuous improvement within your company. We analyze the challenges that your business is facing and design a solution that is uniquely suited to resolve your problems. Our goal is not to be with you forever but for the right amount of time so that your team learns the skills, tools and most importantly the behaviors to deliver improved results year after year. Please contact us for more information at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

Case Study: Optimization Project Significantly Reduces Logistics Costs

Jitendra Badiani

Client challenge

As the client’s business and revenue has consistently grown, freight costs have increased at a higher rate impacting the bottom line with reduced efficiency and profitability.

FIC Solution

Focused Improvement in collaboration with a cross-functional client team utilized a DMAIC Lean Six Sigma methodology to solve this problem. The team utilized a combination of tools, data and process analysis to better understand the challenges and opportunities, and drive a sustainable change to the logistics decision making process. This involved understanding stakeholder requirements, documenting current processes and linking to customer requirements to identify and eliminate waste and streamline decision making. A Kaizen event was conducted to enable faster implementation and create a stronger culture of continuous improvement within the organization. A lack of a consistent approach with limited awareness amongst associates on the impact of freight costs was identified and a program was put in place to increase awareness amongst stakeholders. Insightful reports were defined and deployed to provide stakeholders with a clearer understanding of their spends to enable quicker corrective actions to keeps costs in control. New processes were deployed for different internal stakeholders to follow for shipping of products to and from DC to branches and to customers.  Lastly, a dashboard was created to monitor improvements and results.


Annualized freight costs represented 3.6% of the cost base of the client and were reduced by 17%+ annually resulting in significant savings for the client.

Tools Used

Process Improvement Techniques such as waste analysis, stakeholder analysis, communication plan, single point lessons, statistics (Pareto Analysis, t-tests, etc.), A3, process mapping, SIPOC, Kaizen, etc.


Please contact us at info@focusedimprovement.ca for more information about this case study or your needs.

9 Challenges to achieving operations excellence

Jitendra Badiani

In our line of business, we are privileged to have business leaders share their experiences, methods, and practices utilized to implement and operations excellence. This inside peek gives us an excellent opportunity to develop a useful list of the challenges faced by business leaders when trying to implement operations excellence practices.  Below is a short list and I encourage you to share with us challenges you might be facing in your implementation that are different.  You can send your challenges to info@focusedimprovement.ca.

  1. Linking process improvement with top-level business strategy – However well-intentioned business leaders are in implementing operations excellence practices; it is very important to link the process improvements with the top-level strategy of the business. Improvement of processes will not have its intended effects if they improve processes that do not align with the strategy of the business.
  2. Sustaining change – Sustaining change is a big challenge for business leaders. Therefore, to ensure sustained change, it is important to incorporate a culture of continuous in the company’s “DNA.”
  3. Overcoming too much short-term focus – It is very difficult for companies dealing with day to day business challenges to focus on process improvements. Process improvements typically lead to long-term impact and take more effort to sustain the change. It is important for business leaders to learn to overcome the short-term focus and keep motivated to pursue operations excellence measures.
  4. Cost/budget limitations – sometimes implementing operations excellence requires a large outlay upfront. Although the process improvements will pay for themselves, it is important to keep in mind that the business must effectively finance this process improvement in the short-term, which is not always the easiest thing to achieve.
  5. Overcoming resistance – Since implementing operations excellence ideas requires changing the way people do their jobs, it is common to experience resistance from all levels of the organization. Being able to overcome this internal resistance then is key to ensuring the success of the process improvement measures.
  6. Maintaining executive buy-in – Of utmost importance is to ensure and maintain executive buy-in to the implementation of an operational excellence program. If the executive does not buy-in, the entire organization will have trouble buying into them, and sustained change/improvements will inevitably fail.
  7. Ensuring a customer-centric focus throughout the business – One of the central tenets of Lean thinking is to have a customer-centric focus throughout the business. A focus on the customer is challenging to maintain in practice since a lot of processes; methods are ingrained into peoples routines/daily work.  Bringing a customer-centric focus necessitates changing those ways of working.
  8. Deploying new technologies – Deploying new technologies can be challenging due to the investment required up front for implementation as well as the changes in ways of working and personnel that it normally entails.
  9. Skills shortage – Recognizing what skills are lacking within the organization and have the wherewithal and capability to fill those gaps can be quite challenging for business leaders.

At Focused Improvement Consulting, we recognize all the challenges that are faced by companies looking to implement operations excellence measures and specialize in getting our clients to face these challenges head-on and achieve operations excellence despite these challenges. For more information on how we can help your business achieve operations excellence, please get in touch at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

5 reasons why Lean transformation can fail

Jitendra Badiani

Implementing a lean transformation within a company comes with a multitude of challenges. In the face of these challenges, it is easy for some business leaders to abandon the transformation midway, or not maintain the improvements identified in a Lean transformation.  This lack of commitment leads to employees reverting to old ways of working and ending up as a costly mistake. Listed are some of the reasons that can cause such a failure:

  1. Lack of support throughout the organization: A successful Lean transformation requires buy-in from all levels of the organization. A top-down approach where management imposes new rules and ways of working does not work since employees do not buy-in to the methodology which makes sustaining improvements impossible. A bottom-up approach can also lead to failure since successful implementation requires significant investment in labor and without buy-in from the management, the Lean transformation is bound to fail. A successful implementation involves gaining buy-in from all employees throughout the organization.
  2. Initial failures: For companies implementing Lean for the first time, one of the most common reasons for abandoning the transformation midway is if the first project or improvement does not deliver expected results. Therefore, it is essential to select the right area to pilot/start the transformation. If a company focuses on the most challenging area to begin the Lean journey, they can potentially face difficulties leading the entire organization to reject Lean. Instead, it is essential to identify and celebrate quick wins at the beginning of the transformation and using these wins to motivate the entire workforce to showcase the value of this transformation.
  3. Concerns about using the Lean methodology in a specific industry: Since Lean methods originated in manufacturing, a common misconception is that these tools are only suited to the manufacturing industry. However, the principles behind Lean can be utilized to solve business challenges and improve flow within almost any industry. Any industry that has defined processes for working, provide a service to a customer, or generate any value can use these tools to improve their performance by increasing productivity and reducing costs.
  4. Data Issues: One of the most significant challenges for improvements via Lean methodology is issues within the data being currently captured or a complete lack of requisite data. For example, if there is manually recorded being utilized in many of the processes, it is difficult to make sure that the data has been consistently recorded therefore some of the improvements that might be suggested using that data could be misleading. Another issue can occur if the data is skewed due to human interactions and assumptions or the data has been incorrectly captured. It is important that these considerations are considered to prevent the failure of a lean transformation.
  5. Priority focus on processes vs people: It is important to keep in mind that in order to have the transformation be successful and improvements be sustained, the focus should not only be on implementing new processes but also on the people within the organization. Sustainable change is always driven by people and if there isn’t a focus on developing the requisite skills within the organization, a Lean transformation will not be able to achieve the gains that might have been otherwise possible.


Focused Improvement Consulting specializes in helping companies navigate a lean transformation process through an organization by working with stakeholders within the company to make sure these common reasons for failure are avoided. We work on building a culture of continuous improvement within a company which can lead to a successful implementation. For further information on how we can help your business through a lean transformation, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

Using the 5S Approach to Organize Your Workplace

Jitendra Badiani

5S has its origins in the Toyota Production System (TPS), and it is an effective tool to help you create a safe, organized, and efficient work space through standard operational practices. Through 5S, your company will eliminate waste that results from an inefficient and unkempt work area (e.g. wasting time to find a tool).

The approach is a methodical way to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

The 5S approach:

  1. Sort

It all starts with organizing and cleaning your workspace. This means going through everything in each work area, organizing your items, and discarding the unnecessary items. Just remember, don’t hold onto things simply because you might use them, eventually.

Not only does a neat and organized workspace make it easier to find things, it also frees up additional space and helps you spot maintenance issues easier. Which do you think is easier? Spotting a water leak in a clean, organized work space or a cluttered and messy one? By making the workspace easier to maneuver and maintain, 5S sorting also improves workplace safety.

If you’re having trouble sorting your workplace, try following these steps:

  1. Sort through your items and decide which items are necessary and which are unnecessary. Dispose of all unnecessary items.
  2. Classify the necessary items in a manner that makes sense for your operation. Examples include “Tools”, “Materials”, “Cleaning supplies”, and so on.
  3. Determine the ownership of all of the classified items and return them to their respective owners. Finding the owner is important because that person is the most qualified to decide where to place it in the next step. If an item’s owner is unknown, ask around or place it into a pile of owner-less items. Potential owners should look through these items and claim them within a defined period of time (e.g. 30 days). All unclaimed items should be discarded at the end of the timeline.

  1. Straighten, streamline, or set in order

Now that you’ve discarded all of the superfluous items in your shop, it’ll be a lot easier to start to re-organize and streamline your work place. The basic principle is that you should put things in a logical location for your process.

Tips and Tricks

  • Arrange all items in order so they can be easily picked for use
  • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items, using labels, signage, and “shadowboards”.
  • Follow a first-come-first-serve basis
  • Make work flow smooth and easy
  • Don’t neglect your floors and walls which can also be cleaned and labelled to make it easier to spot parts, tools, and maintenance issues.
  1. Shine

It’d be a waste to sort and organize your workplace just to let it fall apart in a few short months. Shine refers to keeping your workplace clean! But it doesn’t just mean regular cleaning; it’s the belief that at the end of the day, you should return your workspace to the state you found it at the start of the day. That means that every day (and ideally throughout the day), you return tools to the proper location, pick up dropped parts, dispose of junk, and so on.

Regularly shining your workplace will also function as an inspection for maintenance problems and diminishing supplies. If you’re putting your tools and parts away at the end of the day, it’d be hard to miss that you’re running low on materials or that one of the machines is leaking oil. On top of that, it’ll prevent machinery and equipment from deteriorating prematurely.

  1. Standardize

Make these steps easy to accomplish and follow by creating standardized processes. Setting high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization will instill a culture of cleanliness in the company.

Tips and Tricks

  • Create cleaning checklists, job cycle charts, and/or schedule 5S breaks where all employees must shine the area that they’re responsible for.
  • Use visual cues to make organization simple. For example, use shadowboards to organize frequently used tools
  • Clearly label all storage areas, workplaces, equipment, tools, and etcetera.
  • Provide cleaning and maintenance instructions in convenient locations (i.e., on the respective equipment).
  1. Sustain

Sustain is likely the hardest step. It means you must keep your workplace in working order by following the now standardized procedures. It also implies that you must train and retrain your employees on the principles of 5S to instil its importance in them.


Beyond 5S: Your work is never done

5S is entrenched in the Lean manufacturing philosophy, and that means that it’s a part of continuous improvement. As such, you mustn’t become set in your ways. Continually seek to improve the organization and cleanliness of your workplace. Indeed, going through the 5S from start to finish annually or bi-annually may help you remove additional barriers that you didn’t notice the first time. Alternatively, it might reveal that you’ve accumulated more tools than necessary, or your processes have changed rendering your initial changes less efficient than they first were.

For help on implementing 5S or other Lean tools within your company or more information about how these can be implemented within your organization, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

Warehouse Optimization Kaizen at HD Supply

Jitendra Badiani

What is a Kaizen?  It is a planned/structured facilitated event that enables a group of cross-functional employees to quickly improve or enact “good change”  to a business process.

In this case, Focused Improvement facilitated the Kaizen with a team from HD Supply. The Warehouse Optimization Kaizen was incredible. The teams generated over 50 process improvement actions.  Implementation of the short-term action items began that afternoon.

This year Focused Improvement through Kaizens has generated over $900,000 in savings, improved on-time shipping to 98%+, improved process uptime by 20%+ and eliminated “waste” with several companies or government organizations.

Contact us at info@focusedimprovement.ca to improve your processes!