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THE GOLD MINE BOOK

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


"The Gold Mine is the first book to comprehensively introduce all the lean tools by means of a vivid personal story showing how hearts and minds are won over. “The Gold Mine is the first book to comprehensively introduce all the lean tools by means of a vivid personal story showing how hearts and. The Gold Mine: a Novel of Lean Turnaround deftly weaves together the technical and human pieces of implementing lean manufacturing in an engaging story that readers will find both compelling and instructive. Really an excellent read in terms of the experience of Lean.


The Gold Mine Book

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Freddy and Michael Balls book, The Gold Mine, serves to remove these doubts. Readers of this story will find in the alltoo-human details of one lean turnaround. The Gold Mine: 1 1 by Michael Balle, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. At this point, I also want to acknowledge you, dear reader, and those of you who wrote noting that reviewing a book did not equate to writing.

If I had to sum up this book in only one word I have had The Gold Mine on my reading list for as long as I've had a reading list, but because it wasn't about one particular tool that I wanted to learn about, it kept getting pushed to the back shelf. This was a mistake. The Gold Mine discusses the main reason lean initiatives succeed or fail Written in novel format the authors' take you from the point of a company barely keeping their head above water step by step through a tu If I had to sum up this book in only one word Written in novel format the authors' take you from the point of a company barely keeping their head above water step by step through a turnaround to a company that produces money!

Through the process the owners of the company are faced with many challenges and hard decisions. The biggest of all is that they do not have all the answers. Their coach, an irritable but seasoned Lean veteran, shows that he cannot "do lean" for them, they must do it for themselves and grow their own leaders.

He guides them on how to work with people, but does not outright tell them what to say or do. He introduces them to many of the tools of a lean transformation, but keeps reminding them that it's the people that matter. I see so many parallels with this book and many places I have worked at.

The major difference between those companies and the ones I have worked with is that top leadership in the novel doesn't pretend to know what the right thing is to do.

They are willing to learn. Seems to me in today's world companies want to hire in "experts" with all the answers. Too many of these "experts" are unwilling to continue their learning.

Maybe they think it is a sign of weakness. Maybe they had to sell themselves so hard to the company that they convinced themselves that they are experts. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership role. I also feel that any student going for their MBA should be required to read this.

This book offers a better picture of what running a business is like than any text I've encountered. Final word - I compare every business novel to Goldratt's "The Goal" The Gold Mine is equal level.

Dec 15, Sam Motes rated it liked it Shelves: In the vein of Goldratt's "The Goal", "The Goldmine" is a business novel that uses an old sage to teach the ideas behind Lean as he helps and unenlightened group learn and evolve.

Helped to give some of the ideas in "The Toyota Way" and other lean how to books some real life examples through a storyline pulling the characters through a Lean turn around. Talked extensively about Taiichi Ohno and other fore fathers of Lean, but also touched on many of the ideas from Ford, Taylor and others that he In the vein of Goldratt's "The Goal", "The Goldmine" is a business novel that uses an old sage to teach the ideas behind Lean as he helps and unenlightened group learn and evolve.

Talked extensively about Taiichi Ohno and other fore fathers of Lean, but also touched on many of the ideas from Ford, Taylor and others that helped to lay the ground work for the Lean movement Mar 17, Sanjay Gupta rated it really liked it. Nice view of lean tools in a manufacturing environment. Written in the form of a novel it tells a story of lean transformation with tools discussed in the storyline.

You may want to pick up the instructors guide as well since it structures the concepts explicitly instead of embedding them in a story. Oct 02, Bruce Thomas rated it really liked it Shelves: I had to read this book for work and it was a great blend of fiction and LEAN principals. At times I got bored with it but overall the concepts of LEAN that they were trying to get across stuck with me. Jan 01, Mike Thelen rated it it was amazing.

The Balle books are absolutely some of my favorites. They are written as novels and do an exceptional job at sharing that process of learning by doing, making mistakes, and understanding how a lean transformation takes place. Oct 29, Hans W rated it really liked it. Teaches you a lot about lean thinking and production optimization without getting too theoretical. Aug 26, John Hutton rated it liked it. This was a good novelization of lean principles.

It really helps move the ideas seeing them more in action. Jun 23, James Solano rated it liked it. Sep 09, Elizabeth rated it liked it Shelves: I'm developing an appetite for business novels.

A transformation will fail without the most important element: I can't recommend it highly enough as a way to teach your people the key lean tools that always lead to success while also teaching, in the words of Bob Woods, that 'it's all about people.

Readers, especially those individuals working on the shop floor, will gain revelation and inspiration by living through the experiences of the hero. Managers and executives just beginning a lean transformation will learn valuable insights about how to sidestep the technical and people problems that lay ahead.

And experienced lean thinkers will discover fresh insights about overcoming resistance to change. They're co-authors of two earlier Shingo Research Award-winning business novels about lean management. The Gold Mine tells how lean concepts turn around a failing plant. The Lean Manage describes the conversion to a complete lean business system. Michael also writes the Gemba Coach column at https: His main coaching technique is the "real place visit," where he helps senior executives learn how to really see their own shop floors, teach people the spirit of kaizen, and reach the right conclusions for the whole business.

I highly recommend this book. Even though this novel does not use the socratic method to let you, as the reader, figure things out for yourself before the protagonist, it is still a great collection of really good explainations about the why, what, how and when of using LEAN tools that I have not seen in many of the regular textbooks about LEAN.

It also gave a great look into how LEAN solves challenges on the shopfloor for those of us not having worked there. The story shows much clearer how managers play a role that is different in LEAN for it to work - a role that can be incompatible with most thinking of the manager's role.

This is also explaining why so many LEAN efforts fade away and are given lip service after the low hanging fruits are captured. Very insightful. A reframing of management may be needed to be highly successfull with LEAN. The writing is engaging and you care for the characters in the story. Not a pageturner like Dan Brown's books or from other fiction writers, but still pretty good - and you learn something as well!

The first in a series that will teach you more about lean than most consultants can teach you. I use this book for teaching my manufacturing employees about lean and continuous improvement.

Initially they are nervous about reading and discussing this book with me but once they get into the story they often read ahead and tell me "Phil's company sounds just like us!

How does The Gold Mine fit in with existing literature that teaches lean thinking or change management? The truth is that part of what makes lean difficult is the linkage between change management and the lean tools.

Most books that tackle both lean thinking and change management tend to approach these subjects separately.

The Gold Mine

First they'll describe the lean tools, and then they'll go into change management theory. With The Gold Mine , we've tried to deal with these two themes concurrently, progressing on both fronts at the same time. For instance, we would argue that lean is fundamentally about rigorous problem solving and involving operators in kaizen. But in most working environments, if you start there, as most TQM or six sigma programs do, you will end up with disappointing results.

People will get confused about which problems to solve, how to go about change, and what kind of attitude to adopt when dealing with resistance or recurring problems. In a factory it's usually easier to start a lean program with the basics, such as seven wastes, 5S, red bins for quality, reducing batch sizes by increasing tool changeover, and moving progressively to eliminating variation in the operators' work cycle.

This is why senseis have a hard time giving the whole story upfront. They need to enable people to realize small and tangible results, which they can then build on. This is the only meaningful way to move forward. We've tried to capture this way of learning in The Gold Mine. It's a very different-and effective-approach to change management. In fact, we had originally planned to write a book about lean and change management, but soon realized that precisely because it does not fit with the accepted theories of change management, we would end up with a heavily theoretical book trying to explain just what the senseis actually do, from a management practice point of view.

In the end, we decided the tools and principles would be more accessible if we just tried to describe them in action. Are you saying that the experience of companies that embark on the path to lean differs from the models set out in the leading literature? Not exactly. In fact, the model of value, flow, pull, perfection, and progression, articulated by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, certainly describes the way that most turnarounds that we've observed unfold. But very few of them start with a shared understanding among the workers of where they will eventually end up.

The turnaround starts by increasing the tension in the system, and then resolving problems as they arise. This process will make the players start by defining value, and then solve the flow problems, move to pull and finally endlessly kaizen the process to perfection. So they do end up following this path. But it's virtually impossible for the change leaders to plan it as such, because you need to move from one practical implementation to another.

In fact, this marks another way that The Gold Mine differs from most change management literature. The story format treats both change and lean techniques concurrently. And the underlying change model, while characteristic of lean, challenges mainstream change management approaches in its dependence on the role of the sensei, who acknowledges progress, certainly, but also provides endless constructive criticism and challenge so that no one stops at the first results, but continues to improve endlessly.

In terms of lean thinking, we don't claim to add much to existing literature of lean tools. We have tried to present the techniques in a slightly different way, however, thereby helping readers see how the tools and principles are tied to one another.

Firstly, we do try to point out that just-in-time and the flow techniques such as kanban, heijunka and pull, are only one pillar of the Toyota Production System TPS , and we re-emphasize the lesser known jidoka pillar, which is equally important. Secondly, we strive to establish the links between the different elements of the system, such as kanban and jidoka. Kanban can't be successful if quality is not already under control, for example, or if employees aren't responsive to problems on the shop floor.

A systematic study of the links felt like a daunting task, so we've used dialogue to point out the most obvious links to keep in mind when implementing the tools. Finally, now that most of the tools are known and published, we've placed less emphasis on the tools per se, and more on their purpose within the lean system.

In this respect, we believe we've occasionally highlighted different aspects of tools that have been already much discussed, and we believe that even the veteran lean practitioner can find food for thought in some of these discussions. Are people issues more difficult to resolve than technical ones? Indeed, the two cannot be separated. And so the real question that matters is this: The answer is: Regardless of how much has been published about the topic, thinking lean is not that obvious.

Most people who observe their operations conclude that while they might understand this lean concept very well, it just doesn't apply to their particular circumstance. They need help in seeing the connection. One of the most powerful insights from Womack and Jones is that lean is not simply a toolbox, but a total perspective. In other words, you must trust people to solve their problems, regardless of the way the problem has been defined.

A plant manager, for example, typically defines a problem as, Hit your numbers, keep the factory loaded, and avoid too much union or vendor problems.

This effectively forces him to stay in his office, manage by the numbers, run large batches and so on. A lean approach redefines the problem completely. His new goals would be: This has dramatic implications for the work of the same plant manager. The only way to solve problems in this lean perspective is to spend most of his or her time on the shop floor trying to understand what goes on, and challenging teams to be more precise and to improve their operations.

So the first real difficulty with lean deals with both technical and people challenges. The change begins by framing the problem, which one recognizes in the factory from a lean perspective. So how, then, do people actually get started on this approach? They need to, in essence, develop a lean eye. Before being exposed to lean ideas, Phil Jenkinson a co-founder of the example company has to learn to see his factory in much greater detail and understand how the different elements affect each other.

Developing this discipline remains an extraordinary challenge for all individuals, regardless of their background or the lean level of the plant. This is what folks call a moving target. Consider a plant that has managed to achieve pull, flow, with a supermarket after the cell, a truck preparation area, kanban, and so on. All's well. Now, imagine that the material handler comes to pick up a container from the supermarket with a kanban card, but the box isn't there.

The truck still needs to be prepared, so the system now tells her to get the container from the safety stock. This choice, however, would not be using the principle of pull correctly.

The properly operating pull system would in fact create the right tension that forces the individual to solve the root cause-in this case, to determine what caused the container not to be there in the first place.

However, it takes a sensei level of lean observation to see beyond what appears to be happening in the flow. Most of us would be impressed by the technique of lean, the kanban, the supermarket, the truck preparation, and not see that all of this is failing to do what it's supposed to, which is solve the problems.

So learning to see is a pretty big challenge, both on the technical and people front, at whatever lean level you are. What else is necessary to produce true change? Most people need to understand an idea before they actually act upon it. Our highest runner is the STR model. It uses our new core, which is very compact, meaning we can fit four mechanisms, to protect four circuits, in a slim cabinet.

Its by far the best performing device on the market, and Matt says we can sell as many of these as we can produce. But Im not so sure. STRs dont adapt well to old plants and are meant for high-power applications, so the market is mostly limited to new power plants. Then we have two additional products using our new technology. Finally, we still manufacture the DG product using the old D core and a single mechanism, he added, pointing to a large metal cabinet.

These are mostly replacement items for existing power plants, and managing the high-power requirement with the old technology requires a much larger cabinet. I dont know much about equipment, mumbled Dad. Are any of these industry-standard items? Not quite, Phil answered with a shrug. The cores and mechanisms are standard in terms of the job they perform, but each customer order requires some customization, mostly in the interfaces with the circuit board and the instrument panel on the front of the cabinet.

Plus the cabinets themselves.

Customers all seem to want to specify cabinets that will fit neatly in the intended installation. We dont manufacture circuit boards or panels, and often the customer specifies the design and even the vendor. So we have to integrate the mechanisms, the circuit board, and the instrument panel within a confined space in the cabinet. Thats what all the designers you saw in the office are working on: costing and customizing orders. Right, Dad muttered, looking doubtful.

The complete device is assembled in four steps, after we make the core, Phil continued, pointing to a diagram of the assembly process. First, we assemble the mechanism, which is mostly mechanical parts including a small motor to move the core back in position if the circuit is broken.

Its like a hand-held drill motor we actually use the same vendor. Then we fit the core into the mechanism, which is a pretty delicate operation with a lot of adjustment. Next we wire up the completed mechanism at the end of the assembly line and send it to electrical testing. Once the mechanisms pass the test and we often have to change out parts they are fitted into the cabinet and wired to the circuit board and instrument panel, again with a good bit of adjustment.

Never mind the rest, son. Just show me the plant, said Dad. Phil stood for a second in mid-explanation, closed his mouth, and muttered, This way, please.

I followed them both, trying to keep my usual irritation with Dads appalling manners under control. The plant was a large, bustling place, with tubes and wires running along the ceiling and down columns, and people milling about among racks of odd-looking parts and machinery.

It smelled of large empty places, oil, and metal dust. A loud banging could be heard rhythmically. It felt like walking through a gigantic garage not the type of place in which to spend the best part of your daylight hours! To Phils credit, the place seemed rather clean, albeit painted in a grubby, off-white greenish color. Alleys were clearly marked on the floor, and I managed to more or less stay out of the way of the speeding forklifts, honking away as they rounded corners. Phil took us around to a huge glass-walled side of the building.

Through the tinted glass wall, we could see a clinically white environment, which looked more like a lab than a production facility. This is where the old cores are manufactured. We need to dress up in protective clothing to go in there. The cores are very vulnerable to dust contamination. Dont bother, Dad cut in.

I see you hold entire racks of these capsules. Technological time, Phil answered with the hint of a smile. Not all of it is inventory. The cores need to cool down for at least 24 hours before being safe to use. Well, thats still 24 hours of cash sitting there, replied Dad dryly. You mean, you have to incur the cash outlay to buy the material, but you can only use it after a certain time? I asked, feeling like an idiot.

Thats right, Mickey, said Dad, using my childhood nickname. And thats the whole trouble. Youve got to buy materials upfront, and then youve got to pay for labor, and finally you get a check back from a customer after a sale. All this while youve been financing your own production so the longer it takes to get the cash back from the customer, the costlier it is for you. And in their case, the materials themselves are expensive. Which compounds the problem, correct. But doesnt every business face the same problem?

Phil asked. Of course, but not necessarily in the same way. A supermarket, for instance, gets the cash out of the shoppers pocket way before it pays its suppliers. In essence, the company gets cash from goods it hasnt paid for yet not a bad way to run a business, he added with a grin. Yes, everyone deals with the same type of issues. The trick is resolving them, and there is no one set of answers. It all depends on your customers and your markets. In that area over there, we have all the cabinet-making equipment sheet-metal cutting, punching, bending, and assembly, Phil continued, pointing at a confusing area of machines, boxes, and people.

This is where we make the metal parts for the cabinets. And, yeah, he added, giving Dad a sidewise glance, this is the inventory. We walked by a large room lined with racks of wire-mesh crates filled with all sorts of metal plates. We know about this, he went on. We call it the wall, but we havent found a way to reduce it without penalizing production. Dad said nothing, just shook his head.

Now, over there, Phil continued, is our big innovation. We have three parallel lines specialized by products. The first line assembles the STR mechanism, incorporating the capsule. The second, deals with both variants of QST, and the third is a DG line, but it doesnt run full time. Two shifts or one? We work from 8 a. And, of course, a short midmorning and midday break. Were looking into moving to two shifts, but we dont have enough people as it is, and it would be a serious investment to hire some more qualified operators.

But would you have the business to sustain two shifts? Matt claims so, Phil answered dubiously. We currently have quite a backlog, so I guess we could. On STR I think we could. But given our current cash situation, its not even in the cards. We just couldnt pay a second working shift. On each production line, operators were working bent over their tables, assembling a variety of rigs, which, I guessed, somehow would transform themselves into completed products in the end.

At the end of the lines, we send the assembled mechanism and capsule over to that electrical testing area over there, showed Phil, pointing toward a partitioned cubicle with a number of racks filled with mechanisms waiting in front of it. Testing is actually quite sophisticated, and we use high voltages in there, so it has to be kept clear of the rest for security purposes. It needs special equipment that we couldnt include in the lines.

Dad turned away and exclaimed, What the heck is this monster? Im sorry? This conveyor. Just look at that! A row of cabinets was hanging by hooks from a massive superstructure, fixed to the ceiling, like carcasses in a butcher shop.

Operators worked at different assembly stations, fitting mechanisms into the cabinets, and then pushing the cabinets to the next station to add cabling or the circuit board or the instrument panel, while a number of cabinets waited patiently between the stations. Ah, thats where the major components are assembled into the cabinet to make the finished circuit breaker, as you can see.

Welcome to Book Gold Mine

The cabinets are supported from the ceiling by the conveyor to allow the operators to walk all the way around the cabinet as they work. The wiring in particular is a bit of a pain and requires assembler access from many points, including the bottom. At the end, they fit the control panel, wire it up, and lock the breaker.

Doesnt it move? Well, not automatically, Phil continued. Its not a conveyer in the usual sense, just a way to keep the cabinets at working height and to allow access.

It has no built-in pace. When the operator is finished, he pushes the cabinet ahead to the queue before the next station. And all of your products end up going down this same line? Yes, Phil acknowledged, which is why we often get pile-ups upstream as the different fabrication operations feed the one line. But in any case, we are now finished with assembly. You can see where the fully stuffed cabinets are lowered to the ground and onto pallets, then picked up by forklifts and taken to the final testing area.

When they pass the test, which may require more changing of parts, they are taken by forklift to the packing area for crating and then to shipping. He guided us around the packing area and up a long aisle running the length of the plant, past endless floor-to-ceiling racks of boxes with components, until we finally reached the shipping dock. A few men were stretch-wrapping the finished circuit breakers in their crates while, further off, other employees were unloading a truck on the dock, moving piles of cardboard boxes through what looked like an airplane crash site.

Yeah, I know, said Phil, rubbing a hand on his face. It still looks a mess, but it used to be much worse. Anyhow, thats about it. If you come back over here, he said, walking us back toward the door to the offices, we have an actual map of the plants layout. Okay, Mr. Woods, what do you think of it?

Well, son, said my father looking at the plants hustle and bustle, I can see your inventory. But where is your factory? Ouch, said Philip, downcast. Look at it like this, Dad pressed. Youve got three big piles of inventory with a little manufacturing in between. Youve got a heap of vacuum cores over there by your glass box, mountains of metal parts across the aisle, racks of assembled mechanisms right after testing, and I dont know how many of your cabinets queuing on the conveyor.

What do you expect? This place is storing and moving around a lot of stuff, with very little useful action. What makes you say that? I asked Dad. All I could see was a beehive of activity. It was just what I expected of a plant and, even though I had never set foot in a factory before, there didnt seemed to be much wrong with it. After I got used to the din, it was a far cry from the dark satanic mill Phil and my father had led me to expect.

Well, let me put it this way, started Dad, which was a sure sign Phil was in for a serious put down. I dont know much about your industry, so I try to look at your operations as if I was a potential customer.

Eye of the customer, yeah, weve done that with the consultants, interrupted Phil, attracting the glint of Dads stare. Consultants, hah.

Well, here it is. Lets assume I dont understand anything about your process itself. Ill worry about two things: the quality of the product and the inefficiencies I see, because I know that somehow, all of your inefficiencies will be reflected in your price.

Our qualitys not too bad, Phil ventured. Weve had only five customer complaints over the past month from about 1, units sold: five defects per 1, Five per 1,! Thats outrageously high! Never mind now, thats not what Im looking for at this stage. I want to see how quality is built into your product. Phil looked at him, puzzled, reaching instinctively for his notebook.

Well, look at your process. Im sure that mistakes and defects must happen here and there. But I havent seen any. Which means that there is no system to identify nonconforming parts. In other words, whenever a defective part appears, I have no guarantee that it will not find its way back into the product somehow.

But our people are trained to spot and isolate defects! Hey, you asked me, son. And if I were a potential customer, Id be worried. You guys can tell me whatever you want, but I dont see any system in place making sure that defects are systematically identified at each step of the process, and separated from good parts. Nor am I sure that anyone is asking why these defects show up when they do.

That tells me you dont control your quality. But what about our testing? Youve seen our testing procedures, and theyre very rigorous! Dad seemed to weigh Phil for a moment and replied, All well and good, but testing doesnt tell me how quality is built into the product, or, more to the point, how nonquality is built into the product. See, any defect that turns up on one of your products has in fact been put there. It is the result of work, albeit bad work.

You need to understand this. Do you track how many defective parts are found at each testing phase? I dont know, Phil mumbled, but Im sure that Dave would. Let me go and find out. Forget it. I told you I dont want to talk to anybody, Dad said crossly. Anyhow, thats not the point. The point is that I am troubled about quality in your production process.

Five defects per 1, in the customers products are terribly high in my book. Thats about how often airlines lose your luggage. You happy with that?

The Gold Mine_ A Novel of Lean - Michael Balle.pdf

What about inefficiency? I asked, to get Phil off the hook. Well, look at it this way. Anything that does not directly add value to the product is inefficient, correct? So when I walk through operations I always look at people first and foremost. I count: line operators actually working on a product, operators waiting, operators moving parts around, and operators just walking around, or talking, or, like these guys over there, asking questions of the supervisor.

The ratio of operators who are actually adding value to the product to total operators gives me a good feel for how efficient the process is. Phil just stared at Dad and then started looking around, counting silently. Im not good at numbers, but I could see that for every operator we saw actually doing some work, there were two or three people just doing something else.

Thats not entirely fair, Dad, I ventured. Its not because they arent working on the product that theyre not working! I never said that, Dad replied flatly. Im sure all these folks are doing their job. Thats precisely my point. Look at this lady over there searching through a pile of parts for the one item that she needs next.

Clearly shes working but her efforts arent adding any value to the product. What Im saying is that you need to figure out a better system. In particular, you need to distinguish motion from work. Work is adding value to the product, and motion is everything else, is that right? At the end of the day, improving operations means transforming motion into work.

Phil opened his mouth, but then said nothing again. He stood there, taking in the shop floor, pushed his glasses back on his nose, and looked distraught. Now, the second thing to look at is inventory, continued Dad, relentless. Same principle applies. Every part out there that is not being worked on is a sign of inefficiency.

Weve paid for that stuff, and its not being transformed into value. Its just sitting around gathering dust. Thats inefficiency. Okay, okay, Mr. Woods, Phil conceded, I get your point, but you dont understand. What you see is I dont have to understand, son. All I know is that all these inefficiencies somehow translate into cost. And if Im a customer, I know that if you plan to stay in business all these inefficiencies will eventually be reflected in your price and mine.

But weve come so far. Dad just shrugged and started walking away.

Come on, Dad, dont be like that. I, for one, would at least like to know what Phils been doing with this plant. My father gave me his irritated stare, but relented with a sigh.

All right, lets hear it. It might not look like much to you, started Phil, but you should have seen it when we took over. There were piles of inventory surrounding every workstation. I mean heaps! I can imagine, mumbled Dad, nodding wearily.

When we took over the plant, it was organized in five shops: mechanical assembly of the mechanism frame, fitting of the motors and the capsules to the frame, electrical wiring, testing, and final assembly of the mechanisms, the circuit board, and the instrument panel into the cabinet. Each shop dealt with all the products.

The first shop would do mechanical assembly for all mechanisms. Then they would move to the mechanical fitting shop to get the motor fitted, then to electrical wiring, then back to fitting for the capsule, then to wiring again, then to testing, and finally to the final assembly line. Inventories were sky high in each shop! We had some consultants come in, and they got us to separate our products into families, which came down to the four Ive mentioned. Because of all the customization we do, it wasnt clear to us that product lines existed at all!

Then they broke the shops and created the lines we saw. It was a revolution, let me tell you! We initially halved the inventory! Halved it, I tell you, Phil repeated excitedly. And the same for lead time. It was amazing, you should have seen the stuff lying around before. Not that were particularly good now, but back then, it was just horrendous. What I dont understand, I asked, is why final assembly was not split into lines as well?

We had endless arguments about that. The end of the matter is that we cant afford another two lines. I can see, I continued, that with the old layout you would have had parts being moved around a lot. Yeah, talk about motion! So, if youve already solved the problem, whats the panic?

Phils face fell as if hed doused with cold water. Its not enough! Thats the problem! You said it yourself, theres still too much inventory around this place. Too much inefficiency, and we dont know where to go from here. Well, answered my father after an awkward silence, the usual: waste reduction. I asked. To be efficient, the trick is to maximize value the work that the customer really thinks is worth paying for.

In any operation, youve got a value-creating element, like tightening a bolt, a necessary element, like getting the bolt to the operator, and then a whole load of waste. Most people dont even see it. You can basically split waste into seven types, as Toyota does: overproduction, by producing ahead of what is needed; operators waiting, imposed by an inefficient work sequence; excess transport, which means the work flow is neither direct nor smooth; overprocessing parts, more than they require; unnecessary inventory, in excess of immediate needs; unnecessary operator motions, which dont contribute to value; and, defects, which create rework and more waste.

So get your consultants to work and systematically reduce the waste! No offense, sir, but we know all that, Phil said carefully.

The trouble is that weve reached the limits of our consultants. They dont seem to get any more results than what youve seen, and they tell us that its because of too much resistance to change, and anyhow thats no longer the issue. How do you mean, not the issue?

Were running out of time, Phil answered with a hint of desperation in his voice. Whatever we do in continuous improvement is going to take ages and it wont solve the business problem were against the wall! My father sighed and shook his head in this exasperating, seen-it-all-before manner he has, and said in a quieter tone, Come on, nothings ever that desperate.

But maybe we should continue this discussion out of earshot rather than right in the middle of the shop floor. Lets get a cup of coffee. I looked around and, indeed, many people were looking at us with a mixture of curiosity and defiance. The company had already changed hands and been reorganized, so God knows what they were thinking of their strange visitors. Another sale perhaps? With Dad dressed like a house painter, stains and all, not likely, I thought with a chuckle.Work is adding value to the product, and motion is everything else, is that right?

And so Mike enlists Bob to help his pal fix this crisis. And experienced lean thinkers will discover fresh insights about overcoming resistance to change. Phil's greatest revelation might be that lean implementation ultimately requires a lean attitude. You can read and appreciate it as a simple piece of human drama, with a series of quirky and engaging characters, with twists and turns that will challenge and amuse you.

At the time we were getting more orders than we could handle and we needed the extra capacity. Deal, Dad. What a book!

LIANNE from Maryland
I love studying docunments openly . Browse my other posts. One of my extra-curricular activities is freeboard.