Recently I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a start-up facility. With any start-up comes lots of new challenges – mainly with implementation and then sustaining that implementation. Plans are great in theory, but how do we get everyone on board and moving?
As my facility team picked up speed it began to feel like my New Year’s resolution to work out at the gym five times a week. Only this time, I didn’t have the option to be lazy and neglect my commitment. The facility was up and running 24/7 whether I liked it or not. Soon I learned to ECHO lean: Educate the Gemba, Chase the plan, Hammer the problems, and Optimize over time.
Educate the Gemba
Education will put the plan into motion and help sustain it later. Education lays the foundation. As with my workout plan, going to the gym wouldn’t be enough. I had to learn how to use the machines and how each would benefit my body. The facility implementation had to begin with training – teaching what we were there to accomplish. It was more than just getting everyone on the same sheet of music, it was getting everyone to create the same song.
In Japanese, Gembameans “the real place.” In order to fully understand the plan, we need to go where it will all take place.
Originally the receiving process was done with one clerk, one printer, and one computer. When the facility opened, the docks and space available expanded. It seemed we would be fine using the same amount of processing equipment. Soon we found that traffic through the docks increased and we didn’t have enough time to verify the freight. We needed more equipment. This realization could only have been had by seeing the work being done in real time as opposed to hearing about it from team members on the floor.
Chase the Plan
Chase the plan. For me, this is about keeping focused and keeping it simple. Trying to over-complicate an implementation or changing it too frequently only causes trouble in its sustainability. Get rid of all the ‘good’ ideas and only work with the great ones. It was difficult for our team members to let go of some improvement ideas in order to stay focused on the plan – the big picture.
Hammer the Problems
Being proactive in a start-up is crucial. Start planning for potential problems and coming up with contingency plans. ”No problem is a problem.” Implementation rides highly on the premise that most of the big problems will be uncovered first. Our facility hammered out a big one. Though we had a shuttle service for manufacturing parts being transferred, we had to plan for “hot” needs that came in by having our own equipment ready to run beyond the scheduled shuttle.
Optimize Over Time
It takes time to improve and sustain that improvement. Time will show more problems, better solutions, and ultimately success. Although our facility is still young, we can gauge where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. It’s exciting to know there is so much more to learn.
Lean thinking is easy. It’s the lean doing that is difficult. I hope the ECHO principle can help you in your own facility start-up.
Written by Tabitha Zamarripa, Lean Fulfillment Center Supervisor