“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

Dr W. Edwards Deming

With these tough economic times we are all looking for what will keep our company going, what will make us stronger, or what will break us apart from our competition. Dr. Deming sums it up pretty well; it is necessary to change if we want to survive. You have heard the stories about companies that were leading their industry and are now out of business (Enron, et. al.). I feel very strongly that we need to plan and shape our own future. Many critics may say that you cannot predict the future so why try. I think that is a cop-out, a way to avoid the inevitable. We need to prepare the best we can for what’s coming next and what role we will play in its evolution.

I know it is only the end of August but I am already thinking about next year. That may seem strange, but let me put it this way – we have been working our Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Deployment) plan and have achieved another milestone by expanding the offerings on our website (www.5Ssupply.com) to encompass all aspect of Lean (not just 5S). We’ve expanded the partners that we are working with (LEI, ASQ, and others). We also plunged into the social media world (with this blog, twitter & YouTube channel, LinkedIn Group – 5S Supply, etc.) These were all in our Hoshin plan.

By following the Hoshin process we were able to stay focused on what we think is important (and hopefully what the customer thinks is important too!). It almost feels comforting that we have a plan to follow. This gives us direction and spurs us to action when we need it. So as we move forward with the rest of this year we will also starting planning for next year and beyond.

So here’s the best part – to help other organizations on their Lean journey (our mission) we are offering another one of our very successful FREE webinars this time on Hoshin Planning. Please join us for a one hour session that will cover the basics of Hoshin Kanri on Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

For more information click here>> Hoshin Kanri FREE Webinar.

I am also pleased to share with you an article I wrote that was just published in ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum Magazine called Hoshin Promotion. This article gives a great overview of the process and explains what you can expect to create your own plan.

To sign up and read more, click here>> Hoshin Promotion.

Let me know what you think. I appreciate the feedback. Please feel free to share this with others. – Tony

When we do a 5S event, it is usually pretty easy to get the team to perform the first “S” Sort by performing the 5S Red Tag technique; you know “When in doubt, move it out!” This is accomplished by attaching red tags to items that are not needed in the area and then moving them to the 5S Red Tag Holding Area. I want to talk about a very specific aspect when it comes to 5S Red Tagging: Why are 5S Red Tags Red?

First of all, I want to mention why they are typically called 5S Red Tags. It’s because the tag color was originally red. The color catches your eye and gets your attention as in “something is wrong”. I’ve been at companies where they tell me that they do not want to use red tags because people might get these confused with their QC Hold Tags or Reject Tags. So they try to pick another color like pink or purple. I say you don’t have to waste your time doing this. The first thing I would recommend is to work on your quality if you want to be a good Lean company. Slapping red tags on bad parts will not solve your problem. Secondly, train your employees to be able to tell the difference between a QC Hold Tag and a 5S Red Tag. At a minimum, since it is red that should clue them in that something is wrong. Now I do like using other colors for other meanings like using yellow tags for maintenance issues or white tags for safety issues. WARNING! Do not use yellow tags as a “maybe” tag as part of your 5S Red Tagging program. Some people want to put red tags on items that they know do not belong in the area and need to be moved to the Red Tag Holding Area and put yellow tags on items that they are not sure of. If you do it by this method you will find that you will get a lot of yellow tags because people won’t want to have to make up their minds or commit. Besides you will still have to disposition the items with yellow tags and then probably return the item to its home or have to place a red tag on it anyway. Save yourself the headache of having to go through this.

Here’s a link to watch a video that describes our different tags >>5S Red Tags and more

“The best approach is to dig out and eliminate problems where they are assumed not to exist.” – Shigeo Shingo

One Sunday my wife asked me if I would help her pull weeds on the side of our house. I want to stay a happily married man so of course I said “Yes.” We move into this old house (built in1929) last fall and are still getting used to the idea of living in the suburbs. When you live in a big city, in a condo, you pay maintenance fees and someone else does all this stuff for you. Well, it is our turn to be good stewards of this little house and we want to treat it right.

Small tree stump right next to house foundation.

The previous owner did a great job with the interior of the house with painting and decorating, but my nice way to say it is that she didn’t pay as much attention to the outside. We had a service come out last fall and trim back some of the trees, especially one that was growing right next to the foundation by the fireplace.

So while we were weeding, I really got into it and sought to get the weeds out by their roots. Some of these things were really big and really deep. Then I came up to the spot where the tree used to be and there blasting out of the ground were new shoots. So I started to dig. I dug a little more. I had to start digging in all directions just to try to find out where the roots were. Then my epiphany hit, this is exactly like trying to get to the root cause of any problem.

Sometimes it is easy to get to the root and pull it out. Sometimes you thing you got the root, only to find that it is coming back six months later. Sometimes you have to do a little digging. Sometimes you have to do a lot. Sometimes where you started is completely different where you ended (like some of the vines I dug up that traveled several feet away). This is exactly what it’s like when we are trying to do problem solving and root cause analysis.

What is really easy to understand is that, yes, it takes longer to get to the real root, but if you don’t it will just come up later again. How much time to we have to spend getting to the root cause? From my experience, I had to dig far enough so that I knew it wouldn’t grow back again. If I dug any less, it would show up again. If I dug more, it would be a waste of time. The key is to know when to say when. 

Many organizations do not give their employees enough time, tools or training to let them truly get to the right level of root cause analysis. Take a lesson from digging in the weeds – don’t stop short or you’ll just see the problem again in the future and don’t dig too far or you’ll be wasting time, energy and effort. Find the right amount that you can move on to other areas and make them better.

Here are some resources that will help you with problem solving & A3, error-proofing (poka-yoke) and getting to the root cause. I hope this helps. – Tony