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Welcome to episode 29 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am pleased to have with us today Sean Fields and Michael Sanders, co-authors of "Quantum Lean: Taking Lean Systems to the Next Level." They are a network member and the co-founder, respectively, of BeehiveFund. Quantum Lean offers a new approach to operational excellence, and I look forward to exploring this with Sean and Michael today.
Let's get into the episode.
Sean Fields and Michael Sanders have developed a new, more simple way of achieving operational excellence using Lean. Sean and Michael have both spent many years studying operational excellence and applying it to production operations.
With quite different backgrounds, each found themselves in Western Texas. They worked together within a challenging culture that demanded proof and wanted answers to why they should agree to an improvement journey. Traditional Lean approaches to training and improvement didn't work effectively: they confused people and resulted in poor adoption.
For many years, Sean and Michael experimented to find a more simple approach to driving greater adoption rates and results for employees, customers, and the organisation. They looked at two main ideas. The first involved the fulfilment of the product. The second assumes that time applies to the product only—from when a customer places an order (the purchase order, known as a PO) through scheduling and production to delivery.
An example in Quantum Lean thinking: a worker takes ten minutes to find the relevant tools for the job. In usual Lean terms, the worker is committing motion and travel waste. In Quantum Lean, the product is spending ten minutes waiting for the available tools.
What does a product need, and what does it take to get it out of here?
They found that saving time for the product rather than traditional techniques that save time within the people shifted engagement and adoption rates. Front line employees do not feel threatened (by saving time themselves) and naturally accelerate the process. They know that the output of a quality product for customers is supreme for everyone. It is essential that this approach begins with the sales process and flows right through production to dispatch.
An analogy for using 'time' to remove waste: In World War Two, bombing raids occurred all over Germany, and one of the big targets was ball-bearing facilities. If you don't have ball bearings, you don't have aeroplanes, tanks, or radio. So, in Quantum Lean, time is the ball bearing of waste. If you drain time out of the system, waste has nowhere to hide and will drain away with time. The argument over identifying which of the eight wastes dissolves. And pointing the finger at people for wasting time also dissolves.
This total lead time reduction approach eliminates waste naturally, makes things easier for employees and ultimately helps customers. Companies struggling with lead times and keeping up with production are prime for this approach. Quantum lean saves time and creates capacity for more sales.
When you have everything in hand and have the PO in place, it is speedy to produce the product. Traditional lead times of 14 weeks can be reduced to two weeks or less using Quantum Lean thinking.
When beginning a journey into Quantum Lean, ask yourself these questions:
Is my business situation right where Lean can address my immediate issues? Do I have sufficient demand, and production cannot keep up with demand? Or I need a price reduction. Not relevant if you are experiencing plummeting demand.
Will management buy-in and follow up with the program? All types of leaders can work with Quantum Lean thinking, but follow-up and buy-in are essential.
What metrics and incentives do we place on our people? Wrong measures can lead to behaviour that harms an excellence journey.
Sean and Michael co-founded BeehiveFund (www.beehivefund.org). This non-profit organisation helps small to medium-sized manufacturing and service businesses in production scheduling, inventory control, and quality management systems. They are more than happy to help any business in their Lean journey and have resources available right now for complimentary assessments.
Michael - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean - email@example.com
Website - www.beehivefund.org
1. Keep things simple
2. Focus on the product flow and time
3. Measures drive behaviour