Keeping Lean Alive beyond 2020 [Webinar]

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Over 64% of respondents in our ongoing State of Lean survey are reporting that their companies are less focused on their Lean Manufacturing implementations this year due to the pandemic. 

With all the resource investment put into getting Lean working in the first place, companies will want to get their Lean approaches back in shape as quickly and easily as possible as we begin getting back to work. Keeping Lean alive beyond 2020 is a real struggle for many organizations.

Join us for a webinar featuring Corporate Continuous Improvement Manager, Lean practitioner, and President of the Northeast chapter of AME, Brian Hirschfeld, as he offers actionable advice to getting  Lean Manufacturing flowing again.  

In this 5S Store webinar, we’ll moderate a discussion that includes questions submitted from the audience throughout the discussion to ensure everyone’s needs are met. 

 

In this webinar focused on Lean implementation support, you will hear:

  • Stories from the trenches on how the pandemic is affecting Lean Manufacturing
  • Theories behind why Lean has been impacted
  • Actionable steps you can take to resurrect Lean

Resources from Keeping Lean Alive Beyond 2020 Mentioned in the Webinar

Use these resources to help you think about the intersection of 5S and lean:

Meet Brian Hirschfeld from The GEM Group

Brian Hirschfeld is the Corporate Continuous Improvement Manager at The Gem Group. He is SME Lean Bronze certified and has over 10 years of experience in learning about and applying the principles, systems, & tools of a lean organization. Interestingly, Brian earned a Master’s Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and applies lean methodologies guided by Industrial-Organizational psychology and the behavioral sciences. He currently serves as President of the Northeast Region for AME.


Transcripts from Keeping Lean Alive beyond 2020 webinar.

To download a PDF of the transcripts click here

Maribeth:
Hello, and welcome. Before we get started with our discussion today, we have a few housekeeping items to review with you. The hashtag for the webinar is #keepleanalive. Feel free to post insights to your networks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using this hashtag.

We’re inviting questions throughout the presentation today via the Q&A capability in your console. You’ll see the button for this in the footer of your screen. We will attempt to answer all questions submitted, but if your question isn’t answered today, we’ll follow up with you after the webinar with a document that includes the answers.

We’ll also ask some polling questions of the audience, and we’ll be sharing data from the responses that we gather live during this webinar. This session is being recorded and it will be sent to you following the presentation for your own purposes or to share with others.

Now, I’d like to introduce our speaker. Brian Hirschfeld is the corporate continuous improvement manager at the Gem Group. He is SME Lean Bronze certified, and he has over 10 years of experience in learning about and applying the principles, systems and tools of a lean organization. Interestingly, Brian earned a master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology, and he applies lean methodologies guided by this and the behavioral sciences. He currently serves as president of the Northeast Region for AME. We’re happy to have him here with us today.

I’m your moderator, Maribeth, and I will be leading our discussion today, as well as taking questions from the audience throughout our webinar. As those questions roll in, I’d like to get us started with some of the topics that we promised to cover today. So let me start by asking, Brian, can you tell us a little bit about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your lean implementation?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Absolutely. First of all, you can hear me okay? So yes?

Maribeth:
Yep, you sound great.

Brian Hirschfeld:
Okay, good. I want to thank my friend, Dave Visco in The 5S Store team for this opportunity. I think this is really cool, so thank you. And the attendees who are giving up their time and maybe their lunchtime to be with us today. Thank you all as well.

So, for us what the pandemic has done is, before the pandemic, we were very analytical, methodical in our problem solving. We had started to practice some of the Improvement Kata method, which requires that you take some time, deeper understanding of the problem and the situation. So it can be a little bit slower moving, but since the pandemic, it feels like everything is high urgency, everything needs to be done. Today, the things that we’re working on… You go into this survival mode so you can’t take too much time to work on things. You need to address it quickly and then adjust as you go along but you can’t wait for those implementations. You have to do it very quickly. So that’s really been the impact is, everything is urgent, everything has to be done quickly and there’s opportunities all over the place and they all require your attention, and to do that really quickly.

Maribeth:
Thanks Brian. So I’m interested in hearing from the audience in terms of how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic. So let’s put up a polling question for the group. This will be a simple, true, false question for you. It is, true or false. Our lean implementation has been impacted by the pandemic. So folks that are watching today, if you’d like to reply to this answering true or false, we’ll keep this open for just a couple minutes.

Alrighty. Well, there’s our response. 100% of you that responded said that you felt that your lean implementation mentation had been impacted by the pandemic. This is pretty consistent with the survey that The 5S Store has in-market about lean, asking a similar question. More folks than not feel like their focus on lean has been impacted by the pandemic.

So, I would like to bring it back to you, Brian, and go back to what you said about this sort of high urgency that you see. What do you think that’s all about?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Well, first of all, I’m glad everybody answered true to that question because if anybody said false that I was going to call them out, and where we would be lumped into that as well. So really with things changing so quickly, it may have stabilized a little bit more recently, but especially early on during the pandemic, and then through the summer, things just change so quickly and it’s all about speed. You have to respond really quickly because conditions can change. We tended to focus a lot more on safety of course, because of that. So that’s really been the impact is just speed was the thing, as I said before. You may have to sacrifice some of that deeper thinking in the interest of speed.

Maribeth:
Interesting. That definitely makes sense. So tell me, what are you guys doing about all of that?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Well, the first thing that we focused on was to make sure that people coming into work are safe and they’re safe doing the work that they do, and that they’re safe when they go home. So we’ve done a lot of things to be able to operate and to be able to serve the customer’s needs, but with some distance and separation, which are not normally things you would do in a lean environment, but this situation requires it. So, we still want people to hand off the work. They still need to work with others, but now it’s from a little bit of a distance, or it might be with some separation. So a lot of safety-related counter measures, a lot of plexiglass or barriers to keep people apart so that they can still work together, but not face-to-face and not in close contact.

The production floor tends to be a noisy environment as most tend to be. So again, with the separation and the distance, we sourced some personal amplifiers. So just a headset and a little speaker that you carry around on you so I can speak from a distance and you can still hear me. That’s something that we would probably carry forward, even as things hopefully get back to somewhat of a normal state, because it’s been beneficial to be able to hear in a loud environment.

Of course, we got some input from the team on how we can handle those challenges. So we would get them around and say, “We still need to operate. We still need to serve the customers’ needs. I still need to hand off my work to you. So how can we do that? How can we still be able to work together, but have some distance, some separations so that you’re safe, I’m safe? So that when we leave for the day, everybody’s still healthy.” So we asked for their input on how they would suggest we do that, which is good. You never want to make improvements to people, you want to make improvements with people and get their input because they know the job better than anybody else does, so, a lot of those kinds of things.

And safety was the high priority. So, we did a lot of visuals on the floor, similar to what you’d see in the retail grocery stores and that type of thing, like the flow of people traffic going one way and another aisle going another way, distance markers, so that they knew when they check in, in the morning where their six foot markers are at, same when they clock out in the afternoon. So that was mostly where our focus tended to be early on.

Maribeth:
Yeah. Interesting. It seems like you’ve been very focused on the safety-related items, and it sounds like you’ve been moving very quickly to account for what needed to be done for safety for COVID. I’m curious, getting back to your lean implementation, like how are the other aspects of your lean implementation fairing?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Probably like a lot of folks out there, I would say in general, our lean implementation is kind of on hold, meaning it hasn’t gone away, we haven’t scrapped it. In fact, as we started to bring people back in and the workload, it started to come back a little bit, we would go to all those things that we learned to improve the work before the pandemic. So it’s not like you totally scrap it and, “Okay, that was a good 12 to 15 years. Let’s forget about that and move on.” We’re still maintaining some of those things. It’s just it gets in your blood when you’re faced with a problem, like the safety and health of everybody’s individuals. You go to those countermeasures and those tools that you’ve used with so much success for the past few years.

But a lot of more project work, and here’s an example for you. I felt like in 2019, we made a lot of progress with our Hoshin planning with the executive team, did really good, or had started to get really good visuals as it relates to that. So all our Hoshin initiatives were very visual, very simple, whiteboard. We had the executive team starting to huddle around the whiteboard so you get this sharing among the team and maybe some help across the team and a really good, simple system about a solid cadence of Gemba walks with the executive team as well.

Maribeth:
Yeah, it looks like-

Brian Hirschfeld:
So those things have kind of gone on hold a little bit.

Maribeth:
Sorry, to interrupt. It seems like you guys had made good progress in 2019 on your lean implementation and you just kind of had a system in place, and you’re seeing that fizzle. I’m curious to put it out to the audience and with another polling question. So which of the lean activities are you seeing impacted by the pandemic? For this question, folks, we’re going to leave it open for a few minutes because you can select all that apply. So please take a moment to answer the question and then we’ll take a look at the results.

Great. We’ll leave this open another few seconds. So please finish up your responses.

Well, look at that. So interestingly, the lean activity that is most impacted appears to be 5S, and then there are a few others as well. Brian, can you see these results on the screen?

Brian Hirschfeld:
I can. Yeah.

Maribeth:
What are your thoughts?

Brian Hirschfeld:
It’s really interesting to me that 5S would be the most common answer. I mean, what I described when we came back, meaning that we brought more of the workforce back, and this is what I was returning to earlier. So the things that we learned to 5S have been put in place. I just don’t think we look at it as a 5S initiative necessarily, but in this environment, I see a lot more need for 5S good visuals, and in directing people’s behaviors to do the right things while they keep their distance, which would fall right into any 5S initiative. So that’s interesting that that was the number one response.

Maribeth:
I’m going to-

Brian Hirschfeld:
The value stream mapping doesn’t surprise me either. That tends to be a little bit slower moving and longer implementation. So that’s not a surprise.

Maribeth:
Yeah, I’ve gotten a couple notes from the audience that they were actually not able to choose more than one item. So if that is true for all, then what that tells us is that 5S is the one that people felt comfortable checking first. So if that’s-

Brian Hirschfeld:
Right. But that in itself is interesting, that that was the go-to to check the list. It’s still interesting that 5S would be the immediate knee jerk reaction that that has suffered.

Maribeth:
Yeah. I’d love to get back to what’s going on in your world. So we understand the current state of things. Let’s talk a little bit about how you plan to resurrect lean behaviors, because I’ve gotten a couple of interesting comments from the audience that I’ll share, but talk to me a little bit about what you’re planning to do.

Brian Hirschfeld:
I don’t know if I would refer to them as the proper steps, but it’s the steps that we’re taking. Again, it’s important to engage the team in all these things, but I mentioned that the Gemba walks the executive team had done. That’s kind of where we started.

We came back and I said that safety and everybody’s health was the top priority. So we took the same approach that we had done before. I just took a whiteboard that’s in a very high profile area and we tried to capture those things. What are the opportunities? If we focused on that, the opportunities to keep people safe are everywhere.

Our CEO literally takes a walk through the facility every day, captures his notes on that whiteboard, which had been sort of a drive by. He would mention things to me. He would mention things to some of the other folks in operations so I just set this board up. It’s a very, very simple. It shows that he’s… The goal is to take that walk every day, he captures the notes and then we try to figure what are we going to do about these things? Is it just a matter of communication? Are there countermeasures or other things that we need to put in? Are there higher agency things where there’s barriers, people right next to each other, and we need to pay attention to that right away. That’s kind of where we started.

Brian Hirschfeld:
We took that problem. The problem to solve was, keeping people safe and healthy. Then we back went back to the things that we learned. We went to the Gemba, which is where you should always start and really understand the situation. And then we just made it visual so that everybody could see, so we could all see what his notes were. We could all see who had what initiative and we could all see what needs to be done next, and whether we’re making progress on that.

Maribeth:
That’s really smart, Brian. So it sounds like what you guys are doing is, you’re modeling the lean behaviors, but you’re doing it with a safety/COVID mindset, which necessitates doing those behaviors. So I think that’s really great.

Maribeth:
Eventually, you’re going to have to move off of a mindset of safety. Before we talk about that, I’d just like to share some things that are happening in the chat here. One of our viewers was talking about how their pre-COVID, team problem solving processes have just been crippled by new scheduling models and fluid team composition. All of their projects have basically been postponed and there’s a moratorium on the introduction of new processes or technologies. So what this person is posing, I guess, to you and to anybody else who wants to respond and chat is, how do you recommend that you keep the staff stimulated and interested around problem-solving, even when they can’t do things in the way that they used to day-to-day because there’s a hybrid schedule in place? What are your thoughts about that?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Well, my thoughts are, that whenever you consider that you started your lean implementation, you had problems before, you learned the methodology to solve those problems and to collaborate and to look at them. So maybe things are virtual now, or maybe they need to be done from a distance, there’s always going to be new problems. So it’s more that the methodology of how you go about that. And I would look at it, especially for those of us who, as I said are either in a holding pattern or positive implementation, you can’t just flick a switch and go back to February and pick up where you left off.

So those methods, if they worked for you before, you just have to figure out how you’re going to adjust them for the current situation. Again, whether it’s virtual or whether it’s distance or whatever needs to be taken into [inaudible 00:22:20] with this current situation, the method is the method. You’re still collaborating with others. You still need to get some kind of visual representation and then some way to slowly and surely go after the problem. So to me, the method doesn’t necessarily change. The problems change, but the method doesn’t change.

Maribeth:
I’m seeing a bunch of comments in the chat that’s happening and people are saying, we used to email a lot and email doesn’t work anymore. What I’m hearing from others is that they’re starting to adopt different approaches to communicating other than email. So using video chat stand ups, for example, that are just like 15 minute problem solving meeting, where everyone can get together. Or even a social happy hour where everyone, maybe they’re at their home, but you get together for just 10 minutes to be in contact with one another, because maybe your schedules don’t overlap anymore and you don’t see these people anymore. It seems to me like keeping those relationships is a really important part to keeping the teamwork alive when things come back to normal.

Brian Hirschfeld:
I would agree with that. And I would say that in some ways, everybody who has had to look at either remote work, remote teams or hybrid teams, there’s an advantage to that because you don’t physically need everybody in the same space. We all get used to that, and now that may not be an option. So there are ways to do that with half the team in the office or onsite and half the teams working from home.

I wouldn’t put a pause on everything again, because the problem still exist. You still need to collaborate. Everybody still needs to have a universal understanding of what problem we’re trying to solve. Then we all need to be able to see how are we attacking this problem? Are we making progress on this problem? So the way we go about it may have changed because of this, but the method is still the method.

Maribeth:
Another one of our attendees today said that their lean initiatives have basically come to a standstill due to COVID. They’ve been doing a little process mapping with small groups using 30 to 45 minute sessions over a period of a couple of weeks. I’ve seen some of that done really well over Zoom. So I’ve seen people who are quite capable of handling that process mapping collaboratively over video conferencing-

Brian Hirschfeld:
Cool.

Maribeth:
… and there are tools out there that help to do that. Like you can share boards and things like that to move little stickies around and that kind of stuff. I think those are super useful things to be considered, to keep an initiative like lean or any real problem-solving or process-oriented solution alive, because I’m not sure we’re going to be seeing much change to our schedules or our remote workforces very rapidly. So we’ve got to find a way.

I’m conscious of the fact that we only have five minutes left. One of the things, Brian, that I really wanted us to talk about was, something that came up in rehearsal when we discussed this topic. You said, “Gosh, we’re in this mode where we’re super, super safety-focused so we’re trying to use lean tools on our safety focus right now,” but you also were very conscious of the fact that you need to eventually move off a mindset of safety and start considering some other things. What are your plans to do that?

Maribeth:
I don’t know if we lost Brian. I think we may have lost him.

Maribeth:
All right. So since it seems that Brian may have dropped off due to bad internet connectivity, I’ll let you know what Brian and I talked about in the rehearsal about this topic. So I thought he had a really smart approach to move off the mindset of safety. So again, he’s been trying to apply the lean principles, but with a safety focus so that he can keep their CEO engaged, keep the employees engaged, use visual tools like white boarding to capture all of it so it can be shared with the group so everyone feels sort of involved at least in some kind of lean approaches. But what Brian’s thinking is, that he can begin to re-engage the average employee by getting the behaviors working first and then expanding from there. So start the behaviors like the Gemba walks, stabilize the implementation and then expand their uses across other applications.

Maribeth:
I think Brian is back on now. Do I have you again, Brian? Maybe not.

Brian Hirschfeld:
You [inaudible 00:28:28] you did this. Sorry about that.

Maribeth:
Oh, that’s all right. It sounds like you still have a bad connection, but I was talking about how you said you want to get the behaviors working. Expand now-

Brian Hirschfeld:
Yeah, I mean [inaudible 00:28:41], Maribeth?

Maribeth:
We can hear you, Brian.

Brian Hirschfeld:
Oh you can hear me? Okay. I’m sorry. I must be buzzing in and out. Yes, you said that [inaudible 00:29:00] really get the behaviors and the habits working and then expanded from there. So we started with safety and developed a good routine. We’ll take that same approach as we revisit our Hoshin initiatives, as we start to look at other problems and other improved [inaudible 00:29:31] and then expand from there.

Maribeth:
Do you have any thoughts about how you re-engage the average employee?

Brian Hirschfeld:
Well, you always have to ask their opinions, ask for their input. They know the work that they do better than anybody does. They are making what the… The goal is, what’s the why. What are we working on and why? And then asking for their input, they’ll be glad to share with you. It’s going to impact their work. It will improve their work and just ask for their help and their input.

Maribeth:
That’s great. Well, thank you, Brian. I’m glad we got you back because I was trying to do the pseudo Brian on the side, but it’s not quite the same, but thank you for your time. And thank you to our viewers for your questions today. We had a nice little chat going in the sidebar and a couple of questions that came in that we were able to cover off today.

Maribeth:
We’re at the end of our time, but I’d like to wrap up with some information for you. If you need the viewpoint of an expert, here are some resources that can help. So there is David’s book around 5S, 5S Made Easy. We also have a free resource on The 5S Store website that we call the 5S Blackboard. And if I’m being perfectly honest, it is definitely beyond just 5S principles. There are before and after photos, there are a bunch of blog posts that are both lean and 5S-focused and articles and free downloads. We’d love for you to visit. We’d also love for you to contribute ideas of things that you’d like to see covered on there. Again, that’s a free resource available to you on The 5S Store website.

David’s information is listed here for contacting him directly. He’s always happy to help, and if David doesn’t have the answers, he knows somebody who does. So feel free to use that email and phone number

Last but not least, The 5S Store is a resource for 5S and lean supplies. We currently have an inventory blowout sale that’s happening and we’re adding new items regularly so it’s worth checking it out and stopping back. Thank you so much for your time today and your spirited discussion. Have a great afternoon.

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