Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gemba, The Library, and Breakthrough Performance

I recently had an opportunity to visit a good friend at the library where she is currently a manager.  10 years ago we worked closely together in continuous improvement and the pursuit of excellence in a service environment. She is a regular reader of this blog and I was eager to see how she had applied the information. When I first arrived, she asked if I wanted to meet in the office or discuss the improvements in the backroom.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to go to gemba and see first hand how their new lean journey is progressing. 


Like most organizations today, the library has found themselves unable to replace permanent staff that have resigned.  Furthermore, lacking the necessary capital to invest in state of the art automation, they had no choice except to pursue a lean enterprise solution. They immediately began to attack the visible waste.   To learn how to swim, you must get in the water and they proceeded to jump in with both feet.  The eagerness they displayed for learning and adopting lean concepts serves as an example for all.


Their first project was analyzing their check-in process and focused on removing the lean waste of motion and transportation.  In the pre-kaizen current state, the staff staged the material to be checked-in on one side of the workstation then, after check-in, moved the material to the other side of the workstation, before finally placing the material on a cart for re-shelving.  Additionally, the process included re-shelving the material when only 1 of 3 shelves on the cart was full. 


The problems occurring in the pre-kaizen state included …

·      the checked-in material could not be located prior to being re-shelved

·      checked-in and material waiting to be checked-in was frequently comingled

·      the staff was making excess trips to reshelf the material due to underutilized carts


In the post-Kaizen process, the staff moves the checked-in material directly to the cart for re-shelving.  Furthermore, the carts have been colored coded by library location and are moved only when 2 of 3 shelves on the cart are full.  The new process has reduced the number of trips to re-shelve the material by 50%.  The process has also enabled the staff to locate material waiting to be re-shelved and has greatly reduced the risk of comingling unchecked-in material with checked-in material.


At this point some of you may be gasping because the re-shelving is a batch process.  The beauty of lean is that it is adapted to each individual environment.  Lean is not about ensuring use of all the tools, lean is about breakthrough performance and doing what is right for the organization. 


Are there still improvements required? Absolutely, but kudos to my friend and her staff for realizing and addressing the need to change.


Post Author: Royce Williard

Copyright 2009 The Williard Group

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