Archives for category: Value Added Work

I have done some work in job shops and there have been many creative ways of creating pull and flow. I just saw one that was pretty impressive to me. I am not able to share images but hopefully I can do the process justice.

The shop was tight but I think it was more of an issue with finished goods and raw materials than the actual WIP processing area. The building was oddly shaped as well but they used the space effectively.

The incoming raw materials came in and an individual set up the order and which flow lane to start with. There were only 3 general types and there were some shared operations. The raw material was put on carts with wheels. This made it easy to move the equipment around and from the ergonomics point of view, it helped the techs work with the equipment.

There were lanes that were color coded to guide the equipment to each work cell. Each work cell had between 1 and 3 techs performing their work on the units. 85% of their needed materials were stored at the work center and Kanban cards were used for reordering. The Kanbans were usually handled by an individual that checked and filled the individual storage areas.

Not only did the tape on the floor indicate by color and location the assembly line, there was also marks on the floor for parking lots and WIP cap. There were several spots in front of a work cell that would only let 2 units be parked in front of the process before the previous process would stop. There was cross trained techs who could follow the work in such a situation.

The leadership had been working on this process for several years and then review the process quarterly. They have found that not only is raw material lower and throughput up, but variation related to cycle time and quality defects have been reduced by 30%.

The visibility on the floor, though not immediate due to the size of the equipment, is very good and from the mezzanine one can see where there is pull, flow and bottle necks in less than a minute.

The team has done a great job on organization, pull and flow with very little spending for materials. The spending was related to time spent with techs and leadership working on the details, modifying as needed and developing the tools, such as wheel carts to safely and effectively moving the units. Like the old commercial stated – Money for materials, less than $100, developing pull and flow at the job shop – Priceless.







My family and I love to go fishing. Most of our weekends are spent fishing somewhere as well as our vacations. We normally go for whatever is available in the ocean, lake or river. Sometimes bass, sometimes walleye or trout or blue fish. We do catch and release fishing so others can enjoy the experience as well. I get several people offering me new techniques and lures to catch the big one. I just like fishing but I do try some of the lures. Below is an image of some of the different types lures.

Frogs for lily pads. Crank baits, spinner baits, rooster tails, shad raps which are not pictured below and others that are used in specific conditions. It is amazing how many options there are. And this is just for bass let alone saltwater blue fish or drum or any other species. With these lures comes the technique to use them. Some you just crank them in, some you just float and have them “hop” on the top of the water, some you let them sink and crank a turn and then repeat. Are these techniques and lures statistically significant in catching fish? I don’t know but I am working with others on that question. One thing I do know is that it gets you into the store and gives you options on the water when what you are currently using is not working.

Bass Fishing Lures


Then there is catfish. I am sure there is just as much variation and subtleties to catfish fishing as there is to bass or any other species. What I will say, in my families experience, is that a bass hook, a 1/2 to 1 ounce sinker and a hot dog will bust you some serious hogs!

Hot Dogs

We have caught catfish in several lakes and ponds with this “rig” and have never needed to go back to the bait tackle store for something else. We just go to the local grocery store and buy the doggers. We usually by double so that we can eat some over the fire after the fishing day is done.

I have friends and family that have been fishing for decades longer than I have and have all the experience needed to bring in what ever fish they want to catch. What I find interesting is that when someone gives me the inside scoop on a lure / technique combination and they give me some bright lure with an instruction manual ala Ikea, I feel funny handing over an 8 pack of Ball Park Franks and telling them just drop them on the bottom and relax until they hit. But whether they are impressed or not, it works. That’s what I find sometimes when I am working on a project that I could have some great tools that wows the crowd during a presentation and show them how smart the team is but I would rather just show them how easy it can be to accomplish their goals. Sometimes it takes ANOVA analysis to get to the bottom of an issue. Sometimes it takes going out into the field and watching the process and giving some suggestions or using what the employee feels as pain points to resolve and issue. Just because you have the statistical hammer doesn’t mean everything has to be a complicated nail.




I will be the first one to say that I want to make a large improvement without any expense or capital. I have always stated that the requirements of money to improve a process is like hedging my bets. It is like saying Lean Six Sigma isn’t enough. I hate that idea and yet I find that without some kind of commitment from the leadership or organization, it is difficult to make the changes stick and change the culture. This investment comes in a few forms that I will explain below.

Resources. Though this rarely shows up as money, when chartering the process improvement or the scope and team, make sure you determine, to the best of your ability, who needs to be involved and, more importantly, how much time will they need to commit to on a weekly basis for this project to be successful. This will force the organization to free up the resources and take items off the teams plate for the duration of the project. Good stuff but that turns into dollars just like anything else.

SME Time. This is Subject Matter Experts time. This is the time needed for individuals in the organization that are not on the team but have real expertise in an item that is within scope and the team is lacking knowledge. This time, once again, can be hard to estimate but it must be done prior to the project kicking off. This is sometimes even more difficult to pull off for leadership or organization because the SME’s time is critical. The leadership will really have skin in the game if they do this as long as they carve out the time and make it flexible based on the project team’s needs. If the leadership states that the SME will have to “work it in” and not take anything off their plate because of the cost to the business you have your answer about their commitment.

Real $’s. Not that I want this to make process changes but doing this means a couple of items. The organization has committed to whatever the money is to ensure this will work. This is above and beyond the spend on your services if you are a consultant or contractor. This also means that the leadership has had a discussion about the needs of the organization and what they want out of the project.

In the end, I don’t want to money and resources to “help me” to improve the process. I want the money and resources to gage if the company is honest about what they want to do and have skin in the game during and after the event to make it stick.

How many projects do you work on that the leadership ask you two quarters later if you are sustaining the gains? Hopefully, more than I have through my career. One tool that I find that is not used often enough are the 1-sided and 2-sided t-tests. These tests can prove that the team’s work has been statistically significant from the perspective. I will be setting up a Vlop shortly to explain, with an example of a t-test but below is a discussion related to the uses of the tool rather than the mechanics.

t-tests should be used when testing if there is a change. This is part of the baseline data / measure phase. This will show you when your pilots have a statistically significant change in the metric. Many statistically astute leaders know this but don’t use this as a tool to track process improvements. It is not as slick as DOE’s and ANOVA’s to see where there are issues but those tools aren’t as easy to understand and, from my perspective, limited in use.

t-tests can easily be shown throughout the process life cycle. From baseline data through control, the t-test can show improvement. This can be used for almost any audience too. I have used this with Finance teams to see if there has been sustained improvement that leads to an individual G/L account. I have used this with parts of HR organizations related to talent acquisition, Outsourcing effectiveness, and payroll transactions. I have had to explain this with some groups but I have not had any say that this doesn’t make sense or not a key part of understanding improvement.

t-tests as trigger points. As an example, every week we check downtime as it relates to production. If the t-test shows that the average downtime is greater than the standard, move into corrective action, root cause analysis, countermeasure.

t-tests should be used to recognize improvements during a project, report out findings at the end of an improvement cycle as well as a dashboard metric to know if the process is staying on track or not.


There is an increase drive to eliminate reports in large organizations. So much time spent putting them together and who is looking at them let alone is there anything actionable being address or even triggered. It goes without saying that as systems gain the ability to track more, the more is usually noise not signal. I have been in meetings and discussions about rationalizing reports but I find that the discussion looks at quantity and who receives it. All good stuff but I think there are other questions that need to be asked.

What are the metrics and information that drive the business? This is a different question than do you use this report and, if so, what do you look at. Driving the business and the risks to that business are the only items that should be tracked. This type of discussion, across the organization, will create metrics that everyone shares and needs to be focused on. This takes longer and multiple parts of the organization need to be at the table but this will create a discussion and understanding across the organization. Total Landed Cost is one that can unite multiple parts of the team. This will create better meetings and better decisions across the supply chain. This will eliminate 50% of the reporting requirements and streamline discussions.

How much time and/or resources are required to generate these reports? This is better than discussing the number of reports or different types. This recognizes the fact that reports aren’t free and that making them “personalized” for each “leader” is a waste. How many times have you experienced someone stating that they focus on this set of metrics or I like mine in columns versus rows? Does the leader have to defend this to the wider organization? Do they work with their peers to find the format that works? Rarely. What work does this eliminate? This is a question I ask before I put together any report. If it is going to be business as usual, I recommend that the report does not get developed.

What are you going to do with the information? What is actionable? This is better than what do you do this report. So many reports are related to FYI reports or nice to know. I know there are reports that leaders think are actionable. “Johnny, this number stinks. Fix it.” That is not actionable. Actionable means that you having triggers that once they are reached, there are corrective actions and countermeasures as well as root cause analysis that need to set up to support the report.

The report problem needs to be solved but not by making them easier or doing fewer of them. You need to decide what is important, track it and develop improvements when needed.


When we are approaching problems we usually look at the Value Added and non-Value Added time and actions in a given process. Do you step back and do that for your process and your work? Tim Ferriss and others have brought this up many times and though I hear I have had a hard time implementing it. I have gotten better at this with a couple of strategies and one may call exceptions.

If you are like me sometimes it is hard to determine what is value and what isn’t. Is it value added to help a co-worker? Is it value added to volunteer for a team project? Is there a limit to what you will work on for your manager? I will discuss these items from my perspective and I am sure there are other points of view as well.

Helping co-workers is a quandary when it comes to value add or not. I think instead of a series of questions.Will this help the team or just the individual? Is this a monkey on their back from someone else or a legitimate need? Is this something that your coworker struggles with or something that is well within their skill set. Also, why are they asking this of you and not something else? Do you have a value add task that stops you from helping? From this kind of review, one can make a better decisions related to “helping.”

Helping the team is another item that comes up. I have looked at this probably differently from most and this may stray from the true theme of value added activity. First, will this challenge me or will I learn a new skill or skills? If yes, I am in. If not, I need to think more about it. Is anyone else signing up for it? If not, once again, my assumption is that I will learn something new about myself potentially than a new skill. Anyone raising their hand? No, I am in. The last item is related to what I am working on. If I am struggling or have a deadline or in the middle of learning, I will usually take a pass. I have done when I have been moving into other roles and finishing up a big project, I will not sign up.

When your manager asks you for help, one would usually just say, no problem. I do have a couple of questions for managers that may help you make a better decision as well as improve your relationship with your manager or in other words, your customer. First, what do you think I bring to this task or what will I learn from this experience? This is a better phrased question than the “Why me?” question. Secondly, it should give you insight into not only what you can get out of it but what your manager thinks of you in relation to the other team members. The next question is internal. Do you think you can perform this project effectively? In the past I have signed up for tasks that I haven’t performed well and my other work has suffered as well. I no longer do that. If I can’t pull it off, I say that. “It sounds like a great opportunity and I have two other projects that are going that I would like to complete before taking on this task.” If they still want you to do it, make sure they understand the risks to current work load as well as the task that is going to be added.

When looking at value added work for yourself remember that there are external customer needs and internal needs that need to be evaluated and reviewed before deciding if it is values added or not and then balancing that against current workload. And remember, in true Ferriss fashion, you and your family and your interests are part of the workload as well. There is no amount of money that will let you trade time with family and friends.




Reports are in important. This is hard to write when doing a continuous improvement blog but there is some value that can be extracted from them from time to time. I would state also that about 80 to 85% of them being produced in any enterprise are not useful and a total waste of resources. Here are my criteria for a useful report. Please send me your thoughts as well.

Who are the customers of the report? This may seem obvious but who wants this report but I have had at least one experience where I was working on metrics and report development and at least 2 or 3 measures or items did not seem relevant to the report. Once I voiced these concerns to the leader of the project, he stated, “Well, it’s your report, don’t use that information if you don’t want to.” My report? I sat at my desk for a long time thinking about that one. Only give the customer what they want, right? But make sure, initially, you understand what the report is supposed to drive before picking measurements and font sizes. Is it an FYI report meaning that it is replacing a meeting? Is it an all hands on deck report where if some aspect of the operation is struggling this report shows where? Is it a trend report that uses leading indicators to shows potential issues before they come up? From these questions, one can ascertain what measurements to use. The customer should always pick the fonts, frames and color schemes after the measurements are chosen.

Where are the measurements coming from? Is the information easy to get to? Is it reliable? Have you tested the information to make sure it actually is signaling something or is it just noise or a nice to have? Once again, charts and graphs are usually the easy part. What is hard is reviewing and ensuring that the data to information transition is reliable and there are processes in place to signal when there is an issue. I realize that pushing a button on SAP or other ERP or database system is easy to get but one really needs to get to where the data and information actually occurs. Is it a P-card transaction in a purchasing agent’s wallet? Does it occur when an employee swipes a pallet license plate? You should know what creates the information and the risks associated with it. We were doing a cycle count report once and just prior to the annual review we found a large discrepancy in one of the intermediates at the site. When we got to the production floor and started to map the process we found out that an individual who was relatively new to the process had printed out product stickers and they got smudged or damaged. Instead of voiding the labels, the individual just printed more. That 5 minute mistake took over 40 hours of research and phone calls to resolve.

Several other points that I have found important is how often or when does the report need to be available. I know that everything should be ad hoc reporting in real time but virtually all the organizations I have worked with either have a batch load in the middle of the night or a homemade Access database that only has date range and production line drop downs.

Reporting is sometimes a necessary evil but wherever possible try to add some relevance and value to the exercise.