December 23, 2009

"Lean" consultants take their work home with them ... literally

Think "lean" is just for manufacturing or logistics operations? Think again.

By DC Velocity Staff

"Lean," the Toyota-developed system for eliminating waste and increasing efficiency in processes and production, has earned a reputation for revolutionizing manufacturing and related operations. But few have tried applying lean principles to the daily household routine —unless they happen to work for LeanCor. Two recent issues of the consulting firm's monthly electronic newsletter, "The Lean Digest," featured humorous articles by employees about their attempts to apply lean thinking on the domestic front.

In October, Vimal Patel described how he applied the "pull replenishment" concept to the task of feeding his one-month-old son. Designating the baby the "customer" and his cries the "demand signal," Patel established a routine that would ensure an even flow of warm milk —delivered just in time, of course —and replace exactly what was consumed.

In November, Roger Pearce wrote about using lean to avoid holiday disasters. He conducted a failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) of his family's Thanksgiving preparations, identifying potential weak spots and developing a contingency plan. Working with his mother and sister, he determined that the turkey was most at risk of failure. The solution: cook two birds. "I argued at first that it would be overproduction," Pearce wrote, "but my mom quickly offered the rebuttal that it is safety stock to protect us against events of special cause variation." ("Special cause variation" refers to unexpected events, like a cousin's dog getting wrapped up in the tablecloth and pulling the turkey off the table.)

The newsletter promised another "lean holiday tip" for Christmas, but it was not yet available at press time. (Planned for JIT delivery on Christmas Eve, perhaps?)

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