It is amazing how people adopt to “lean” instinctively, without any planning, or knowledge of the cliches and tools spruiked by consultants (including myself). People are pretty sensible when left to themselves, they do not build waste into a system deliberately. Usually when failure occurs, there is a system in place that fails under pressure, or someones ego is  involved.

On Sunday my local tennis club took our turn to have a BBQ at the local chain hardware store (Thanks Bunnings) in an effort to raise the funds to keep our historic grass courts going. Most grass courts have been beaten by the maintanence costs, and have been replaced by various low maintanence surfaces, but there is still nothing like grass, so we hang in there!

It takes about 10 minutes to cook a sausage (cycle time) so when we got going, the cooks organised themselves so that sausages were progressively rolled across the hotplate so that they were cooked by the time they got to the end, at about the time they were stuffed into a bun for a customer.  They  had a lean JIT process going.

As the morning progressed, and demand increased, the cooks responded by adding a second row to the hotplate, and varying the number of sausages being  cooked (WIP)at any time in the second row according to the demand. It still took 10 minutes to cook a sausage, but only a few minutes to adjust the number being cooked as demand changed. This increase in the demand is reflected in what is called, in Lean parlance, Takt time, or the amount of time you have to allocate to a process so that it meets the demand from the market.

Nobody was directing this evolution of this simple BBQ production line, it was just common sense, so sensible people just made it happen. It occurred to me, not for the first time,  that the various forms of waste that end up in operational systems are there largely because the demand is not clearly communicated to those running the systems, and so they just cover their arses with inventory, and allow silly practices to evolve and get in the way of demand transparency.

Left on their own, people will instinctively respond to the apparent demand, so why not just give them the information and let them get on with it.