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Topic Title: What % of time should people spend on continuous improvement?
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Created On: 07/01/2011 01:53 PM
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07/05/2011 09:18 AM
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Steve24
Steve Howell



What is a good benchmark for the % of time on a regular basis that operators, supervisors and managers should spend on continuous improvement? (please specify if daily, weekly or monthly).

Also, would anyone be willing to share specific examples (or general categories) of this regular continuous improvement work?

And on this same topic, does anyone know what the % breakdown is at Toyota for operators, supervisors, and managers? And on the other end of the spectrum, what is the % breakdown for these roles at a company that is just staring on their lean journey?

For a company where people spend that vast majority of their time just getting the work out the door and very very little time is spent on continuous improvement, what have people succesfully done to free people's time up to work on CI?

Thanks in advance!!
07/05/2011 10:03 AM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



Steve,

If you create a culture where CI is part of everyday tasks, then the only time that needs to be set aside is for workshops. Make PDCA part of everyone's job, everyday.

Ken
07/06/2011 09:52 AM
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Robert_ELSE_Inc
Robert Drescher



Hi Steve

Let me expand on Ken's comment. If Continuous Improvement becomes a cultural attitude instead of a flavour of the month business tool. It will become part of everyone's being and thinking when that happens the time spent on CI becomes 100%, even if they do not do it by active thought processes their subconscious will be working on it, when that happens you have unleashed the force you are truly after.

Conscious efforts are alway limited in their results, but our subconscious is far more powerful, and often far more creative, the goal is to tying into that part of everyone. When anyone or any organization can get to that point they will become an unstoppable force.

Robert Drescher
ELSE Inc.
07/06/2011 04:42 PM
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173454
Jeff Hajek



Steve,

I'm a bit more specific in my recomnendations than Ken and Robert. I'd suggest you start with about 4 hours per week (10%) per person spent on continuous improvement. It might be just a few minutes per day one week, with one person on a team gone for a kaizen blitz the next week, but 10% is a good starting point. From there, adjust up or down as needed. If you spend more time and are still getting good savings, keep it up, as it is time well spent. You'll find, though, that there is a diminishing return as the coaches, mentors, and other resources get spread too thin. When you get to that point, dial back your investment.

For early projects, try to standardize some basic support tasks that can be easily taught to a temp. (Taking out trash, faxing, filing, etc.) This will make it easy to bring in help to free up a person to work on CI projects. Bring in a temp for a few weeks to release the permanent team to do some projects, eventually eliminating the need for the temp(s) while still keeping a bit of capacity for improvements.

Your biggest challenge will likely be adding CI time into the staffing equations. If you don't, though, there won't be any capacity to actually do projects.

Good luck.
Jeff Hajek
Velaction Continuous Improvement
07/07/2011 09:16 AM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



Steve,

I would be careful about setting aside "X" number of hours per week. What can happen is that as soon as the number is reached, things stop and then restart the next week.

If leadership is truly serious, then they will dedicate the resources (people) necessary to get the improvements implemented, without time limitations. If that meane others picking up the slack via job rotation or overtime, then so be it, as it's a short term investment for long term gains. Also, not everyone can go out and hire temps to cover for some of the more menial tasks.

Again, it's about making CI a part of everyday culture.

Ken
07/07/2011 01:50 PM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



Steve,

Something I forgot to add: Remember that Kaizen does not have a set amount of time to realize it, but it is a lifetime effort. It is about educating people, and this requires whatever resources are needed.

Ken
07/07/2011 01:50 PM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Steve, I personally feel a little uneasy about settig a specific time limit for working on improvements. I suspect that's because I may be thinking of improvements more broadly than the definition of continuous improvement warrants. In other words, I think of improvements as including both major and rminor improvements, not just minor, many of them critical enough that they need to be accomplished immediately.

The APICS definition for continuous process improvement is: A never-ending effort to expose and eliminate root causes of problems: small-step improvement as opposed to big-step improvement.

I'm reminded of the ANDON cord that employees are supposed to pull when they see a problem or a potential problem. The purpose of the cord is to provide continuous improvement but there is usually no time limit to correcting the problem. The situation in the majority of casess must be corrected immediately I suspect or else the line may have to be shut down, especially on automotive production lines. Another way at looking at the urgency of implementing improvements is to analyze the cost of not doing so immediately.

I would think the biggest challenge in implementing continuous improvement is to identify what potential improvements exist, determine the amount of time and resources needed to implement each one, rank the improvements in declining order of magnitude of benefits, and then schedule the top 3-5 improvements that are providing the biggest benefits for as long as it takes to accomplish them. The number of improvements selected is usually a function of the availability of time, labor, and other resources and the urgency of completing the improvements.

This can be done on a weekly basis for example. Don't worry about the improvements that weren't selected because next week a new list can be compiled that includes the previous improvements that were not selected as well as new identified improvements. A new schedule would then by prepared. And of course, if there are only a few improvements, the selection process would be greatly simplified.

Sam Tomas
07/07/2011 03:15 PM
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233399
Kadri Kristjuhan



Steve,

Whatever it takes. Count results, not the time it takes. The goal is not to "sit in an improvement corner and think of improvements" but to have actual changes made to your processes, products, etc. Also, a complicated problem to solve which takes a long time to figure out is not necessarily the one which gives the biggst impact to the company. Thus focus on the volume of improvements made, not on the time each (or a sum of them) takes to work on.

Good results outside of Japan are 12 implemented improvement suggestions per employee per year and in Japan 60+ implemented improvement suggestions per employee per year.

Best regards,

Kadri
07/08/2011 09:43 AM
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KyleMeyers
Kyle Meyers



I could actually document some interesting results in my facility about this topic. To set the stage, let me give some background. We have a well established Continuous Improvement Program which has helped us become very successful. We evaluate each team on a regular basis where we look at participation, number of improvements, and impact of improvements. Also, we have a standing commitment from our management that we will invest (we want everyone to know that this is a conscious expenditure) at least one hour per person per week for continuous improvement, including temporary workers. Teams are encouraged to meet on a regular basis to work on projects in teams.

Here is where it gets interesting. The teams that regularly use the one hour meeting time, are very successful. Their meetings typically consist of 15 minutes of team discussion, 30 minutes of working in smaller teams on projects, and 15 minutes of team wrap-up. Outside of that meeting, they regularly identify other improvements that they implement themselves and bring back to the team. Teams that do not do so well often skip their meeting. Improvement mentality is not kept in the forefront of their minds and most people on the team struggle. The lack of improvements affects their personal evaluations.

The answer to your question: I canot tell you how many hours a week the "good" teams spend on CI. All I can tell you is that it is a significant amount because it is always in their minds and they are looking for opportunities to improve. I can give a better estimate of the "not so good" teams because it is very low.

The moral of the story: As people have mentioned, CI should be a part of the culture and be a continuous and constant mindset. The time you need to determine in your situation is not how many hours for CI but rather how much to invest to create or maintain that culture.
07/08/2011 11:44 AM
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173454
Jeff Hajek



Steve,

I think the problem comes when you don't plan for the time you will be working on CI efforts. It is nice to say to put it in the culture, but if production requirements + continuous improvement efforts + vacations + sick time + meetings + etc. add up to more than 40 hours per week, then you have to do some planning.

You don't want to have to rely on overtime for CI efforts, which is essentially saying you are treating it as a side job. It has to be built into your staffing plan. The time has to be budgeted. The principle is to make daily improvements part of the culture, but the practical application of that is that there has to be time available to do that. You need to consider how much time you are going to budget to it, so you know how many people need to be on the team. Being diligent in your planning in no way negates the principle that daily improvement should be part of your job. On the contrary, it makes it more likely that your team will believe you are practicing what you preach if they see that you don't expect them to have to figure out how to fit it into the work day.

Kyle makes some great points. 1) consistency is key. Not doing CI regularly in a planned way turns it into a side job, which means it is not important. 2) The 10% number I gave is just a starting point. You'll find out quickly if it is right or not based on how your team does. Adjust up or down as needed, but just make sure the time is accounted for in your staffing. And also be sure the time is not too low to make meaningful changes. 3) The time is an investment, and just like the dollars going into a 401K, the time doesn't just magically appear. You need a plan (then you need to Do-Check-Act).

Regards,
Jeff Hajek
Velaction Continuous Improvement
07/08/2011 02:38 PM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



I think there are a couple of points being missed here:

1) Workshops are a scheduled event, so yes, that is a form of putting time aside for the participants. Commonly this involves 3 to 5 days. However, at several companies that I have visited (and my own), there is not a set amount of time set aside because a) You don't know what issues and constraints will arise in a given time, whether it be in a quarter or year, or whatever, and b) workshops tend to spawn other workshops. So, I go back to my point of if leadership is serious, they will give whatever time it takes.

2) Impacts to production requirements can and do happen when workshops are occuring. So, there may be times when overtime is needed to meet the production requirements, not do the workshops.

By the way, my previous post about Kaizen being a lifetime effort, reqquiring whatever resources are needed, was something I learned recently from Sugiyama-Sensei from Shingijutsu. They seem to get it right most all of the time. :-)
07/11/2011 09:26 AM
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MitchEppley
Mitchell Eppley



Hi Steve,

One recommendation from a version of flow that I learned was to staff the line for 120% of the requirements to maintain TAKT. The extra 20% was allotted for Kaizen, cross-training, team building, and other activities beyond standard work.

Mitch
07/11/2011 09:26 AM
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ldenglish
Louis English



Steve,
I can see from you questions that you do not have a pilot site to seek for yourself the answers to these questions. The concerns about time and time distribution are old line financial questions that don't make much sense when you get through your lean journey. In actuality when you are done your employees, managers, leadership, support staff are working 100% on CI. It is the way you manage the place. You don't have a name for the way you manage you place today. Well in the future you will and it will be called CI, Kaizen, Lean, Six Sigma or better your company's Production System. Workers will be paid tot their observation skills, standards discipline, problem solving, creative ideas for waste reduction, systematic testing before standardization, production board eduction, teamwork support, training on and off line. product knowledge, President's Message support all while working to standard to get a quality product to the next downstream customer. Staff will be paid to support and train all this. Leadership will be paid to lead all this in a strategic direction. God forbid you may find your workers taking stuff home to work on improvements all on their own.
07/11/2011 09:26 AM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Does anyone have any answers to the following questions?.

1. Regardless of how many improvements a Japanese employee comes up with in a given time period, as reported by their automotive industry, are there any figures for how many improvements on the average are found by employees of U.S. companies - and in what industries?

2. How do companies continuously find oppportunities for improvement?

3. After a conmpany first starts a continuous improvement program and has picked all the lowest hanging fruit first, the obvious ones, how do they then continuously find new improvement opportunities?

4. How do companies determine which improvements to work on assuming they have a large number of them?

5. How do companies motivate employees to conribute to improvement programs continuously?

6. Are there any eye-opening success stories that have been reported?

7. How do companies define continuous improvement in terms of what is required to make a program continuous?

8. Are there any statistics on the average dollar value of benefits that were obtained. In other words, how successful were they from a profitability point of view?

Thanks,
Sam Tomas
07/11/2011 11:55 AM
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Robert_Simonis
Robert Simonis



Steve,

You have had several answers already but, I wanted to take a little bit different direction.

I aim to have 40% of a supervisor's (group leader's) day spent on continuous improvement actions (at the line or system level). The team leader spends about 50% of their day in direct labor and about 25% in ensuring standard work is being performed and about 25% is problem solving (at the cell level). The operator is spending NO time, or very little time, on problem solving; their job is to perform standard work, to takt. If the operators are performing standard work to takt time there isn't any time for anything else, including continuous improvement, unless they are involved in a kaizen or other activity scheduled instead of their regular duties.

I hope this is closer to an answer to your question.
07/20/2011 10:48 AM
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76002
Soin Singh



Hello Steve
Great question. 'From my experience in manufacturing and quality, there is no fixed number. As most of the guy's have mentioned correctly, it has to be part of the culture. Nevertheless, I have attached the Itoh time management model which I have used as a guide. It should apply to both a young operation or a mature operation like Toyota. Cheers.
07/22/2011 02:56 PM
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TamaraCvetkovic
Tamara Cvetkovic



Hi All
Does changing current culture in to Lean culture include changing employees that are not willing to follow it? How do you deal with negative attitude? " I'm doing this job for 20 years and why should I change it now? " or " I have 3 more years to retirement I'm too old to learn new things or change anything. " or "What else you want from me for the money you pay me.
I have feeling that attitude comes with the background too in some causes. Asian people live to work and Europeans work to live. How do you discipline people, motivate them to participate in changing the culture in to Lean?
07/28/2011 04:59 PM
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Steve24
Steve Howell



Thank you to everyone for your input to my questions!

That's exacly the kind of information I was hopng for.

Thanks again!
02/12/2020 09:32 AM
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BilelTaleb
Bilel Taleb



Steve,

If we will specify the frequency of the improvement ideas, we will not speak about a CIP (continuous improvement process). May be it will be a DIP (daily IP) or a WIP (Weekly) or a MIP (Monthly).
So here the meaning of Continuous is "ALWAYS". Always we are improving.
02/28/2020 12:53 PM
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82482
Graham Hill



Hi Steve
An interesting question.
The quick answer is that there shouldn't be a set amount of time put aside for Kaizen activities.
In a previous life, I was Head of Customer Relationship Management for Toyota Financial Services. Kaizen, using Hoshin Kanri A3s and Nemawashi was part of everybody's day-job. At least in theory. In practice, only a minority of staff used it regularly to identify improvements, develop them using an A3 and implement them. The majority of staff did not identify many improvements.
In our CRM department we instituted a weekly Kaizen process incorporating multi-variate experiments as a way to continuously improve our marketing campaigns. The results were beyond expectations. For example, a Vehicle Repurchase Campaign (buy a new Toyota, with financing and insurance) started off with a 10% response rate. By the end of the year with over 50 improvements made, the campaign had changed radically and achieved a peak 35% response rate!
This particular campaign had an interesting twist. During a weekly call with Japan at the start of the campaign, I suggested that it was probably capable of a 30% response rate. To my horror, the next day, my Japanese colleagues had set the campaign target at 30%! Faced with such a huge stretch goal, we had to become very pro-active about finding ways to make a big step-change in our response rate. We spent a lot of time talking to everybody involved in the campaigning 'system' to understand how it worked, the bits we could improve, what experiments we could run and how to get everybody involved. Each set of improvements identified new opportunities to improve things further. And so it went on, week-in, week-out, until we reached our 30% target.
What are the takeaways from this real-life story?
Firstly, not everyone is going to make lots of improvement suggestions. Find those that are and give them the tools to help them.
Secondly, introduce a structured Kaizen process and make it part of the way of working. The process will get the most out of those who do have suggestions.
And finally, set yourself a stretch goals to achieve over time and work hard, every week, at achieving it.
If you want to understand Toyota's approach to Kaizen better, I can recommend Yuso Yasuda (1990), '40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System' which describes it in detail. The book is out of print but you can find second-hand copies on Amazon (where I bought mine).
Dr. Graham Hill