Nothing Is Ever Perfect So Don t Wait - Just Do It

Nothing Is Ever Perfect So Don't WaitJust Do It!

One last thought to consider as you perform your last-minute checks and a dry run: Look at the readiness of the participants . If they are ready to start the kanban and no significant issues exist, then start the kanban. Nothing is ever perfect. Sometimes we can rationalize ourselves into inaction for an eternity by looking at all the little flaws. You should also remember your role as a coach and mentor. Do not let your own fears keep yourself and the team from implementation.

Startup Issues

As hard as it is to believe (because of the perfect design, excellent planning, and perfect training), you may run into startup issues. These issues usually arise from miscommunications, lack of clarity about roles and responsibility, or not understanding the training. As we said at the beginning of the chapter, take these startup issues in stride and make the necessary corrections. Do not let startup problems cause you to dismiss the benefits of kanban or lose faith in your ability to implement kanban. Once again, identify the problems and make corrections.

To help in getting through these pitfalls, we have listed four of the more common startup problems:

  1. Production operators and supervisors weren't sure the kanban started

  2. Production operators didn't follow the signals

  3. No one knew what to run because the kanban had no yellow signals or too many red signals

  4. Production operators cheated with the signals

To help you deal with these four problems, we have provided their causes and recommended solutions to counter them.

1. Production Operators and Supervisors Weren't Sure the Kanban Had Started

On the shift that starts the kanban, you may find that some or all the operators and supervisors didn't know that the kanban had started. This can occur because they didn't want to know (i.e., they are slow rolling you). Or they truly didn't know because there was a miscommunication . Regardless of what drives this situation, you can avoid it by clearly communicating the startup and any special conditions surrounding the startup. Communication means the posting of memos and having someone personally speak with the startup crew. Remember, you cannot over-communicate and over-coordinate.

2. Production Operators Didn't Follow the Signals

Why don't production operators follow the kanban signals? This may result from one of two reasons:

  • They do not understand the signals

  • They have ignored the signals

To determine which is the cause, you will have to conduct your own investigation. Go about your investigation carefully , since your own behavior can be responsible for "the cause" moving from the first reason to the second (which is real bad).

If you determine that the production operators don't understand the signals, then you need to determine whether the design is unclear or whether the training failed. If the rules are unclear, then make the necessary changes to clarify the uncertainties and conduct retraining .

If you determine that the training failed, then determine how the failure occurred. Once you have the failure identified, make the necessary corrections to the training material and conduct retraining.

Also, be aware that this situation can occur with your material handlers. Just like the production operators, determine the cause and make the necessary corrections.

What do you do when the operators don't follow the signals? This is a special case, which goes beyond simple design flaws. When this situation occurs get the production managers and supervisors involved to resolve the issue. They will need to resolve the problem for you.

If you are the person who must resolve the problem, you will need to differentiate between operators not wanting to operate the kanban and operators using the kanban as an opportunity to support a different agenda. Once you have made this determination, then the path to correction will become clear. As with all situations of this nature, use your own judgment and proceed carefully.

3. No One Knew What to Run Because the Kanban Had No Yellow Signals or Too Many Red Signals

How do you handle the situation where no one knew what to run because there were no yellow signals or there were too many red signals? When this situation occurs, it results from the failure of the kanban's design. You can avoid this problem at startup by making sure the kanban is set up appropriately with adequate inventory levels that allow the process to proceed in an orderly process. If one of these situations occurs after startup, then it signals one of the following conditions:

  • There are too many containers in the kanban (no yellow signals)

  • There are not enough containers in the kanban (too many red signals)

Additionally, it identifies a weakness in the decision rules because either the operators were unable to make a decision with the data available, or no one understood when to call for help.

When you identify which deficiency occurred, make the necessary corrections and conduct retraining.

4. Production Operators Cheated with the Signals

What do you do when you discover the production operators are cheating with signals? First, be glad they understand the design well enough to cheat, then fix the loophole. To discover the cheating will most likely require auditing of the kanban is discussed in Chapter 8.