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What Working in the Garage Taught Me About Lean Tools

As a kid I spent a good part of my summer vacations in my grandpa's garage. He would buy old cars from salvage yards, fix them back up, and sell them. The best part is, he let me help. At least I like to think I was being helpful, but in all honesty I was just a nine year old holding a flashlight while Grandpa taught me how to swear while he was elbow deep in an old Mercury Sable.

One thing I learned out in that garage was the importance of having the right tools for the job. Whether it was replacing a radiator, changing the oil, or adjusting the tension on a serpentine belt, the right tool was the difference between a quick and simple fix and a wasted day covered in engine grease with nothing to show for it.

Tools are simply force multipliers. They take effort, concentrate it, and apply it with precision to a problem. A rusted bolt is impossible to get with just your hands. But grab a wrench and maybe some WD-40, and now that rusted bolt is easy work. You still use your hands, but the wrench is able to multiply that force and apply it in a focused way to that stuck bolt. Having the right tools increases your abilities to solve problems exponentially.

The same applies to your business's lean efforts. Having the right tools available multiplies your efforts towards operational excellence. As you and your team go about reducing waste and pursuing quality benchmarks, you need tools to get the most out of those efforts. Otherwise it's just like trying to unscrew a rusted bolt with just your hand.

Here's a quick rundown of Lean tools your team will find handy:

  1. Issues Management System - A good issues management system (IMS) is vitally important. While were all working as hard as we can to make sure our manufacturing processes are as seamless as possible, issues will arise and this is where an IMS can make all the difference. By tracking issues you can see how often they arise, how severe they are. An IMS gives you the ability to do deep problem solving to uncover the real cause of the problem. It'll help you manage solutions. Issues may require multiple solutions and those will need to be managed from inception to roll-out.

  2. Lean Team Development - Your team is striving towards lean excellence. A Lean Team Development application gives you the ability to track your teams progress towards that goal. You can set benchmarks. It should allow you to create and facilitate Kaizen events. Lean Team Development apps should be instrumental in creating a culture of lean thinking in your organization.

  3. Standard Work - The ability to standardize procedures across operators ensures that work is done the right way every time. Having a system in place to create, publish, and maintain that standard work makes all the difference between your standard work documents being a mixed bag of spreadsheets and a robust and cohesive system that can adapt and grow with your business. A good standard work system sets the foundation for achieving operational excellence in your team.

So that's a quick list of some of our favorite lean tools that we think every company looking to achieve lean excellence should be looking into. What are some of yours? Leave your answers in the comments. Also check our own lineup of Lean Tools here!

Have great one!


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