Fries with that? | PLANT

What McDonalds teaches us about robust, lean processes.

What’s a significant difference between the Toyota Production System (TPS) and most others? Do we truly understand the root objective? Consider this thought: brilliant processes managed by average people versus average processes managed by brilliant people.

Many of the TPS tools focus on the identification and elimination of waste, but there is more to it. Toyota’s robust processes allow it to expand quickly, while delivering predictable results.

McDonalds is another corporation that embraced this concept early in its evolution. It recognized the employee model would be high turnover, with lots of teenagers, most of whom would be employed for the first time. The global fast food company designed brilliant processes that could be managed by average and temporary employees, some of whom working just a few hours per week. Remember hearing all of the bells and buzzers going off? Is this not the ultimate of standard work combined with error proofing? Remember looking at the cleaning check-lists mounted in their washrooms? McDonalds presented us with a good operational model even before we were exposed to Toyota.

In almost every industry sector there is much concern about the aging workforce and how knowledge will be transferred uninterrupted without a detrimental impact on products or services. Apply the following key principals and tools to strengthen your processes:

Workplace organization (5S+1). A place for everything and everything in its place. Support training so an employee enters the work area and clearly understands the function and how it is to be performed.

Value stream mapping. One of the best tools to create eyes for flow and waste. It’s a great vehicle for the identification and prioritization of projects that will achieve the perfect process. Have your team look at the maps to identify how to migrate to brilliant processes that average people can manage.

Error proofing (pokeyoke). This tool prevents errors from occurring, but the same process manages standard work and takt time. Just look at the buzzers McDonalds uses for its fryers and heating trays to deliver a consistent product to the customers.

Standard work. Establish the cadence of required tasks to create predictable and repeatable results.

Visual standard work instructions. This excellent methodology captures tribal knowledge that can be repeated and replicated by average employees. It’s also an excellent opportunity to review processes and ensure simplicity has been integrated.

Automation. It’s a good thing, but it also adds another level of complexity. Make sure the automation solution is designed correctly to ensure the brilliant process can be managed by average people.

Review the task lists of your leadership team. How much of the time is spent on: reactive versus pro-active management; the development of people; and harvesting and implementation of new, simpler ideas?

A good KPI of a brilliant process is the activities of the maintenance department. How much time is spent reacting to urgent requests to repair broken processes versus conducting scheduled preventive maintenance?

Mc-lean your plant
No matter where you travel in the world, McDonalds serves up a consistent, predictable experience. Here are five lean preparation steps that will help you do the same:

1. Stability. Implement a quality management system to stabilize product quality. Standardize work to stabilize delivery lead-times. Manage suppliers for stable delivery. Ensure maximum machine availability.

2. Management alignment. Ensure that the whole management team is aligned with the lean strategy. Reorganize by product family. Remove anchor draggers. Leadership from the top is essential.

3. Union alignment. Ensure union buy-in by sharing the lean vision and give assurances not to retrench, if required. Train union members in lean principles. Create an all-inclusive steering committee.

4. Training and communication. Train all role players in lean principles and techniques, such as value stream mapping, and operator balance charts. Communicate the lean vision to the whole organization.

5. Measurement and incentives. Carefully choose new measurements for managers and operations. These measurements must support lean implementation, such as lead-time, set-up time and inventory reduction. Apply even more care to the design of new improvement incentives based on gain sharing.

Applying lean principles and tools help build the kind of robust processes that have made Toyota and McDonalds so successful, and all managed by average people. Brilliant.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter and helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions. Visit E-mail

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This article appears in the Nov/Dec. 2013 edition of PLANT.