Lean Learnings # 6 – Why Takt time must be considered ‘Pure’

Over time I have seen may organisations try and put their interpretation on takt time. Most try to put some form of ‘fudge factor’ into the calculation. This is normally so they can accommodate and ‘efficiency ratio’ or some form of equipment efficiency measure. But why do they do this?

Well most of the time it is because the organisation has completely missed the point of using takt time as a tool. Most understand that takt time is the ‘beat of the customer’, but few really understand that is is also a measure of waste within the process.

It’s also an Abnormality management tool………..

Used properly it is very easy to understand the cost of stoppages, for example, if our production line is planned to run for 40 hours and produce 2400 units (takt time = 60 seconds) but we only produced 2000 units, then we have a loss of 400 units. it is very easy to see we would have to run 400 minutes overtime to catch back. This in turn we can attribute a true cost to.  But the reality is that it makes little sense to add cost to the process in this way. So we have to consider another alternative.

Within the Takt time calculation the key phrase is ‘Available time’. It is quite acceptable  to include ‘Planned down-time’ into the calculation so long as it is planned ahead of time.

So we could choose to build into the calculation and amount of time for maintenance and TPM activities to that when we run the process during the planned up-time we can measure the success of our TPM and maintenance.

This is why companies like Toyota do not generally run 3 shift operations. They choose to spend time each day working on preventative maintenance so that when the bulk of the manpower is on site, the lines run to pure takt time. That way they can look for not only at the quality of the equipment maintenance, but also look for small incremental losses. The trick is to have a very good capture system and have the infrastructure to put into place good countermeasures.

The moment you add ‘fudge factors’ into the calculation you are sending the message that some inefficiencies are OK and you loose the ability to put pressure on the organisation to find and fix its inherent abnormalities.

So before you try to make up your own takt time rules, think about the message you are sending and is there a way you can organise the operation in a different way to drive people to improve and look for small losses.

Everyday examples of Lean

I am always on the lookout for everyday examples of lean that I can use in training courses. I think it really drives home the point that it is possible to use lean concepts in everything we do.

I was in a local restaurant the other day looking at the way the waiters went about their tasks. It soon became obvious that some were more efficient that others. Some had time to chat to the guests, while others appeared to be rushing around. I looked at the number of guests and tables they were serving. That appeared to be in balance. I looked at the various stages the meals were at, again all appeared to be reasonably balanced.

The difference was really was quite simple, some waiters were optimising their movements. Every Time they returned to the kitchen, they would clear a table, or at least not return empty handed. The ones that were running around did not. They were having to make twice as many journeys. One to being food out to the guests and a second process to clear plates. Simple.

So in this case improvement is a simple matter of a little training, yet why had it not been spotted and the waiters retrained?

I think the answer is that we get blind to what we do as we go about familiar tasks. Sometimes it makes sense to stop, watch and understand what is going on.

Supervisors and managers in particular need to make time to observe day to day activities and reflect on simple improvements that can be made. This type of improvement activity costs little, but done on a regular basis can overtime significantly improve processes.

Try it. Watch a familiar day to day process and see what you can see.

‘Selling’ 5S to the workforce.

Anybody that has introduced 5S as a concept to the mass ranks of an organisation will know how difficult it can be.  ‘Another flavour of the month’, ‘another thing to fit in’ and ‘when am i supposed to do this’ are amongst the many cries that can come back. But why is this?

The most common mistake organisations make in introducing 5S is failing to link it to the overall message of Lean and Waste removal. All too
often 5S is introduced as a stand alone program with the workplace organisation as its only supporting benefit.

In this case, it is a difficult sell. Leaving only the precise tools and equipment required in an area to perform a specific task, does not go down well when breakdowns and random quality issues are the norm and little is being done to fix them. The majority of people want to do a good
job for the company and keep the process moving, so it is natural for people to want to keep a few spare parts just in case.

In order to succeed 5S needs to be seen as more that just a house keeping tool. It needs to be linked to the bigger picture and to the overall waste identification process. After all that is what it actually is.

So when you are teaching 5S, explain it in those terms. The 1st and 2nd ‘S’ are aimed at setting the process out in such a way that abnormality can be seen quickly. The 3rd and 4th ‘S’ are aimed at trying to look for deeper issues and how a process can be further improved. And finally the 5th ‘S’ is actually all about the entire organisation working to make the process happen.

Also remember, that when a 5S audit is undertaken, it is not really the score that is important (although it does have a place), it is the small opportunities that the team see to improve.


If you would like to know more about 5S why not sign up for the free Kaizentrainer 5S course at


Or read ‘Tools for success’ By Barry Jeffrey and Graham Ross


5S, Great tool, but so often misunderstood

Have you ever tried to implement 5S and received kickback?

I think most people have, if there honest with themselves, But why should this be, after all 5S can only help the workforce can’t it?

I think the truth of the matter, like most aspects of Lean, it is down to local culture and how the tool is deployed. Reading a book and then going out  and implementing 5S really is not the way.

5S will only work if the workforce believes in it as a tool that is useful to them. This means taking time to explain in detail the reasons why 5S can HELP people.

You need to take time to explain that 5S is a waste identification and removal tool, and is there to help find waste at a local level.

In training it needs to be linked to the 7 classic wastes.  5S must not be seen as a house keeping tool, or something that is done when there is a visit. How many times have you heard, ‘Quick the Big Boss’ is visiting today, give the place a quick 5S!’…….Wrong message.

Time needs to be put aside to work locally with the teams as they deploy 5S in their areas. Not just send the middle managers and team
leaders out with audit sheets.

Audit sheets and there use can be one of the ‘make or break’ aspects of how 5S is received. Explain that the score is not the most important
box on the sheet. That honour goes to the area of the form that say’s ‘Opportunities for improvement’. Teams should try and identify just one or two opportunities at a time and work to improve them. They will then see their scores improve over time.  If this is not done, the audit form can become divisive and 5S will start to receive a bad name.

So, 5S, Great tool, make sure it is understood in your organisation!


Lean Learning’s #4 Takt Time

Takt time is one of the most important concepts to grasp in a Lean environment, since it is the principle by which the speed of the process is governed.

The word Takt is derived from the German word for beat. In the case of Lean, this refers to the pace of the process as dictated by the customer. If the customer orders 10, then 10 must be produced, not 9 or 11.

The best way to visualise this is by imagining an orchestra with the conductor at the front. He is the customer. The conductor moves his baton up
and down to indicate the ‘beat’ of the music he requires. The musicians follow this beat, all at the same speed, completely synchronized. If he speeds up, the entire orchestra speeds up with him. As he slows down, so do the musicians.

This is the concept of Takt time. A process should adjust its output based on ‘true’ customer demand and not keep running at its maximum speed.

Takt time can be calculated on virtually every task in a business environment. It can be used in manufacturing e.g. machining parts, drilling holes etc. In administration e.g. processing orders, call centre operations etc or in a production line environment, to pace the line.

When implemented correctly, running a process to Takt time provides many benefits. Just a few of these are:

  •  Since you produce only what is required by the customer, inventory is reduced
  •  Since the ‘product’ moves along the process at a given speed, bottlenecks are easily identified.
  •  Since problem processes are easily identified. repeat issues, like breakdowns, can be understood and fixed.
  •  Since the process moves at a fixed speed, work is balanced across all operators. If it is not bottlenecks will occur.

 A lot of confusion can be generated around Takt time calculations. The simplest way of calculating Takt time is to calculate the Takt time for the output of the process. Work from the perspective of the customer.

In order to calculate Takt time, two pieces of information are required.

  • Available Time – this is the shift time minus any breaks, clean up time etc.
  • The Average Customer Demand – how many does the customer actually require in a given period.

Work in fixed periods (days or weeks) and apply the following calculation.


A store card company receives 2,100 applications per month. And on average they work 20 days per month.

Workers are paid for 7.5 hours per day. They have two 15 minute coffee breaks per day – which are paid.

So the Takt time is calculated as follows:

Available time

From the 7.5 working hours 30 minutes must be deducted (for breaks).            7 hours = 420 minutes

Customer demand

2100 / 20 = 105 applications per day

 Therefore the takt time calculation is as follows:

420 minutes   =   4 minutes


So if we were processing applications to Takt time, you would expect to see an application being processed every 4 minutes. Running with a Takt time of 4 minutes means that the process is set up to deal with the customer demand as efficiently as possible.

This Is an extract from the book Tools for Success, by Barry Jeffrey and Graham Ross. If you would like to know more why not follow the link www.kaizentrainer.com



Lean Learning’s #5 Poka-yoke

The concept Poka-yoke was originally developed as part of the Toyota productions system by  Shigeo Shingo. it is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing”.  By interestingly it was originally named “baka-Yoke”, which has the meaning “Fool-proofing”, but this was quickly changed to the less offensive form.

The name is derived from two Japanese words, Poka meaning “Mistakes” and Yokeru meaning “avoid” and really is applied to any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid making mistakes.  Its purpose is to stop the process at the point where a defect occurs. This has two effects. Firstly and most obviously, it stops the defect from being passed on the other processes further down the
line. But also, secondly it allows an error to be investigated at the very point and time the defect originated. This makes problem solving much easier and allows ‘counter-measures’ to be put in place, thus improving quality.

There are 3 main types of Poka-yoke device:

  1. Contact type, which is designed to identify defects by testing the  product’s shape, size, color, or other physical attributes.
  2. Fixed-value type, which is designed to alert the operator if a certain number  of movements are not made.
  3. Motion-step (or sequence) type,  which tests if the prescribed steps of the process have been followed.

Poka-Yoke and its use is not reserved for business. Examples can be seen in everyday life. Here’s just a few:

Fill a car with Fuel. Look at the area around the Filler flap. There are at least 3 examples of Poka-yoke devices present.

  1. The size of the nozzle varies depending on the type of fuel to stop unleaded being put into a diesel. But you can make the error the other way around, so this is not a perfect example.
  2. When you take the fuel cap off, the cap is tethered to the main body, stopping the motorist driving off having left the cap on the roof!
  3. The Cap is fitted with a ratchet to prevent over tightening.

Circuit breakers in houses are designed to prevent electrical overloads . When the load becomes too great, the circuit is broken.

Computer Leads, Look at the back of any computer and you will see a plethora of leads. All of the leads have different type plugs on them to stop them being fitted into the wrong socket.

ATM Machines, return your card before your cash is dispensed to stop you forgetting it. This one works on the basis you are unlikely to forget your cash !!!

In the UK 240v/50Hz electricity is used. This can injure people so electrical plugs are designed so that live electrical pins are never exposed. Two forms of Poka-yoke are used here:

  1. The ‘3 pins’, Live, neutral and earth are positioned and orientated are such that the plug can only fit one way in the socket.
  2. The pins are insulated near the plug body so that electric shock is not possible when the plug is being  pushed in, this also means that if the plug is not fully inserted the current will still pass, but electric shock is not possible since only the insulated portion of the pins is exposed.

Of course there are many more, but I hope this gives you a few examples you can use in lean training courses, or just impress people at a party with your knowledge of Poka-yoke !

10 skills of a good leader

1.       Workng  with Passion

Most leaders do not really have a passion for the products they produce or for what their organisations really stand for. But you only have to look at leaders like Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Michael Dell to see the power of the passion they all have for their businesses. People within an organisation look to its leadership for direction, belief in the process and guidance. In order to be a good lean leader you need to display passion for what you are doing.

2.       Communicating openly and often

Good leaders convey their belief in the organisation through such actions as attending Kaizen events, visiting customers and opening up direct channels of communication with the workforce. They take time to listen and discuss possible improvements to the process and focus on sending positive messages in a relentless manner

3.       Creating a sense of urgency

In the ever growing global market place and  ever growing threat from competitors, the truth is that no company really needs  to create a sense of urgency. The Job of a good leader is to harness this and  make sure that employees fully understand the gravity of remaining stagnant and  not improving.

4.       Focusing on the Future, not the past

Companies and employees all too often dwell on past failures or rest on past success. A good leader has the ability to look  to the future and begin turning from analysis of the past, to focusing on  finding innovative solutions for customers needs.

5.       Developing good leaders for the future

The ability to take time to find, groom,  train and motivate new leaders for the organisation is a key skill. Thinking to  the future and trengthening the organisation will in the long term underpin  the improvement activities.

6.       Focusing on your customers

Good leaders develop a strong bond with the  customer base. They take time to visit and discuss ideas and issues first hand;  Building up a strong level of trust and teamwork.

7.       Measuring your success

The development of a simple cohesive measurement system that can be easily understood by people in the organisation  at all levels is a core fundamental that a good leader will ensure is  developed. The system must identify metrics that are linked to the strategic goals  and capture the effects of changes to the process. Locally teams must be able  to collect, analyse and develop countermeasures by themselves.

8.       Maintain discipline and focus

After the ‘flavour of the month’ period wears off, employees tend to slip back into old habits all to easily.  Sustaining drive going forward is something a good leader must focus on. Arranging  regular reviews, daily, weekly, and monthly to check the organisations performance in vital to keep the company on track.

9.       Walk the talk

Good leaders to not manage from the office.  They have a high profile in process. Getting involved and demonstrating they  are full committed to the success of the organisation.


10.   Promoting Continuous Improvement daily

Good leaders promote continuous improvement at  every opportunity. They convey the message that every part of a process can be improved, not matter how many times the process has been studied in the past.  Good leaders praise successes whilst demanding further improvements tomorrow.


Kaizentrainer on Linkedin

Did you know that Kaizentrainer has a Linkedin Group ?

Are you a member of the linkedin community ?

if you are, and you are not already a member why not join the group.

The group is dedicated discussing and sharing training materials and ideas and is open to all that have a interest in Lean and continuous Improvement.

Just look for the Kaizentrainer group within Linkedin.

Lean Building Blocks

This is a fun Video explaining Lean through the use of famous building bricks that many of us spent hours with as children.



Lean Learning’s #3 Understanding Value Streams

The ability to produce and interpret Value Stream Maps (VSM’s) is one of the key fundamental Lean tools that any Lean leader of manager should learn.

Let’s look at the use of the Value Stream Mapping tool and how it can help you develop a good strategic plan that will help you both clarify your sequence of activities and the organisation can buy in to.

A value stream is the series of steps both value added and non value added that occur in order that the product or service can be delivered to the customer.

Value streams are normally measured from the point where the customer places and order to the point where the business delivers a product or service to that customer.

Each product or process will have its own value stream since normally the processes, parts, volumes and workforce will vary.

A Value Stream Map is a pictorial representation that looks at all of these issues and assists you in understanding exactly what is going on. Although a Value Stream Map is only a snap in time. It allows you to quantify the actual process and not relay on peoples impressions of where
all the problems lie.  If you were to repeat the Value Stream Mapping exercise on another day, the detail such as the amounts of inventory or the
numbers of quality issues would be different. However in general the Inventory levels, bottle necks and the value add ratio would remain very similar. So do not get bogged down in the very fine detail.

One of the other very important aspects of a VSM is that will help you calculate the ‘Value Added Ratio’. This is a representative ratio of Value Added vs. Non Value Added activities, within the process under investigation.

As a general rule, the process of producing a Value Stream Map is broken down into 7 key stages

  1. Identify the product, product family, or service that is going to be mapped.
  2. Gather together a group of key individuals to work on the map as a team.
  3. Measure the actual state using predefined key metrics. Walk to the  floor and look at the real state, do not use system data.
  4. Using standard symbols, Draw a current state value stream map, which shows the current steps, delays, and information flows required to
    deliver the target product or service.
  5. Assess the current state value stream map. Focus on removing waste, bottleneck processes and think in terms of creating flow.
  6. Brainstorm what would be the ideal state if all the issues were fixed and the team had a clean sheet of paper. Draw this as a future state
    value stream map.
  7. Work toward the future state condition.

This is an extract from ‘Tools for success’by Graham Ross and Barry Jeffrey.  If you would like to know more about Value Stream Mapping and its deployment why not follow the link .

Tools for Success