Everyday examples of Lean
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.