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.

2 Responses to Everyday examples of Lean

  • Russ Pappert says:

    During my first trip to South Australia, I worked with a automotive supplier in Adelaide. One of the modules was Visual Controls / Workplace Organization. The day before I was to teach that module I took the time to walk outside of the plant to get some ideas that the teams could relate to. Most of the larger cities are close to the ocean, otherwise you are in the Outback. My comments to the class was, what would it be like if there were no traffic lights, no traffic signs, etc. I also talked about the shopping experience at the market. They understood that sometimes they just take things for granted…….

  • Robbie Howarth says:

    As a starter: Just ask people on the training class how would they feel if their partner came home and found out that you had just purchased 10,000 tins of beans and stored them in the garage, and you said well – they were cheap!
    A great opener for discussion on ‘costs of living’ that affects us all and owning a company costs money..!

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