By Kevin Meyer
Sometimes we forget that in the lean world value, and waste, is defined from the perspective of the customer. An article in a recent HPM Consortium newsletter does a good job of reminding us how important that perspective is.
Our good friend, Bob Bloomer, at Safran
Electronics in Peterborough, sent the following along. It
verifies that there is NOTHING that Lean Thinking cannot
be applied. This gives rise to the need to prioritize the
focus. With a smile, Bob reminds us through the following
case study, that generating value through lean very much
depends upon the vision you hold and the priorities you
select to ensure your customers’ success. Here it is:
Just watching a live performance of the Nutcracker
Ballet combines music, dancing, and story into a unique
experience. Unfortunately, for a critical Lean thinker, the
entire event is riddled with non-value added activities.
First, consider the music. A trained Lean observer can’t
help but notice the poor use of manpower in the orchestra.
For example, the first violin section has eight musicians
playing exactly the same notes. This is classic duplication
of labor and could be solved by having one well-trained
artist for each instrument. Furthermore, many passages of
music are repeated several times, often with only minor
variations. By simply eliminating duplicate musical phrases the cycle time of the entire performance could be reduced
by over 40%.
The dancing offers opportunities for significant
efficiency. In many cases the dancers enter from one side
and, instead of proceeding directly to their point of exit,
they swirl about making a variety of wasteful motions.
Occasionally – and this is difficult for a Lean technician to
believe – one dancer will even lift and carry a second
dancer! Obviously, the dancer being carried is totally
unnecessary to the process.
Also, there is a totally non-value added position called
the director. This person’s only contribution to the
performance is to swing a short wooden rod to keep time.
This role could be more efficiently performed by an
inexpensive metronome or, for visual control, by a strobe
Finally, the stage setting shows very little evidence of
standardization. There is a huge variation in colors of all
of the scenery and stage props. It is almost as though the
designers went out of their way to utilize every color
imaginable. Significant money could be saved by simply
standardizing on a pleasant, industrial gray color scheme.
In summary, some simple Lean techniques could
reduce the cycle time and labor content of a traditional
Nutcracker performance making it a much more
efficient and value-added experience.
I don't know about you, but I'll take the longer version, with the multiple violinist, and the director. It holds value, at least to me.