By Kevin Meyer
Each month in the Superfactory Newsletter I list some interesting lean-oriented news stories. The newsletter that went out a couple days ago had a wide variety… from all the different things we could learn from the Toyota fiasco to companies in high labor cost industries that are succeeding in North America instead of chasing cheap labor, to an article on "designing an efficient kitchen." Guess which one was read the most. The article on the kitchen. Really.
Now I don't know if the subscriber base has a disproportionate number of chef-wannabees, or if the process and value creation aspects of cooking resonate with us manufacturing geeks, but I will agree it was an exceptional article from an unusual source. The author had a very good grasp of lean concepts and leveraged it to show how food service can be improved.
This is a lengthy article, but I wanted to share some parts of it with you.
Realizing that foodservice operations are
similar to manufacturing facilities, many designers apply IE
principles, also know as lean manufacturing, when developing or
Ford was among the first in the U.S. to integrate IE principles into
his auto manufacturing plants with the assembly line. Toyota saw
success with its own lean system that identifies the top seven elements
of waste: transportation, inventory, motion, waiting for the production
step, overproduction, overprocessing and defects.
Food Service & Equipment Magazine channels Ford and Toyota. Go figure. But it really does make sense. First let's map the value stream.
Foodservice designers quantify the
dynamics of an operation through process-mapping production
bottlenecks, says Martinez, who accomplishes this by creating a flow
chart of the kitchen's activity. Martinez looks for excessive parallel
activities, such as servers dropping dirty dishes close to other
servers picking up fresh food, and then suggests ways to prevent
bottlenecks. This focus on each staff member's movements, behaviors and
capabilities is what he calls crew-centric design.
agrees. “You want to take each process and break it down,” he says.
“For example, in a fast-food or casual-dining burger restaurant where
you have 10 employees, you want to make sure there's a value stream
that flows from the cook making the fries to the server serving the
food to the customer enjoying the food. The fry person has to create
value for the burger person who then creates value for the waitstaff
who takes the food to the table.”
Even lean work cell design.
While the linear cooklines found in
most commercial kitchens are representative of Ford's assembly line, a
partially linear setup or U-shape design may better suit his
principles, Ligocki says.
think a big mistake that people make is just assuming kitchens should
be laid out in a straight line,” Ligocki says. “Many forget about
U-shape designs, something you see in office settings where cubicle
desks are rounded, not straight across.”
kitchens or workstations work best in multi-station operations such as
university food courts or similar scatter systems where one cook preps,
prepares and serves the food. In such a setup, everything should be
And the impact of small kaizens.
On one project, Ligocki installed stainless-steel corners near
the receiving door so the operator wouldn't have to repeatedly repair a
wall. Seemingly irrelevant facts such as which way the door opens can
have a big impact on productivity and safety. “Sounds minute, but in
Wisconsin we get a lot of strong southwest winds,” Ligocki says. “You
wouldn't want them blowing in and causing the door to smack someone as
they drop off a delivery.”
Reducing batch size.
One key step in reducing food waste is
inventory control. In the past, kitchens sought to produce a large
amount of food at one time in preparation for a rush of customers.
Large-batch processing isn't appropriate for all operations.
points to a pizza buffet restaurant he helped redesign as a good
example of how large-batch processing can lead to waste and a
poor-quality product. Ligocki
helped the restaurant track its most-discarded product and what types
of pizza the operation's customers preferred. Popular pizzas were then
prepared on larger pans, while smaller pans were reserved for
And pull versus push production.
In many instances, Ligocki subscribes to a push and pull
scenario, where the cook doesn't prepare anything until the order is
in, and the waiting customer is kept happy with good service and/or
self-serve options. An example of this is a bakery-café, where
customers place their orders with cashiers and have the option to fill
drinks and grab condiments while waiting for their food. This setup
distinguishes made-to-order, quick-casual restaurants from traditional
fast-food outlets, where customers get their premade food immediately
after ordering, an example of batch cooking.
The author goes on to describe five steps to create a lean kitchen, key lean terminology, the impact of ergonomics on lean, and a case study of a tapas bar that leveraged lean to be successful with small portions.
Since so many of us can relate to the cooking process or have had to stand in line at McDonald's, this well-written article could be a great training tool. Check it out.