Learning to See | Mike Rother

Summary of: Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA
By: Mike Rother


Dive into the world of Lean thinking with ‘Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA’ by Mike Rother. This book summary explores the concept of value stream mapping and emphasizes its importance for gaining a value stream perspective, identifying waste, and efficiently improving production processes. Through real-life examples and actionable guidelines, readers will learn how to create both current-state and future-state maps, understand the significance of takt time, and discover strategies for leveling production mix and volume. The book focuses on continuous improvement and the application of Lean principles at both the value stream and process levels.

Embrace Lean Thinking

Adopting a value stream perspective and using tools like value stream mapping can help businesses eliminate waste and improve production. Managers should commit to the entire value stream and focus on both value stream improvement and process-level kaizen. The value stream map allows businesses to identify processes on the shop floor and isolate the parts that need improving. A value stream manager should be appointed to oversee the flow kaizen at every process level. Upfront preparation is essential to avoid costly mistakes when implementing lean thinking.

In the book, the “Just do it!” ethic of Taiichi Ohno and his Toyota colleagues inspire managers to adopt the famous Toyota Production System. However, some companies skip preparatory work and jump into “muda elimination activities,” wasting time and resources unnecessarily. Eliminating waste in one area without considering other areas does not improve overall production. As a result, managers become frustrated and give up too easily. The book advocates for a commitment to the entire value stream to avoid this pitfall.

Value stream mapping, according to the author, is the best way to show the connection between the information and material flow. By analyzing every process on the shop floor, a value stream map identifies the “flow” in a facility and shows sources of waste. It may seem daunting to improve everything at once, but a door-to-door approach to improve the whole value stream and isolate parts that need improvements can lead to significant benefits.

The value stream manager should have a holistic mindset to oversee both value stream improvement and process-level kaizen. Assigning a value stream manager also promotes collaboration between isolated departments that seldom interact. The first deals with information and materials, while the second focuses on people and processes. To get started, businesses should begin with a product family to simplify the map and identify every process from the customer’s perspective. This approach can help businesses avoid costly mistakes and achieve success in implementing lean thinking.

Creating a Map for Lean Enterprise

To improve a product family in a lean enterprise, start with creating a current-state map incorporating clear symbols for flows and processes. Draw the map by hand while walking on the shop floor and measure timing with a stopwatch. The map should show “process boxes,” where self-contained processes stop, causing “muda” or waste. Additional data required includes cycle time, changeover time, on-demand machine uptime, production batch sizes, number of operators and product variations, pack size, working time minus breaks, and scrap rate. Calculate all times in seconds. Lean measures include how often a part is completed in a process, how much value-creating time is spent, and how long it takes for one piece to move through the system.

Eliminating Overproduction

In the book, the author emphasizes how overproduction is the opposite of Lean, and Toyota’s vigilance against it is its hallmark. Most facilities rely on production schedules that change daily, making a smooth workflow impossible. This results in the accumulation of inventory, which wastes space, overwhelms processes, and lengthens lead time. The author suggests mapping the facility’s current state to discover places where inventory accumulates. By understanding waste, discovering root causes, and eliminating waste at the source, you can eliminate overproduction. The author encourages readers to ask themselves how they can flow information so that one process will make only what the next process needs, when it needs it. To achieve this, readers should indicate with arrows where material is “pushed” along the shop floor on the map where they have placed process boxes with necessary process data, and compile a “production lead time” timeline. By comparing the lead time with value-added processes, readers can identify areas they need to improve.

Principles of Lean Value Stream Mapping

Lean value stream mapping involves identifying critical mapping information such as material movements that are pushed by the producer, not pulled by the customer. The guidelines include producing to takt time, developing continuous flow wherever possible, using “supermarket” pull systems to control production, sending the customer schedule to only one production process, and leveling the production mix and volume. The goal is to achieve a delicate balance to make every part every day (EPE) by shortening changeover times and running smaller batches to more nimbly adjust to downstream needs.

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