Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chaku Chaku doesn't apply here

It’s probably because of my tool and die background, but Chaku Chaku and SMED are a couple of my favorite lean concepts. In the manufacturing environment they often involve making some tool or fixture and any excuse to fire up the welder and make chips on the mill is a good thing.

Chaku chaku means load load and it is often applied when creating cellular arrangements of work centers. Typically, the orientation of a part is critical during the setup for an operation. The part needs to face a certain way, be rotated against a stop and be fully seated and clamped. Whatever those things are, there are usually several steps and they require some degree of dexterity and thought (more on this and SMED in a later post). However, the removal of the part does not require any huge cognitive power or dexterity. Therefore, identify the simple tasks, like unloading a machine, that can be quickly, cheaply and reliably automated. Then leave the higher level thinking to the workers and set up the system so that more of their time is spent actually thinking.

Once the easy stuff, unloading, is automated, the team member can load several machines instead of just loading and unloading one machine. Now they are providing more value to the company, doing more interesting work, able to spend more time inspecting and they get a better understanding of the value stream since they are involved in multiple steps within the process. I always picture it like this:

Load = Duck and Unload = Goose. When chaku chaku is applied, you get Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, but no Goose (which is usually a good thing!)

‘Yeah, but I don’t make widgets and chaku chaku just sounds funny so I know it doesn’t apply here.’

Okay, so let’s think about what chaku chaku is trying to do. First, it’s separating tasks into the categories of high skill and low skill. Then it is removing the burden of the low skill tasks from the team member.

“Do you do any simple, mind numbing, repetitive tasks?” So eliminate them! There should have been a huge red flag going up as you asked yourself, ‘so you think we should automate all those tasks? Isn’t that just automating waste, which hides it?’ Yes it is, and I’m glad you’ve been paying attention and no that’s not what I was getting at.

Optimize your process by eliminating waste. Then when you’re left with value added and necessary non value added tasks, figure out which one’s truly require your intelligence to perform. This is often the decisions and the analysis. Identify and isolate these items. Look at the other items and see if there are easy ways to standardize and automate them.

The automation can be a simple macro that pulls data from multiple spreadsheets giving you more time to analyze the data. This can be applied to when you log onto your companies online HR vacation system or IT help desk ticket system. Chances are, you’re already logged into the system, so why do you have to fill out who you are, your id number, cost center and mother’s maiden name? Why can’t this information be auto filled and give employees more time to explain what they want? I’ve seen programmers apply chaku chaku by automating their tests, giving them more time for crazy stuff like coding and use case development.

Chaku chaku enables the knowledge worker to focus on, well knowledge. Yea, it’s a funny name but the concept is powerful and can greatly improve the productivity, engagement and satisfaction of your team.

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