Fix Low Hanging Fruit To Build Momentum

Posted by on Jan 19, 2020 in Continuous Improvement, Gemba Walk, Kaizen, Project Scoping | 0 comments

When starting any improvement initiative, it’s important to have early successes in your efforts.  The saying, “Nothing motivates a team like success” is so very true.  If a team has to wait months before it sees improvement in the process it’s working on, there will likely be a drop in motivation for the team.  To make sure this doesn’t happen teams should begin working on some of the obvious things in the process that need fixing, typically known as “low-hanging fruit.”

One of the pit-falls with this approach is that it may cause the process to vary more than normal due to “tinkering” the team may do.  To avoid making things worse, the team should fix things that are obvious and that their data show are really causing problems.

Let’s take an example where a team has produced a process map and in doing so they uncover a bottleneck in the process.  In this case the team should make some improvements which can have the result of shortening the cycle time and possibly reduce errors made by taking shortcuts to get the work completed on time.  The risk to tinkering in this case is small.  The team will need to measure the impact of their improvement to make sure it has the desired affect.

Another example might be the discovery when observing a process that someone has to leave their desk and retrieve a file from a cabinet in a store room across the hall.  During the discussion you find out that the person has to make several trips a day to get files and return them.  A low-hanging fruit improvement would be to move the file cabinet nearer to the employee’s desk so that walking time can be reduced or eliminated.  These improvements require little or no expense, training, or time to implement.

Where to find low-hanging fruit

Many low-hanging fruit projects can be found during “gemba walks.”  During your gemba walk you can observe what’s actually going on and ask employees what can be done to make their job easier.  This is also a great opportunity for management to show employees that they value their input when making process improvements.

Other opportunities can present themselves as kaizen events where process wastes are identified and eliminated.  Many times the waste that results from TIM WOODS sources are easily identified and eliminated.  Again, the team should observe the process and take action on those improvements that will provide quick successes.

5S projects are another source of low-hanging fruit improvements.  Having a place for everything and everything in its place doesn’t take a whole lot of effort and expense, but the gains can be substantial.  Many of these projects reduce search time, cycle time, inventory cost, waiting, excess motion and transportation.

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