Learning to see…again

Mike Rother and John Shook taught us how to create a highly visual roadmap using a value stream mapping process in their popular book,

Learning to See.  Their website, lean.org, describes value-stream map as a paper-and-pencil representation of every process in the material and information flow, along with key data. 

World Class organizations use value stream mapping, although often electronically, to create a picture of the entire production process, both value and non-value-creating activities.

Another excellent tool for learning to see inside of the value steam, specifically at a single process is the Observation Sheet – Repeating Cycles. This powerful tool allows you to see details related to cyclical and periodic work. It serves two incredibly valuable functions; it highlights waste within each step and it begins to define the cycle that can eventually be turned into the standard practice for everyone.

Highlights Waste within Each Step

The Observation Sheet – Repeating Cycles is designed to capture the observed time for each step of a process for 7 cycles (a cycle is all of the steps from the start of one new unit back to the start of the next new unit).  It becomes possible to see the variation in each step with as much as 7 observed times. 

The observer may be amazed to find that one of the steps can swing in time as much as 50%. For example, the observer may see that a single step – grinding – may take as much as 60 minutes or as little as 30 minutes.  The cause of this type of variation is important to understand when trying to improve or stabilize a process, flow path, or plant.

Defines the Cycle that can Eventually be Turned into the Standard

The Observation Sheet – Repeating Cycles is designed to capture the observed time for each step of a process for 7 cycles.  It is now possible to calculate the lowest repeatable time for each step.  The lowest repeatable time is defined as the lowest time that the observation shows can be repeated.  So, in the following list of times the lowest repeatable time is 9….

                        Observed times for a specific step – 8   11   9   13   12   9   10

The observation of 9 is not the lowest time, but is it is the lowest time that was actually repeated.

If we add up the lowest repeatable times for each step, we begin to see the potential standardized time for the observed cycle. 

Help your organization learn to see again with this valuable observation tool.  If you would like some help – please let us know. We would love to learn with you.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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