Mar 22, 2013

In business improvement, the small stuff = BIG DEAL

My guest blogger today is Antonio Ferraro. He talks about the benefit of starting small to get big results...

If you’re like many others out there, you’re probably familiar with the phrases “Don’t sweat the small stuff” or “There are bigger rocks to climb.” While in some situations these concepts still ring true, when it comes to business and improvement they are quite the opposite. It tends to be the small things that lead the way to the biggest impact and offer the most valuable changes. If you think about it, it is pretty hard to accomplish big tasks when there are so many small details that need to be resolved.

Accomplishing the small stuff with lean
The concept of lean focuses on eliminating waste while also improving customer value. When implementing lean, many businesses look inward at their practices and processes and search for areas in need of improvement or streamlining. It is in this stage that the brainstorming starts -- how to make processes more efficient while also reducing waste. Many small objectives are put into place in order to save time, money, resources, etc. This is where accomplishing the small stuff will start to make a big difference. In the lean mindset, it really is about implementing minor changes and the minor changes eventually snowball into big changes with larger rewards.

Making a big impact with small changes
To really understand the potential benefits of making small and lean changes to a business practice, let’s discuss an example. The owner of an auto shop is tired of losing valuable employee work time and necessary tools for the job because of tools being routinely misplaced by mechanics. It is common for the mechanics to use a tool for a job and set it down, so others cannot find it when they need it. Mechanics have been complaining about losing up to twenty minutes of work time in search of just one basic tool.

In order to combat this situation, the owner investigates a lean concept known as 5S (a Japanese-derived concept which focuses on maintaining a neat and organized workspace). The shop owner thinks keeping tools in place could help solve the issue of lost production time. It will also help save money by not having to keep ordering duplicate tools.

One of the first 5S tactics employed within the shop is the use of a foam tool organizer, these are often customizable and able to help establish a clear landing location for tools so they are not misplaced. The owner shows employees how it works so they can see how it may make their work easier by keeping tools where they are needed. However, it is important to remember that even though the tactic of using a tool organizer was put into place, it doesn’t mean that it will be completely successful. A very important component of lean is striving for continuous improvement, so the owner and employees agree to try out the organizer, monitor changes in lost work time, and evaluate its success for both employees and the business.

The possibilities are endless
When you really stop and take the time to think about the small changes that you could make in your own life you will be able to take note of the larger payback that will come afterwards. For instance, something little such as flossing your teeth each day will help prevent tooth decay. Eating healthier may help prevent a heart condition. And in the industrial world using something simple such as a foam tool organizer will not only help save lost time looking for tools, but also save the cost of buying extra ones. The small stuff really does make a big deal, and when you start with the small stuff the possibilities are truly endless.

About the author
Antonio Ferraro says, “I believe for positive change to happen, we must actively seek out areas in need of improvement. I strive to provide helpful information about 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. An organized, safe, and well-planned workspace leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.” Website:

1 comment:

Robert Drescher said...

Antonio has it right, though many organizations are chasing after big victories, the reality is that constant small ones will in the end take you much farther. Lean is like any lourney you have to take it one step at a time and just keep taking the next one.

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