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Although the concept of My CI (for My Continuous Improvement) is quite simple and straightforward, it is similar to many of the other elements of lean, where the concept is easy to understand but the execution is a bit more difficult. As we at Batesville began the My CI implementation, there were several challenges that we had to work through and questions to be answered. Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that may help you if you plan on starting a program like this one.
Who is involved in My CI?
Everyone is involved and encouraged to participate, from the CEO to temporary employees. We stress leading by example.
How do you announce the start?
After a few planning sessions, we conducted organizational-wide training sessions to make sure every employee understood the need for this program, how it is different from a traditional suggestion program and how the process works. During this half-hour training session, we officially announced the start of the program.
Is training really needed?
Yes. By investing the time, energy and dollars in these training sessions, we insure that everyone gets the same information about My CI. It also sends a strong message that we believe this program is important enough to shut down production or use overtime for training.
When do you conduct the training?
We worked with the management at each site to plan the best way to get all the associates on all shifts through the training in a one- to two-day time period. Some sites required that we train on overtime while others made time during normal working hours.
Who decides if the idea will be implemented?
We encourage the associate and his or her direct supervisor (team leader) to try out the idea first and determine if the idea works. Our My CI process is geared toward getting all of the ideas implemented and keeping decisions at the lowest levels. The key is working with the team leaders on coaching skills to support the process.
Is it difficult to decide?
This has not been a problem when using the lean principles as a guide.
What if an idea fails?
In the words of my Japanese sensei to me when faced with a failure, “Please try again”.
How do you handle the implementation of the approved ideas?
We encourage ideas that can be implemented by the associates themselves. Sometimes we get ideas requiring some outside support from management, maintenance, tooling or even a supplier which turned out for us to be about 50 percent of the time. These ideas took a little longer to implement and we provided the support.
Do you have a designated maintenance team?
No. We use our regularly staffed maintenance team for support. We have learned from other companies that they have successfully formed designated kaizen support teams from hourly associates freed up from kaizen activities to help implement kaizen ideas. It sounds like a great idea that we may try out.
Do you post pictures of the implemented items for everyone to see?
Absolutely! A major component of My CI is employee recognition and sharing ideas. That’s why we created our My CI Kaizen Wall of Fame in the plant where everyone can easily see all the ideas. At one plant, we hold a lunch meeting every Friday with the entire plant staff showing off the ideas from their area that week. We also added the ideas to our communication monitors throughout the plant and post them on our company-wide intranet site.
Do you provide any incentives or rewards for the ideas?
We do not provide any special rewards or money for each idea, only recognition by posting the associates’ picture with their idea on our Kaizen Wall of Fame and public/peer recognition. We also encourage ideas that make their jobs easier and better, which reaps benefits every day. But this does not mean you could not add additional incentives if that works in your company to increase participation.
Do you track the savings generated by the ideas?
No, we only track the participation level on a weekly basis. This metric is one way to reflect our company morale. We believe that if we added the burden of tracking savings that we would create disagreement on how the savings are to be measured. The other reason is that putting a dollar figure to each idea might inhibit people from generating ideas because their idea did not save a lot of money compared to other ideas. Creating an environment to generate lots of ideas by everyone is more important than waiting to implement only “home run” ideas.
About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/.