The Lean Thinker's Blog

The Lean Journey

Moral of the Story…

Today I want to share a story. A story which I found in an internal communication within my Company. As I read each sentence, I could tell where the story was going, but it didn’t take away from the sentiment behind the little tale. I urge anyone with a spare 2 minutes to read this paragraph and reflect on how it applies to themselves. Enjoy…

One by one as all the employees reached the office, they saw a big advice notice on the door, on which it was written: “Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the specially prepared conference room. At first, the staff felt sad for the loss of one of their colleagues, but after a while they started getting curious to know who was it that had hindered the growth of their colleagues and the company itself.

The excitement outside the conference room was now quite extreme; it was such a good turn out that the security team allowed one person in as they let another out from a door at the opposite end of the room. As each individual reached the coffin, the more their excitement heated up. Everyone thought: “Who was hindering my progress? One by one the employees got to the coffin, when they looked inside it they suddenly became speechless. They stood nearby the coffin, shocked and in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul. There was a mirror inside the coffin: everyone who looked inside it could see themselves.

There was also a sign next to the mirror that said: “There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth: it is YOU.” You are the only person who can revolutionise your life. You are the only person who can influence your happiness, your realisation and your success. You are the only person who can help yourself. Your life does not change when your boss changes, when your friends change, when your partner changes, when your company changes. Your life changes when YOU change, when you go beyond your limiting beliefs, when you realise that you are the only one responsible for your life.

“The most important relationship you can have is the one you have with yourself”.

Moral: The world is like a mirror: it gives back to anyone the reflection of the thoughts in which they strongly believe. It’s the way you face life that makes the difference.

I’ll leave you with the following, well known, quote:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi


Lean Quote of the Week

Shigeo Shingo – “Time is merely the shadow of motion”

A nice thought provoking quote from Shigeo Shingo. I’ll let you make up your own interpretation on this one.

TheLeanThinker is returning

I have a confession to make. I’ve neglected this blog for some time now, and I’ve missed updating the site with news and topics of interest. Although I’ve not posted in well over a year, I have been busy working hard in the manufacturing world, in varying positions from team leading to planning engineering.

I have since completed my companies graduate scheme, and now I am “officially” a manufacturing engineer. As you can imagine, this role requires a solid knowledge of lean tools and techniques, and my previous 2 years training will be invaluable to my day t day job.

With this new position in mind, I plan on resurrecting theleanthinker blog in order to document the use of lean tools within the manufacturing world, but also to stay up to date with other bloggers and news.

On a side note, I have recently purchased an iPad so updates should be frequent. I am also planning on introducing some posts around lean/business iPad apps, including reviews and suggestions of how you can streamline your workflow through the use of current technologies.

5S in the Warehouse

So a quick update to the situation in the warehouse.  Amongst other implementation plans, we decided to introduce 5S with the support of the management and DCOs (distribution centre operatives).  I will be focusing just upon the 5S implementation we used in this post, and perhaps look at other aspects in future blog posts.

In the standard 5S manner we first looked at sort.  To enable our implementation to be adequately sustained it was vital to gain ‘buy-in’ from all levels of the hierarchy.  We involved DCOs

Sort – The first step is to remove all unnecessary items. 

  • We first looked at the paths which the pickers used.  Although the pickers used zigzag patterns, they would typically loop back upon themselves.  We adjusted the pick route in order to remove this waste.
  • Pickers often took items on their LLOPs (low lift order pickers) which they did not need.  Especially food and drink items, so these items were removed.
  • All forklifts can operate anywhere in the warehouse. Man up order pickers were used to eliminate the need for ladders, and to assist with order picking from level 2 and 3.  
  • To reduce the need for pallet reshuffling the items were placed heavy first, then lighter last.  This also helped the stores at the other end, and they could break down a pallet much more safely.


  • As always with sift:  “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
  • The location of the comms cell was not friendly to the users who needed it on a daily basis, this was moved to a more appropriate place.  It also made sure that the information displayed was easy to access, to improve the usage of it.
  • There was difficulty with items such as breakpack, with pickers unable to identify easily which were breakpack and which items were not.  We addressed this with new clear signage.  Removing old signage, such as “Pick it Right!” – Signs which didn’t help the pickers in the slightest.
  • To prevent the small items falling off LLOPs and dropping through the pallet, we provide blue bins which hygiene filled with empty boxes.  These were then placed at the end of the smaller item aisles to enable the pickers a box to pick into.
  • Red boxes were placed at carefully chosen intervals which were to be used for broken or part-case* stock.  This red box was then owned by the stock office, and they would deal with the items placed in the red box.


  • This was one area in which the warehouse needed little effort.  It already had impressive hygiene, as this was one of the customer KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). 
  • For shine we mainly tried to reduce the amount of food/drink waste deposited in the pickfaces.  This was simple by preventing this type of material to be allowed on the LLOP itself.
  • We also did some small clear up activities in the offices.


  • This is one area which we had considerable work to do.  There were standard processes, however the SOPs were extremely wordy and the employees who were not fluent with English struggled with them.  To combat this we introduced new SOPs, detailing everything they should know, but made them incredibly visual. 
  • There were many areas of the picking procedure which were not covered by an SOP, such as pallet wrapping, breakpack picking, and calling for replenishments.  We combined our observations with the management/DCO knowledge to ensure the SOPs were “best practice” and that they were visually intense.
  • The training process for the pickers was also lacking standard.  With pickers “shadowing” an experienced picker as their training, it was producing a large variance in picker ability.  We understood that a training standard was needed.
  • We created a training syllabus, which would be followed for each new picker, and at each new process, they would be signed off, showing that they had full capability.  Along with this we created a shorter syllabus for current employees, to ensure that we upskilled our current workforce also.
  • In the training syllabus, an instructional video was developed.  This had questions asked throughout the video, to test the new/current pickers and ensure that they are fully understanding their process.  This video also introduced some information about up and downstream, in hope that they would understand how their role affects other areas of the business.
  • The video was another way in which we attempted to address the language barrier, and so far have had some great feedback from various different nationalities.


  • Throughout the project we were adamant that nothing was to be done solely by ourselves.  It is clear that solid customer engagement at all levels is key to sustainment.  Along the way we had quality circles, problem solving events, blue sky visions etc.  These were all ways in which we hoped to engage and pass over the ownership of the newly implemented process and ideas.
  • Along with employee engagement we produced new areas to add onto the workplace audit.  This was to provide a means to monitor the usage, and flag any issues which could be raised.
  • With regards to training, a feedback system was implemented, allowing the pickers to give positive and negative feedback on how they enjoyed the training.  This has been passed over to several TLs who were extremely excited about continually improving the training, as well as the warehouse in general.

As we have only just implemented these changes, I shall leave it there, and write another post in coming weeks to verify how the sustainment and improvement processes are going.

Lean Tweets/Links of the Week 23.11.10

Well as I am yet again behind on my blog posts I thought i’d share a new lean tweets of the week post. Although i’ve not been very active on Twitter recently, I have been regularly adding posts to my favourites so I can share them here.

Hopefully through this type of community sharing of links and articles, all of the people included will benefit. If you aren’t already get following me on twitter TheLeanThinker. I often follow back too, so I may include your best tweets in future LTOTW.

So here goes:

1. A nice funny post to get the list underway:
2. Yet another great post from ALeanJourney:
3. Aim your 5 Why’s well:
4. The lean equation from ALeanJourney:
5. A nice post from Business901 on the best way to go about developing training ideas:

I hope these prove to be enjoyable reads, and if anyone finds some good articles, or other Lean posts feel free to tweet them @TheLeanThinker, or email them to I’ll no doubt include them in next weeks LTOTW.

So What’s New?

Well, I can’t lie, I’ve been terrible in keeping up my regular blog posts. This should be the start of a new ‘era’, so to speak.

So what’s been the delay? Well apart from doing some travelling, ive just recently started a job as a Graduate trainee within an exceptionally good Lean organisation. From now on I shall be regularly updating my blog with new things i am learning, and hopefully providing examples of both good practice and bad practice that i encounter along the way. For personal reasons i won’t be divulging where i work or who the company works with, but I will hopefully be able to include true-life examples, just anonymously.

So after a brief spell of inductions and learning the company principles, our team of 4 graduates have been set a task to improve the pickface accuracy in a warehouse. Currently the accuracy is 35% lower than they would like, so we have been in a deep discovery stage to understand where these inaccuracies are occurring, and what the root cause is.

One thing which i quickly found, was that there was not just one reason, but a whole host of reasons. Reasons such as:

  • Lack of standardised training
  • SOPs are not clear and seldom followed
  • Supplier compliance is poor
  • Products known as breakpack* aren’t clearly labelled
  • Stock-team firefighting by counting large amounts of stock on a daily basis
  • Key terminology such as pyramid picking* just not understood
  • Wrong items in pickfaces
  • Items falling of LLOPs* and potentially created damaged goods.

As you can see there are a number of issues which the team must tackle in the design phase.

I shall update the blog soon with the design phase information, and explain a little more about the plans we intend to implement.

*Breakpack is a product which is shipped in a larger box, and when it is picked from a pickface, the larger box must be opened in order to pick the quantity required from inside.

*Pryamid picking is where pickers pick the boxes closest to them each time, this forms a pyramid shape, with a large stack toward the rear of the pallet, which creates an unsafe pallet.  They tend to fall over as they are unbalanced, losing and breaking products.

*LLOPs are Low Lift Order Pickers.

Lean Tweets/Links of the Week 26.08.10

Again, due to my current travels this is my first blog post for over 5 weeks. I am a little disappointed that i haven’t had the time or internet to add more posts, but that’s the way it goes. For those who may be interested I am on my last leg of my travels, currently in San Francisco, so my usual regular posts should ensue within the coming weeks.

Also as a side note if you aren’t already get following me on twitter, please do as I love being part of a growing network of Lean thinkers: TheLeanThinker. I always follow back Lean/management tweeters, so I may include your best tweets in future LTOTW.

So here goes:

1. A good post which outlines simple steps to take when managing people. Easily printed out for a nice reminder on an office wall:
2. Ive been following this guy for a while on twitter ( and he always includes some great tweets:
3. There have been various tweets and blog posts about the WSJ’s article on Lean, so here is a nice blog post which has sparked some discussion. Perhaps join in with your thoughts:
4. A new blog I found recently via twitter, with this being just part one of many (hopefully):
5. Finally a good post on defining a visual workplace:

I hope these prove to be enjoyable reads, and if anyone finds some good articles, or other Lean posts feel free to tweet them @TheLeanThinker, or email them to I’ll try and include them in next weeks LTOTW.