Takt Time – The Silent Metronome

Every production floor has a beat.  When I walk into an assembly or production plant for the first time I can always sense it’s internal beat.  You may not actually hear it bit it’s there and it’s a direct reflection of Takt time.


Takt time is, roughly speaking, the amount of time each process step has to take to meet customer demand.  If a pizza shop is busy with customers at the noon hour, it’s Takt time must be very low (time to make a pizza) to keep up with customer demand.  When customers leave and demand is reduced, Takt time can be increased (up to a point because I still want to eat in a reasonable amount of time).

Takt Time = Total available time for production  / Customer Demand 

In the dark days before Lean and Continuous Improvement, we responded to increased customer demand with more work stations, more equipment and more people.  It was a reptilian response, we didn’t think much about the long term affects we just did it.  By simply scaling up, it made us weaker.  Customers are fickle, demand goes up and down all the time.  If you’ve scaled up on a peak then you have an incredible burden when demand drops.  The additional work stations and equipment are under-used and the employees may need to be laid off – horrible stuff.

When Lean and 5S are employed to reduce Takt time, your organization stays nimble.  We reduce waste with Lean and 5S and by doing so the amount of time to perform a process is reduced – this reduces Takt time.  You did it without scaling up, rather it was acheived at little or no expense.  Now when demand invariably drops (hopefully temporarily) you can respond without drastic measure.

Your plant’s metronome (Takt Time) can now be adjusted easily to accommodate customer demand.

Takt Time, 5S, Lean

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Culture Change – Things will never be the same after 5S

Things will never be the same after 5S

5S and Culture Change


True Story:    The first time I led a 5S event I was nervous.  The night before I went to bed nervous, thinking about the next day.  “What if no one wants to do it” I thought? The next day I rounded up a small group of production associates as “volunteers” for the plant’s first 5S event.  They didn’t know it, but this hapless group were pioneers.


The plan was to clean and organize only the 1st station of a 9 station assembly line. This was “pilot” run.

At first there was resistance and grumbling. After a few hours, this subsided. At this point, they were going through the motion (“hostile obedience” I call it).  Their hearts weren’t in it but they completed the first step of 5S.  We pulled everything out of the work space and placed it in to a nearby aisle (Sort).

Things get worse.

Then we combed through all the items and the mood got hostile. “You want us to throw all these tools away but still get the job done”?! This was getting rough.  At that moment someone yelled out “I just found the same tool again”!  It was a magical moment.  We found a double for a tool that was considered “precious”.  Then a triple, then a ….Some tools had 5 identical matches! How could anything be precious if there were 5 of them? How did we not know there were so many duplicates? Simple – the place was a disorganized mess.  This event energized my small band.  Soon they were busy on their own accord organizing and cleaning everything at the station with renewed energy.  At the end of the day our 1st workstation was 5S finished.  The day was coming to a close and my phone rang.  It was from a customer that needed me to visit their plant.  “I need to travel tomorrow, we’ll finish the next stations when I get back” I told them.  I was upset as I knew our team’s momentum would evaporate.

When I returned to work I went immediately to the assembly line.  I looked for the work we had completed prior and to my surprise my “pilot” team had taken it upon themselves to continue the 5S work.  They had progressed to station #4 while the boss had been away.  In a short period of time we went from hostility to a passionate embrace of 5S. The team embraced 5S – the culture had changed.

I couldn’t stop the 5S momentum in the plant if I wanted to.  The plant adopted it as their own.

Managers and company stakeholders push 5S because they see the benefits in productivity and profit.  Truth is, 5S makes it a better place to work and employees value it.  Once employees see the benefits of 5S they won’t support, they will demand it.

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5S – What is it?

Trust me, the first 5S project in your organization will be a lot of work, so will the last.  The difference is over time your organization’s culture will be transformed and everyone will be behind it.

Sort – Everything is removed from the work area – everything.  Then you sort through each item and red tag only the items that are absolutely necessary. It’s just like pulling everything out of your garage, putting it all on the driveway and only keeping the kids toys that they still play with.

Set – Put it back but only the items you kept from the Sort step.  The key to this step is to remember – Everything has it’s place.  This is where shadow boards and team tool tents are vital.  All items must be visible, out in the open and readily accessible.  If items are covered or hidden from view the disorganization will come right back.

Shine – Clean the area, really clean it and then clean it again.  Why shouldn’t your shop look like an operating room?

Standardize – Standardize work methods.  All the clutter has been eliminated, the tools are readily available and everything is clean! Finally, proper work practices can be developed.

Sustain – Keep it going.  This is the hardest part.  Proof that 5S has taken hold in your organization and has become a part of the culture – management doesn’t push 5S but rather, employees demand it.  Successful 5S provides a work environment that allows you to be safer, faster, better and leaner.

– David

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 Embego – Driving waste out of your shop.

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