|At the RDS Simmonscourt expo center in Dublin, Ireland.|
June 25, 2016
We presented a "Lean at Origin" introduction at the "World of Coffee" in Dublin. This is the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE's) annual trade show and conference. Ruth Ann Church started with some background on Lean, explaining how it has been entrenched in other global supply chains like automotive and aerospace -- why not coffee? The principles of eliminating waste, empowering employees and improving quality and flow efficiency all hit areas of concern for coffee businesses.
To give the audience a personal understanding of how waste elimination improves efficiency, Church invited participants to do an exercise involving finding a sequence of numbers, 1 - 49, on a sheet of paper - with a 1 minute time limit. The first time through, the numbers are scattered on the page every which way with many unrelated numbers. It's tough to get through! The highest number an audience member could get to was 14. On the next sheet of paper, there are fewer numbers and they are arranged on a grid. This time the participants nearly doubled their "productivity" in the one minute time alotment and the highest number achieved was 29. At this point, Church points out a pattern on the sheet of numbers. You can actually find each number in sequence by starting in the upper left box, then going down that column, then starting at the top of the next column and going down, etc. So the third time through, with only 30 seconds, the participants nearly doubled their productivity again, and achieved the "quota" of circling all 49 numbers in sequence!
From this point, the audience was engaged and able to follow along as Church described tools such as value stream maps (VSM). She showed the first value stream map for a washing station, and how the triangles show where materials (cherry or parchment) waits. This is waste. The VSM is for KOPAKAMA (a cooperative in Rwanda) and their productivity ratio is 25 - 47% -- this is the percent of "value add" time over the "production lead time" or time that is not adding value from the customer's perspective. The 25 - 47% are actually pretty good evidence that KOPAKAMA is run quite efficiently. In manufacturing, it is common for a plant to start it's lean journey with a productivity ratio of <1%. Church anticipates finding many washing stations with ratios at 15 20%. She has visited about 15 washing stations in Rwanda and seen a wide variety of practices.
Next, Church shows the audience how KAIZEN events (improvement projects) are the key tool to eliminate the wastes identified in the VSM. The events require action and passion, not talk! "Try-storming" is a term used to describe the kind of activity that needs to happen for workers implementing a KAIZEN to be successful. "Try-storming" is different than brainstorming, because it is about doing something, not talking about it.
Obviously, employee-led projects like this require training for the employees and the kind of positive organizational leadership that will support and encourage such improvement processes. That is why the Lean at Origin program Artisan Coffee Group is implementing started with Leadership Training and Supervisor Training. Training for all the workers will come in the months leading up to next year's harvest season.
The final point Church makes, is that Lean implementation is guided by the fact there must be an anticipated return on investment (ROI) and therefore there must be metrics. She showed examples of what these look like for KOPAKAMA, including the anticipated $172,000 annual increase in sales, which is a 15% increase of A1-A2 (high quality green coffee) sales.
[Church would like to thank TWIN Trading for their support of the pilot project at KOPAKAMA, and Michigan State University for its generous support with travel funds.]