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Making the Case for Quality

Workspace Overhaul Streamlines Inventory Control,

Boosts Efficiency
by Jeanne Chircop
At a Glance . . .
Workers at a U.S. Navy
ship-repair facility in Japan
reaped multiple benefits
from straightening up
and reorganizing their
workspace.
The newly configured
workspace allowed the
facility to cut inventory,
improve workplace safety,
cut cycle time significantly,
and save money.

A little housekeeping went a long way for the men in charge of rigging-gear inventory at the U.S. Naval
Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF/JRMC), Yokosuka detachment.
By straightening and organizing their workspace, they:




Reduced inventory by just under 30 percent.


More than tripled usable floor space.
Significantly improved workplace safety.
Cut cycle time by nearly a third.
Saved in excess of $115,000.

Its no wonder theyre called the Lean Dream Team. Nor is it any surprise their model will now
be followed at a sister SRF-JRMC detachment in Sasebo, Japan, and at Naval Facilities Engineering
Command (NAVFAC) Far East, which is also located in Yokosuka and serves both the Navy and U.S.
Marine Corps.
Whats more, Naval Sea Systems Commandthe technical authority for ship maintenance and
repairis spearheading similar Lean implementation within the entire Navy maintenance community.

Parts Are at the Heart


Yokosuka is the Navys largest supply center in the western Pacific. Former home to Japans Imperial
Navy, the port city hosts several U.S. military installations that protect both the United States and
Japan. These facilities, including SRF-JRMC Yokosuka, exist as a result of a cooperative defense labor
contract signed by the two nations at the conclusion of World War II.
At SRF-JRMC Yokosuka, the seven men comprising the Lean Dream Team are in charge of the Rigging
& Handling Operations Division Gear Room. They supply rigging gear for all of the production shops at
SRF-JRMC Yokosuka that work to keep the U.S. Seventh Fleet operationally functional at all times.
Inefficiency and waste in the gear roomin many ways the heart of the repair cyclecan spill over
and create inefficiency throughout the entire maintenance process. Thats a key reason why the SRFJRMC Crane Department selected the Yokosuka gear room team to conduct a pilot program in Lean
implementation.

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Lean Dream Team


Mitsuyoshi Kimura
(Team Leader)
Masami Kikuchi
Hirotaka Iiyama
Akihiro Abe
Dwight McClelland
Jay Enriquez
Bryan Kato

Like the SRF-JRMC itself, Lean enterprise


traces its roots to World War II. At the end
of the war, Allied forces worked with local
industry to rebuild the nation using Training
Within Industry (TWI) techniques developed by the U.S. War Department. TWI
techniques are highly effective at achieving
rapid training, process implementation, and
improvement at manufacturing facilities.
The TWI process of Lean implementation
trains employees to explore possible waste
in seven areas of the manufacturing process:

Overproduction: producing more material than needed or


before its needed.
Excess inventories: material takes up space, costs money, and
potentially can be damaged.
Waiting: long periods of waiting for people, information, or
goods can increase lead time and costs without adding value.
Defects: imperfect or damaged products cause rework,
impede workflow, and cause wasteful handling.
Motion: unnecessary movement of raw goods, products, or
services wastes work effort and time.
Transportation: moving material between work sites does not
add value.
Processing: over-engineering, inspections, and layers of
document review might be unnecessary to the final outcome.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Brainstorming
5S (sort, set in order, sweep and shine, standardize, sustain)
Time studies
Data collection
Spaghetti diagrams
Value Stream Maps (VSM)

Brainstorming
Quality training at SRF-JRMC Yokosuka had taught employees that
a work group can come up with many ideas quickly through smallgroup brainstorming. Members of the Lean Dream Team used this
method as the first step in their improvement effort to identify:
Key stakeholders
Impact on stakeholders
Root causes
Through brainstorming, team members pinpointed the SRF-JRMC
Yokosuka production shops as their primary customers (key stakeholders). They agreed that the primary areas of impact on their
customers involved timeliness, productivity, cost, and technical
compliance. Among shop workers, safety and expertise were key.
They also agreed that improvement in their shop would require
better processes for parts management, storage, and access; more
efficient use of space; and better scheduling of work projects.

The 5Ss
Correctly implemented, Lean enterprise results in:




Inventory reduction
Cycle-time reduction
Standardized high quality
Increased work productivity through improved scheduling
Enhanced customer satisfaction

The production shops at SRF-JRMC Yokosuka estimated they


required approximately 5,000 rigging parts in order to meet the
facilitys ship repair and maintenance mission. The gear room
housed more than 7,000 items, many of which had not moved
in months. In addition, the facility had only three inspectors to
serve all maintenance orders, and no additional manpower could
be authorized. Clearly, streamlining the work performed in the
gear room to eliminate wasted time and effort could speed the
process and aid the productivity of the inspectors.

A TEAM Approach
For the Lean Dream Team, the word TEAM means Together,
Everyone Achieves More. For their improvement challenge,
team members had a goal of achieving more productivity with
less inventory, time, and effort.
The team used six different process tools and methods to analyze
their existing levels of efficiency, identify root causes of inefficiencies, and devise solutions for addressing wasted time and effort:

One of the most effective process improvement tools for managing inventory is composed of a series of five steps, all of which
begin with the letter S in both English and Japanese:




Sort (Seiri)
Set in order (Seiton)
Sweep and shine (Seisou)
Standardize (Seiketsu)
Sustain (Sitsuke)

The first three steps are done at the beginning of a project in


order to fully understand the inventory and how much of it there
is. The last two occur after the improvement strategy is devised.
The Lean Dream Team started by sorting the parts in their shop.
Members used paper tags to mark and sort items. If a part had not
been used within 30 days, it was removed from the gear room and
placed in long-term storage. The only items allowed to remain in
the gear room were parts, tools, and necessary instructions.
The next order of business was to find a place for everything, or in
other words, to set the shop in order. An integral step in the proc
ess was to sweep and shine the area before putting things away.

Time Studies
Conducting time studies of all maintenance processes provided
the team with baseline data on cycle times. These data enabled

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the team to identify waste and understand how to better balance


their work schedule.

Figure 2 Current State Value Stream Map

Data Collection

Customer
Request

In addition to studying cycle times, team members also analyzed


check-in/out data records to baseline how long parts generally stayed
in the gear room before they
The Importance of Ground Rules
were needed. The exercise
also helped them identify
Establishing ground rules for team
which parts were needed most
discussions helps a group avoid conflicts.
often and by whom.
Lean Dream Team members used these
as their guidelines:

Team member rank and/or privileges


are equal.
All team members must respect the
opinions of others.
Only one person talks at a time.
Avoid side conversations.
Avoid tangents.
Keep an open mind at all times.

During this phase, team


members also surveyed
their customers. The conversations confirmed which
parts were most needed, and
helped the team learn what
customers perceived as
challenges or areas within
the gear room that needed
improvement.

Spaghetti Diagrams
A spaghetti diagram shows the physical layout of a shop with
distances between workstations marked and workflow patterns
indicated. Observing and measuring the distances workers traveled
within the shop helped the team identify wasted effort. It also helped
workers identify workstations that could be relocated, so they would
be closer to the other areas those workers routinely used.

Figure 1 Spaghetti Diagram of Issue Process

Gear
available

Retrieve
Gear

Change gear

Form is
filled in

Substitute?

POC
signature

No Issue

Wrong
Gear

Addition

Form is
filed

Long term

Manager
PC input

Issue
Gear

VSM of their existing workflow, they realized the current work


process was far too complex.
By using these six process tools and techniques, Lean Dream
Team members identified the following root causes for waste
and inefficiency in their shop:





Excess inventory
Disorganized parts storage
Inefficient layout of workstations
Complexity in workflow
Scheduling conflicts
Unnecessary paperwork

They also identified several safety hazards, including excessive


noise levels and tripping hazards. Heavy equipment lifting also
posed a risk to workers.
To eliminate these root causes of waste, the team again turned to
brainstorming and a method known as imagineering. Members
were asked to envision and describe the perfect gear room
and the perfect process for supplying inventory. Causes were
matched to proposed solutions and then prioritized. Solutions
that could be rapidly implemented were assigned high priority,
and those that required more time or analysis were placed in the
parking lot to be revisited later.

Cycle of Improvement
The Lean Improvement Life Cycle is based on the wellestablished Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.

Value Stream Maps


A Value Stream Map (VSM) is a flowchart used to document a
process. VSMs help determine measure points and data collection needs. They also help to identify whether steps add value
to the process. Some steps do not provide direct value but are
nevertheless essential to getting the work done (such as recordkeeping). When the Lean Dream Team members completed a

The Lean Dream Team completed the first phaseplanningwith


minimal impact on its customers. To implement devised changes,
however, the gear room would have to close, at least for brief periods. Because regular work had to continue and also because team
members wanted to avoid analysis paralysis, they worked hard to
achieve rapid implementation of the devised improvements. Short,
scheduled closings enabled the team to continue supplying their
customers with rigging gear while also creating chunks of time the
team could devote exclusively to improving their shop.

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Figure 3 PDCA Cycle

Figure 4 Original Floor Space

Act
9. Capture Improvements
& Standardize
10. Evaluate Team
& Next Steps

Plan
1. Select Focus Problem
2. Gather Data & Investigate
3. Identify Root Causes
4. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
5. Develop Solution Plan

Maintenance
space
226 ft
Storage space
1126 ft

Continuous
Improvement

Do
6. Implement
Solution Plan

Check
7. Verify Results
(Compare with 2. Above)
8. Confirm Acceptance

Inspection
space
202 ft

Figure 5 Redesigned Floor Space


?

Team members quickly set about reorganizing their entire shop.


They:
Rearranged work areas and added personal workstations to
maximize floor space and facilitate more efficient workflow.
Created a parts display board for quick identification of items
needed. A section of the display contained gears showing
typical damage.
Purchased bins for gear storage and rolling dollies for storing
and transporting large, heavy items.
Painted the shop, including adding floor markings, to indicate
designated locations for all items. A color code aided immediate visual recognition.
Added new lights and other visual controls.
Installed a sound-deadening curtain around the engraving
area to lower noise levels to acceptable Navy standards.
Installed a large work-scheduling board to easily track repair
jobs and avoid scheduling conflicts.
Following the PDCA cycle, team members next checked/validated their work by collecting new data on cycle times, technical
compliance, and the quality of service to customers. They
approached validation from their customers perspective: Did
they meet the production shops needs for the right types and
quantities of gear and still reduce overall gear inventory?

Maintenance
space
479 ft

Storage space
382 ft

Inspection
space
780 ft

Figure 6 S tate of Rigging Gear Room Before


Redesign

Figure 7 Issue Process After Workspace Redesign

Tangible and Intangible Benefits


The most dramatic improvement was the better use of floor
space in the shop. A total redesign, as shown in the original
and redesigned diagrams, resulted in a 388 percent increase
in usable floor space and more productive use of space (i.e., the
majority devoted to real workspace rather than to storage).
Comparison of before and after spaghetti diagrams shows
the dramatic improvement in workflow, which reduced travel
distance within the shop by 48 percent.

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Improved workflow also reduced cycle time by 30 percent,


which equates to approximately $60,000 in cost savings annually. Combine this savings with the estimated cost savings of
reduced travel distancetwo hours per day per inspector, or
approximately $57,600and the Lean Dream Teams solutions
resulted in total estimated cost savings of $117,600 per year.
Analysis of checkout data identified heavy users of certain types
of gear. By issuing these users permanent, long-term gear rather
than relying on shorter-term solutions, the team facilitated huge
reductions in inventory and number of transactions. Gear item
quantities dropped from 296 to 48 items per month; checkout
transactions went from 105 to 18.

Figure 8 Reducing Number of Transactions


Checkout transactions

80

40

X7

8M

X1

Shop/code

X7

8M

10

20

10

20

X3

18
times

30

X1

30

50

X3

Quantity

40

X6
8
C7
00

Shop/code
Gear item quantities
200

200
180

180
160

296
items

140

40

40

20

20

X1

X3

Shop/code

48
items

60

X7
2

80

60

8M

100

80

120

100

X6
8
C7
00

120

X7

140

X1
1
X3
8M

160

X6
8
C7
00

Quantity

60

50

Reduced stress for inspectors.


Improved gear room morale.
Improved customer relations.

Sharing and Sustaining Improvement


Lean Dream Team members planned their improvements with
sustainability and continuous improvement in mind. Longer-term
milestones were set, and individuals were assigned responsibility
for reaching them. Additional planned improvements included:
Redesigning inspection forms.
Designing a damaged-gear tag.
Establishing a two-year workload forecast.
Researching the feasibility of a barcode system for gear
inventory and checkout.
Researching the feasibility of moving to a completely paperless system.

70

105
times

60

Intangible benefits included:

80

X6
8
C7
00

70

around the engraving machine reduced the noise level in the


shop from a dangerous 110 decibels (dB) to a safer 72 dB.

Shop/code

The significant reduction in the number of transactions resulted


in more than $1,522 in cost avoidance.
The combination of providing permanent gear to heavy users,
moving less-frequently needed gear to long-term storage, and eliminating unnecessary gear altogether reduced inventory by just under
30 percent. From once housing more than 7,000 items, the gear
room neared its goal of maintaining only the 5,000 items identified
as necessary by its customers to complete their service missions.
Better inventory organization provided the added benefit of
improved safety for gear room personnel. Rolling dollies eliminated heavy lifting, and storage shelves and bins eliminated
tripping hazards. Installation of the sound-deadening curtain

Lean Dream Team members also shared their results and lessons learned with colleagues and customers at SRF-JRMC
Yokosuka, with the wider Japanese community through participation in a QC team competition and with U.S. Naval Sea
(NAVSEA) Systems Command staff. Newsletters, shop tours,
and briefings helped spread the word to colleagues. The team
was awarded a JUSE QC team award by the Union of Japanese
Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) at the team competition in
Hokkaido, Japan. And with the support and encouragement of
NAVSEA, the team exported its new rigging gear program to
SRF-JRMC Sasebo Detachment and NAVFAC Far East.
The Lean Dream Team also received international recognition through participation in the 2006 ASQ International Team
Excellence Award competition, where members competed
against 26 similar teams carefully selected as finalists from
around the worldincluding three other teams from the SRFJRMC. The event was held during the ASQ World Conference
on Quality and Improvement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in May
2006. Although the team ultimately did not place among the
gold, silver, or bronze top-three slots, team members are recognized as world leaders in quality management. They left the
competition with the words, Well be back!

For More Information


To learn more about Lean manufacturing, the PDCA cycle,
and other quality tools and techniques, visit
http://www.asq.org.
To learn more about the ASQ International Team
Excellence Award competition, visit
http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/.

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To learn more about the Training Within Industry (TWI)


program, visit http://www.12manage.com/methods_training_
within_industry.html.
To learn more about SRF-JRMC Yokosuka, visit
http://globalsecurity.org/military/facility/Yokosuka.htm.
To learn more about the U.S. Seventh Fleet, visit
http://www.c7f.navy.mil.
Contributing to This Article
Mr. Kazuhito Iwasaki of the Continuous Improvement Office,
SRF-JRMC Yokosuka, provided information for this article.
About the Author
Jeanne Chircop has been helping organizations share their successes for more than 20 years. She has written about quality
efforts in the education, manufacturing, and natural resources
industries. She holds a masters degree in journalism and resides
in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

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