Throughout this blog the benefits of implementing the 5 principles of a lean process will be discussed along with ongoing perfection or improvement.

In industry there can typically be a backup of contractors with volumes of paperwork and lines outside facility managers offices. To reduce this pain the 5 principles of lean can be applied to any project. For the purposes of this blog we are going to look at the benefits of applying the 5 principles of lean to EHS using software.

1. Value

Principle number one is VALUE. Value in this instance is all about reducing the time it takes to get contractors on site. When you’re starting a project, you must have an end goal in mind and for this case the goal is to get people working quickly, safely and efficiently. If you want to achieve that then you must firstly look at why they’re standing in line and secondly, look at the entire contractor process. This brings us onto the value stream.

2. Value Stream

The next principle we look at is the VALUE STREAM. The value stream is about listing every detail that is involved in the project. This means ensuring workers are compliant, that the work they are carrying out is being done safely, that they have all the key PPE they need, ensuring that everybody that is doing the work is qualified and that all the notifications are in place. There can be vast amounts of prep work required before bringing a contractor on site - there are requirements to check qualifications, companies to be vetted, references to be checked, making sure that there are no conflicts or that the area owner or production manager is aware of what work is scheduled. These activities you carry out on a day to day basis and you may not even realise it and by implementing the principles of lean or implementing a process like this really highlights some of these areas.

3. Flow

The third principle of lean is the FLOW. Throughout the flow you must define the order in which all the above steps are being performed by, and this part that can be the most important. Within the flow you need to list all of the steps occurring. When we are looking at the example of the line outside the facility managers office we are not only analysing that specific part but we are also looking at how contractors are vetted, how they are going through security, what happens when they are on site, what we do to make sure they are safe and compliant on site, what the PPE requirements are, what are your companies SOP’s for managing everything, what happens when they leave site, the close out process, and finally the process when you are preparing for an audit. In order to get the benefit of a lean software implementation you must get all the people involved in each step, and then you must map out exactly what happens.

There is a temptation when you are mapping out a process that one of your colleagues from a different department may ask “ what happens next”, or “ what’s in the procedure”, and what you must do is make sure that you are honest with them. That way you get a real, true, as-is process and only when you get to this process can you start on making improvements. Therefore, we are looking at what happened before and after and along with the processes in between. One of the keys points in software implementation is getting various people from different departments to get together and discuss how their functions work with each other, and making sure that they have an environment where they feel they can say what genuinely happens as opposed to saying what should be happening or what is in the SOP. This is also a good time to get your vendor involved. If you have a software vendor make sure that they’ve carried out this process before with other clients, check their references, as they can act independently and help with the process. People understand how software works, so create a situation where you have people designing a perfect software just for your company based on getting all the right people in the room and getting them to be honest about what’s really happening.

4. Pull

Next step is the PULL. The pull is where you have all processes mapped out and you can see all ongoing activities. Once you have put the whole process in place, is where you see the advantages. This is the part that can be exciting as there can be a lot of involvement across different departments. The induction is a good example of where lean processes have been used to improve software. Up until five years ago if a contractor was needed to work on site there would be an induction scheduled. If this induction was scheduled for a Thursday morning and they arrived on the Thursday afternoon or a Monday, or any other day, one of two things would happen; they would be notified that they would have to leave if they didn’t have their induction completed and to come back another time, or they would have to find somebody from the health and safety department and go through that induction with them, take time out of their schedule and then get the contractor to work. One of those two things would inevitably happen because the third option is that the contractor would be let on-site without an induction. This option would be the worst of all. Nowadays, thankfully, majority of companies use software to carry out the induction process.

What we are soon going to see is Industry 4.0. It is something that is invariably going to affect you. People are beginning to hear more and more about how software companies work together and going back to the basics about how the 5 principles of lean help manufacturing, those same principles work extremely well when you are getting multiple software systems working together.

In our example, we have a single process that originally started with the line outside the facilities managers office, but then goes into the whole lifecycle of a contractor. A software system that is built on the principles of lean should automatically identify what exact requirements are needed specifically for the type of work that needs to be carried out once a company is identified. It should automatically help gather information, schedule work, create permits, or if the contractors need an induction or other qualifications, it should do that automatically. So essentially, when the contractors arrive on site, they’re are ready to work. As a result, software has helped to eliminate the line outside the facility managers office.  

5. Perfection

The final step is PERFECTION. Perfection is about continuously attempting to produce exactly what the customer wants. Let’s say you have been able to get a process where you know people are compliant, you are saving time, and you are removing the line. That may seem good, but perfection is much more than that - it is about continuous improvement. By using all of the information provided you have a great opportunity to run reports or analyse information and data. If you are with a company that has multiple sites, these reports can be shared. For example, you can actually see that your site in London, UK, has work done on a conveyor belt twice a year but your site in Tokyo, Japan, who is manufacturing something similar has to have maintenance thirty times a year. You can then compare those results to help improve continuous improvement.

In conclusion we can see that the 5 principles of lean no longer only apply just to manufacturing, but also to software, and is something that should be applied in this modern age.




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