The Wastewater Treatment Division’s (WTD) September kaizen event aimed to improve the “60% engineering design review” process, which helps ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of WTD’s capital projects. Since then, four pilot capital projects have been “try-storming” the new process.
Overall, the pilot projects are proving the value of the kaizen team’s changes:
- Feedback on the biggest change – holding group review workshops instead of relying on everyone submitting comments individually and then coordinating them – is strongly positive. The pilot project coaches report that they are getting better work product through the groups’ interaction and focus on the most important issues. The group setting is much more efficient than serial comments. The coaches especially note the reduction in “chasing down comments,” which caused the review process to drag on.
- Earlier input from Operations and Maintenance (O&M) is better identifying their operational needs and thereby improving the designs.
- Daily 15-minute stand-up meetings maintained focus, promoted continued improvement, cleared obstacles, and kept implementation on track. The effectiveness and efficiency of these stand-ups made such an impression on one of the pilot project coaches, WTD project manager Jennifer Kauffman, that she’s considering using them in other aspects of her work.
- Through the pilot projects, a wider circle of WTD employees are learning about Lean. It’s not an abstract thing. They’re seeing Lean in action in their work.
As usual, trying out changes also shows us how further changes are needed. For example:
- Who should be in the review workshops? Including more perspectives means the group can cover more issues, but more people complicates scheduling and can dilute discussion of key issues.
- Can we more consistently set priorities so we can focus on completing reviews in a shorter amount of time rather than spreading more reviews over a longer period, which means more multitasking that reduces productivity?
- Do we need to add back a few more days of individual review prior to the workshop review and some days on the back end to compile comments?
- The coaches for the pilot projects slightly varied the approaches among the pilots to gain insight into what will work best. They are now seeking feedback from the pilot participants who were not on the kaizen team, which will guide next steps.
Wastewater will best be able to judge the results of the pilots once they see how the designs look at their 90% reviews.
The kaizen team will be gathering to assess these pilots and make adjustments to the new process before it rolls out to all capital projects going forward, sometime early in 2013. Ultimately, the goal is better constructability, more effective completed projects, and lower ongoing O&M costs.