Lean emphasizes empowering employees to identify potential work improvements and to act on them. One of the benefits of this empowerment is that those who do the work can often see better ways to do the work, ways that others, including their managers, might not be able to see.
View the path to improvement the team from Vehicle Maintenance came up with, including clearly identified current problems and root causes. To the left of the project plan, some of the unnecessary or unwieldy forms are posted.
That extends to recognizing knock-on opportunities as one process improvement project opens the door to others. During one of the transformational improvement projects recently initiated at Vehicle Maintenance, Paul Bozoti, a Lead Transit Parts Specialist with Vehicle Maintenance, saw just this kind of improvement opportunity.
In an effort to reduce buying unnecessary parts, Vehicle Maintenance decided that, rather than automatically setting stocking levels for new parts, they would instead use historical usage to determine whether a part would be stocked at a base. Prior to this improvement, a “new card” or “new card transfer” form would be filled out and sent to a Purchasing Specialist to add these parts to the base “just in case.” “Since we weren’t going to do that anymore, we eliminated the new card transfer form,” explains Bozoti.
“Prior to Lean…there wasn’t much I could do about it.”
That sparked another idea among Bozoti and his co-workers. “We looked at the rest and said, ‘Hey, if we are looking at the forms, we could consolidate.” Parts Specialist Keith Shartner and Mark Corey, a Technical Info Processing Specialist with Transit, boiled three similar parts forms down to a single form.
The group also used the opportunity to change the way forms were completed and sent. Previously, Parts Specialists like Bozoti would print, complete, and then fax the forms. “Because of the waste that that is,” he explains, “we decided to just email them. Emailing makes it faster.”
Paul Bozoti discusses the improvement project with his fellow team members. (Click to enlarge.)
The team also worked with Vehicle Maintenance’s Assistant Manager John Alley in order to eliminate an unnecessary step in the parts ordering process. Before the Lean transformation, “emergency order forms,” used when the base was out of a part needed to fix a bus, required approval from the base chief or superintendent. But the approval caused delays and was merely a formality: the forms were never disapproved. Alley and the rest of the team eliminated that step, saving much needed time in the process.
The Person Doing the Job Is the Expert
The twist in all of this is that Bozoti and others had known about some of the Vehicle Maintenance inventory challenges before the Lean improvement projects. “Prior to Lean, I had seen that we were way overstocked on parts,” Bozoti says. “We were bloated and didn’t need to carry so many things on hand. But there wasn’t much I could do about it.”
In fact, a few years ago, Bozoti ran a report looking at parts usage that helped Alley and others in Vehicle Maintenance see the opportunity for the Lean improvement project. The Lean transformation represented a chance to do something about it—and to take advantage of a domino effect with things like form reduction and approvals over-processing.
For Bozoti, Lean’s employee empowerment could help the county build lasting continuous improvement: