Why do we have so many heroes and so few farmers?

Why do we have so many heroes, so few farmers, and such poor results in most of our organizations?  Because we’re blind to the simple fact that business heroes usually fail to transform businesses.   They create short-term improvements at least on official metrics.

The gemba walk can, and should, help focus us on asking three simple questions (1) Is the business purpose of the process correctly defined?  (2) Is action steadily being taken to create value, flow, and pull in every step of the process while taking out waste?  (3) Are all the people touching the process actively engaged in making it better?

This is the gemba  mentality of the farmer who year after year plows a straight furrow, mends the fence, and obsesses about the weather.  Sometimes not very heroic, but by challenging the people engaged in the process we motivate the team towards steady and consistently process improvement.

Adapted from:  Gemba Walks by Jim Womack

5 Reasons Scanning is a Must!

Problem:With thousands of sku’s very close in size and other attributes, picking and shipping the wrong thing is very common- and customers are not very happy when they receive units that are different from what they actually ordered; not to mention the waste associated with now needing to expedite the correct unit(s) to them.

Answer: Scanning of course!  In the pick/ship process the pick slip is scanned and then each 2D box label bar-code is scanned, verifying all items about to be picked against line items and quantities associated with that pick slip.


  • Removal of the human “visual only” method,
  • Accurate verification of all items shipping to customers,
  • An automated shipping function reducing paperwork flowing back up the shipping office for manual shipment / inventory transaction posting,
  • Significant reduction in time consuming and costly RMA’s (return material authorizations),

But most of all,

  • Happy customers receiving the correct items and quantities on their orders.

Craftsmanship from another era

What a great experience blending the current with the past.  Recently I attended an event put on by the Baldwin Economic Alliance, Baldwin Alabama.   Which was brining the group gathered up to speed on a thousand acre, mega site that is prepped and ready to possibly house a new auto assembly plant.

The setting was beautiful, at the elegant Barber Marina. I was reminded of a past era by the spectacular collection of beautiful, fully restored outboard motors on display, most bearing the names of prominent American cities as their point of manufacturing origin.

I could only imagine the process that was being used at the time.  Was it Batch-and-push?  Or were the companies trying to imitate Henry Ford’s single piece continuous flow auto assembly line?   Ford’s system which was lowering cost, implementing standard work, and collapsing the time required in the supply chain?

Toyota Culture-workshop featuring Mike Hoseus

I recently attended Mike Hoseus’ workshop at the magnificently beautiful Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

Mike did an excellent job at making the connection between Lean principals and the people side of the business showing how the two work hand in hand, creating a powerful and compelling business case.

The main take away for me was Mike’s challenging question:

Is your organization a “problem solving organization”

Are we training our team members at every level to be problem solvers?

Mike’s book: