Putting Lean to Work: Improving Software Installs Through Kaizen
What is a Kaizen you ask? Kai means “change” and Zen means “to make better.” Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning Continuous Improvement or Change for the Better. Kaizen is a very useful tool to improve a process and is a Lean tool that we are all embracing at GE.
Easing the Installation of Proficy software
The team involved in last week’s Kaizen focused on making one of our automation software installs faster and easier to use. Since this is for one of our most widely used HMI/SCADA products, we knew that this Kaizen would have a big positive impact for customers.
We started a couple of weeks before the Kaizen doing prework. I see it as a way to define the problem we want to solve – writing a charter and gathering information to help set the stage for our Kaizen kickoff. We were able to create a process map on the current process to see where our potential pain points were; we also looked through support cases for installations and spoke to our customers who performed an installation.
By gathering the prework data, we had a great jumping-off point to set the stage for the Kaizen and begin our week. A big factor of our Kaizen’s success was because we did the prework upfront.
Kaizen Goals and Pivots
Thinking through our customers’ eyes
Throughout our week, we focused on identifying ways we can bring our install times down, and then we mapped out a path to get the install time down even further for greater customer impact.
The week was powerful. We had a core team of about 10 people that helped work on the problem, with about 10-15 supporting our Kaizen. I was the facilitator, so it was my job to ensure that we continued to make progress and pivot to the areas that gave us the most impact.
As we learned, we pivoted and moved to new areas to get closer to the solution. Like a football game, you call a play, execute, and based on what happens, you call another play to bring you closer to the goal line.
Bias for Action
Replicating the “Best of the Best”
The theme of the week was Bias for Action. This is where you want to try things and see how they can help to accomplish your goal. For example, as part of our prework, we had six people try the install, so we could create the process map. One of the team members was able to complete the install to our initial goal time. We gathered the data from that install which we called the “Best of the Best,” and we wanted to quickly identify ways to replicate it.
As a starting point, an offshoot team created a Quick Start Guide over the next 24 hours, which helped replicate and refine the steps we identified to help bring install times down.
Working at GE Digital, I am proud of the colleagues that I work with. They are bright, they focus their attention on detail, and they want things to be perfect.
Kaizen creates the culture of continuous improvement where teams actively engage in improving the process.
You want to get the process to a point where you can get into a cycle of trying, learning, trying, and learning. The progress you can make using this process is truly amazing.
We also made incredible progress with another offshoot team looking at the install itself and bringing the process down to 10 minutes. We will continue to work on that over the coming weeks.
We have accomplished so much over this Kaizen week. We are laser-focused on the problem and will continue to focus on the impact items.
Kaizen Lessons Learned
Bringing Lean and Digital together
Here are the lessons I learned from our Kaizen week:
- Don’t be afraid to try things (also known as “try storm”) – Instead of thinking of ways to improve and brainstorming, think what can you do over the weeks and months, try some of these and see what you learn from them. Based on the learnings, try new things that get you closer to the goal.
- Don’t be afraid to fail – This one is key. People want their end results to be perfect, so they go into an internal cycle and release something and hope for the best. It’s important to try new things and see what does work and what doesn’t. It will lead to new learnings and new directions. If it doesn’t work, you’ve learned something new and that can get you to where you want to go.
- Have a bias for action – Determine how you can try something new and get in front of the customer, so you can get feedback. See what you learn.
- Make it part of your DNA – Take the innovation and engrain Kaizen into what you think about regularly.
After experiencing Kaizen as a facilitator, it felt uncomfortable at times, but ultimately, being uncomfortable brought us to a place where we are moving in the right direction. We have identified areas of improvement, we will ensure we maintain the momentum, and have a plan to sustain our changes.
At GE Digital, lean is much more than a process. Lean is our strategy and how we are running our business. GE Digital is bringing lean and digital together.
What do you need to improve? Our team can provide expertise, support, and training to maximize your IIoT software with our Digital Transformation Services.
Explore our digital transformation services here: GE Digital – Digital Transformation Services. I hope you feel inspired to engage with a lean mindset to drive progress in your organization as well.
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