Why is PDCA Important in Lean Logistics?
In lean logistics (or any field), PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) allows individuals and teams to thoughtfully review an operation for problems or opportunities, and experiment with ways to improve the situation. Since PDCA is ongoing, any single improvement is not considered a “solution,” which implies that another experiment and better results won’t be pursued in the future.
Most companies typically use metrics such as cost, quality, and delivery to track progress and assess improvements. But these are output measures that don’t look at what’s really happening with lean logistics processes. If PDCA is in place, problems will be solved before they escalate or show up in output metrics. For example, working through a weekly PDCA session with a customer over existing conditions can bring issues to the forefront fast enough to fix them before they threaten level flow in lean logistics and customer satisfaction.
Applying a PDCA cycle in lean logistics requires:
Tools: Measures, reports, formats to identify waste and track lean logistics activities that should occur.
Procedures: Standard work in lean logistics for how to report and correct problems and waste
Timing: How often the meetings will occur and when follow-up on correcting problems occurs. Frequent or constant activities in lean logistics require frequent or constant PDCA. In a trailer yard, for instance, a daily PDCA cycle or even one per shift may be needed.
Results and follow-through: This is where use of A3 thinking in lean logistics is critical. Developing A3 documents will create the project-management discipline required for sustained waste elimination. If a problem surfaces during a PDCA cycle, an A3 can be used to define the problem, why it’s important to the organization, ans chart various courses of action.
When implementing PDCA in lean logistics, get buy-in from your front-line staff by soliciting their feedback in the planning stages of the PDCA. This is absolutely essential and is often the most neglected phase of initiation of PDCA implementation. PDCA in lean logistics has to be structured using feedback from the people who are doing the actual work.
Roll-out the PDCA Cycle Company-Wide
After rolling out the policy with a formal kick-off, you can use various methods for deployment to every organizational level such as:
- Training for supervisors, team leads, and front-line staff
- Development of a desk-aide (or template) for ensuring that the PDCA is a visible, living policy document for staff
- Publicize PDCA accomplishments.
In lean logistics or any field, processes love to fall apart. We must adopt a determination in order to sustain and promote effective problem solving through PDCA. We need structure. Think about your own team, department, or process. What structures and disciplines would you need to put in place to systematically ask the following questions?
Where are we going?
How do we get there?
What are the measures of success?
How to we deploy our goals level by level to carry out the plan?
How will we check progress?
What will we check?
If we fell short of the goal, what are the countermeasures?
If we met the goal, how can we standardize?