Monday, July 23, 2018

The Lean Gelateria | Part 8 | Muda, Muri and Mura

In one of my earlier posts I discussed about the seven principles of Lean.   ‘Eliminate Waste’ is the first principle. It very easy to remember and understand. And, it is about eliminating waste by avoiding or removing activities that do not add value to business or contribute to customer or improve productivity.

I am sure you have heard of ‘Toyota 3M Model’.   It focuses on eradicating the three enemies of Lean. Three enemies are Muda, Muri and Mura. These are Japanese words. Muda means waste. Muri means overburden and Mura means unevenness.

Let us pause on Muda, Muri and Mura and move to a different world for a while. Well, in the world of cherries, it is worth knowing about a cherry that is Mini (small in size), Marvelous (awesome) and Memorable (outstanding and unforgettable).  It is nothing but the amarena cherry.  Amarena is a dark colored cherry from the Bologna and Modena regions of Italy. Amarena cherries are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and iron. Also they are free of fat, and sodium.  Some experts claim that Amarena cherries prevent heart diseases and cancer. Try Amarena gelato! I am sure you will like its unique flavor and delicacy. In every scoop you will find one or two whole cherries that are really chewy and delicious!

Coming back to ‘Toyota 3M Model’, Muda comprises of seven types of wastes plus an additional one (non-utilized skills).  Remember the acronym DOWNTIME to remember these seven plus one wastes.  As listed here in this table, these wastes are applicable to our industry too.

Manufacturing Industry
Software Industry
Defects  -  product defects, process defects, tool defects
Defects – all type of defects
Overproduction – producing more units than what customer has ordered
Implementing features that may go unused
Waiting – waiting of workers, production units, or process steps
In effective dependency management
Non-utilized Skills
A team member or a skill that remains non-utilized
Transportation – Movement of products across locations
Avoidable travel or transportation or hand-offs
Inventories -   Excess inventory of parts, tools, etc.
Partially done work (WIP items)
Motion – Avoidable physical movement of team members
Task switching, multi-tasking
Excess Processing
Too many features, rework, relearning

Muri or overburden happens when machines or team members are over utilized beyond their limits.  This may lead to breakdown of machines or absenteeism of team members.  In software industry it happens when we run a high-end software on a low-end computer with bare minimum configuration – the machine eventually slows down and crashes.  Also, it happens when we allow or make our team members stretch beyond limits by letting them putting extra hours. This leads to health issues, dissatisfaction and absenteeism.

Mura or unevenness happens because of fluctuations in customer demand or fluctuations in the service levels offered by third parties.  In software projects, unevenness can happen because of fluctuations in scope or insufficient backlog or too many changes.   This can lead to overburden or Muri and cause Muda or wastes.

How do we observe and apply these in software projects? Let me share four examples with you.
  1. Lack of collaboration and mindless reporting of defects can cause unevenness and over burden.  This happens in large projects where there is an independent verification team. So, it is worth examining, ‘Is this bug worth reporting?’ and collaborate with team members.  Mindful bug reporting is a reflection of lean thinking in software project teams.
  2. Sometimes documentation destroys value. It is worth understanding how Agile teams focus on documentation in order to optimize documentation efforts.
  3. In some projects, some of the underlying tools used by project teams may lead to value erosion. So, it is worth understanding when tools destroy value and avoid such situations.
  4. Lack of data discipline may lead to waste or rework in the form of retesting or unnoticed defects.
An essential aspect of practicing Lean Thinking is about remembering these 3Ms, identifying the areas of improvements and applying course correction. What has been your experience?

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