Becoming agile

Agile, through the storms

Archive for the tag “WIP”

APIL#14 – Kanban Pizza Factory

There are a number of Kanban games and simulations. Some of the better known ones are GetKanban and Kanban Frog Factory. For a while I wanted to play a game I have encountered about two years ago – Kanban Pizza Factory, which seemed more appealing to me, and I haven’t had the chance to play it yet. The game was introduced by Ralf Kruse from Agile42, and what I liked about it is that it is easy enough to play, it involves something majority of people love, and it can be easily analogized to our day to day life.


So, we have decided to dedicate our 14th Agile Practitioners meeting to a brief introduction to Kanban, followed by the game. Courtesy of Google Campus Tel Aviv, the meeting was held at the 26th floor of Electra Building with fantastic view of Tel Aviv.

The Kanban intro, as promised, was very brief, with types of waste and WIP being the areas that raised most questions. Read more…

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Laundry

My wife went on a one week break last week, leaving me to deal with three kids and a hectic week at work. I wasn’t concerned much with the situation, apart from one thing that I dreaded: laundry.

Photo by T.M.O.F at http://www.flickr.com/photos/freebourg/2219601376/

To begin with, you must understand the laundry cycle at our humble home. Let me draw a picture for you:

Everyone in the family dispatches new laundry to the work queue. That is, my missus and I place it in agreed baskets, and the kids just happen to drop it some place around the house: bedroom, corridor, washroom (not to be confused with washing room!), backyard, kitchen table – anything goes. Occasionally kids misplace laundry and place it in the washing room itself, but I attribute it to a temporary lapse of kidsism. Read more…

Lean manufacturing – On values, practices and great salads

As part of my blogging life, I was invited to visit Mashani Salads factory in Beit Shemesh in the county of Jerusalem. I knew the produce of this maker, and I arrived with expectations to get some good food, but I also had a hidden agenda – observe the process, and use this visit also as learning experience. Little did I know that I was going to be surprised on both accounts.


The first experience was the passion with which Zohar Cadoori, co-CEO and co-owner, talked about his company. Passion for food, and passion for high quality. His description of receiving fresh produce from suppliers left no doubt – For Mashani Salads, making good business meant maintaining high quality. They demand it from themselves, they demand it from their employees, and they demand it from their suppliers.

Upon receiving goods, the staff would prepare empty crates, and sort the produce. Anything below their high standards would go back to the supplier. That does not mean low quality produce – these are produce you and I would easily bring home. We have examined the produce in the small storage – everything was top notch. Chef restaurant quality.


When we went through the production rooms, we understood what makes the preparation process work so well – no fancy machinery, no peeling devices, no robots. The vegetables are hand peeled, the carrots and cabbage chopped using standard equipment. Eggplants are grilled manually on designated grills. No smoke extract, no flavor additives.


Photo by Stav Adam http://stavadam.com

There is no secret to Mashani’s success, other than maintaining high quality.

You are welcome to enjoy more photos and more detailed account of the visit and the preparation process in this blog post (in Hebrew)


As the visit came to an end, Zohar invited us back to his office to enjoy a light brunch – Mashani Salads, of course, and to answer questions. He has described why he is keeping low stock levels, and that it makes no sense to overproduce and ship out a product that stood in the chilling room and potentially be forced to sell it at a reduce-to-clear price. I asked him – how do you know how much to produce? And his answer was dead simple – I produce according to the incoming orders. I know what typical orders are, and if a big order comes in, I prepare in advance.

I asked further – so what do you do if a big order comes in and you cannot deliver in time? He said simply – I produce whatever I can for a first shipment, and make the arrangements for the next batch.

It was so refreshing to hear someone so much into the process: maintain low WIP, work Just In Time, Inspect and Adapt.

I also asked about the number of products they maintain. Mashani runs a restaurant and delicatessen in Rishon Le-Tzion, where they stock about 200 different lines, some are produced in the factory, some are prepared locally, and some are bought elsewhere. However, as a food supplier, although there are about 200 items in their catalog, at any moment in time they make about 20 different products. Around 40 employees run the entire factory.

Factory? I found that this word does not fit in with this establishment. Crafts-shop sounds more appropriate. Without a doubt this company does not deserve a ‘Fordistic’ title that resembles a mass production line. This is a lean operation, focused on making customers happy, rather than a fancy technological make-more-money concept or increase-shelf-life-over-quality approach.

I have no idea whether Zohar or his management team has done some proper process optimization courses. I do know one thing, though:

I have asked Zohar Why? Why do you insist on such high standards, although you know your prices are higher than the competition? At first he said, because he will not serve his own children anything less than what they are making.

But why? I continued. Surely you can make high quality food at home and sell something else to the market!

To this he responded that he could not allow himself to do that

Why not? I persisted.

This time he responded that quality is top value. You cannot compromise quality, and this is how you get your quality right.

What I felt from the beginning became clear now. This is what makes Mashani different from their competition: Values. They believe in their ways, and that’s what makes their product so good. Not the other way round.

There is no grand secret or a mysterious secret ingredient.

Where does this leave me? I am not yet sure. If I put my mind to it, I believe I can help them become better, leaner, whatever. But they don’t really need my advise – Mashani is already a learning organization, and it will be patronizing to think I can teach them anything they cannot find on their own.

As for other organizations… Bring me the CEO that is prepared to listen – not only hear. There has been much talk about Gemba Walks, and 5S and Six Sigma and more and how to practice them. But can you get a company to adopt new values and let go of old habits? Indeed, I find discussions such as “What makes a great leader” more valueable to getting the wheels in motion. Practices will inevitably follow afterwards.

After all, it all starts from the top and seeps down through the fabric of the organization.

Can you turn a non-lean manufacturer into a Mashani? And how? What do you think?

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