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Desktop Client: Lean Best Practices in iGrafx

This article outlines some of the key best practices when using iGrafx to help accomplish process excellence through using a Lean methodology. This article assumes you are familiar with the concepts of Lean.

Overview of Lean, and Using iGrafx for Lean

iGrafx applications provide functionality to accomplish many of the techniques used in Lean. As Lean is based on the Toyota Production (or Business) System, and that system is focused on the flow of “product” (good or service) through the entire process, we will first focus on the “big picture” of how iGrafx can be used in process excellence. First, though, a quick review of the 5 core principles of Lean:

  1. Specify the value desired (defined) by the customer.
  2. Identify the value stream for each product providing customer-desired value, and remove all of the wasted (non-value-added) steps in providing that product.
  3. Make the product flow continuously through the remaining, value-added steps.
  4. Introduce pull (earlier steps wait for a request from later steps) between all steps where continuous flow is possible
  5. Improve toward the ideal, so that the number of steps, the amount of time, and the information needed to serve the customer continually falls.

Core to the principles above is identifying, analyzing, and improving a Value Stream. The Value Stream is the set of value-creating steps that a product (or service) flows through to deliver value to the customer. In addition, there are other techniques to help identify and eliminate problems or waste throughout the process that iGrafx provides.

In summary, some key techniques employed by Lean, that you can accomplish using iGrafx, are:

SIPOC: Define the Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers involved in the process. While this is a common Lean Six Sigma tool, it has application for getting a view of the context that the Value Steam (VS) lives within, and helps ensure the proper context for your work.
Value Stream Mapping: iGrafx can help you visualize the Value Stream (VS) through the use of a Value Stream Map (VSM). This is material and information flow mapping, to identify, analyze, and eliminate waste in the VS.
Layout (Spaghetti) Diagram: Understanding the actual movement of a product through physical space can be valuable in exposing transportation or motion waste, and iGrafx Layout diagrams can help visualize and analyze this waste.?5-“5-Why??: Provides root-cause analysis; ask “Why?” about 5 times to reach a root cause. A Cause-and-Effect (or Ishikawa or Fishbone) diagram helps visualize and analyze “5-Why”? information
Process Map: Provides a traditional “flow-chart” type view of process steps. Can be useful for identifying Non-Value-Add steps, simplifying the view of the process into commonly understood symbols, or even as the basis for iGrafx Discrete Event Simulation analysis.
Pick Chart (Diagram): A decision-making tool, also called a PACE chart, to look at trade-offs between solutions based on how easy they are to implement, and how big the payoff will be.

The following table illustrates the correlation between techniques within Lean and specific iGrafx functionality.

Tool / Technique

iGrafx Functionality

How to create (See the iGrafx Help system (Help menu > iGrafx Help) for more information)


SIPOC Diagram

File > New > Lean Six Sigma Tools > SIPOC Diagram (or in a diagram: File > Components, right-click, New > From Template, then Lean Six Sigma Tools > SIPOC Diagram)

Value Stream Map

Value Stream Map (Diagram type)

File > New > Value Stream Mapping > Lean Value Stream Map, or Lean Extended Value Stream Map (Depending upon if you’re mapping a single facility or an entire supply chain)

Layout (Spaghetti) Diagram

Layout Diagram

File > New > Lean Six Sigma Tools > Layout Diagram

5-Why root-cause analysis

Cause and Effect Diagram

File > New > Cause and Effect > Cause and Effect Diagram (note that there are Manufacturing/6M's or Transactional/4P's templates)

Flow-Chart diagram

Process Diagram

File > New > Process > Cross Functional Process (provides different view of process, allows NVA analysis. Enables simulation analysis with iGrafx Process or Process for Six Sigma)

Pick Chart

Pick Chart

File > New > Lean Six Sigma Tools > Pick Chart


So Many Techniques and Tools… Where Do I Start?

Before you jump into using iGrafx or other tools for Lean analysis, you must be ready to embark upon your Lean journey. Ensure that your organization has a change agent; someone who will take personal responsibility for the lean transformation, and have the authorization to make it happen. Get everyone that will be involved in Lean familiar with Lean concepts and techniques, and assign a Value Stream manager to take responsibility for the VS being improved.

Do your best to implement lean techniques as part of a system, not as isolated programs. However, if there’s some key ‘pain point’ or crisis, consider using that. Start by simply eliminating waste in that key area. Walk the process, and observe the waste present. Then identify, analyze, and eliminate waste. Begin as soon as possible, and strive for short-term results; e.g., you should hopefully see results after a week or two of effort, not after months. Once you have a success, expand your scope to include more of the overall process. Practice kaizen (constant improvement) continuously, striving to reach the ideal state.

Okay, So I’m Ready to Map the Value Stream; Now What?

Before you begin Value Stream Mapping, identify what the Value Stream is. Part of the ‘art’ (and science) of analyzing the VS is identifying the common sets of product that go through largely similar steps. Take the high-level view; combine products and steps when possible. Look at the entire value stream, by walking the process. Go to the ‘Gemba’ (where the work is done), and see what’s happening. Record where waste occurs, whether it’s inventory (e.g. product on a shelf or a pile of papers in an inbox), unnecessary motion or transportation, idle workers (e.g. waiting on needed parts or information), or defects and rework. Record how the product flows, and -- if applicable -- create a Layout Diagram to show inherent transportation waste.

Don’t get caught up in wanting precise data on how the process varies. Lean is about identifying and eliminating waste, not about precise analysis of variation. For example, understand average demand over time when calculating takt (the rate at which you must produce to meet customer demand), and use summarized steps and average data for your analysis. Fundamentally it doesn’t really matter if you have 100 or 1000 pieces of inventory at some step, the inventory should be 0 (zero), or as close to it as possible. Start with a top-level view, and only drill into the detail when necessary. Don’t get caught up data gathering, time and motion studies, etc.; typically 80-90% of the time of any product is waste, and it’s learning to see and eliminate that waste that’s important.

Once you start creating the VSM, let iGrafx do some of the ‘math’ for you. iGrafx can calculate takt, overall lead time, Value-Added (VA) vs. Non-Value-Added (NVA) time, Inventory impacts, affect of parallel operators/operations, etc. See the iGrafx Knowledge Base for specific help on creating a Lean VSM in iGrafx. Topics include how to handle Timeline data for parallel paths, how to handle rework, variation in shifts or schedules, use of swimlanes, and even on exporting/importing data for further analysis in Excel.

Once you’ve created the VSM and let iGrafx (or even Excel) do some of the calculations and analysis, ensure that you share the information with others beyond you and your team. Use the publishing capabilities (File > Publish As or File > Print) to disseminate the VSM to those beyond your team. Get people’s comments and/or buy-in, and move forward.

Remember that a VSM is simply muda (NVA, or waste) if you don’t do anything with it. Use Kaizen events -- and Kaizen “lightning burst” shapes on the VSM in iGrafx -- to document ideas for improvement. Use the Cause-and-Effect (5-Why?) and Pick Chart tools to establish root causes and discuss solutions to problems.

If there are hard-to-solve problems, or simply changing the process is not practical or approved, consider generating a process type diagram, gathering more data, and performing Discrete Event Simulation analysis using iGrafx to further prove out the business case for change. However, in most cases, the waste should now be ‘obvious’, and moving forward with change should be relatively easy to justify once everyone is seeing with Lean eyes.

Work towards a Future State diagram of the VSM that communicates the new, improved process to those that will make the implementation decisions, and to those that must implement and use the new and improved process.

Once you have achieved the Future State you have envisioned, you can now use it as the Current State, and start the process again. Relentlessly work towards process perfection through continued application of Lean principles, and use iGrafx as a key tool in your toolkit for change.

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