4. ESTABLISHING A PULL SYSTEM

You are here in your Lean journey:

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You wouldn’t cook enough food for 30 people if you are having a dinner party for only 6, would you?

You wouldn’t buy a baby stroller unless you had a baby on the way or already had a baby at your house, right?

Just as you wouldn’t invest your time washing and waxing your car if you knew you were taking a super dusty road the next day, correct? 

The reason why you wouldn’t do any of those things is because all of that would generate waste – of food, of money, of space and of time.

And since you’ve been down this Lean road for quite a bit now, you know that we don’t want any of that. That’s why in Lean we seek to establish Pull Systems.

PULL SYSTEM: a system in which work is done if and when there’s an actual demand for it.

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Remember that value is what the customer wants and is willing to pay for – not necessarily what you think they want. So it’s important to act and work only when you’re sure that what is being done is absolutely necessary and will create value.

By creating a Pull System you will:

  • minimize waste
  • control resources better
  • be able to adapt faster
  • allow team members to focus on the right tasks
  • minimize overburden
  • save costs
  • be able to adapt your team size according to demand

Who wouldn’t want that?!

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WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

PULL SYSTEM

Based on demand
Supplies current needs
Works with precision
Tends to eliminate waste
Higher level of adaptation

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PUSH SYSTEM

Based on forecasts
Tries to anticipate needs
Works with approximations
Creates space for waste
Lower level of adaptation

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JUST IN TIME, NOT “JUST IN CASE”

Just in Time was the Pull System adopted by Toyota when the Toyota Production System (TPS) was created. It is so important to them that, alongside with Jidoka, is one of the pillars of TPS.

As the name suggests, in Just in Time every activity should be done at the right time. And the “right time” here means “when it’s actually needed”.

For example: in Just in Time, a salesperson would never prepare a product demonstration unless they knew for a fact that a possible customer would like to see it. They would wait for this demand to actually exist, and then they would get their hands dirty.

KANBAN: LEAN’S
WORK OF ART

In order to know what needs to be done at what time, one must have clearance of the processes, people and tasks involved. And the best way to do that is by using a Kanban.

KANBAN: a visual system for managing activities as they move through a process. Useful to visualize both the process (its steps and workflow) and the activities passing through it.

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And if you’re guessing that the company behind the creation of Kanban was also Toyota, you are guessing right.

Back in the early 1940s, they needed a way for workers to signalize their steps in the manufacturing process. So they developed a system that was highly visual (in Japanese, Kanban means “visual signal”, by the way) and allowed teams to communicate better on what work still needed to be done.

And guess what: this also helped them reducing waste.

That’s because Kanban can help you control the entire value stream – from beginning to end.

This is how it works:

The activities become cards that will move through columns that represent stages of a process. The number of columns and what they are named will depend on the complexity of their process.

For a simple process, for example, the stages could be TO DO, DOING and DONE.

As the work progresses, the cards (meaning, the activities) move through the columns until they are done.

The good thing here is that by being this visual, Kanban makes it easy to see bottlenecks. If one stage is too full of cards, something’s probably wrong and you can act on it.

Learn more about Kanban and how to use it in this article.

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We are almost done and you are only one step away from completing your beginner’s journey! And now that you’ve come this far, we have to make sure that you keep continuously improving.

BEFORE YOU GO ON, IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT ESTABLISHING PULL SYSTEM

  • Pull Systems are a way to help you do only the work that is necessary to deliver value when it’s necessary and in the amount that is necessary
  • A Pull System is the opposite of a Push System because the latter tries to forecast the demand, and therefore produces more waste and is less flexible
  • Bottlenecks will slow down your process and kill your productivity. So make sure you identify them quickly and destroy them as soon as they appear
  • Just in Time is the most important Pull System. It’s about knowing what work needs to be done when and in what amount
  • Kanban is the best way to understand your process flow in a visual way and to identify bottlenecks quicker