Money from honey: Africa lean project generates results
I recently wrote about my trip in August to Zambia in Africa. I was visiting with my friends John and Kendra who have been working in Zambia for the past 10 years and in Congo the previous 25 years. Their work is centered on setting up indigenous economic development to give Zambians a sustainable livelihood coupled with Christian principles and values.
Well, John and Kendra were here in the United States for a couple of weeks, and last week I spent some time with them. They gave me an update on the lean progress that bee hive manufacturing has accomplished since my time with it. I had left them with a one-page document spelling out basic goals and objectives and a short list of activities for them to do to help move them toward the lean objectives. In short, it was simply one page which summarized what I had explained to them and worked on with them while I was there in August.
For the months prior to my visit, the local bee hive manufacturing industry had produced only three hives per day, and had accomplished this output inconsistently. Upon my discussion with John last week, he informed me that they were now consistently producing 55 bee hives a day and were also using less people. I was certainly pleasantly surprised. They had exceeded my expectations. Their output increased by 2,200 percent. And, they were on schedule to meet a production order they had to complete by the end of this year. They were nowhere near on track to meet this order when I was there in August.
They also had moved the operation to another location, so they took advantage of the move to change the layout to a more favorable flow orientation. After reviewing some photos of the new operation and discussing with John and another gentleman that had gone over to help out with the operation after my visit, I got a good view of what they had done. They had implemented a form of “fake flow.” Fake flow is a very common step for firms during the implementation process. It is not one-piece flow, but it is a solid step in the right direction. Combining their progress with the fact that they are in the middle of the Zambian bush - no manufacturing resources, consultants, books (well, I have sent John a couple), Webinars, conferences, etc., available to them - they have achieved something just short of a miracle. I find few companies here in the United States that can actually progress that well and fast. Hope has been planted.
They still have much work to do to continue moving forward with their bee hive production and to integrate these methods and thinking into their other manufacturing operations. But they do plan to do it. And, I plan to get back there to help them continue their lean journey.
Please respond to this blog post with your own stories, questions or comments related to lean implementation. I would love to read what you have to say!
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