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How to apply Lean methodology to IT

Divina Paredes | July 31, 2015
Nigel Brabyn of Nelson Forests sets out to discover double handling of data and information ‘log jams’.

He attends two such meetings every morning, each lasting five minutes.

The first is with all of the department heads, then he moves to another meeting with the administration team.

"Our communication has improved a lot within the business," he says on the impact of these meetings.

"It has very much helped looking at problems that are there on a daily basis that have to be dealt with very quickly."

He says Nelson Forests is looking at moving the concept to their suppliers.

But before it can ask its suppliers to do this, he says, they should make sure the company is getting its systems structured around the Lean system.

"In many ways, we can model ourselves on Toyota," he states.

"They are known to be a demanding customer of their suppliers, he states. But their suppliers know they will be paid well, and on time.

"Even if they have very high standards, everybody wants to work for them."

Data log jams

"From an information point of view, don't collect and store information you don't need.

"We manufacture logs, the forests are really our factory," he states. "But the flow of information needs to be efficient for that factory to work well."

At the moment he is doing a lot of value stream mapping which is something that comes out of the Lean dictionary, he says.

He explains: "We are going through the flow of information and seeing how it moves through the organisation and looking for log jams in the system.

"Where is the information held up? Where is the waste of time and effort going on within that process? And how do we streamline it so information can flow better and you are not double handling information?

"We were already doing it, we just did not call it Lean."

"It is a valuable exercise to look at how other people do things," he says when asked whether he would advise his information technology peers to do the same tour.

"You have got to have a really broad mind when you do it," he says.

But he notes, "It is always interesting to compare yourself with other people and how they work." He also says the continuous improvement part of the methodology was something the company has already been doing.

"We just needed to do better," he says. In IT, for instance, new ideas are always coming out, and some of them were implemented before but for some reason were discontinued.

"That comes back to having a more disciplined approach to how we approach it."

One of the key points he got from the trip was the way the Japanese approach to the business.


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