Posted on August 22, 2015 · Posted in Flow, Lean, lean tools, Monuments, Poka-Yoke, Pull, Value Streams
“What’s a monument?” you ask.  
Most organizations have large pieces of equipment that weigh tons, are often half submerged or above the roof, sometimes contain liquids (like plating chemicals), usually process in batch and would cost a bundle to move.  Those are monuments.
As we start to reorganize our Value Streams to create “pull,” we move smaller pieces of equipment closer together, usually within arms reach of each other.  Not so the monuments.  How then do we deal with them?
I can offer two suggestions.  I’d enjoy hearing how some of you have dealt with them.
Suggestion 1: Rearrange your smaller pieces of equipment around the monument.  Arrange them in such a way that the monument is in the correct process order.
Suggestion 2: Treat the monument as a “curtain” operation.
Rearranging is a great option if the monument only services one operation; or, if there is room to rearrange all the operations served in a way that has the equipment radiating out from the monument likes spokes in a wheel.  
Curtain Operations leave the monument in place and continue to move the work to and from it.  Using this method, one treats the monument as if it’s behind a curtain: a’ la The Wizard of Oz.  The product goes behind the curtain today and comes out tomorrow.  We break the Value Stream at the curtain.  The previous processes end at the curtain; subsequent processes resume when the product exits.
An example might help: A metalworking firm I worked with made the decision to get out of the plating business.  It was too expensive, not their core competence, and their equipment was outmoded.  Instead, they sent their work out to a local plater with the understanding that, what the plater picked up today, MUST be returned tomorrow, or financial consequences would ensue.
So, all the other process equipment was relocated into a ‘U’ close to the receiving dock.  The first half of the Value Stream would complete all its processes, then stage the product for pickup by the plater.  Meanwhile, the second half of the Value Stream finished what the plater delivered today.  In this example, there was a planned 24 hour gap between the first and second halves of the Value Stream.
Relying on outside suppliers in the middle of a process can be problematic, but problems are just opportunities disguised as  inconveniences.
For instance, in the plating example above, the metalworking firm soon found that the plater sometimes lost their parts in the tanks.  When that happened, the metalworker missed its delivery commitments.  How did they cope with that?  The metalworker created a cart for each type of part to be plated.  Each cart was designed to hold a specific number of parts.  That number matched what the metalworker needed to ship the following day and, yes, it was always the same amount.
The carts eliminated both guesswork and counting for both parties.
When the plater picked up the cart, they could tell at a glance if the cart was full.  Same with the metalworker when the plater dropped the cart off the following day.  The cart became a Poka-Yoke (mistake proofing) device.