Sunday, May 24, 2015

Correction on my Australian Speaking Engagements

In my last posting I laid out where I will be speaking and hosting Manufacturing Breakthrough Workshops in Australia, but  unfortunately I gave out some incorrect information.  The Novotel is where I will be staying  for my two workshops near Melbourne, but the Melbourne workshop will actually be happening at the Dingley International Hotel in Dingley Village.  It was chosen for its close proximity to the biggest cluster of manufacturers in the Greater Melbourne area.  June 1 is for M1 customers only, but June 2 is open to all manufacturers.  Here is a link to a flyer if you are interested in attending this June 2 event.  It has the contact number of one of our M1 staff that can screen their enquiries for both the workshops in Melbourne and Sydney:
In order to attend either the June 2nd workshop in Melbourne or the June 4th workshop in Sydney, you must be an Australian or New Zealand manufacturer.
If you want to see my presentation at National Manufacturing Week, click on this link for details:
Sorry for the confusion,
Bob Sproull

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Australia

I just wanted to let all of my Australian friends that I am in Australia at the moment and will be in Melbourne until around May 30th.  I am then off to the Sydney area until June 9th. On May 28th I will be speaking at the National Manufacturing Week Convention at the Melbourne Convention Center.  On June 1st and 2nd I will be hosting 2, 1-day Continuous Improvement Workshops at the Novotel Glen Waverly while on June 4th and 5th I will repeat these same workshops at the Holiday Inn Parramatta near Sydney.  I look forward to seeing all of my Australian friends.

Bob Sproull

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How I Teach the Theory of Constraints Part 2

This coming week I will be traveling to Australia to speak at a manufacturing conference and to host four, 1-day continuous improvement workshops (2 in Melbourne and 2 in Sydney), so I'll most likely be out-of-touch until I return to the US around June 10th.  In light of this trip, I wanted to make sure I posted the second half of the posting on how I present TOC to people not familiar with it.

This posting is the second and final piece on how I present the concept of the system constraint in my training material.  You will recall in my last posting, we discussed a simple piping diagram with different diameter pipes and that the smallest diameter controlled the throughput of water through the system.  In this posting we will expand that thinking to a simple 4-Step process used to make some kind of product.  But for anyone new to this blog or the Theory of Constraints, here are Goldratt's 5 Focusing Steps:

1.  Identify the system constraint

2.  Decide how to exploit the system constraint

3.  Subordinate everything else to the system constraint

4.  If necessary, elevate the system constraint

5.  Return to Step 1, but don't let inertia create a new system constraint

Because I want the class to get the connection from the piping system to the real world, my next slide is the aforementioned simple 4-step process with cycle times for each step listed.  I ask the audience to tell me which step is constraining Throughput.  It's been my experience that only about 40 % of the class makes the connection between the flow of water through the pipes and the flow of product through this process.  What I have found to be very effective is to select someone who does understand the connection explain his or her reasoning.  It's important that we don't move on until everyone understands this connection.

I use my next slide to reinforce what their fellow classmates or team members have just explained.  I also relate Step 3 of this process to Section E of the piping diagram.


In my next slide, I have the class become consultants who are told that the company who owns this process needs more Throughput.  I ask them what would they do and ask them to explain their answers.  I usually break the class up into teams and let them discuss this question and that seems to work well.

 After the team(s) have explained their plan to improve throughput, I then show them this next slide to reinforce each team's answer on what they would do to increase Throughput. 

Because I want the class to understand the negative implications of running each step of this process at maximum capacity, I then ask the class what would happen to the WIP levels if they did.

In the next slide, I demonstrate the impact of trying to maximize the performance metric, efficiency, in each step in the process.  The key point here is that the only place where maximizing efficiency makes sense, is in the system constraint.  The excessive WIP build-up encumbers the process and extends the cycle time of the process.


I then ask the class, "How fast should each step in this process be running to prevent this excessive build-up of WIP?"  This is intended to demonstrate Goldratt's 3rd step, subordination.  That is, why it's so important to subordinate every other part of the process to the constraint.  This next slide explains, in more detail, the concept of subordination.  Steps 1 and 2 must be forced to not outpace the constraint, but must also assure that the constraint is never starved.  This slide usually creates an epiphany of sorts for the team or class.



My final slide is one that lists Goldratt's 5 Focusing steps.  We talk through each step and relate both the piping diagram and the 4-step process to each of Goldratt's 5 steps.

I have been using this simple method of teaching the concept of the constraint for quite a few years now and it has worked quite well for me.  I strongly suggest that you try it yourself.

Bob Sproull

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How I Teach the Theory of Constraints

This past week I was asked a question about how I present the basics of the Theory of Constraints to people not familiar with its teachings.  Or more specifically, how do I teach my students or improvement teams about how to understand the basic concept of constraints.  So in the next two postings I’m going to share with you a series of slides on how I present this basic concept.  For those of you who are familiar with my blog, this is a repeat posting for a couple of years ago with some slight changes.

The best way I have found to help people understand just what a constraint is and how it impacts the flow or throughput through a process is by using a simple piping system diagram with each pipe having a different diameter.  As you read this posting, remember what we are trying to demonstrate is the concept of flow and how the constraint controls it.

In this first slide I simply explain that this is a drawing of a cross section of pipes used to transport water through each section of pipe and into a collection receptacle at the bottom. I then tell them that we need more water flowing and that they have been chosen to fix this system.   I emphasize that this system is fed via gravity, so they can’t simply increase the water pressure.

In my next slide, I pose the question that if enough water isn’t flowing through this system, what must they do to make more water flow?  Someone in the group will automatically state that in order to have more water flowing through the system, we have to increase the diameter of Section E.


I ask everyone if they understand why they must increase Section E’s diameter and most will answer that they do.  For anyone who doesn’t, I simply explain that because of the constricted nature of Section E, water flow is limited at this point. Since they all now have an understanding of this basic concept, I then move to the next slide.

This slide reinforces what I just explained, but then I ask another important question about how large the new diameter should be.  In other words, what would this depend upon?  What this is supposed to demonstrate is that demand requirements play a role in determining the level of improvement needed to satisfy demand requirements.

In the next slide, I demonstrate the new diameter of Section E and how water is now flowing at a much faster rate than before the diameter change.  The important point I emphasize is that the system constraint controls the throughput of water through every section of pipe and if we don't subordinate the rest of the system to the same throughput rate as the constraint, we will automatically have a WIP build-up in front of the constraint.

I then ask the class to identify other physical changes to this system have occurred as a result of our exploitation of the constraint (i.e. increasing the diameter of Section E).

I give them time to answer this question, and most of the time the group will answer correctly.  I then post the next slide to reinforce that changes to the system.

I point out that, first and foremost, the system constraint has moved from Section E to Section B. I next explain that the new throughput of water is now governed by the rate that Section B will permit.   And finally, I point to the queue of water stacked-up in front of Section B.  I now make the point that if the amount of water is still not enough, then we must decide how to exploit the new system constraint and that the process of on-going improvement is continuous.

In my next slide I ask the question, “Would increasing the diameter of any or all other sections have resulted in any more throughput of water through this system?”  This question is intended to demonstrate that since the system constraint controls the throughput of a system, focusing improvement anywhere else in the system is usually wasted effort.  What I finish with is a before and after slide just to reinforce how things have changed by focusing on the constraint.

In my next posting, I'll present the rest of my training package moving from the abstract piping system to the real world.....a real process.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Second Edition of Epiphanized Now Available

At long last Bruce Nelson and my second edition of Epiphanized was released today on Amazon.  Our new publisher, Taylor and Francis, will now begin the publishing work on our sequel to this book which will demonstrate how to apply our unified Theory of Constraints, Lean and Six Sigma methodology to the Healthcare and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) fields.

Besides explaining how to implement our unified improvement methodology, this second edition arms readers with a proven method for convincing management that using the improvement methodology outlined in the text will lead to significantly higher levels of profitability.

This edition has been updated with an expanded appendix that includes more in-depth discussions of the tools covered in the first edition. This edition also sheds more light on the reasoning behind why the very best improvement results can be achieved by the unification of the Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma (TLS). The appendix also provides additional detail about how the concepts covered in the novel part of the book can be applied to your organization.

The primary theme throughout this book is the focus on the unity and enhancement of improvement tools and methods. The book includes an appendix that allows readers to explore, in much more detail, the principles, tools, and techniques presented in the novel portion of the book.

Bruce and I are detailing a pioneering pathway for significant gains in profitability and market share for any company choosing to implement the methodologies that are presented. Some of the concepts, tools, and principles presented may seem counterintuitive to many readers, but if the principles are understood and followed, the exceptional results are sure to follow.

We hope you enjoy this second edition and that it helps everyone see the benefit of combining these three improvement methodologies and that by implementing this unified methodology your company can see new levels of profitability.

Here's the link to Amazon:

Bob Sproull

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A really good interview!!

In today's posting I want to share a really good interview of Philip Marris by Clarke Ching, who is the author of a super new book, Rolling Rocks Down Hill.  The reason I like this interview is because Philip gives some very candid answers to Clarke's questions on subjects such as how he got started in continuous improvement, his method, the results he has achieved and his view on TOC's Thinking Processes.  Philip is the owner of Marris Consulting out of Paris, France and for me, he is one of the world's foremost authorities on combining Lean with the Theory of Constraints.  Philip has led over 200 continuous improvement initiatives and his results have been amazing to say the least.  So if you want to hear about continuous improvement from a true expert, take the time to listen to and watch this interview.  You will not regret it!!  Here's the link:

Bob Sproull

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Demand Driven MRP Videos

In past posts I have written about Demand Driven Materials Requirements Planning (DDMRP) made popular by Chad Smith, Deborah Smith and Carol Ptak.  This group of experts now has a new animated short video on Demand Driven MRP available. They also have the video on the Bernard Controls DDMRP implementation with English Subtitles.  I encourage everyone who isn't familiar with their wonderful work to view these video because DDMRP is here to stay.

Bob Sproull

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Problem With Multi-tasking

One of the problems I've written about several times before on my blog is multi-tasking in project management.  The fact is, even though we are all taught that multi-tasking is a good thing, it gets in the way of actually completing projects on time.  I came across a youtube video that clearly demonstrates the danger of multi-tasking and why starting a task and completing it before moving on to a new one is simply a better way to manage projects.  I hope you enjoy this video and that it resonates with you, especially if you're having problems completing projects on time.  Here's the link to this video:

Bob Sproull

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Great New Project Management Book

Every so often you find a book that is truly worth reading and learning from.  Today's post is dedicated to Mark Woeppel's new book on project management.  I've known Mark for some time now and he's written quite a few books, but this one is a wow book!  And here is a link where you can learn all about how to get a free copy while they last. There's only 6 more days left!


#VisualProjectManagement is key to improving your projects. If you've spent any amount of time struggling to skillfully manage and execute your project, this book has the solution. Transform your project delivery system, increase the productivity of your team and start seeing your projects be delivered on time and on budget.
Get your copy today!
About Visual Project Management: Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget
It’s commonplace - projects are rarely delivered on time or on budget. You go to extreme lengths to prepare, go even further to remedy problems along the way—yet it seems that only through heroic action is any project finished on time–and there aren’t enough heroes around. What’s going wrong?
In Visual Project Management: Simplifying Project Execution to Deliver On Time and On Budget, you’ll get a stunning inside look at what’s going on in your projects:
  • The root causes of late delivery and how to systematically identify and weed them out.
  • How any project can be turned around quickly
  • Eliminate the silo effect on project teams, streamlining and improving communication and accountability
  • A simplified approach to managing project execution, delivering fast, significant results in schedule and budget performance
You’ll learn about ViewPoint, a visual project management methodology that is:
  • Easily understood and easy to implement
  • Adapts easily to various organizations, regardless of current practice and maturity
  • Works with and compliments existing methodologies and software
  • Makes completing your projects a satisfying objective to achieve, not a battle to win
  • Delivers results in days and weeks, not months and years
Based on extensive research, Visual Project Management will give you your team a clear map to effectively drive your projects toward success, time and time again.

What others are saying about the book:
“Honestly? I wish I'd read this book 20 years ago. It’s a “how to” book. You’ll learn how to make good project promises - through good planning - and then how to keep those promises - through good execution. Mark's advice is pragmatic, it’s easy to understand and - vitally - it doesn’t just work in theory, as you read it, it works in the real world.”

--Clarke Ching, author of Rolling Rocks Downhill

So get your copy today!!
Bob Sproull