A while back we introduced an idea taken from the auto industry, called “Lean Manufacturing.” Now, I am asking to take that concept one step further, by implementing a 2-second approach that was developed by Paul Akers, owner of Fastcap. These concepts seem quite foreign and impossible to undertake, let alone make relevant to the dairy industry. I guess the first thing we should do, is to have a quick refresher on what creating a “lean” dairy means.

In the blog post, “Trim the Fat! Building a Lean Dairy is Great,” I talked about what a “lean” dairy means. Simply put it means eliminating waste, things like overproduction, unnecessary transportation, excess inventory, employee motion, defects/damaged tools, animals waiting, etc. The best way to start this elimination process is to identify where we can add value to our calves! I talked about how to begin such a large undertaking. First, you will need to identify the unnecessary steps, by reviewing and revising your daily protocols. Once you have done these things, then you can start looking at how your work areas are set up and how they flow.

Now that we had a brief review, it is time to take this concept a step further and make it even easier to implement at your dairy. Turning your operation into a “lean” mean machine is a daunting task. That is why Paul Akers came up with this idea of a 2-second lean process. The main idea is to make 2-second improvements every day. Are there things that you do daily or things that your employees do daily that seem redundant? If the answer to this is “yes” and most likely it is, then here is where you begin.

Clean work area
Keeping work areas clean and organized is a priority.

5 key steps in starting your “2 second lean”:

  1. Sort: Recognize the “waste” and get rid of it. Begin with what “bugs” you about the tasks at hand.
  2. Straighten: Organize the work area.
  3. Sweep: This is simple, keep the areas clean.
  4. Standardization: Document the processes so they can be repeated. Make before and after videos to review to see the progress made or where further changes can be made.
  5. Sustain: keep your changes in place, allowing the process to be mistake-proof and easily repeatable.

Teach everyone to see “Waste”

But what is this “waste” that we are talking about? Waste comes in a variety of forms, not just physical garbage. You have to learn to see and identify it before you can get rid of it. You can’t eliminate what you do not see. Once you begin to see the waste and get rid of it, then it makes your and your employees’ lives better.  There are several places to find waste, that go unnoticed because that is how we have done it forever. Let’s identify where to start looking for waste.

Common Places to Find “Waste”

  1. Over Processing-repeating the same process over and over. For example, are you warming up each meal of colostrum individually in a sink of warm water? You can speed up the process by having a dedicated thaw unit to warm multiple meals at the same time. 
  2. Transportation-constantly moving things from one place to another. Where is your maternity area concerning your feeding storage and supplies? 
  3. Motion-as in worker motion, are they constantly going back and forth for items that they need for a task? 
  4. Defects-are the defects or damaged tools and supplies cluttering up somewhere? Time to get them fixed or throw them away.
  5. Waiting-as is employees waiting or animals waiting. Would a new machine speed up the process so they aren’t waiting around? Think about investing in an individual meal pasteurizer, instead of a bulk pasteurizer. This way each meal is already portioned and you don’t have to store fresh colostrum in the fridge until you get enough pooled together for the batch pasteurizer. Plus this is healthier for the calves, pooled colostrum affects the quality that each calf will get. 
  6. Unused Employee Potential-use your employees for finding areas that need improvement and listen to their ideas. Lots of time, we forget that they have really great ideas for how work can flow.

Once you start learning to identify the areas of waste, you will see it everywhere you go. Then you can start small by making 2-second improvements to your protocols every day. These little 2 second victories are super satisfying and will create the momentum to continue improving every day.

2-second Improvements:

Take a quick look around. Do you see anything that you could improve upon or make easier, take fewer steps to complete? Are you stumped? I was too at first. I always figured that however, I learned to do something, that it was the best way since that was always the way it was done. Look closer, find something that “bugs” you.

Some common improvements that can be made in the maternity area:

  1. Using an individual meal pasteurizer instead of a bulk pasteurizer, this way you are not handling each batch of colostrum several times before and during processing.
  2. Using a dedicated thaw bath, this way you are saving time and water by not having to fill a sink with warm water each time you need to feed a calf.
  3. Using a disposable tube feeder to save time when feeding a calf. Also eliminates the necessity of constantly cleaning and sanitizing feeding equipment.
  4. Using single-use colostrum bags saves time and space instead of storing big plastic containers for colostrum feeding.
  5. Maternity Area Setup-is everything your employees need to care for the calves, easily accessible and close to the area where they are, or do they have to walk across the barn to get the things they use most often.

Top Tips for 2-second Lean Success:

Now that we identified a few common places to start looking, now we need to make you successful in this new way of life. Remember, that changes begin with you and if you haven’t found the waste in yourself, then you will not be able to convince your employees to follow suit.

Daily Meeting
Daily Meetings with the employees helps with communication of tasks, goals, and changes.
  1. Daily Meetings-quick meetings to build and maintain employee communication. This is a good time to make sure everyone knows what needs to be done for the day, address anything that there are questions on, celebrate 2-second victories, get others’ ideas.
  2. Take before and after videos of changes being made. This helps not only for training future employees and documentation of processes but also to help you see how far you have come.
  3. Make sure that there are easy-to-follow procedures posted. Keeping things simple and displayed helps people to know what is expected. Makes it fool-proof.
  4. Make continuous daily improvements
  5. Fix the things that bug you
  6. Look for where the workflow stops or gets bottlenecked. The work area and the work performed need to flow seamlessly.
  7. Look for the simple solutions first, they may be the best.
  8. Stop making excuses for not making changes.
  9. Give employees the ownership for solving problems and let them implement their ideas and solutions. Then give them credit for solutions that worked. This makes your employees feel valued and in turn, helps with employee retention.

I hope this has sparked your interest to begin making 2-second daily improvements at your dairy and in your life in general. If you want to learn more, check out Paul Akers on YouTube or fastcap.com. He has a lot of videos, books, and loads of information to energize you in becoming a “lean” thinker.