Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recipes with pictures: visualize your mac and cheese

In the upcoming Fall Buyer's Guide I write about how recipes in cookbooks often fail. They could get better if they borrowed this idea from the back of a box of Annie's macaroni and cheese — visual instructions add a lot of clarity.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Recent Reading, Charity Edition

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.
Eye-opening writing on the "Charitable-Industrial Complex," by Warren Buffet's son Peter.  

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes...“I never thought that what we needed were a bunch of engineers,” Ms. Purvis said. “In our world food is king, but we didn’t know that the queen would be kaizen.”
What if instead of donating money you give operations consulting? Toyota donates lean expertise.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Recent Reading

Why buses should be what we ride but aren't. (Wonky economic language alert.)

Twitter is not just 140 characters. It is a new communications network...140 characters. That is a feature, not a bug.

....consumers are spending 300 times the cost of tap water to drink bottled water...What’s most remarkable.. we continue to buy it – even during an economic downturn..."


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Batching Check

One myth about lean is that it perfects processes so well you don't need to check for accuracy. Wrong. It'd be nice if it did, but it doesn't. The checking station doesn't go away. It just stops being a station. Instead you check everywhere, all the time.

Here's an analogy that might help explain what I mean. 

Let's say you're out shopping. Something costs $35 and you pay $40. You get change. You count it. You have $4. You correct the clerk and they give you another dollar. You go to the next store, pay for something, count the change, correct it if it needs correcting, and so on.

This seems totally normal because we all do it every day. Now imagine another scenario where you didn't count your change at each stop. Instead you waited till you got home and then counted all the change from all the shops to see if you had the right amount.

That's batching. That's what we do now in production at the check station by batch checking the pickers. It's also — sneak preview, thanks Betty! — something we're looking at eliminating next year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Could tipping end at restaurants?

Manhattan's Sushi Yasada made news when they announced they were abolishing tips for the front of the house. (While not a well-known restaurant outside of New York it's very highly regarded in its hometown.) Matt Yglesias at Slate picked up on the story and ran with it in a fantastic screed against tipping, including this quote:
The real problem is that restaurants don’t pay their employees a living wage. The federal “tip credit” allows restaurants to pay their tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour, as long as tips make up the shortfall—which turns a customer into a co-employer. Although federal and state law requires restaurants to ensure that tips bring employees up to minimum wage, few diners know that
Matt made a lot of great points including hitting on tipping's history of racism. He did fail to note another problem I've seen, though: the way servers are paid often creates a rift in organizations between the hourly crew that are paid with tips and those that aren't. They know what each other makes and it can sometimes be orders of magnitude different.

More chefs and restauranteurs around New York—heavyweights like Tom Colicchio and David Chang—have now joined the anti-tipping conversation (Grub Street compiled tweets here). Is this just talk, or is something going to happen?

I see batches: CVS Delivery

There's a CVS on my block that gets deliveries in a big batch once a week on Mondays. Here's today's. A fifty-five foot truck parks on the street and the trailer's lift loader drops pallet after pallet onto the sidewalk. It blocks the street for hours as people and hi-los wait for each other to pass and the crew sort the boxes to check them in.

Every other shop in my neighborhood gets these kinds of deliveries multiple times a week, some multiple times a day. The small batch deleveries take minutes, not hours, since they can be tossed off the back of a truck onto a hand cart and wheeled directly into the store to be checked in immediately by the regular crew, not a special Mondays-only check-in team.

These are CVS's operational problems, which are painful enough to contemplate. The deeper problem, to me, happens inside the shop with the customers. CVS's shelves always look half empty. That's because 50% of the time I visit the week is half done and the shelves are picked over, waiting till next Monday's delivery.

Bigger batches lead to more out of stocks. This is one of Lean's counter-intuitive learnings. Its remedy: order less. They key is to order less more frequently, so you can respond to demand. Do that and you'll be in stock more often.

Don't frequent deliveries cost more? Maybe, in some cases. (With all the extra equipment and check in time I see down the street each week at CVS I'm pretty sure the answer is "No" for them.) But ignore cost for a moment. More frequent deliveries mean items are in stock more often. That means you make more sales. In other words, more frequent deliveries increase sales. This lean thing is not just powerful for improving process and the bottom line, but for improving sales and the top line, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let's Outsource Some CEOs

"American executives argue—conveniently enough—that their compensation should be compared to what other American executives are paid. This argument has tended to be persuasive to American boards, which—conveniently enough—are made up primarily of American corporate executives. And big American investment management firms—also led by American corporate executives—likewise think this makes sense. Which is all quite nice, but if you tried convincing one of these very same executives that he shouldn’t replace an American factory worker with a cheaper Chinese one, he would laugh you out of the room."
From Matt Yglesias—who's almost always worth reading—about how US CEOs are paid way more than CEOs in other countries. Wages have been on my mind a lot lately as I'm writing a vision for a new way of thinking about pay at Zingerman's and simultaneously watching income inequality in America hit levels that would make a robber baron blush.

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Over

How long before we see "vintage" newspaper racks at antique shops and explain to our kids that for a hundred or more years we used to print yesterday's news on paper each morning and throw it in the trash before lunch?