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Coffee Bean Buffering, Lean Laundry, Kanban Kids

Chris Young
November 11, 2014

Coffee Bean Buffering, Lean Laundry, Kanban Kids

Pecha Kucha presented at http://www.lkce14.com/

Thanks to Markus Andrezak and the Lean/Kanban community for making it happen.

So this is one of my Kanban Kids, he’s got a fantastic appetite and given half a chance he’d be eating all the watermelon in this bowl at the same time and would make himself sick.

The problem is, he’s not mature enough to realize this. I should give him a break, he’s only two after all.
So to prevent his capability for eating food from being overwhelmed by the demand placed on it, we put a buffer in place, which we only refill once the capability is free.

In effect, we limit WIP.

WIP of course stands for Watermelon in Progress.

We took the Kanban kids on holiday to Crete.

Don’t get me started on the queues at the airport, that’s a talk in its own right.

But we got on the plane, landed in Crete and arrived at the hotel. At breakfast at the hotel I was struck by the abundance of Orange Juice. It was as if they had somehow forecast the expected demand and produced sufficient quantities accordingly.

Arguably they were shaping demand by making Orange Juice the easiest option, having as it does an almost instant lead time. But Orange Juice was not the only game in town.

You could co-create and make your own fruit juice from Apples, Carrots, Kiwi, you name it. This required some cross skilling to learn how to prep the food and operate the juicer but my eldest son, the other Kanban kid, was up for it.

With this option, the lead times were a lot longer. To get one glass of Apple Juice, and yes this really is Apple Juice, you needed to process five batches of Apple.

I tried to convince my son that he should try the juice after the first batch, tight feedback loops and all that, but he was having none of it.

And as you can see he was somewhat underwhelmed by the results. But he now knew the work involved and knew that he’d rather have Orange Juice. This is validated learning.

Coming home from holiday, I had a few days off before going back to work. Which was lucky because there was a lot of laundry to do after the holiday.

This is the Kanban system we use to manage our laundry. These three Ikea bags limit the amount of WIP, that’s Washing in Progress. This is the Laundry Value chain:

Dirty laundry is queued in the laundry basket. It then goes into the washing machine, note the Bosch and Miele appliances here, good German white goods. Depending on a number of factors it then proceeds either to the Tumble Dryer or the Washing line for drying. Once it’s dried it goes into an Ikea bag whilst it waits to be sorted, it’s then sorted, put away and the Kanban goes back under the stairs to show that there capacity available in the system once more.

But, this system has a problem, it has a bottleneck. The bottleneck is sorting clothes to put them away. No one, but no one wants to do this. And so a queue forms before the bottleneck, and the Ikea bags Kanban limits the queue.

But, we found a way to alleviate the bottleneck.

We cross trained one of the Kanban kids. Now he is not only skilled at wearing clothes and putting them in the laundry basket, he can sort them too. There is some extrinsic motivation, which I probably shouldn’t mention, going on here. He is paid pocket money to do this. I even had to pay him to pose for this photo!

After our holiday and the few days at home I finally came back to work.

My work has a number of up stream dependencies without which it simply won’t happen. One of them is missing in this picture…

Ah, here it is. Black Coffee.

Without a continuous flow of black coffee there is no way I would be able to do my work.

So you can imagine my horror when I came in to work to find this… That’s right, the coffee pot was empty. In fact, both coffee pots were empty. We have a buffering mechanism but it rarely gets used.

This means the flow of coffee is far from smooth. When the buffer is used effectively, the point where the lower coffee pot hits the ‘6’ mark is when it should be transferred to the hot plate on the top and a new pot put on. From there it can act as a buffer, refilling cups whilst the new coffee brews.

When people do this they get a whole load of benefits. By being co-creators of the coffee, they get to choose things like the strength, the coarseness of the beans and the variety used. And when the coffee flows, so does the code.

This is a Coffee powered Ansible playbook. It’s allowing me to co create with our ops team the infrastructure required for my code to run.

There is real benefit in understanding, and when you can, co-creating the upstream work that you depend on.
It gives you more choice and more control. It helps you understand the work systemically.

And that for me is the beauty of Kanban.

It brings people together around the work.

The fundamentals of Flow, Constraints and Dependent Events apply to all types of work and help us both understand the work of others, collaborate with them and co-create, be it to make fresh fruit juice, sort out the laundry, make the coffee or deliver value to our customers.

Chris Young

November 11, 2014

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