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Hackerspace Architect: Hackerspace Muda

Hackerspace Architect: Hackerspace Muda

Much of Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and the Toyota Production System (TPS) focuses on the removal of three concepts these are Muda, Muri and Mura.

Muri meaning unreasonableness or difficulty is variation through lack of standardisation making a task difficult to complete. This could be in any set of actions that does not have a fixed way to achieve the desired outcome, or through a problem appearing that doesn’t fit the skill set and tools of the process. A good way to think of it is the variance that comes from improvisation. Or picture someone who only has square holes and round pegs. In manufacturing creativity is the enemy and standardisation is king. Muri can also refer to overburdening of a resource causing reduction in productivity.

Mura, meaning unevenness is concerned mostly with flow and time. A good example is accounting, where everything gets focused around frantic activity at the end of the financial year, or the end of the month for pay role. Or in terms of traffic, our 9 - 5 culture creates the rush hour or how you get a “phantom traffic jam” when a few people apply the breaks on a motorway. In production this might be waiting around for a part or having too much raw material on hand in danger of spoilage. Mura is also engaged with push and pull, like the "pull request” you get in programming.

That brings me to Muda which simply means wastefulness. Muda is the daddy of wastes in Lean and its the removal of Muda that is a key part of TPS and other Lean processes. When we talk about waste in Lean, we specifically mean something with adds NO VALUE to the CUSTOMER. Obviously customer for almost any business or organisation can be a tricky concept and I’ll not dwell on it here.

Usually Muda is broken down further in to 7 or 8 types of waste (some of which are mentioned above).

Transportation - moving stuff or people about is wasteful, the closer a thing can be created to the point of use the better. In simple terms this is food miles, the concept of how far our food has to travel before we consume it or worse leave it to spoil. Think of the extra transportation of putting something in a bricks and mortar shop before it is sold compared to keeping it in the amazon warehouse and moving it to the customer on demand.

Inventory - having stuff on hand is good, but having the wrong stuff and too much of it is not good. One of the many reasons that Amazon thrives whilst shops dwindle is that inventory is expensive and wasteful. Having lots of stuff on hand in the right place at the right time is very expensive, add the overhead of transportation, rent of the shop and staff to run it Vs clicking online and having it the same day from Amazon. Stuff also takes up space that doesn’t allow for other stuff. This inventory can be anything from raw materials to emails in an inbox or files on a desktop. It can be stuff in your suitcase that you took on holiday and didn’t use.

Motion - Not to be confused with transportation, this is needless motion in a process. The example always used is making a cup of tea. If you keep the tea bags in the garden shed and the cups in the bathroom and the kettle in the living room and the tap in the kitchen, how much longer does it take to make a cup of tea. at the other end of the scale, this might be as simple as having all your tools laid out before you start a task, or moving items to a comfortable working height. This is the difference between having the crank handle on the front of an old car and starting the car with a key next to the steering wheel.

Waiting - in a production system, any item that has to wait to be processed is waste within the system. Just in time is a key concept in Lean, an item should ideally appear the moment it is needed. In simple terms this is waiting for the dentist with whom you have an appointment at 9am but isn’t read for you until 9:15 or taking a ticket to speak to the customer service people at Ikea. It’s waiting for parts to come from China by boat or waiting for the electrician to finish before you can start plastering. We are all fairly familiar with waiting. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how we’ve eliminated waiting from lots of day to day activities over the last 50 years.

Over-Production - This is where you’ve made more stuff than is needed. A good example of this is the clothing industry where over production is a methodology of keeping clothing cheap. Way more items of clothing are made than get worn or purchased. These often then get destroyed. The same goes for food. In an ideal world we’d only make the stuff that gets used. Overproduction accounts for huge amounts of waste, not just the wasted raw materials and production time but squandered energy and the impact on the environment.

Over-Processing - this concept is a little harder to grasp. Its were there is waste in a process because extra actions are taken that add no value to the customer. This might include reworking an item that was found defective, or in another example in an air craft spares workshop, items came in for reconditioning and testing. The aircraft part would be repaired and tested and put on a shelf, maybe for several months. When it was needed again, they’d take the part out and test it again, doubling the amount of processing that had to be done. This was also true in a lab I used to work in. Water would be tested and a result published, the customer would see a result they weren’t expecting and ask for a retest. 99.9% of the time the result was the same but the processing had been doubled.

Defects - this is where something has to be reworked or discarded because it was defective, wasn’t made right the first time. Any time spent processing something that was defective is waste. It’s like backing the loosing horse in a race for example. Or having a blunt tool in a process that doesn’t cut things out properly and having to take a knife to it later. Or a bug in software that has to be patched.

Sometimes an 8th waste is added.

Unused Skills - this is where you have an over skilled worker in the process. Personally I don’t like this one as part of Lean. Essentially any people within a process are a waste as most processes shouldn’t require a person to do a thing other than be the customer or invent and monitor the process. Any worker who is a substitute for a machine in a process is going to have under utilised skills. On the other hand if the worker is an artisan they are likely responsible for their own process and should try to eliminate their own wastes, though there may be wastes up and down stream from the artisan.

Striving to identify and eliminate these wastes, improves any process.

what are the wastes we should look out for in a Hackerspace? I’ve come up with a short list of hackerspace muda (its a work in process). These are:

Over-Burdening - where a tool, person or process is required to handle more work than they are capable of delivering. This might be an individual who has taken on too many responsibilities or is presented with overly complex methods to getting something done. This might be a room or a tool that is overly occupied or it might be a process that funnels work load into an under resourced area. This also describes a process that requires a person to make it happen or to police it. Where “someone” has to do work which shouldn’t have been created. Such as having to clean up a cup that has been left on a draining board or having to check and clear out project storage.

Dethusiasm - if you think of enthusiasm as a sort of energy resource, a hackerspace can be quite good at creating it. Though often that enthusiasm can’t be utilised in the moment or might require labour on the part of someone else to manage and weald as a resource. The trouble often is that there is no-where to direct that enthusiasm or the enthusiasm is not self directed, or when it is, it is miss-applied. When our enthusiasm isn’t responded to we suffer an emotional slight I call this dethusiasm.

Inventory - this is the hoarding of stuff and the squandering of usable space. For every item in a space, another item can not be put in the space. For every square foot taken up with a tool, another tool is denied a square foot. For every project stored and untouched another project can not be started and stored.

Confusion - this is about signal to noise ration, lack of process and over communication or poor communication. It is about complication of a mission, purpose or why something is. Its the waste that results from a broad “do what you like” and “pay what you like” ruling. It’s the blindness that comes from cognitive dissonance, “We say do this, but the room looks the opposite of what we say.” it’s the broken window effective. It’s too many warning signs so you don’t notice them any more. It’s the Careful Wet Surface cone you ignore every day because the surface is never wet. It’s a process that is too hard to do.

As mentioned, this is a work in progress.

Today’s thumbnail is a picture of some yarn in Fred Aldous, a shop in Manchester.

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