Agile2010 Bag Packing with Kanban

At Agile2010, as at Agile2009, I went along to help the volunteer bag packing, and use it as an exercise in experimenting with Lean and Kanban ideas. Once again it was a huge success. We completed packing all the bags in (anecdotally) record time, and had great fun in the process.

The video above was put together by Luiz Parzianello and really gives a sense of the energy and enjoyment everyone had. You can also see the “Y” shaped line we put in place and how people moved around and self-organised to keep the materials flowing.

Below are the outputs of the team retrospective, but first, here are my highlights and overall impressions.

  • Even though bag packing is not software development, there was still creativity on the way we solved the problem.
  • Being able to design a successful process in context, whatever the nature of the work, is an important skill.
  • Even with relatively repetitive work, people are motivated when they are involved in designing the work.
  • Clear visibility of bottlenecks (by limiting work in progress) enabled people to move around to keep the flow of material.
  • Measuring throughput in bags per minute (but not setting targets) was a motivator and a predictor of when we would finish.
  • Given the right space, it would be perfectly feasible to pack bags on-demand during registration without needing to pack them up front.

Here are the retrospective notes:

What Worked – Do Again

  • Music
  • 1 person floating around all stations (extra capacity)
  • Y Config
  • Everyone really trying to help
  • Continuity of event planning – better every year – Elastic
  • WIP limits – 4 stacks backlog meant stop & wait
  • 18 people in am / 15 people in pm
  • People taking metrics – live, visible metrics – without warning
  • Paper picking – each one goes under prev
  • Largest on bottom
  • Table splits
  • Breaks
  • Everything organised & stacked with one example on table of each item
  • Handing a stack directly to a person instead of putting on table
  • Continuity & ownership between am/pm – (better)
  • People got to be creative & solve problems
  • Stacking by size
  • Arrange table so no one had to walk
  • Video taping!!!

What Did Not Work – Do Better

  • Tables too short, materials too low
  • Bad sizing on poster
  • Folders came flat, needed to fold
  • Sticker falling out of flyer
  • Bags less than ideal – keeping open – cut hands
  • Started later, slow beginning
  • Still found missing items
  • List still was not accurate, items hard to match
  • Process for matching items to list not efficient
  • Did not have all the bags
  • Table with small things moved too fast
  • Slowing down to obey WIP made it hard to speed up

What To Do Differently – Try

  • Packing on the vendor room – closer to end point
  • Planning on process over email before hand
  • Someone owns planning process early
  • Something to hold bags by handle and open like a rod
  • Big visible labels on boxes – even big colour stickies
  • Do prework on Saturday
  • Insert kanban tokens into inventory so when a signal is found in stack, then supplies can be identified.
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7 comments on “Agile2010 Bag Packing with Kanban

  1. Hi Karl,
    great post as always…perhaps it would be worth speaking to Hakan about this ? to get in early as part of the 2011 “things to do” ?

    I am due to speak with him in the coming weeks, happy to take this to him if you think its a good idea ?

    cheers

    Cuan

    • Hi Cuan

      Already talked about this with the volunteery type people – see comment below from @Xine :)

      I think its going to be a conference tradition now!

      Karl

  2. Karl, thanks for posting! Chris, Karl, and Eric – I think we have a Tom-ish Sawyeristic tradition!

    Next year in Salt Lake City, eh?

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