Lean Flow Bag Stuffing Videos

The last few years I’ve helped out with the bag stuffing at the Agile200X conference. It started out as a fun experiment in applying our lean and kanban craft in a different context. It has turned into a tradition, and something we have learned huge amounts from. Last year Christopher Avery took some video and he’s recently published an number of posts with some of the content.

I’m not at Agile2012 this week and so missed the exercise on Sunday, but I’m hoping that someone will publish any metrics and learnings that came out of the latest instance of the experiment.

Lean Bag Packing at Agile2011

Once again, I helped out with the volunteer bag packing at the Agile2011 conference, and as usual we had great fun and broke records. This year we completed 1600 bags in just under 4 hours packing time, with an hour preparation/breakfast and an hour for lunch.  Christopher Avery took some video footage and interviews, which I hope to be able to link to here soon.

For the retrospective, run by Eric Willeke, we asked participants for things that they had learned which were relevant to software development. Here’s the list:

  • Focus on quality
  • Communication is essential
  • Let go
  • People and process
  • Experience is useful
  • Being prepared
  • Its important to know why
  • Improve through collaboration
  • Practice makes perfect
  • People are responsible
  • Ask & listen – don’t assume
  • Redistribute work
  • Power of whole team
  • Lots of communication
  • Simple visual metrics
  • Integration is hard
  • Don’t be attached to your process
  • Knowing good enough
  • Allowing for variance
  • Be engaged
  • Do it – inspect and adapt
  • Variety is motivating
  • Understanding impact of change
  • Change is disruptive
  • Shut up!
  • Dress appropriately
  • Common purpose
  • Relentless improvement
  • Communication without words
  • Reacting to reality
  • Be lean – JIT happens
  • Building relationships
  • Rhythm is fun
  • Visualising progress
  • Visualising WIP
  • Adaptability in context
  • People – not resources
  • Cross functional to eliminate bottlenecks
  • Single point of failure
  • Self organising team
  • Focus on the work
  • Good communication
  • People self-organising

Update: Eric has written his own post of the experience

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.