Friday, November 14, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 16 - Lean Living

I have discovered another constraint of my small living space that brings me back to my former life as an Industrial Engineer.  I have limited space in a variety of places such as my fridge, freezer, closet, etc. So I have developed a lean process to handle my inventory and use pull scheduling rather than push.

Let me explain for those of you not ingrained in the IE/lean mentality.

Like many people, I buy beer by the 12-pack.  When I had a full sized fridge, the whole thing would go in.  This is a push schedule.  When I bought the beer, it entered the system.  Now, I have room for one bottle, or maybe two in an emergency.  So I have one in inventory.  When I need a beer, I take it out and another comes out of the cabinet and goes into the fridge.  It is only on demand (needing a beer), not supply (buying the beer), that it enters my inventory (fridge).  If I know in advance that I will need two (Patriots/Broncos football game) I can update the schedule and double my inventory.  I need enough advanced notice for the processing time (getting it cold).

A similar thing happens with vegetables.  I like having something different every day.  Since I live alone, that meant having half full bags and plastic containers of different kinds in the fridge with leftovers.  Over the course of a week or so, I could rotate my choices depending on what I was in the mood for.  But now I have room for just one or two.  So I have to buy in smaller batch sizes, rotate between a smaller variety of SKUs, and only after the inventory is depleted can I switch to a new variety.

A slightly different process happens with jackets.  I have room for one jacket hanging on the front door ready for the next day and another draped over the stack of storage bins along the wall in case my plans change.  During the spring I had my jean jacket on the door and rain jacket on the bins or vice versa when it rained.   Now in the winter, my every day winter jacket is on the door and my dress overcoat is ready for events like my conference tomorrow.  When the weather changed, I opened the bin, put the light jackets inside and took the warm ones out.  The problem was when the weather was fluctuating daily.  I had to keep going into the bin.  Jean jacket in, leather jacket out.  Leather jacket in, winter coat out.  Winter coat in, rain jacket out. 

With my dress shirts, it is based on mood.  I have room for three weeks’ worth of shirts in my closet.  I have a storage bin with another three weeks’ worth and an under-the-bed bin with another three weeks’.  So I rotate among my closet shirts and then at some point when I get bored I pack the whole lot up and take out a new group.  I have to guess what I might be in the mood for that month.  But on the positive side, I am sometimes pleasant surprised.  “Oh, I forgot about that shirt!  It will be fun to have that back in the rotation for a while.” 

OK, so I am geeking out a bit with this explanation.  But it is true.

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