Lean Manufacturing and Web design

Lean manufacturing zealots have declared that web-site design and development can be done faster with the help of Lean manufacturing techniques. They contend that even copywriting is faster, don’t ask us how. Lean manufacturing is a promising practice in the delivery of goods that eliminates pointless and wasteful elements of the production and delivery cycle for elimination. Somehow, this is done by hiring wasteful and self absorbed Lean Manufacturing consultants, because you were too stupid to do this. But let’s examine the Lean Manufacturing premises and promises to see if we can just apply some common sense to our operation. We can even ponder the creative process of copy-writing and look for an application for these principles.

First, widely we hear claims for Lean, these I will call the promises;

  • 1/2 the man hours
  • 1/2 the defects (quality improvements )
  • 1/3 the engineering man hours
  • 1/2 the floor space for the same factory/distribution productivity
  • 1/10th or less of in-process inventories, i.e. Just in Time or JIT WIP management

To back up these goals, the Lean evangelists ask us to envision a ‘fictitious Boat Factory.’ In their workshop they ask teams to for a production line to make as many cardboard sailboats as possible in 30 minutes. They say that the workers struggled to produce 20 good boats and produced 30 defective boats. They then reorganize the divisions of labor in an improved manner to help the team produce 36 boats with only one defective. They hope their dupes miss the point that the initial crappy production line was designed to be unwieldy by the creators of the workshop. They instead only stress the results.

  • 80% output improvement
  • 70% reduction in lead time
  • 97% reduction in defects

All because the assigned method forming the assembly line was optimized. Their assumption is that manufacturers are too stupid to do this, and their data is whatever they say. This is not to say that a production line exists that cannot be improved. My only point is that this little workshop and its purported lessons are rather pedantic.

The relevant facts of Lean Manufacturing consist of looking at the production line in terms of bottlenecks, length, capacity and people. They squeeze those terms into the word FLOW by calling this Faults, Length, opening and workforce. I think they wasted a lot of time doing that. My first suggestion for the Lean Manufacturing people is to quit wasting their time on silly acronyms and stick to the point. A line consists of capacity and operations, and is never perfect. Wow, C-O-NP. Whatever. One claim of the Lean Manufacturing people is that Toyota has seven to ten times the productivity of American companies. Any experienced manufacturing professional knows the utilization of KanBan by Toyota, which can help any manufacturer improve throughput at the expense of WIP. Not surprisingly, when you optimize one thing, something else has to be loosened up to accommodate.

No better example of Lean Manufacturing in practice would be the delivery of water to a fire. Dozens of firemen may spend hours and days idly at the firehouse, and then when called upon all traffic on the road should yield to the firetrucks. Sacrifices made in the productivity in some areas to get water on a fire most quickly.

But even more fascinating is the application of this cheerleader driven logic excercize to web design

The Lean people start with the word FLOW. F stands for faults, and they assume first that clients know what they want. In the Lean Manufacturing model of ideal web-design they encourage lots of meetings to determine the exact number of pages and design of the web-site required. Those meetings of course, are roughly a waste of 75 to 90 percent of meeting time. The purpose of a website is to present information, via the internet and search engines, to an audience of information consumers. Some meetings are required but for the most part only delay the publishing of the website to the internet and search engines. But never mind that, isn’t it just extraordinary how they work the word FLOW into things. At Web-Atlanta we have published web-sites with copywriting in 72 hours. Atlanta web design doesn’t get leaner than that.

At Web-Atlanta, one difficulty we do have is with the graphics department. They insist that a certain amount of ping-pong, fuse-ball and fresh fruit juice are components of a happy workforce. In our copy-writing department, I can assure you that a whip and a cattle prod are quite sufficient. Seriously, the rapid publishing affords us interaction with our clients supplementing the design. The budget is not spent on a myriad of wasteful workshops cutting out cardboard boats with blunt scissors, the real interaction begins when the prototype hits the clients desk and conference calls begin with the clients and Atlanta web design.

The next letter is L, and as you can see, Atlanta web design from Web Atlanta can bring forth a published web site before ten percent of the scheduled meetings have occurred for other web design firms. Then we come to the letter ‘O’ which pertains to the capacity to produce web-sites. Not including graphics, Atlanta web design firm Web-Atlanta produces three sites per day, technically and in copy-writing. In business for fifteen years, we are still waiting for the graphics arts department to decide on the logo for our stationary.

Web Atlanta is a great advocate of incorporating existing EPS graphics into the web design. If you have a public relations graphics package then we can save countless weeks of waiting by allowing our graphics arts department to just play fuse-ball and drink juice while they think about our Logo at Web-Atlanta – our technical department can do the manipulations required to use your existing graphics.

The Lean Manufacturing folks would be a little peeved if I finished without mentioning the W in the word FLOW. As I have mentioned, our use of cattle prods and corporal punishment is all we need to mention in dealing with our technical and copy-writing departments. But another invention of the Lean Manufacturing world are the 5 esses.

  • remove clutter
  • Organize
  • maintain
  • organize
  • measure

Yes, those are the five esses of Lean Manufacturing. Ess means the letter ‘S’ and they make one thing into two because a number 5 looks like a letter ‘S’. Wonder how much time they wasted on that? Don’t waste your time wondering – too much.

At Web Atlanta website design firm, tools that help us quickly produce a website also optimize Page Load Time. It is widely accepted that fast-loading pages improve the user experience. In recent years, many sites have started using AJAX techniques to present the user with the webpage before having to wait for every element of a complex page to load. However the majority of the page load time is spent in separate HTTP requests for images, JavaScript, and style-sheets. Speeding up these separate HTTP requests might help, and the Rails world has shown examples of this form of optimization.

With the roll out of HTML5 and the caching technologies in practice at Web Atlanta website design the delays in serving webpages is kept to a minimum. While we typically avoid a rails application for mundane web design, we respect the slip-streaming cleverly developed for massive css and js library delivery while keeping the number of http requests to a reasonable level. With more then nine out of ten internet users connected asymmetrically, i.e. their download speed is much higher than upload, interruptions for http requests should be carefully considered, even when AJAX may seem sexy. It is simplistic to assume that bandwidth is rapidly expanding when in fact some users still may even use dial-up or share with many users a slower T1 or T1 speed DSL connection.  If you conditionally gzip HTML, javascript, or CSS, you probably want to add a “Cache-Control: private” if you set an Expires header. This will prevent problems with caching by proxies that won’t understand that your gzipped content can’t be served to everyone. (The Vary header was designed to do this more elegantly, but you can’t use it because of IE brokenness.) For anything where you always serve the exact same content when given the same URL (e.g. static images), add “Cache-Control: public” to give proxies explicit permission to cache the result and serve it to different users. If a caching proxy local to the user has the content, it is likely to have much less latency than you On pages where your users are often sent the exact same content over and over, such as your home page or RSS feeds, implementing conditional GETs can substantially improve response time and save server load and bandwidth in cases where the page hasn’t changed. The idea is pretty simple: When you generate a page, you give the browser a little extra information about exactly what was on the page you sent. When the browser asks for the same page again, it gives you this information back. If it matches what you were going to send, you know that the browser already has a copy and send a much smaller 304 (Not Modified) reply instead of the contents of the page again. And if you are clever about what information you include in an ETag, you can usually skip the most expensive database queries that would’ve gone into generating the page.

Load times for five style sheets of 10kb can be more than double that of one stylesheet of 50kb. Thus, the railsish optimizations can double the speed of RoR webpage delivery. Many designers are afraid that cached webpages may lead to content served but not statistically captured. In the GA model though, the use of an asynchronous JS client side seems to insure that each client reports each web page at least exactly once per cookie-life. However, in distributed content environments the server managers such as Amazon and Yahoo suggest that if your files have changed, use a new file name. You can trick browsers into thinking the file URL has changed by adding a useless query string, e.g. index.php?moonjuice=fryed-okra.

Atlanta Web Design