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Learn Manufacturing Principles From "Bar Rescue"

Updated on February 28, 2018

Bar Makeover Techniques

Anyone working in a modern manufacturing company today is familiar with the basic elements of a management philosophy called Lean Manufacturing Principles. It's focus is on reducing or eliminating wastes and to strive for continuous improvements.

Who knew you could learn the basic building blocks of Lean Manufacturing by watching a show called “Bar Rescue?” Jon Taffer a legendary food & beverage industry expert consultant, a Nightclub Hall of Fame inductee and author of his first book on flipping bars"Raise the Bar."

Jon has renovated nearly a thousand bars and restaurants over his thirty years of experience. I'm not sure if Jon has any manufacturing experience but his techniques are very similar to the Lean Principle techniques used in the manufacturing industry. Jon and his staff of Culinary Experts and Mixologists put those same principles to use every week on “Bar Rescue” when they give failing bars an extreme makeover.

This Paramount Network series "Bar Rescue" shows how to use Lean and Continuous Improvement methods found in todays manufacturing centers to renovate a failing bar. Jon and his colleagues rescue bars and restaurants from financial ruin by transforming all their wasted efforts and processes into a productive and profitable establishments. Transforming a bar is lot more entertaining than bringing a manufacturing plant back into profit but the techniques can be surprisingly similar.

Bar Rescue (Jon Taffer)
Bar Rescue (Jon Taffer) | Source

Gemba = The Real Place

Jon's first step of each bar makeover is to scope out the failing bar with hidden surveillance video. This is very similar to the technique used by manufacturing engineers and management called “Gemba.” The Japanese term Gemba means "the real place” which instructs manufacturing managers and engineers to go to shop floor and witness first hand any opportunities for improvements that are visible. They also identify any wastes than need eliminated in the manufacturing processes. The first few scenes of Bar Rescue start by Jon and his team sitting out in the bar's parking lot and witnessing what is going on inside. This is a perfect way to see “the real place” and any problems that exist without influencing anyone’s behavior.

One of the fathers of the Gemba walks was Taiichi Ohno, the author of Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production. Taiichi Ohno is also known as the father of the Toyota Production System which is the foundations of Lean Manufacturing Principles. He was also the son of Toyota's founding father, Sakichi Toyoda. Gemba is needed to access the situation first hand and witness the real-time inputs, outputs and bottlenecks of any organization.

I enjoy watching Jon Taffer put the same manufacturing principles to work while bringing a failing bar back to life. Jon’s Gemba walk usually identifies the obvious process problems of providing food and beverages to the customers correctly and on time. Once the problems are identified, he then confronts the manager face to face inside the bar. This is where the bar business and manufacturing might differ slightly. I’m not sure if Jon’s “in-your-face” extremely confrontational discussions would be tolerated in the manufacturing environment of a large corporation with a well-staffed HR department. It is however entertaining to watch him be brutally honest in expressing his disgust at the management or lack-of management of the bar needing the rescue.

Jon does an excellent job of identifying the obvious flaws found during his Gemba walk and tries to get the bar manager to agree that the problems exist and agree to help to work on providing a solution. This always seems to be the high tension portion of the show. There is always a lot of yelling and throwing things being done to highlight the obvious problems. The drama and tension is created to make a lasting and dramatic impression in the bar owners mind that a change of the same drastic proportions needs to be made to bring the bar back from imminent failure. It just shows that it sometimes takes someone getting upset or angry before real changes can be made.

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The Five S's

Jon and his team start attacking the organization of the bar by transforming the workplace just like it's done in a manufacturing workcell by using “5S” which is taken from The Toyota Production System. The bars generally are remodeled which gives the team the opportunity to remove everything from the workplace and only bring back what is truly needed. This is a very effective way of reducing the clutter and creating a well maintained and functional area.

Many Lean Manufacturing Principles are derived from The Toyota Production System which lists 5 key elements of a clean and organized workplace which are known as The Five S's or “5S”. 5S is the term used to describe “Sort", "Straighten", "Shine", "Standardize", and "Sustain.”

  1. Sort: Move out unnecessary items. Get rid of anything that isn’t used frequently. Jon might get rid of excessive items around the bar area. A shop floor could throw out old hand tools or un-used equipment. Many times a cluttered operation needs to move EVERYTHING outside the work area and only bring in what is truly needed. Sometimes it's best to start with a clean work cell, especially if you want to change the entire layout before introducing the equipment.
  2. Straighten: Make things you need easy to find and organized in a logical arrangement. Arrange items in a order that everyone can understand. All bar glasses have a designated obvious location just like tool boxes should be near to the work areas. Remove any obstacles and clear the pathways. Reduce the distance needed to retrieve items by locating them close to where they are needed.
  3. Shine: Make everything you use clean and safe. Dirt should be obviously noticeable. If it’s dirty it should stand out from all the clean items. There is no need to have dirty glasses to drink out of and a shop floor shouldn’t have dirty or greasy hand tools.
  4. Standardize: Everything should have an order. If you have several work areas, each area should have a standard look and feel. Employees shouldn’t be confused each time they move to a new work area. Label the location of important equipment and keep it there when not in use.
  5. Sustain: Create process and organization that will last. Have discipline to keep these processes in place. If you revert back to the failing ways of doing work, you will fail, again. If it’s working, keep doing it and improve when needed.

Paramount Networks
Paramount Networks | Source

Kaizen means "change for better"

Kaizen is a Japanese word means "change for better". In order to make a culture of continuous improvement in the workplace there needs to be well defined changes, sometimes disruptive changes like we see on Bar Rescue.

Kaizen goes beyond the daily search for incremental changes of continuous improvements. Kaizen is making a defined change, monitoring the results and then making adjustments to produced the desire results if needed. Many companies today refer to these as "Kaizen Events". A team is assembled with a limited goal of making a change that has a measured improvement.

One example of a Kaizen event is when Jon gathers a few employees to relive congestion in the kitchen area by eliminating wastes such as organizing a system to inform the chef's of each order. However, before the change is made, he tests the "current system" in place by creating a "stress test" of the bar. He asks a crowd of customers to flood the restaurant and this reveals flaws quickly and shows the breakdown of organization in the restaurants current processes. This creates the "current state" baseline data point to judge any future improvements. The same tactics are used in manufacturing to test the current processes.

A typical improvements in Bar Rescue is adding or replacing the paper ordering system for taking a customers order with a new POS (Point of Sale) system that records the orders with timestamps so data can be collected and used to determine if their improvements are working.

Continuous Improvement

Working in a bar or working in a manufacturing facility, the goal should always strive to continuously improve the working conditions and the processes and procedures that make up your business. Finding the perfect mix of improvements helps increase profits and morale while reducing costs and hazards.

Applying Lean Manufacturing to your business processes will help in the re-organization of your business. Managers should train and help all their employees to continuously look for opportunities to make even the smallest improvements. Small incremental improvements will eventually pay off by eliminating wastes and simply make the business better.

These ideals of a daily goal to make any improvement gives all employees a real sense of ownership in their jobs and the authority to make changes in their workplace. It takes complaints and turns them into action. Generally the best ideals on how to improve something comes from the person who deals with the difficulty the most.

If you need to turn around a failing bar or an inefficient manufacturing center, you can use many of the same techniques Jon Taffer's uses. But you might wan to tone down the shouting and the language while your on the job. Your employees and team members can learn the techniques and the philosophy this show presents.

Do you enjoy watching "Bar Rescue?"

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of "Bar Rescue"

© 2014 Alan Lehmann


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