Power of Visual Story Telling!

Few days back I submitted a written consulting report  to an owner of an NGO. This was to improve productivity of the process of making natural eco-friendly fertilizers. With rising costs he was increasingly finding it difficult to sustain the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ business. So improving productivity was his only means to not only save his business but also to save his customers – the poor farmers. The farmers use this eco-friendly product to improve farm productivity and also feed their live stock.

So the project was important to me. If I can help him improve productivity then I would also be able to contribute to sustainable and resilient rural communities.

I visited them. And clinically went through the present process. Then I wrote my ideas and recommendations in a written report and emailed it.

I quote the relevant extracts from the report:


A) Reduce the size of the batch being processed in the initial stage. 
At present a large quantity of raw material is processed in one go. It is slow, time taking and perhaps non-uniform. It suffers from all the 3 Mudas.
Break it up into smaller chunks.
For example a single batch may contain just the right amount of material that can be processed into finished product in a day. For instance if only 1T of finished product can be processed in a day then the batch sizes would be of 1T only.
A 1. Stagger 
The whole batch is processed in one go. That is the whole batch is left for fermentation for the next 7 to 10 days depending on the prevailing season of the year before it is taken out for further sorting and processing. It suffers from all the 3 Mudas.
Since it takes 7 to 10 days (varies between summer and winter) for the raw meal to be ready for further processing. The batches can be planned in such a way depending on the season of the year — where preparation and production are in sync and it can start after the first batch is ready. It means the first batch is taken out after the 7th day and the next batch (prepared a day later) is taken out on the 8th day from the start of the production and so on…
B) Combine Preparation and Fermentation 
The preparation is done in a separate area. This is followed by storing for fermentation which is carried out in a separate area in plastic drums.
Combine the two processes.
Prepare the raw meal in the fermentation drum directly. It combines two activities in one stroke.
A suitable size of drum (used oil drums cut into halves) may be used for the purpose. The drums may be designed like the boiler drum available in the xxx office which would allow for stirring and mixing as well as act as air tight drums, which is necessary for fermentation.
The sprinkling of the chemicals that is required during preparation of the raw meal might be carried out in the way mosquito repellents are sprayed with the drum placed on the back of the sprayer. Similar drum containing the chemical can be strapped onto the back of the operator who sprays the required amount of chemical into the raw meal.
There is a need to constantly stir the raw meal during preparation. This can be done manually by means of a gear drive made of plastic or wood (so that heavy lubrication is avoided, which may spill into the raw meal – thus contaminating it).
After the meal is prepared the drums can be shut tight (air tight) by a similar mechanism used for the xxx boiler drum.
The same drum can be placed on a titling mechanism (similar to platform used for industrial gases) which can be lowered when needed to the required height for packing and weighing.
Such a jugaard (half drum, detachable and movable cover, gear driven manual stirrer, chemical spray dispenser,  air tight mechanism, mounting on a tilting table like the way industrial gas cylinders are mounted) might be created for processing smaller batches.
C) Filling up the packets by calibrated mugs. 
At present the operator fills up the packets by haunch/feel. Then the right amount is adjusted after weighment. This is a trail and error method that entails a loss of productive time.
The material can be filled by help of calibrated mugs that would contain either 1 kg of raw meal (for 1 kg packs) or 2.5 kg of raw meal (for 5 kg packs). This improves accuracy, speed of operation and minimizes time losses from the system.
Presently the sequence of the processing is bit haphazard. This cause time loss and motion loss.
The entire process may be laid out in a orderly and logical sequence to eliminate motion loss, time loss and loss due to unevenness of loading.
The floor can be raised and leveled for that purpose complete with suitable and reliable electrical connections wherever needed. This would also prevent inundation of the work place by rain water during monsoon.
I am sure you found it difficult to follow what I recommended.
The owner, though he knew about the process, also found it difficult to follow the report. He called me up to say, ‘Hey, my men and I did not quite get what you want us to do in your report. Is it possible for you to come down and explain? I would be obliged if you may.”
Coming from a man who passed out from one of the best MBA schools in the world rang a bell in my mind. So if he can’t get it surely others might also find it difficult. And clearly there was any story here.
However, I wanted to avoid a visit (I never love physical travel) and thought what else might I do to make it clear to him and his men.What followed was a pictorial representation of what I wrote, which is as follows:
process (1)
After he got the pictorial view of the story I called him up to ask how he liked it. “Simply brilliant story!’ he replied.
I thank my colleagues Rick De and T R Khan for creating this moving visual story.
A picture is worth a thousand words — surely!!

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