Lean and the Art of Garden Shed Repair

When we bought our house in 2003, it needed a lot of work. We have touched every wall, floor and ceiling at least once, and sometimes twice, as our family has grown and our needs and tastes have changed.

Most of that work is done, so I’m able to turn my attention to something that’s needed it for years – my shed. It’s needed paint, and the two barn doors have needed replacing due to rot along their bottoms. It was so bad that the trim literally fell off years ago. It was an embarrassing eyesore, and I was glad to finally be able to beautify it.

lean-shed1After a quick trip to the Big Orange Box, I had all my supplies. New windows, flower boxes, shutters, trim, paint and T1-11 (so I could fabricate new doors) were all laid out in my backyard so I could make sure I had everything. I had leftover boards from a deck project that I would use to make a ramp, but that was for later.

The project moved forward smoothly. Measuring twice and cutting once, I had the shed looking pretty good after a couple weekends. As I always do, I try to leave things better than when I found them, and in this case, I cut the doors a little longer than the originals had been. I did this because mice like to hold up in my shed in the winter, so I figured if I had some overlap along the bottom of the doors, I could install a gasket that would “seal” them out and add a level of protection and encourage them to find somewhere else to go.

That pat on the back quickly turned into a palm-to-head as I started to build my ramp. Having cut the doors long, I now had a 3″ difference between my shed floor and where the top of the ramp would be – quite a bump to take on my tractor, and assuredly a trip hazard. I spent the next 30 minutes staring at my shed from the middle of the backyard, considering alternatives to shortening the doors. “Perhaps a flip-out top board to my ramp that could be hinged from the inside, or a slide-out ramp system that I could build – I’d only need to modify the foundation 4″x4″s in order to accommodate…” I thought. I was racking my brain to find an alternative to un-doing a lot of the work I’d already completed, and none of them were reasonable or made much sense.

I finally gave in, took the new doors off, took off the trim, trimmed the door bottoms and reinstalled everything. Now, the ramp can be a solid 1 piece, and I won’t have to design and build a unique ramp apparatus that would undoubtedly be on my To Do list for another 12 years.

Sometimes, we get so married to an idea that we can’t see it’s inherent flaws. We desperately hold on, and seek alternatives to changing. We invent work-arounds and allow hidden factory operations to take place, all in the name of maintaining the status quo. Lean tells us to challenge that thought. In Lean, everything is on the table, especially if it means making the process easier, faster or less likely to produce errors.

This week, challenge yourself to look at something you’ve been holding on to with a Lean mindset. Is it really the best method to use, or just the one you like the best? Will changing it relieve some pressure from your staff, or perhaps even remove a non-value added operation from the process? Or perhaps you’re ready to implement a change, but someone else isn’t. Be sensitive to their feelings, but still challenge it if you believe that the change will be beneficial in the long run because sometimes, folks need a little extra time to come to terms that their shed doors need trimming.

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