Last week I was lucky enough to visit the capital of Mozambique, Maputo for a week-long conference. Mozambique is definitely an interesting place! Its just north of our border (South Africa) but a totally different world. For one, everybody speaks Portuguese. There are a number of local languages of course, but the common vernacular is Portuguese! The Portuguese have left behind more than just the language, and you can see it in the architecture and the distinctive Mediterranean ‘flavour’ of the locals. Unfortunately, civil war and floods have ravaged the country, leaving much of its people in poverty. Roads are unmaintained and buildings are dilapidated in the capital. Also, the imminent problem of corrupt police creating indescretions and threatening to lock you up (unless you pay them of course) is an annoyance tourists have to deal with.
Note: In Mozambique, carry your passport WHEREVER you go!  I didn’t get the memo it seems :/
I was there for the Portuguese-Mozambican Congress on Engineering and presented in the Lean Management Symposium.  Not speaking any Portuguese was…interesting…especially at an engineering conference, but it was actually a pretty cool experience. One thing is for sure, the Portuguese are an awesome bunch of people! They are really friendly, accommodating and they know how to party!
My talk on the research I worked on as a student at the University of Cape Town last year was about how best to teach Lean Thinking to undergraduate engineering students – I provided a ‘student’s perspective’ whilst my ex-supervisor’s presentation was all about the teaching of Lean to students (including me). We proposed that not only is it possible for undergrads to gain a depth of understanding of Lean through PBL (Project Based Learning) – where students complete Lean projects within a real company, but that this type of experience teaches them critical soft skills that a conventional engineering degree fails to produce.
One REALLY awesome thing that came out from one of the Symposium’s presentations was a new Lean Tool: the Waste Identification Diagram developed by the University of Minho. This is a brand new tool, developed to aid employees in visualising waste in a production line offers a lot more information than the conventional value-stream map.
A Waste Identification Diagram of a real production unit


“The width of the block (X axis) is related to the WIP on that process. The units used to measure WIP may be number of parts, weight units, length units, volume units or their value (currency). The height of the block (Y axis) corresponds to the Takt Time and the height of the green part is the Cycle Time of that process. The difference between the Takt Time and the Cycle Time (CT), shown in orange, represents the unused capacity for that process. The units used for TT and CT are time units (e.g. seconds, minutes or hours) per part.
The depth of the block (Z axis) represents the changeover time or setup time for that process or workstation. When a process needs large setup times a natural and classical consequence is large levels of WIP associated with it. In this way, may be expected that thicker blocks (blocks with high values of C/O) would also be wider (blocks with high values of WIP).”
If you’re interested in the WID, send me an email and I’ll forward you the conference paper.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see one of Mozambique’s famous beaches. My party-loving younger sister (and engineer-to-be) spends every New Years soaking up the sun in Mozambique so its definitely on my to-do list. (Christmas and New Years are in the middle of Summer for us so we usually spend them on the beach! I can just see all my Northern-Hemisphere friends/ readers cringing). 😉