Monthly Archives: November 2015

What irritates you?

It was Ernie’s last week of work. My retirement present was to check the rooftop thermometer for him. It was a miserable experience. The access to the roof was on the other side of the plant. The roof was dark with no clear path to the thermometer. A couple times I had to cross a waist high wall. The wind was howling, the roof was slick, and the temperature was below zero. If I had slipped and couldn’t have gotten up, no one would have looked for me before frostbite set in. The last obstacle was a snow drift.

Incredibly, employees have been doing this task six times a day for years without complaining. A stairwell was present on the other side of the wall where the outside thermometer was located. A couple of steps and a door made checking the rooftop thermometer easy. Operators extended their breaks by fifteen minutes to check the rooftop thermometer. Since, a relief operator was needed for breaks and the new door made the long break unnecessary, the new door saved the company $6,000 per year in labor costs and it eliminated a safety hazard!

How could we have discovered this problem sooner?

Irritations are collected. For example, “I had to walk across the roof in a blizzard last night twice!”

Post these irritations above the suggestion box and solicit suggestions. Over four hundred people worked at the above mentioned factory. One of them would have discovered the need for another door.

Human See, Human Do

The research chemists did not know how to use the FTIR. The flawed procedure was:

  1. Search through the computer disks to find the last scan for the particular ingredient/finished product being tested. Info for sample preparation is included with the scan.
  2. Prepare and scan the new sample and save on disk.
  3. If a customer complaint is received, compare scan to control.

I told Brenda the new sample must be compared to the control sample before the product left the plant. She yelled and cursed at me. I refused to use the flawed procedure. Brenda continued her verbal attack.

The first step was to check past FTIR scans. The sample preparation was consistently different between scans of the same ingredient/finished product. One day the sample would be placed between two crystals; the next time the sample would be dried on one crystal. This made control comparison impossible.

Two changes were needed to correct the procedure. Searching disks to find the last sample took too much time. Hence, control FTIRs for all ingredients/finished products must be kept on a single disk. If more than one disk was needed, labels could identify which control disk was needed. A five minute search per sample was eliminated.

A notebook was needed to record sample preparation for each ingredient/finished product. For example, Ingredient X-71: 2 drops from a small straw spread over entire crystal before drying.

While the sample was being prepared, the control sample could be uploaded for comparison, saving more time. Since the sample is compared to the control immediately, saving the scan was not necessary. Finished product samples were kept for years, so if a customer did complain another scan could be prepared.

The proper procedure took a fraction of the time the flawed procedure took. Contaminated ingredients could be rejected before use and customers could be assured of receiving good product.

A few weeks later:

The following test was used to test the efficiency of cleaning products:

  1. A carefully soiled linoleum tile was taped to the outside bottom surface of a metal tray. This tray had an opening which exposed the top of the soiled linoleum.
  2. The tray was placed on the washability apparatus. 100 mls of diluted cleaner was poured on the linoleum. A scrub pad was placed in its holder and a weight was added to the top of this scrub pad holder. After the cleaner had been on the soiled linoleum for one minute, the machine was turned on. The machine moved the scrub pad back and forth across the soiled linoleum. After 75 strokes of the scrub pad, the cleaning was terminated and the linoleum was allowed to dry.
  3. The cleaned linoleum was placed on another instrument , which appraised the amount of dirt removed. This instrument placed a numeric value on the whiteness of the cleaned linoleum. This whiteness value allowed comparison between cleaners.

The problem with this test was the cleaner dissolved the adhesive on the tape and the cleaning solution leaked off the linoleum before the scrubbing began. Hence, when the scrubbing began, no cleaner was left on the soiled linoleum tile. I tested different types of tape to no avail. Then something amazing happened. Brenda found the answer. Four clamps, on each corner of the tray, worked perfectly to keep the cleaning solution from leaking off the linoleum. No tape was required.

There are only a few lean role models around. A good substitute is a lean story.