The pet food manufacturing plant was an impressive facility. One and a half million cans of pet food produced each day. The stream of cans only stopped when:
the work week ended,
a machine broke, or
the two-hour daily cleaning started.
When a broken machine halted the flow of cans, unsterilized cans were thrown away. Sterilized cans could be taken off the conveyor via the bright stacker. (Since these cans were not labeled, stacks of them were called bright stacks.) When the kitchen area was cleaned and sterilized, the unlabeled cans taken off the line earlier in the day were put back on the conveyor. Since I was the newest Quality Assurance technician, I worked the graveyard shift, the clean-up shift.
Everyone knew the bright stacker dented many cans. It irritated me the most because I was the one who had to decide which pallets (196 cases) had to be hand sorted for dents. All pallets from bright stacks contained many dented cans.
Finally, in a desperate cry for help, I crunched the numbers and wrote a report, “90% of the product hand sorted for dents came from bright stacks.” The supervisor on my shift told me he’s weary of trying to fix the problem; learn to live with it. Jack, a supervisor on another shift, replaced a metal sweeping arm with a rubber sweeping arm. The problem, my irritation, went away.
Looking back, I view the rubber sweeping arm as my achievement. I’m sure Jack feels the same way. Identifying a problem to solve is just as important as solving a problem. I am sure Jack would have put me on the helpful list.
My boss did not like my lean activities. He kept me on the grave yard shift for six years. My lean goals kept me working there. When my boss was finally terminated, offers were made. Unfortunately it was too little, too late. I left the company. Six months later I declined an offer to return. They should have had a “Who was helpful?” list.