Monthly Archives: July 2017

Do it for your children

When I was a young boy, I was somewhat afraid of my dad. He was always angry at the dinner table. Mad at his boss. When I pictured his boss in my mind, he had horns and a pointy tail. That did not prepare me for the workforce.

Fifty years ago, in his scholarly book, The Achieving Society, David McClelland theorized a society must increase the achievement need in its children before it could take a giant leap economically. To accomplish this, stories that illustrate achievement must be told, dominating influences must be removed, and warmth must be given to those who achieve.

Parents must learn before their children can learn. Good reason to read continuous improvement stories at work. Replacing complaints about work with stories of achievement reduces dominating influences at the dinner table. We are good at giving warmth for our children’s achievements.

It’s difficult for a stranger to get a job at Kobett Enterprises. The company prefers to hire the sons and daughters of its Leantrepreneurs. They have been listening to stories of achievement at the dinner table since birth!

Life is funny. Who would have thought displaying the parents’ achievements on the fridge door was just as important as displaying the child’s achievements?

Getting Started

Here’s how to start the storytelling process. Post this story near the time clock (or one of your own):

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!

Ask employees to submit their own lean stories. Post appropriate stories near the time clock.

After a few stories, point out: every story starts with an irritation. For example, Kevin had to walk across the roof in a blizzard! Ask employees to share irritations with their work tasks. “What do you hate to do?”

The most difficult part of kaizen is finding a problem. Once the problem is identified, finding a solution is relatively easy. Since irritations signal a problem is present, sharing irritations highlights problems.

Most irritations will be eliminated by retraining. Some will provide opportunities for improvement. These will be posted as the beginnings of future stories. For example, using the above example,

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.

 

How does this story end?

 

Old stories lead to new ideas

We are never done with a story. Reviewing old stories lead to new ideas. For example, I recently noticed I missed an opportunity for improvement in my first post, The Last Lean Question. If employees are having trouble with math, new hires must pass a math test. How could I have missed this?

How many new ideas would we generate if hundreds of people read these stories?

“The Last Lean Question

The most difficult part of lean is identifying a problem to work on. Hence, the last question in a lean improvement should be, “How could we have discovered this problem sooner?”

A lean correction from the food industry illustrates how critical this last question could be. The new oil supplier did not add preservative. The parts per million (ppm) calculation was difficult. When I gave the poundage of preservative needed to the oil tank farmer, he laughed. He would need a fork truck to add that much preservative!

I double checked my math with another type of oil that used the same amount of preservative. The computerized calculation was only one-tenth of the preservative needed. Incorrect math meant unsafe products left this plant for years. Extensive internal and external audits did not identify the problem.

How could we have discovered this problem sooner?

The company had several identical plants. A oil tank farmer from another plant would have identified the miscalculation immediately. How many problems could someone from another, similar gemba easily discover? Was this problem the only reason the plant’s costs were lower than the other plants? Is the lowest cost a reason to celebrate or a reason to worry? Should all kaizen events include someone from a similar plant? Would both plants benefit? Who should we send? The last question usually leads to many questions.”

Apples to apples

The finished product samples performed well in the moisture testing oven. The in-process samples did not. The in-process sample was 40 degrees hotter. This was the root cause of the problem. The higher starting temperature caused the sample to “pop” in the moisture testing oven. This “pop” expelled oil from the sample pads, skewing test results. We only wanted moisture removed from the sample.

As a result, liquid margarine batches were continually resampled, corrected, resampled, etc. Six batches were mixed together before packaging. Each batch took 45 minutes to crystallize (emulsified by cooling rapidly). Once the product was crystallized, it was finished product.

Luckily, Tim was helpful. He agreed to get a second in-process sample after the batch started the crystallization process. Testing on the crystallized samples revealed the production process was outstanding. The margarine batches were consistently on target; very little variation existed between batches which was expected with the state-of-the-art equipment. A deficient in-process sampling procedure slowed production to the point everyone was working weekends.