Resistance to innovation is futile

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.

My boss seemed impressed with the numbers. Then he gave the new in-process sampling process a thumbs down. Said we did not have time, which did not make sense; production stopped as batches are resampled and corrected for no reason. We kept working weekends.

Weeks later, I helplessly watched the production manager working to find the problem with the inconsistent production process. He failed. The production process worked great. I told the wrong manager what the problem was.

My first employer had an effective suggestion process. Each plant received numbered suggestion forms. Hence, suggestion forms could not be discarded; all forms must be returned to corporate. After the employee/team filled out the suggestion form, it was routed thru three managers/supervisors for opinions. The department manager decided how to proceed. Corporate reviewed the process.

To replicate this, the first step would be to hire an innovation champion. Someone with such a high achievement need, she’ll walk out the door if good suggestions are ignored. Someone who will give everyone a clean slate so no one will get in trouble if their process is deficient. Someone who will reward the behavior of identifying exceptional employees. Someone who will guarantee resistance to innovation is futile.

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