Posted by: knightbird | July 15, 2010

The Lady Alice

As an impressionable young man of 16, I spent a second summer on a fishing boat with my Dad, Clifford. The first summer was when I was 7, and I tagged along on the Lottie M. It was a magical summer because I was with my Grandpa Alex, Uncles Eddie and David, and my Dad. All four have passed away, but for a 7 year old to spend time with the men in his life is an experience to be cherished. My crew share at the end of the summer was a 26” Red Schwinn bicycle. That bike was a huge part of my life.

During the second summer, I learned a lot of life lessons, and one of them was to recognize amazing teamwork among a group of men with a purpose. The group of men were the crew of the Lady Alice, a seine boat that fished many of the same locations we did. I marveled at how fast and efficient the crew was. While I spent a lot of my time pulling the lead line over the cork line, the Lady Alice always seemed to lay out a perfect set. The experienced skipper also seemed to know where the fish were. That summer the Lady Alice caught twice the volume of fish that we did.

And the crew made the seine literally fly out of the water. The Power Block was set at a much higher speed than ours was. When a salmon got caught in the seine, we often had to stop our Power Block to extract it. The web man on the Lady Alice seemed to make the caught salmon fly out of the net with a quick shake. I know that you can’t catch fish unless the seine is soaking, and the Lady Alice could fish more sets that we could because of their speed in pulling the net.

And the Lady Alice had an experienced crew. They had long hours learning the skills of fishing. And they had a purpose, a mission, to catch as much fish as is possible. We had a lot of young crew members. I was not the youngest at 16, we had a 12 year old. I was not really taught how to do what I needed to do in order to be successful. I learned in the heat of fishing, without much practice time before I had to deliver. I did an OK job, but I was certainly not the Lady Alice web man.

What does this post have to do with Lean. I think a lot. A seine boats value adding time is when the net is in the water catching fish. Everything you can do to minimize the unproductive time of that net is important. Preventative maintenance, so you don’t have to stop to fix anything on the boat, allows you more time to fish. A well trained crew with processes that flow allow you to minimize the amount of time the net takes to pull so you can get it into the water. And the teamwork is critical. The net can only be pulled at the pace of the slowest crew member.

And the more efficient the workplace is, with all tools and implements having a place to be, and easily located when needed, the quicker you can get the net back into the water. So 5S has a place on a fishing boat.

Then there is safety. My Dad was injured when a piece of jewelry caught on a rope. Our most experienced fisherman was lost to us for the season.

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