Posted by: knightbird | November 29, 2011

One Kaizen Is Not Enough

I had another conversation with one of our lean champions yesterday. The topic was continuous improvement and the reaction of some employees to second, third and subsequent Kaizen. Why should be do it again since we already did it one? The point she made was that we are chasing perfection even though we will never achieve it. The only way to chase perfection is through continuous efforts at improvement. That means we recognize defects and fix them every time. If the defect is bigger than available time, we add the defect to our treasure chest and schedule time to fix it. We cannot commit continuous improvement to the attention of management only. Every employee needs to buy into the improvement mantra and be taught the skills of improvement.

Here is one example I observed in a manufacturing employee. A worker was seated in front of a turntable. She was inserting 2 plastic pieces that were jointed by the turntable. She was reaching down to a platform that was located about 12-14 inches underneath the turntable, which means she was required to reach down and grab a piece from one of two piles. Small baskets of parts sat on a small platform next to the piles in reserve. What was wrong with this picture?

What is saw is that, assuming we continue to use a human operator, the reach was considerable waste and held potential for injury. What is a possible solution? I thought that two hoppers placed above the platform with a chute down to a small platform located just above the turntable would allow the worker to more her arms in a more efficient motion. If the experiment works, productivity would be improved substantially with less stress on her body. And the machine shop could craft the fix quickly and easily.

When employees feel empowered to direct change, this should have happened already. And then it should be on to the next improvement. Increasing value is happening everywhere and we can’t fall behind. We should be leading.

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