Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Importance of Observation

A SME furniture manufacturer hired a new quality manager who had an interest in lean manufacturing, so he started watching people as they went about their jobs.

He noticed that one man walked 10 metres to pick up a piece of wood, brought it back to his machine, cut it and then walked 10 metres to the scrap bin to throw away the waste.

The man was walking 4 miles a day.

He wondered why the man was cutting softwood when chipboard would be more than adequate.

Apparently, 13 years ago, the man had tried chipboard and it caught fire during cutting. The man announced that you can't cut chipboard, and that was that.

The quality manager tried an experiment. He put the correct tool in the machine and set it to the correct speed. It has safely and accurately cut chipboard ever since.

The saving to the company just on one piece of wood for one piece of furniture is £700,000.

Over the past 13 years, that amounts to over £9 Million.

This is lean manufacturing, which in turn is very similar to the 'time and motion' studies of the 1950s that I mentioned in Genius at Work.

The manager is slowly revolutionising the whole operation of the manufacturing business. For example, a piece of furniture wasn't quality checked until it reached the end of the line. If the person doing the first part of the assembly made a mistake, the whole unit had to be taken apart to correct it, or the whole thing was scrapped.

By introducing a quality check at every production stage, the manager increased the company's quality rating with their main customer from 15% to 89%.

In every business, there are things that people have declared 'don't work', and no-one has ever asked if that is still true.

What are you ignoring in your business?

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