I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks and did some reflecting on some of my past triumphs, few and far between, and some of my not so brightest decisions and actions. One came up related to my role as a plant manager a few years ago.

I was focused on creating quality instead of inspecting quality into our product. We had made very good progress on TPM / RCM, standardizing work across shifts and lines and putting people in the right roles with the right tools to move forward. One item was bugging me, though. We still had QC on the lines inspecting and writing down too much information and, at some points, slowing down the process. Do to this, I found that some of what the QC techs were doing was redundant or even over-processing of equipment and product. One was related to crimp checks that were performed hourly to ensure that the product was safe and that leaks would not occur in the package or in the consumer’s hands. What if, I imagined, we had the filler operators do this check and sign-off? They were already setting up the line and doing a majority of the PM’s. They were right there to do the checks. The QC techs were at the other end of the line and if there were some quality issue, they may not be able to take the check anyway. Great fit, right?

So the supervisors and I along with safety and quality developed a process along with paperwork and audit checklists to ensure the change would be air tight. It came down to the launch of the process. We, I mean I told the supervisors to have the meeting because I was too “busy”, went out there on Thursday morning before start-up and have them review the process and documentation. Within 15 minutes the meeting turned into Monday Night Raw with the supervisors coming back with blank stares and no color in their cheeks. What had gone wrong? Let me count the ways:

  1. By looking at the QC role as over-processing or may be Business Non-Value Added Muda – Waste, I did not think about who else could do the check. The checks would still need to be audited and verified by someone. Who was I going to have do that? The supervisors?
  2. The filler operators had taken on more responsibility than any other group in the site and how did I reward them? Put more on their shoulders – Muri – Over-burden.
  3. Did I involve the Filler operators in any of the process other than just go do it? No. They did not even know what the meeting was about. Ridiculous!
  4. Did I go to the meeting? No. I was doing more “strategery” or something else. I should have at least been there to take the ownership and criticism. My supervisors felt like they got beat up with no backing and they were right.
  5. Did I work with Maintenance and Engineering to develop a mistake proofing process or at least a more visual way to tell if there was a problem before we released product to the rest of the line? No. That would have been way too difficult and time consuming. Better to shoot from the hip and waste everyone’s time as well as emotional bank account.

I am sure there were other items that could be added to this but suffice to say, I learned from that point on to balance work and to get involvement instead of taking a dump on a department or individuals. Also, eliminate the need for the process in the first place instead of handing it over.

How did it all turn out? Not too bad but far from Ideal. I went out to do the damage control and to take full responsibility for the situation. We put the process back into QC’s hands and then worked on controls that were more tied to the number of units produced instead of time. We also worked with Maintenance to develop a better rebuild and installation strategy that improved the length of time that there would be an issue. Once again, for me at least, reflection and correction have helped move forward.