Most continuous improvement projects need a payback or at least a justification to do the project. Does it cut inventory? If so, by how much? Does it improve speed to market of a new product or existing product? If so, how much more will the customer be willing to pay for it? How much will be realized this fiscal year versus next? These are valid questions and have their place but how often have you found that a company or production site or office and there aren’t any work instructions or standard work?

Can you do a “black belt project” based on just writing down what everyone does, train to that procedure, and then audit the process instead of the people? Is it the threshold of $250K annual savings? I don’t know how you would state it financially but I will say that it is either priceless or at least a requirement before any CI activities take place at the site. And I would say that the CI leader should state as much before getting involved or capturing any savings.

If you do start CI activities in this environment, it is usually unsustainable or one has to become very creative to justify the project and / or the savings. A simple checklist is not a rapid changeover. But is it necessary? Yes. Can there be a successful improvement without it? No. Can anyone really quantify the savings of eliminating chaos or at least limiting the outliers?

When focused on the basics, there may not have been a P&L impact but the work day seems to be “easier.” Not as many fires to put out, not as many discussions with the phrase,” you have got to be kidding, me?” or “It happened again?” started.

If there are not checklists, work instructions, standard work and training, you will not know what an outlier is, what the direction or action should be and what effect, if any, it will have on the customer’s experience, but you will sure be busy cleaning up the crisis du jour that management wants you to clean up by the end of the day.

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