Problems First


From original questioner:

Interesting article today in Reuters about the turnaround at Ford Motor Company. The only salient part they attributed this to was weekly meetings and a policy of admitting and learning from mistakes.

Problems first is the drift of this article from Fast Company.Com.

"In Wiseman's early days, Georgetown was run by Fujio Cho, now the chairman of Toyota worldwide. Every Friday, there was a senior staff meeting. "I started out going in there and reporting some of my little successes," says Wiseman. "One Friday, I gave a report of an activity we'd been doing"--planning the announcement of a plant expansion--"and I spoke very positively about it, I bragged a little. After two or three minutes, I sat down.

"And Mr. Cho kind of looked at me. I could see he was puzzled. He said, 'Jim-san. We all know you are a good manager, otherwise we would not have hired you. But please talk to us about your problems so we can all work on them together.'"

From contributor Pa

Yes, Lean works.

But that does not mean that top down is not also necessary, to eliminate it would be akin to removing the rudder. I think they do the necessary functions also they just don't get any press.

One of the writers in a wood trade mag once made the comment that one his clients was bragging about how he had 145 Lean activities going on in his business, 1 1/2 years later he was bankrupt.

From contributor Ca


You are right about that. Too much emphasis on the wrong thing can put a company out of business. Sometimes it's also just luck.

This article made me think about something Paul Downs wrote about his shop protocol as regards the culture of mistakes. Rather than something to sweep under the rug they celebrate this. They attach a high significance to documenting mistakes so that they can develop systems to keep them from happening.

If you have ever had to tear apart a cabinet because someone zoned out you understand the cost of not eliminating mistakes. If you've ever had guys install a hinge mount plate on the wrong side of a cabinet you might, for example, introduce a step whereby someone puts green or red stickers on the side of the cabinet that gets hinges. Green could indicate 95 swing & red could tell the installer which doors get 170 hinges. There is a lot of good juju that comes from this.

The most interesting thing about the Ford Motor Company article was the one-liner about turning mistakes into a convivial experience. It reminded me of yet another article about PACCAR Manufacturing company (they build Peterbilt & Kenworth trucks in my neighborhood). In that article they they juxtaposed two sentences in the same paragraph that said " Our stock value doubled last year & our workers don't spend a minute looking for anything or walking to get it".

Articles like this are written by Cub reporters for trade & business magazines. They send a 25 year old out for the interview and the take away is celebrate mistakes and minimize the easter egg hunts. Spending $5 to look for something that costs 50 just makes your material cost increase tenfold. In order to keep this from happening you need to have systems to support this. Those systems probably have a lot of collateral impact as well.

Paul was able to increase production 50% by cleaning out the arteries. My hunch is that two years from now he will be doubling production without increasing staff.

From contributor Pa

That is something I wonder about with Lean.
How do you document/enforce the changes?

I have asked Akers about this but no answer. I see where they suffer from policy falling out just like everyone else.

You call it systems I call it policy but really it is the same thing.

The incident Paul talks about with Google using his budget on irrelevant clicks is gold and should be reinforced.

This really requires working on your business not in it.

I think that what Cabinet Vision is really selling is an documentation/enforcement of your policy/system. This allows people to be productive for the reasons you describe.

One of my epiphanies was that conflict comes from policies that don't make sense. I had a customer who wanted us to rout out signs around some silk screened sheets. The cnc guy went ballistic I asked what is the problem. He said that the indexing on the sheets is never accurate making it impossible to index the router to the sheets. I forgot that we had talked about this before, I had de facto violated policy and created the conflict.

This is important to keep everyone's energy moving toward the goal.

From contributor Ca

The wonderful thing about policies are that they are very easy to change. The mechanical parts of sustain are harder to get in place.

We used to put our bulk screw storage under the outfeed of our widebelt sander. The reasoning was that the residual saw dust that didn't get picked up in the dust collector would not hurt the screws. We did not, however, think about how the screws could hurt the sander.

The sander has about a 5 inch vertical range. We very seldom use more than the top one inch of this range. As it was very easy to do, a box of screws got stored on top of our screw chest. Long story made short the sander belt got lowered on top of the keg of screws and commenced to rip up the conveyor belt.

We now have sustained this from happening by making the top plane of this screw chest a 45 angle. The Russians did something like this with their tanks in WW2. The turret had about a 30 lean so that a direct artillery hit the angle and sometimes veered off instead. The Russians sustained their tank corp with a slight change of trajectory.

From contributor Pa

"The wonderful thing about policies are that they are very easy to change. The mechanical parts of sustain are harder to get in place."

I would say the opposite and if Akers videos are any indicator so would he.

From contributor Ca

Most of the sustain type mechanisms I see at FastCap truly only save 2 seconds of time. Being able to find the salt & pepper with your eyes closed or not have to work so hard to get into the recycle bin is not exactly what I am talking about.

They do have some good ideas. One of the best ones is the Kaizen Foam. We outfitted four identical drawers for work benches with colored tools. Red pliers go back into the red drawer, Blue hammers live in the blue drawer. That has been really useful for keeping work benches clean without coming up short on hammers or having redundant hammers.

What I am looking for is game changing ideas. Something the equivalent maybe of putting electric dog collars on the bondo cans. That would go a long ways towards ensuring the bondo stayed in the zone it belonged in.

From contributor Pa

I wonder if you found the core problem if you need bondo?

I see in the videos that people change the system around for whatever reason it gets changed.

But holding the policy in on people is very hard.

Just trying to get some of yous to look at basic economics is impossible. Not change your mind just look at it.

From contributor de

I visited fast cap a couple years back. The first thing Paul told me is you have to get the right people on the bus.
We do an all employee meeting every Tuesday morning. We go over customer feedback from our surveys talk about what we did good and what went wrong and how to improve it. Sometimes we get a 2 second improvement and sometimes we get a 5 minute improvement but we talk about it and see what we can find on YouTube that applies. It definitely helps.

From contributor Pa


The question is how does he maintain the improvements so that the next guy doesn't change it willy nilly?

From contributor ca

In western culture we tend to applaud the individual. Everybody is special. Everybody can make a difference. Everybody's ideas are important...........even the new guy.

Knowledge is passed along from tribal elder to plebe. At the end of each lesson the maestro says " Give this a try. If you have a problem come find me...........but I expect you to at least try."

The weakspot with this logic is that while you have shown someone how to do something you have told him the most important thing to you is that he manifest yankee ingenuity. You have effectively made the least experienced person in your organization in charge of corporate policy. If he can find a work-around that satisfies him he is good to go.

The problem, of course, is that now you have a lot of random in the equation. Whenever there is random in the equation there will always be random in the outcome. Sometimes you will be lucky and sometimes you wont.

Put another way, random works when the economy is flush because it does not matter how many dollars fall out of the bucket, only how many dollars stay in.

From contributor Pa


From contributor De

"The question is how does he maintain the improvements so that the next guy doesn't change it willy nilly?"

See line number 1, get the right people on the bus. When you have the right person on the bus, they buy into continuous improvement and don't change things because they want to do it their way. Its not an imposition on the employee, its the culture of the business
The second item is to capture that process in some form of standardized process work. See his video on cleaning a bathroom and the sheet that goes with it. If you don't have any standards then you allow your employees dictate how your business runs.

From contributor Pa

"sheet that goes with it"


From contributor Ca


How did you go about getting the right people on the bus?

Did this crew just show up embracing continuous improvement or did you have to develop this ethic in them? Do they know anything about the logic behind continuous improvement or do they just follow standardized best practices?

What is the format of your documentation?
Is this paper or electronic? Is there any outside reading? Does anyone on your crew come up with suggestions for improvement? How do you go about considering these suggestions?

From contributor De

You throw the wrong ones off the bus!

Yes my employees come up with improvements. Many are little things like screwing piece of pvc to the wall that holds the roll of shrink wrap so its there when you need it. Some are bigger things like settling up jigs so that we can drill just about any size drawer front for 96mm handles in the shop. Some are top-down decisions that I make and they execute.
some documentation is written a lot is still tribal knowledge but we are working on it.

As the owner, I'm in charge of setting the bar for what's acceptable in my business not the employees. I don't hire for skill only attitude and desire is very important. We got rid of a guy once who was very capable but was negative about everything and a clock Miller. Nobody wanted to work with him so we released him to pursue other opportunities.
We also spend about 2 hours every Tuesday cleaning and improving then go over items of importance and discuss improvement s we have made or can make.