By September 14, 2006 11 Comments Read More →

Because that’s not on my list

Like Mark, I’m frustrated today.

Recently I’ve been working to support a quality improvement blitz within a manufacturing facility. The plant is taking a step towards ISPC by establishing maximum levels of defects at the end of each zone. The Quality Inspector and Repair Technician at the end of each zone are empowered to stop the line when certain defects reach pre-determined maximums. Stopping the line focuses everyone in on the quality issue and forces corrective action before the line can be re-started. Each zone is looking at a list of 5 defects – the top issues for those areas taken from data over the last 3 months.

A lot can be said about how this effort does not go far enough. It still relies on the waste of inspection and repair and it is not yet driving the correct mindset that defects should never leave their point of origin (Don’t make it, don’t take it, don’t pass it on). However, this is not the purpose of my post, nor the source of my frustration.

Over the last couple of weeks dramatic improvement has been made on the ‘top 5’ items in all areas. These are solid improvements that are directly correlated to process improvements on the line. A week ago the line was being stopped due to the new process an average of 8 times a shift. Today, there were none. There really has been a lot of hard work put into improvements, particularly due to the intensity generated by having the line stopped.

What I’m discouraged by is a conversation I had earlier today. One of the zones was absolutely flooded with quality issues. The repair tech couldn’t keep up and defects were leaving the zone. The supervisor and his manager were in the repair area and were working with the repair tech to help get as many of the defects corrected as possible.

“Why not stop the line?” I asked.

“Because this defect is not on my top 5 list” was the reply.

Jamie Flinchbaugh talks about this same problem in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and I continue to draw from his insight that the disadvantage of managing by ‘Top 10’ lists is that you only address the problems at hand. You don’t get to the root of the problems to discover the reason they exist.

In my example, there are still no incentives to do the right thing. Everyone will be rewarded for eliminating the top 5 issues from each line (and they should be) – but nobody is rewarded for heading off problems before they ever reach a top 5 list. Nobody is rewarded for driving change in the culture. For changing expectations while at the same time empowering and respecting people to do the right thing.

I think part of the problem is that we don’t have a method to measure or estimate the potential impact of problems if they were not addressed. For example, resumes and performance reviews everywhere state measures of cost taken out of the system – not cost that was never put in.

Does anyone have any exposure to or ideas around innovative ways to measure performance from a proactive perspective?

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Luke Van Dongen

Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.

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11 Comments on "Because that’s not on my list"

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  1. Mark Graban says:

    What is ISPC?

  2. Anonymous says:

    No incentives? That’s hard to believe. Are they tracked only on fixing “top 5” issues or are they tracked on line throughput, quality, downtime or other core measures? Metrics aren’t the only battle (they need lean tools too).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nobody is rewarded for changing the culture? That can’t be delegated. That requires leadership from the plant manager, right?

  4. Luke Van Dongen says:

    Sorry about the acronym. ISPC – In Station Process Control.

    Of course there are other measures, but they do not seem to be valued in the organization on the shop floor. The culture is still one of ‘making production numbers’ – push them out the door. This is their daily report card.

    The ‘top 5’ quality issues for each line is currently the focus – unfortunately at the expense of everything else, other than making the numbers.

  5. Mark Graban says:

    In the year 2006, the only metric that matters is production quantity? Yikes. The lean metrics of SQDC (safety, quality, delivery, cost) aren’t in place for that production area?

  6. Luke Van Dongen says:

    Unfortunately, only superficially. But even with a balanced SQDC approach, the ‘not on my list’ mentality can persist within each category.

    I’ve continued to think through this and about ways to measure and reward proactive behavior. Surely you should focus on your priorities, and your top issues, but I don’t accept a decision not to act on an identified issue becuase it is not on the priority list.

    Would a customer ever say, “It’s o.k. that you passed this defect on to me. I understand that you were very busy and that my problem was not on your priority list” ??? To the customer, every problem they experience is THE #1 issue. Period.

    There must be a way to measure and substantiate the benefits of this behavior.

    One idea is to measure problems identified, days to resolution, effectiveness of permanent corrective action etc. But the problem I forsee is that it is all too easy to identify problems – particularly problems that can be attributed to someone else!

    Another idea I have is to measure turnover of issues on a top 10 list. This would encourage fast action, but would still not do anything to encourage people to work proactively to keep items off of the top 10 list.

    Any other ideas worth considering?

    One thing I have gained through this experience is a deeper understanding of why excellent companies focus on customer satisfaction, rather than warranty costs, re-work costs or some other mass thinking enterprise measure of quality. I just wish I could pull that into real time on manufacturing floor.

  7. Anonymous says:

    How do excellent companies get line workers to focus on customer satisfaction? So many other things like delivery, price, design go into customer satisfaction that are far beyond thier control.

    Rewarding employees for finding problems reminds me of the old story where they paid programmers to find bugs in code. The end result was programmers purposefully leaving bugs in to get more pay.

  8. curiouscat says:

    It is very difficult to institute extrinsic motivation that results in systemic improvement. It is almost always easier to distort the system than improve the system. So if the goal is just some target then the best method is system distortion.

    I think the answer is that their is no simple answer. The organization needs to build a system where it is obvious people’s job is to improve the system and people are allowed to take pride in doing so.

    More: targets distoring the systemToyota target 50% reduction in maintenance waste

  9. Mark Graban says:

    I agree, relying on metrics can be problematic, as any metric can be abused or distorted. When I was at GM, the plant manager got the notion that “level production” was good, so he DEMANDED it.

    He got it.

    Well, he got the numbers.

    The production supervisor would take the hourly production counts (in a paper log) that said 85, 30, 45, 93, 72, 28, etc. and record:

    “60, 60, 60, 60, …., 43” etc.

    Total distortion of the system. The plant manager wanted 60 an hour (capacity was about 95 an hour), so he got 60 an hour.

    I’d rather rely on shared purpose and mission for an organization — that requires leadership. Just throwing some metrics out there for people is management, not leadership. The world needs more leadership.

  10. Luke Van Dongen says:

    Great points. I agree that there is a difference between ‘managing’ and leading a team through a problem. Time to refocus on the latter, and to encourage others around me to do the same.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “institute intrinsic motivation”, that almsot sounds like an oxymoron. I agree but intrinsic rewards are extemely personal and vary greatly with everybody.

    Great response though Curiouscat…’allowed to take pride in doing so.’

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