A year ago, I was making some improvements to a small laboratory where steel was tested for both, physical and mechanical properties. One young engineer told me, while we were changing the layout for each of our desks:
"You know, somebody told me once, that you are as good as the tools at your disposal".
I didn´t truly believe this back then, but a few months later and even now, I totally agree. It is true that to be successful in life and at work, you need to have the right tools at the right time. Not only tools, but also the right systems, the right thinking and the right people to perform.
When I was a quality Engineer working as Chassis VRT, one of my responsibilities was to check for vehicle´s alignment on a daily basis. I used to check SPC charts for each and everyone of the alignment characteristics. I used to spend like two hours everyday analyzing, identifying trends, making decisions wether or not make and adjustment on alignment pits. Used to check for CpK, special cause variation, common cause variation, and the usual stuff you should check when using SPC to understand what´s going on with the process, as you can learn if you read Understanding Variation: The key to managing chaos which is a great book that helps to really understand what data is telling you. Anyway, I´m not here to discuss how great this book is. Instead I want to reflect my thoughts on the tools to be really effective. So, back to cars alignment, even though it was kind of boring and it was really a routine, now looking back, it was pretty cool. Because the information was at my disposal anytime, real time. So if I was having a trouble with alignment and decided to make and adjustment, almost immediately could see the effect of that adjustment on my SPC chart. I used to ask to the SPC coordinator to increase the sample to validate if my decision was right or wrong.
|IMR Chart from Minitab. The ones that I used to analyze alignment |
were almost identical to this one.
This approach of discipline and careful analysis lead to the cars under my responsibility to be number one within Ford´s lineup in Northamerica, regarding alignment. But this success isn´t entirely mine. Have to give credit to the company who had the right tools at the right time for me to perform. Without an SPC program would have been very difficult to understand what was happening on the floor. Without a system that would give me information on real time, would´t have been able to detect problems and correct quickly to protect the customer. Without the person, doing the audit, couldn't write on my resume that I lead that car line to be the best in NA for alignment. My message isn´t that you need a fancy software, spend millions on a system for you to be successful. But to recognize that if you want to perform, need the right tools at the right time. Ford used a software to gather data. But could it be a sheet of paper instead of the fancy software to record the data? Of course it could! Could it be that the operator doing alignment, performed the audit as well? Hell no! cycle time wouldn´t have allowed. Also, alignment audit needs to be really precise and at that time, cycle time was 10 min. per vehicle.
Many companies fail to recognize this simple statement, and embark in a journey to practice lean without a foundation to sustain and to get the best of it. Do not change the old managerial practices or just want to implement tools, without changing their minds. Some others want to adopt a 6 sigma approach, without SPC programs, without tools to help the practitioner to perform analysis in a quick manner. Or without a data base to simply extract information for analysis.
Organizations need to stop thinking that simplicity means austerity. Some do not want to expend on tools that are necessary for the workers to perform. In my example regarding vehicle´s alignment, I felt it was my responsibility to perform and respond, since I had everything I needed to get results. For me not getting results under those circumstances, meant failure. That´s the kind of engagement and pride we could introduce in the life of workers. As Mark Graban explains so well on his blog, on the book The Good Jobs Strategy many successful organizations prove that investing on the right things will benefit the bottom line.
Thanks for reading, will be in touch.