Involving People Gave Us the Improvements We Needed

We had a problem with handling materials in a production department. Our process required raw materials to enter the department, be processed, and leave the department. The raw material was placed on pods, delivered for production, removed from the pods, placed on a staging fixture, removed from the fixture and process materials were then placed on another pod and delivered to an internal customer. Internal customer had to place on still another pod.

Someone suggested placing the material from the fixture onto the customer's internal pod to reduce handling, errors, etc. Room was tight (because two different style pods were used, one for raw material and one for processing) and someone long ago suggested moving a wall to create more space for easier movement of the pods.

After we realized that involving people would give us the improvements we wanted, someone suggested modifying the pods into a cart that could hold more material and reduce our need for more space. Others became involved; Martin developed possible designs for the cart while speaking with his coworkers to find out their ideas.

A cross-functional team designed and built a new cart. It held more raw materials, eliminated the need for the staging fixture, and allowed raw material and processed material to be transported on the same cart, eliminating the need for the second pod. The cart was built by reusing materials from the old pods.

Immediate benefits included less movement and less contamination of materials, also the new cart was more ergonomically friendly. After using the new cart, others came up with more ideas. All together 20 people contributed improvements to eliminate unnecessary equipment, combine processes, and reduce cost. Fourteen process steps were reduced to seven, operator motion was reduced, material was moved less, quality improved, and the job of the operator was made easier.

Recently someone had the idea of using the cart in a different area, so more improvements are to come.

Copyright 2005 Chuck Yorke - All Rights Reserved

Chuck Yorke is an organizational development and performance improvement specialist, trainer, consultant and speaker. He is co-author of "All You Gotta Do Is Ask," a book which explains how to promote large numbers of ideas from employees. Chuck may be reached at ChuckYorke@yahoo.com

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