How a Lonely $25 Grease Gun Contributed to a $1Million Problem!

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Continuous Improvement, Efficiency, Lean, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Many of us go to work each day, do our thing, and feel pretty good that we gave our organization a good days work.  But how many of us go to work each day and really think about how we can cut cost and save our organization time and money.  We’re all running around trying to get things done and never have time to think about how we can improve the process.  The following is a true story that will prove my point.

Several years ago, I was working with a client that wanted to implement lean in their organization.  After some discussion, we decided on a plan of attack that included looking at what could be done to reduce changeover times.  The company was a three shift operation that started up on Sunday night.  As part of the plan, I decided to come in on Sunday night at 11 pm to see how well the startup went.

The company had 13 machines and each machine had it’s own operator.  The first machine started up in about 15 minutes, the second at about 11:30, the next at about 11:50, and so on.  It wasn’t until almost 2:30 that the last machine started up.  As I looked around, I saw people doing things, getting ready, and then just killing time.  I asked the supervisor what was happening and he told me that each machine had to be greased on Sunday night before starting up and there was only one grease gun for the entire plant.  The gun had to be passed from one operator to another so they could grease their machine!

The company was loosing all this time (approximately 22 hours of productive machine time on Sunday night startup alone) and money because of one grease gun which can be bought at Lowe’s for $25.  The next day I got with the operations manager and the following Sunday each machine had it’s own grease gun at a cost of just over $300 for 12 more guns.

As I work with various clients I see this situation quite often.  It could be a wrench, a special tool, or material that causes operators to have to hunt for it or in this case wait their turn.  Operators are busy doing things, but the priority isn’t always to get the machine up and running.  Supervisors are busy running here and there making sure everyone showed up and that they have the necessary material to run the shift.  Too often it takes an outsider to come in and point out the obvious problems!

Everyone needs to step back and look at what goes on in their operation and not take things for granted.  My philosophy has always been to make it as easy as possible for the people doing the work.  This means giving them the tools, methods, and processes to make them successful so they can do the job correctly the first time.  Remember, it is the people making the parts or providing the service that make companies money.  If they are struggling and not as efficient as they could be, then everyone loses.

Here’s my suggestion:  Take a look at your own operation.  How smoothly does it run?  How many operators start up at the beginning of the shift within a few minutes and don’t have to wait for material, directions, or a lonely grease gun?  Never forget, “It’s all about the process!”  The more you can fine tune it and provide tools, equipment, materials, etc. at the point of use, the more productive and efficient your organization will be.

Think Process



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