Lean Helps Organizations Break Bad Habits

Posted by on Aug 29, 2021 in Lean, Learning Organization | 0 comments

I recently read an article about a company that made a considerable improvement in productivity by simply staggering their lunch breaks. Before the change, everyone went to lunch at the same time. The plant made an item that had a printed dial of some kind. The printing process required two machines. When lunchtime came, the ink had to be removed and cleaned, or it would dry out. When the employees returned from lunch, both pieces of equipment had to be re-inked, which took twenty minutes. While this took place, others on the line waited with nothing to do. The solution was simple, stagger the lunch breaks so that the machines never stopped.

The article made me think of an experience I encountered where employees were required to grease their equipment before starting up on Sunday night. As I watched the operation, I noticed that a new machine would start up every ten to fifteen minutes after another. When I eventually saw the shift supervisor, he told me of the requirement to grease the equipment at startup and that the plant only had one grease gun. The grease gun was passed from one employee to another until everyone had fulfilled their requirement. The next day, the owner had someone purchase an additional twelve grease guns from the local hardware store.

These solutions seem apparent, and they are. But this kind of waste goes on all the time in many organizations. It occurs because people do something a certain way and develop a routine, and after a while, the practice becomes a habit that no one questions. Helping break these habits is one of the reasons for converting to lean because it forces you to think outside the box. You’ll start to see things in a new light that can pay big dividends.

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