Stop bumping your head

Mike Wroblewski
Tags: lean manufacturing

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump. bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it."
- A. A. Milne, from Winnie-the Pooh, Chapter 1.

 Art imitates life, so I am told. Based on what I see repeatedly at manufacturing facilities in America, it seems that a lot of us keep bumping our heads. It amazes me that, very much like Winnie-the-Pooh, we don't take a moment to think. We are too busy with the chaos of running (surviving) the day-to-day challenges of work that we never stop to find another way (a better way!).

For example, how many of us take the time to collect data on our plant efficiencies like first-pass yield (FPY) and go so far as record the reasons for the non-conformance (putting them in fancy Pareto charts). The next day, we repeat the same data collection and chart making activities only to repeat the whole data collect process the following day. (Bump, bump, bump!) Yet we never take the time to really go after the root causes of these recurring problems and put in the proper countermeasures (our moment to think).

What about when we collect data like downtime on our assembly lines or equipment complete with stratification by shift, by day of the week, by product? What about our safety audits and injury reports? What about our quality complaints from our customers, returned products and warranty claims? What about our scrap reports? What about our on-time delivery and delivery in-full reports?

Wherever I go, all this information is collected, organized, charted, reported and reviewed, yet many times the reports you see on Monday will look strangely similar to the reports from last week, or the week before. Same old problems, different week. (Bump, bump, bump!)

There really is a better way, if only we can stop bumping for a moment and think of it!

About the author:

Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is president of Victory Alliance Technologies, a Greensburg, Ind., firm that specializes in lean implementation. He writes a blog called "Got Boondoggle?" featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Mike can be reached by e-mail at