Today we’re supposed to write about quick ‘n easy kaizen; improvements that affect the ease of one person doing a job and within one’s authority to make a change. For my project, I’ve selected a poka yoke -I’ve talked about poka yoke before. Poka yokes are little things you can do to flub-proof a task, making it impossible (or at least highly improbable) for one to make a mistake. A good example is a coffee grinder. If the cap is not aligned properly, it won’t grind and if the cap is on, you won’t have coffee spilling everywhere making a horrendous mess. Poka yoke is a great concept to prevent people from making mistakes when they’re distracted, tired, irritable or hungry -because if you think about it, that’s about the only time they do.
To the left you’ll see a sketch of an old vintage pattern which I’m using as my example. What you don’t realize yet is that some of those pieces are rather complex. In production, they’ll have no problem cutting this thing out; the difficulty will lie in when it gets to the fusing department because many of those edges need reinforcement. The problem is, the cutting department just sends stacks of cut pieces over to fusing and fusing is supposed to figure out what pieces get fused and where. Since the fusing department is the low-man on the totem pole production-wise, they get very little respect and not nearly enough direction. Usually, they don’t even get the pattern to look at for comparison so it becomes a big guessing game of what goes where which can be time consuming when you consider the hesitation wrought by diffidence. Uncertainty can be such a huge time-waster, don’t you agree?
Anyway, I came up with the poka yoke you see right. It’s a print out of all the pieces that pertain to the style. You’ll notice that some of the pieces have red outlines. As you know from color-coding, red means fusible interfacing. With this guide, the fusing department will have clear instruction as to what gets fused and where.
By the way, I had no idea the fusing department was having these kinds of problems. I only found out about it after I was banished to the fusing department as punishment for insubordination (with my attitude, the latter should be no surprise to anyone). Even being punished, I managed to make the best of the situation -to their advantage!- which is why they could never fire me as much as they may have wanted to.
Oh, and this is neither here nor there but in sewing factories, it is rare that the average employee is allowed to make any kind of change on their own initiative. It’s tragic, really. You have to get approval from umpteen levels and with so many people having veto power -there’s no cost or penalty to them for saying no- it really mucks up the work for everybody else. On that topic, Grimreader wrote, saying in part
I recognized something that probably everyone who has ever dealt with a large bureaucracy has probably encountered. In the story (sorry, I can’t find the link), they had a design approval process that required something like seven sign-offs. Each person had approval authority, but added little or no value to the process. The form went from out-basket to in-basket, where it might sit for as much as 2 weeks because someone was on vacation. This is the muda of overprocessing. The corrective action after a kaizen blitz (kaikaku) was to remove a few of the signers from the chain altogether, and to change some of the signers from approval authority to advice. For me, this only reinforces my theory that the real secret to lean is to identify and remove transaction costs.
Consider reading the full entry; he wrote it just so I could link to it for this post.