Standard work? Nah, I got this.

I’ve recently worked with a client on a turnaround situation in a small shop.  The technology is tried and true, even considered a bit old school, if you will.  The process contains nuances and requires finesse at times but generally speaking, if they were to apply some standard work, based on the fundamental principles of the technology, they would be a lot closer than they are.

But what if they are unwilling to learn and apply standard work and the fundamentals?

Standard work is a Lean Manufacturing term that, according to is defined as follows:

Detailed definition of the most efficient method to produce a product (or perform a service) at a balanced flow to achieve a desired output rate. It breaks down the work into elements, which are sequenced, organized and repeatedly followed.

You know those perfect cookies that your mom or grandmother made?  They were no doubt created using the same ingredients, the same process, the same oven and temperature, and the same nuances nearly every time and the results were almost always predictable.  Yummy good cookies, right?

If you tried to make the same cookies in your own kitchen, the results might be different based on the variables in your process.  An extra minute in the oven, a different brand of butter or vanilla, a different cookie sheet, or anything that can create a shift in the standard process.

When a process is so out of control that no two jobs are alike, settings for process temperature, humidity, and timing are ignored, materials storage conditions are highly variable, and employees do it their own way, what can we do?

We create standard work.  Identify the correct environmental conditions, equipment settings, and material storage and handling requirements and stabilize all processes.

We then create standard work procedures that clearly define everything that allows us to replicated the process then teach and instruct every employee to follow them.  Teach the why it matters.  These procedures become the new standard and the only time they change is when the processes undergo controlled changes based on improvement.

The challenge in this case seems to come from ego.  The leader of this team has been educated on the proper procedures for much of this work yet refuses to implement necessary changes through standard work.  The problems continue.  The employees do what they want.  No two setups are alike.  No two products look the same.  There is no process discipline.  Customers are leaving.  Orders are late or cancelled.  Poor quality products are shipped.  The hole gets deeper yet nothing seems to improve.

It’s an amazing example of defiance at a very costly level.  How unfortunate for the business, employees, and customers.  It’s very frustrating to watch a business fail for something so simple.

I want to include an example of standard work as it applies to me.  Something simple, yet something I feel is important to my brand.  My logo contains 7 different colors, none of which pop up in MS Office programs when I am trying to match.  I contacted my logo designer who provided me with the RGB color numbers used which allows me to match any of the 7 colors used in my logo.  Simple, right?  The chart below is always nearby to enable to quickly select and match my colors.


I can NEVER make a mistake matching my colors now.

Thanks for stopping by.  Take care of yourselves in the cold.




The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Revisited

As an independent, well-traveled consultant I see it all.  Hotels, airlines, restaurants, grocery stores, service businesses, clients, rental cars providers, Uber drivers, etc..  I previously shared some of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly I see along the way.  Today I’m adding a fourth category called “Really?”

The Good

An odd international call charge showed up on my latest cell phone bill which offered no details.  I pulled up live chat and within a few minutes, while I was conducting other business, I was reminded of a call I made to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Yeah, forgot about that.  Case closed with little effort or concern on my part and the live chat offered me the opportunity to continue working without hanging on the phone and suffering the being on hold annoyances.

I stay at a Candlewood Suites near Cleveland pretty much weekly.  I like the price and the kitchenette.  The staff is super courteous and responsive, the rooms are always predictable and clean.  They are always prepared for my arrival and departure and I rarely have to wait.  I am always greeted by name and always get a Mr. Bates, please, thank you, and we’ll see you Monday.

The Bad

I fly out of MKE weekly and there always seems to be something amiss.  The walkways in the skywalk are sometimes turned off, one elevator has been out of service for over a month, and there is a giant kiosk clogging up the busiest intersection on Concourse D.

And the parking pay stations always seem to be spotty.  The card readers require contortionist angles, the receipts drop or blow away because they push too far out of the machines, and either the ticket reader, card reader, or receipt dispensers often require multiple tries.  I had to back out of a pay lane more than once and there is rarely a human around offering any help.

Last night in the bitter cold and high winds, receipts were flying away before they were able to be caught, my ticket was unable to be read multiple times, and I had to honk and wave down the only available attendant as I was boxed in by honking cars behind me.

I get that things break on occasion but some weeks it’s a guessing game about what’s not going to be working this week and it’s always about learning what to avoid because you know something still hasn’t been fixed.  I spend a lot of time in a lot of airports and I just think they could make MKE just a bit better.

The Ugly

My wife and I ordered a futon and some accessories from a well known local establishment that pretty much just sells futons.  We paid over a $1,000 5 weeks ago and are being told, for the 3rd time, it’ll be another week or two.  I hate having to chase this down.  You take my money, you need to stay in touch with some updates.  Period.  The clock is ticking on this one.

The Really?

While visiting a supplier of a client customer, I was asked by a panicked shop leader to come out to the line with him.  As we approached the line, he explained there were 2 women on the line that had been tossing verbal barbs at each other for hours and it was coming to a head.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I was asked to break up a fight by a supplier I was visiting.  The fight did break out and I was required to give witness statements regarding my involvement.  Think about that for a moment.  A supplier asked a customer to help them break up a fight on their own production line.  That was a new one for me.

So I challenge you give this some thought and think about what your customers might be thinking.  Or just ask them.  We all have choices and one bad experience or even a series of minor incidents can drive a customer away.  A paper cut is a pretty small thing but get enough of them and you will bleed to death.

And please understand I am a patient person.  Life’s too short to be angry about any of this so any annoyances are usually fleeting.  But many eat up my time, which is precious to me and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Thanks for stopping by.