Care and Feeding

Thu Jun 17 08:40:00 PDT 2004

In the spirit of Discovery, and trying to keep it short:

Several years ago I was doing an extensive education and training sequence in
World Class Manufacturing for a paper manufacturer in LA.   Yes, Los Angeles,
CA.   Their raw stock was pre- and post-consumer waste.   I was engaging the
entire workforce in the ideas of WCM, so it was a big project, many months.

One of the principles in WCM is the idea of the Outrageous Goal---the target
that can't be met by doing what we are currently doing, only 20% harder and
faster.   Rather, it is the system that must be changed.   It forces
significant, often radical thinking and systemic change.

They had an opportunity to re-start an idle paper-making machine that had
been idle for two years on a new, high-demand product. (A paper machine is
HUGE---this one was two stories tall and 1500 feet long, 12-feet wide, with dozens
of giant drums to form and dry the paper at 1800+ feet-per-minute speeds).
Management's plan was a for four-month start-up sequence.   One of the engineers
said "Let's listen to Paul and set an Outrageous Goal."   Challenged by the
group as to what that would be, he said "How about two weeks?"   Lots of
laughing.   He persisted (brave lad).   After some lengthy discussion they decided
to do it.

It's the "rules" they set that make the story one of self-organization:
1.   Everyone in the plant was eligible to do the work, both production and
maintenance personnel.   All the work rules and other distinctions were
2.   They could work with whom they wished to work, as many hours as they
wished to work (with a mandatory 10 hours off in every 24), on what part they
wished to work (subject to getting it all done--there was a huge checklist).
3.   Safety was paramount and not to be compromised.

So, these self-organizing teams got the machine up on test paper in 14 days
and delivered good paper to a desperate customer on the 17th day.   Over 100
people were on the floor cheering as the first roll went out the door.   The QC
manager accompanied the first rolls to the customer, who ran up and hugged
him---a first experience in 35 years of papermaking!!   Furthermore, because they
were first to market, they captured $2.5 million in additional sales over the
four-month management start-up plan.

That's the story. As close to an industrial miracle as I've witnessed in my
40 years of manufacturing experience.   I have several other such stories, one
regarding plastic pipe extrusion, but the principles were the same---set the
Outrageous Goal, set the "new rules" and get out of the way.

Paul Everett, Consultant
Lean Systems Thinking (WCM)

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