Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mocking Boards

As we embrace many of the lean ways including shifting to a more visual management approach, be careful not to turn a good visual management board into a mocking board.

Let me explain. Recently, while on a gemba walk through a plant, I spotted a new TPM board by one of the machines. TPM stands for Total Productive Maintenance. From the aisle, I could see some cool stuff on the board including a TPM map, TPM checksheets, timelines, problem logs, problem tags, etc. Excited and curious about this new visual management board, I approached the operator and asked her about it.

Her reply surprised me. “Oh, that. It’s my mocking board.”

I asked her what she meant by mocking board. She explained that the board was just put up a month ago by maintenance. She even attended a training session on filling out all the forms and how to do tasks to check on the machine herself. The first couple of days, they (the maintenance guys) were responsive to fixing items on the machine but than nothing.

For weeks nothing more happened despite all the tagging and logging of items requiring attention. She had asked her supervisor, on several occasions, on the status when maintenance was going to fix the items. No answer and no action.

As a result, she now views the visual board as a mocking board. All the items stay on the list, always in front of her, mocking her, because they are still undone. It is a visual monument to all that is wrong and broken with her machine with no activity to fix it.

Wow. Here are the beginnings of a cool visual management system that is quickly turning into a clear message that as managers we do not care.

The good thing is that this problem is quite visible and all we have to do is see it and take action to correct it.


Scott Sorheim said...

My experience in the past with this is that the vision for the communication board may not extend past the communication board itself. In other words, a means was created to capture information and make it visual (great things), but then the reality of "how do we react to this information" was not considered and there are not enough resources to take action on the necessary improvements. They may have even had enough resources to start with, but the more "mocking boards" that popped up, the more unprepared the organization is/was to manage it.

Hopefully the well-intentioned process has time to right itself before it's too late!

John said...

I would ask if the plant has a formal work order system.

That is, the operator fills out a work order requesting maintenance to fix the machine.

It goes into the work order system and gets prioritized. I used to use Emergency, routine 1,2or3 and schedule (for something that had to be done at a specific time, such as a shutdown.

The WO system would then show all open work orders, age and so on and the plant manager would look at an aging report weekly. At least he would receive it weekly. He looked at it sometimes.

Problem logs and tags are fine but a WO system, with someone monitoring completion times etc, is key.

John Henry

Mark Graban said...

What do you think the response will be? What will the organizational learning be about not using a tool (TPM board) without having management on board and/or having the process fixed? Who is working on the process to reduce turnaround time on maintenance issues?

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Scott,

Most of these ideas start out with good intentions but as you pointed out, lack of support created a problem. They are working on it.

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi John,

Good thoughts. In fact, this plant does have a WO system which is regularly prioritized and reviewed by the plant manager. These open items by this machine were included and pushed back but nobody informed the operator. Regardless of a WO system or not, feedback is important as well as management asking for help as they got further behind.

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Mark,

I jury is still out on if they really fixed this problem or not. The responsibilty is shared between the Plant Manager, Maintenance Manager and CI Manager. They will go through a 5 whys to get at the root cause(s) and put in countermeasures.