Tuesday, March 06, 2007

HOT Lists

With the reality of limited resources of time or process capacity, we need to focus on the “right” jobs first. Choosing the right job, in the best order to satisfy our customers, is no easy task. As our work becomes more complex, we look for help with the power of the computer. With MRP, ERP, CRM, or whatever acronym based tool we choose, we still are not able to react fast enough to our changing demands. As a result, we use a “HOT List” to set priorities.

First thing every morning, we check to see what’s “HOT”. We check to see if something requires our immediate attention over our normal, expected (planned!) work. It could be a job, a component needing expedited, or customer order that is “HOT”. The HOT List is used to prioritize jobs through the process, outside the normal order, to get these jobs complete first and without delay. This tool may work well if the HOT List is only used in case of emergency. However, that is not the case in my experiences. Every single day, we are faced with a HOT List.

After a while, the HOT List grows and grows until it no longer has a clear set of priorities. So what do we do? We create another list called the URGENT List. Now we complete the URGENT items first, followed by the HOT items and then the planned items.

Once again, our URGENT List seems to grow too large as did our HOT List. This leads us to create the CRITICAL List. Now we complete the CRITICAL items first, followed by the URGENT items, the HOT items and then the planned items.

In no time at all, we end up with more levels of HOT lists then the number of hot sauce levels at a Buffalo Wings restaurant. As our “HOT” priority system becomes more complex, we need more human effort to maintain it, track it and follow it.

It would not be uncommon that even the term “HOT” does not stir us to immediate action. I have seen parts clearly marked “HOT” bunched with other parts without any special action to move it ahead of the other parts. When asking about them in particular, the answer I usually get is that if it was really “HOT” someone would be yelling for it. So much for marking parts “HOT”.

How many different HOT Lists are you using? Do we just accept the use of a HOT List as a daily tool to set planned work? Maybe we could skip the planning all together and just use a HOT List approach?

Any process using a HOT List should look to convert it to a “KAIZEN List”. Try tracking each item on your HOT List and determine the root cause for it being on the list. Our focus should be on setting up countermeasures to prevent it from becoming “HOT” so the planned process will flow.


Ron Pereira said...

Great blog Mike. I can relate to this hot list idea. I still come back to the old list each day that I work to. I have also used a big flip chart as it is more "visible" that way. A little piece of paper can get pushed aside... but not a big old flip chart!

Mark Graban said...

I worked in a factory that had a "HOT" list and a "SUPER HOT" list. This behavior, the expediting "make it happen" culture is pretty common, eh?

Mike Wroblewski said...

Thanks for the comments, Ron and Mark.

Hot lists are still very much alive and well in plants across America.