Friday, April 04, 2008

If it Ain't Broke, Improve it Anyway

One of the hardest lessons to learn and follow on the lean journey is where to apply improvement efforts. For many of us, we can easily understand the need for improvement efforts on the problem areas of our operation or bottleneck areas. But what about the parts of our operation that really shine? What about the areas that never give us problems, do we improve these smooth running parts of our value stream?

At one of our Batesville Casket plants, we are currently planning a kaizen event in one of these low problem areas in our operation. It was questioned why should we improve there, it is running fine. It would be easy to make the case that we should not rock the boat. Why push over the apple cart? What if we mess up? What Plant Manager in their right mind would want to mess with an area that does not cause problems?

Why improve a seemingly perfect area? Because we see opportunity there. The reason to spend the time and energy to improve any part of our value stream is the opportunity to simply create something better.

Fear of causing problems in our improvement efforts should never stop us from moving forward. If we do make mistakes, then make the problems visible and fix them.

Kaizen is never ending, everywhere, everyday by everyone. There are no conditions or boundaries to kaizen. In the true spirit of kaizen, even as a product line is phased out, you should make improvements. And you should make improvements, even on the very last day of production. So if it ain’t broke, improve it anyway.

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