Saturday, May 31, 2008

Relentless Pursuit of Kaizen

Daily circumstances encountered on our lean journey certainly make it a challenge to constantly pursue kaizen. It takes energy, skill, courage and dedication to push aside these barriers that block our path towards improvement. We must learn to be relentless in our pursuit of Kaizen.

It is the easy path to postpone, re-schedule, delay or even cancel planned kaizen efforts when a barrier stands in the way. These barriers could range from available manpower, down equipment, hot orders, new priorities or even just a higher level of daily chaos. Any and all of these barriers quickly pressure us into pushing off kaizen and jumping into our firefighting mode.

Jumping into firefighting mode was literally what happened to us this past week a mere 30 minutes before our scheduled kaizen event was to start. On Tuesday, at our Vicksburg, Mississippi wood processing plant, the fire alarms blared as we safely evacuated the plant. Thank goodness, no one was hurt and the fire damage was minimal.

The fire just happened to be located at one of the machines in our targeted kaizen event area which had us quickly evaluating what to do. On top of that, we lost one scheduled team member and expected to lose some critical maintenance support as a result of the fire. Our planned kaizen event was in jeopardy of being delayed or cancelled.

This is a point that we could have taken the easy path and no one would have harshly criticized us for pushing off the event until another time. We also considered going to another area in the plant however we did not have any pre-work for another area completed and thought that would be a low success decision. After a short meeting, we came to a decision on a course of action.

We decided to relentless pursue kaizen as planned in our target area. By pulling the team together, we worked around the down machine while it was quickly being repaired which ended up only taking a day to fix. Despite the fire, lost team members, production schedule changes due to the fire and machine downtime, we still found a way to kaizen. The results were not as high as we expected yet we still improved productivity on this line by 28%.

Don’t let barriers lead you to the easy path and delay improvement efforts, find a way to kaizen. If you do this, you are starting to change your mindset from kaizen being an activity or event to kaizen becoming a way of life.


Unknown said...

Maybe the machine was so afraid of how the kaizen would affect it that it burst into fire by itself...Hmmm.

Glad you and your team were able to regroup and go on. Shows how the creative spirit goes to work when people understand that they are the source of improvement.

Mike T. said...

Sorry to hear about your fire, but what a great example of true commitment to Lean. I'm going to use your post as my "This week's Lean" article for my company.

Mike Wroblewski said...

@ Karen: Thanks. We keep trying.
@ Mike: The fire turned out to be very small due to quick and safe actions. Please use whatever you wish to help on your lean journey.