What’s missing from this powerful union is some Innovation Zing!

We know that organizations need both – newness and improvement.  Hence, we typically find that organizations have training in both areas, innovation and excellence.  Often, one set of people are trained to make breakthrough innovative offerings, and others are trained to ensure quality, reliability and excellence.  But, is this the best way?  We don’t think so.  We have found that training in both areas not only adds measurable value, but helps the organization keep step with the high
rate of change.

In all improvement projects, there is a stage when the analysis is complete and the improvement or solution required is known.  Usually, there are many solutions available, and the challenge is to figure out the most efficient and smartest way to move forward. This is where creative thinking and innovation are critical.   Innovation helps
to get to the best solution and brings the needed zing to the project and a boost to team moral.

Pradeep Kumar, a Master Black Belt with over a decade of experience in Operational Excellence and Lean Six Sigma project work, shared three case studies with us illustrating the impact (zing) innovation adds to process excellence projects.  We share the first case study here and will send you the other case studies in the coming weeks.

 Case Study 1:  Reduce the Window of Waste 

Background Information:  At a Chinese factory, the manufacturing line consisted of operators sitting in a row on either side of long table, welding components viewing under a microscope.  The welded parts were placed on the table and moved to an inspector at the farther end of the long table.  At the outset, the process itself was a challenge as the operation was very strenuous and needed high skill levels.  From a Lean standpoint, the process not only led to high rejections, but also excess work in process, as several parts were waiting to be cleared by the inspector sitting at the end or the row.

The delay in inspection and the inability to identify the operator that produced the defective parts was the major issue.  They needed to reduce the waiting window for inspection (window of waste) in order to reduce errors and provide adequate feedback to the operators.  The issue at hand and the type of solution we needed were clear, but the question was how to do it.  At first look, most people would advise automating the whole process.  And, that was probably the best solution, but there were no funds available for any major change.

The Solution:  Time was running out and they had to make a change.  Pradeep facilitated a brainstorming sessions even though there was a feeling that there was nothing that could be done other than automate the process. However, they didn’t give up, kept brainstorming and finally hit upon an idea that would work. The idea was to change the straight line to a square cell, wherein they moved the inspector to the center of the square cell and each operator directly handed over the finished parts to the inspector.

The Results:  The window of waste was drastically reduced (nearly eliminated altogether).  Since the feedback from the quality inspector to the operators was immediate, it helped the operator to correct and improve, thereby improving quality by 50%.

Everyone in the plant was excited about the change and it became a show piece and demonstration of pride. The change not only made operational improvements, but brought that much needed zing to shop floor.


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