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: Chuck Yorke
A year or so ago, I met Allan Kempert. Allan was the Quality Assurance Supervisor for a metal stamping company in Ontario, and just completed Norman Bodek’s book, The Idea Generator, Quick and Easy Kaizen. As Allan explains, he couldn’t put the book down because it was such a simple approach and he knew that it was going to empower the employees at his place of employment. In fact, Allan had tears in his eyes a few times while reading the book because he realized that he had come across a jewel. He spoke to the people in his department and explained how the program worked. He convinced them that it would be beneficial to the company to start a pilot program within their department.
Upon completion of the book, Allan set up an appointment with me and proceeded to convince the President and Vice-President of his company that they needed to accompany him to see how another company had implemented the process. Allan’s theory is, “learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have all the time in the world to make them ourselves.”
Each department in the company had a leader in the program; a team of 12 people was assembled to look at problems with traditional suggestion programs, causes and solutions. The solutions were based on Quick & Easy Kaizen and conversations between Allan and me. Allan would implement an idea system, where people implement their own ideas. This is a distinction he makes from a suggestion system, where ideas are usually submitted to a committee who either transfers it to a department to review or kills the idea. Everyone in the company was trained to the new IDEAS program. In fact, the training involved encouraging people to put forward IDEAS during the training session. This resulted in over 100 Ideas from 104 employees by the end of training.
The team conducted an effectiveness review. They developed questions and asked participants in the program as well as non-participants questions pertaining to the program. This helped to improve the program. What really stood out to the team is that by asking people to make their jobs easier, which was the main focus at the onset of the program, people commented that they felt empowered, listened to, like someone cared, happy about coming to work etc. The team also noted that the IDEAS coming in were related to not only making people’s jobs easier but were also related to safety, set-up, 5S and cost savings. Allan likes to point to a statement that explains this. Mahatma Gandhi stated, “take care of the MEANS and the ENDS will take care of themselves”.
While writing All You Gotta Do Is Ask, I would share thoughts and ideas with Allen. Following is one of the implemented ideas that Allan recently shared with me:
Cotton rags are used to clean lubricant off machines, parts and operators hands. Employees collect rags in a fireproof can and periodically during the week, will come to a central location in the plant to count out their rags, one by one. One operator submitted and had approved an IDEA to put a small counter on his fireproof can. As he was putting rags into the can, he simply toggled off how many rags went into the can. When he went to drop off the rags at the central location, all he had to do was dump the rags.
Allan was reading the Quick & Easy Kaizen board, where IDEAS are posted for sharing, and read about the counter idea. He then encouraged an employee to speak to the person in charge of the recycling program for the rags and investigate why there was a need to count the rags at all. It turns out that approximately 15 years prior, the supplier of the rags was the only one keeping track of the rag counts and there were discrepancies. Part of the solution was to have both parties count the rags for a short period of time to determine what was happening. However, the counting continued from then on.
All operators in the plant have been asked to discontinue counting rags.
Operator’s jobs are easier and from one IDEA to make an operator’s job easier by adding a counter to his can, the company has uncovered over 150 hours per year to be more productive. Some people may be embarrassed that such a miscommunication would happen and feel uncomfortable sharing it. However, Allan says, “lets expose the waste without pointing fingers, reap the reward and learn from our mistakes as the only true mistakes are those which we dont learn from”.
Allen continues to lead his people to find small improvements to make their job better, large improvements will also be uncovered. He was recently promoted to Assistant Production Supervisor.