Applying a band-aid to a problem, a measure to counter the impact of a problem is often an attractive short term option, particularly to a management measured in the traditional way on output, to whom stopping a line is heresy. Superficially it may hide/solve or move the problem, and it is easier in the short term than doing the hard yards to identify the source of the problem, and eliminating it.
However, counter-measures are rarely solutions, and they almost always come back to bite, usually at the worst time possible.
Years ago in a plant I was running, we suddenly had trouble with a carton erector at the end of a high speed line, and whilst we kept the thing running with numerous counter-measures of various types, the impact was obvious when you looked at the overall line productivity numbers.
We eventually took a hard look at the problem, formed a team of people who had a range of specific skills we thought relevant to the problem, and went through a process of what would be now called “root cause analysis” using the “5 why” tool , but then was a little less defined, at least to our early but evolving understanding of the principals of lean.
Below is a summary of our steps through the 5 why process :
Why did the case packer crash?
- The sensors failed to “find” the edges of the flat cartons
Why did the sensors fail to find the edges?
- The edges were a bit more “ragged” than was usual
Why were the edges “ragged”
– The suppliers knife used to cut the cartons became blunt with use, producing a ragged edge
Why was the supplier not replacing or sharpening the knife more often?
- We had changed suppliers to get a small cost reduction, and there was nothing in our specifications about the tolerances required by the sensors to pick the edge of the carton, state of the edges or knife maintenance.
Got to the answer in 4, but it took a while, and was a bit messy, but once we understood the root causes were the performance measures imposed on the Purchasing Manager, and the lack of cross functional communication and complete specifications, the solutions were blindingly obvious, and nothing like any of the counter measures that had been used to date.