Manifestation and Causation: A Short Fable

[tweetmeme source="leanisgood" service=""]You’re in Gemba. There is an issue with a key customer. You have been on the phone calls and seen the metrics. Some last minute heroics of those on the floor and the site leadership “Make it Happen.” You and your team retrace the steps utilizing 5 Why’s and the Socratic Method to uncover the issue:

Customer – Where is my stuff? It is already two weeks late and the items that we did receive were not in spec and we had downtime in our process reworking.

Shipping – Production hasn’t made it yet or they are always late or there is a quality issue.

Production – The schedule has been changed several times this week. It is the next thing we are working on. We put three hot stamps on the work order, what else can I do? Quality put some hold stickers on it and put in the back of the Raw Material warehouse. I don’t know where it is.

Scheduling – There was a directive to ship all the 123’s out as soon as possible so we moved them up the schedule. The 456’s weren’t scheduled sooner because the parts for the 456’s are the same for the 123’s. The vendors have been late on several shipments and the quality we receive from them is poor.

Quality – The spec has been changed from the last revision. It hit the floor before proper training could be performed and some of the existing WIP needed to be reworked prior to approval. We planned on doing some incoming inspection but we don’t have the resources.

Vendor – You have changed the order at least four times in the last month and the specs changed as well so some items that were in WIP were suddenly not acceptable.

After an exhaustive 5 why analysis, many items have been uncovered, mistake proofing installed, kanbans and retraining created to diligently perform to customer needs. You go to dinner with a corporate auditor who is at your site for another reason.

Corporate Auditor – Oh, was that what everyone was working on this morning at the site? The VP of Manufacturing said in a meeting at corporate a few weeks ago that we could make it happen. No problem.

There are many examples in this tale about waste and synching with the customer but is there a bigger problem? Where was the real waste in this issue? Who owns this problem? Who gets the black eye?

Moral of the story:

Manifestation does not mean causation. Almost any issue that is manifested at the site can be traced back to the front office. Remember this at meetings when you are 3000 miles from the plant floor and there is a question about what can and can’t be done.


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