Almost Standard Work: 6 Pieces, 5 Steps and 3 Mistakes

[tweetmeme source=”leanisgood” service=”” only_single=false]Several weeks ago I posted an article related to building a pinewood derby car. After superior engineering, cutting edge tribology and a monster paint job, we didn’t bring anything home except the car and hopes of a better race next year. So our next project was at Lowe’s.

First, I have to thank Lowes for having the program “Build and Grow.” This is a program where every other weekend they have a project that you can do with your kids. Last week, We made a mini basketball basket including a scoreboard. Six pieces, five illustrated and written steps and some different length nails.  How hard could it be?

Proper PPE? Yes. We brought safety glasses but they were provided as well. Also, little Ohno was given a work apron.

We opened the bag and checked out the instructions. Were all the pieces included? Yes. So far so good.Womack  Jr. organized the two different size nails in between whacks at the table with a hammer.

We looked and read the instructions a couple of times before putting anything together. Also, we did a “dry run” by putting most of the pieces together so that we could see how they would fit together.

There were 2 nails to be put in the base so there were only two ways to put the post into the base. That was one too many. Mistake number one and it wasn’t realized until the drive home.

Next came putting in the scoreboard numbers. They are dials with numbers 1 to 8. There was, once again, a pilot hole where you put the nails. The directions seemed easy enough. After putting the dials on backwards, I looked around and saw one father and son’s numbers upside down and another’s who pounded the nails so hard that the numbers were embedded into the backboard. Needless to say, you couldn’t turn them even if you wanted to. Mistake number 2.

Now we were ready to put the backboard on the post. I mis-read, or more aptly, didn’t read or look for that manner at which way to put on the backboard. It went on okay. How could I do that wrong?

When we tried to put the basket on, I noticed that we had the final nail hole was on the wrong side of the backboard. Perfect. So now I am trying to explain to mini sensei that I am pulling the nails out under the table, not because I am embarrassed but because I can produce more torque that way. I can’t wait until he gets into physics! Mistake number 3.

At the end of the project, we had learned a lot, had fun, and made a cool basketball game. I think it is a great program that Lowe’s offers. What it made me realize, once again, is that when you look at any task or job you have to mistake proof every conceivable action, document completely how the work is supposed to be done with pictures and train, train, train. There is no substitute for training, no standard work that is as good as mistake proofing, and no project or task too small that doesn’t need all three.


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4 Responses

  1. A few years ago I had a similar situation with one my children. He had finished his masters degree and moved into his first apartment. He at this point had very little money, needed to furnish a complete apartment, and did not like any of our old furniture. We made a road trip to Ikea! Great plan until we unpacked the 1st box. I will say that once I understood the Ikea assembly concepts I became very proficient. No word just hand drawn sketches of the assembly. The 1st unit took hours and 2 to 3 assembly tries. I am a craftsman I kept telling myself. I really think I could have made it from scratch faster. We did apply your 3 Training (learing from the 1st one) standard work became the theme to teaming on the assembly process, we placed the proper components and fasteners together with the pieces they went with to avoid earlier errors. It worked out and he outfitted his apartment for less than $1000. Not bad.

  2. There is an old book out there called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and one of the things mentioned was that work instructions, at least in the past, were written by the person in the company that was unable to do any other useful work. I don’t think that is the issue now, but I like your comment about the “assembly concepts” or philosophy. It is hard to look into someone else’s head to see why they set things up the way they do but there is always a reason. It just may not be obvious. I did put a desk together around the holidays last year that took over 2 hours to put together. The instructions were pretty good but what I struggled with is making the distinction of very similar looking pieces.

    • Thanks, you kind of put together for me what I was trying to get across. I can tap into the Ikea work instructions. I get what they are trying to convey and it is now easy for me to follow conceptually where they are headed. I am not sure that would be true for everyone.

      On a side note that is a great book, haven’t thought of it in years.

  3. My wife was on spring break and like most people on spring break her heart turned to improving her classroom environment and an Ikea road trip with a Doctoral student and a student teacher. She brought back several peices of furniture to assemble and the above discussions came to mind. We were putting together chairs that had legs that snapped in place. Ikea instructions out. Each of us chose a different way to assemble the leg to the chair. There was a minor Poka yoke that prevented misassembly. I will not comment which of us chose the correct assembly method first.

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