“We have a scrap problem we are not happy with, and a backlog of orders we cannot ship. We just formed a task force, and I would like your opinion.”

I would rather he ask for my help than my opinion.

He told me the cost of scrap and the value of backlog. Add them together and it would get you into the Fortune 500. He said they were not making enough progress and had formed a task force, using 8D as the approach.

Juran said, “Improvement takes place task force by task force, no other way!” Oh, wait… perhaps it was PROJECT by PROJECT and no other way. I guess the idea would be to get to projects as fast as you can, and have an effective approach to projects, which centers on speed and engineering discipline.

I don’t really have a problem with a task force. What is interesting is that once you get to the level of a Vice President, it’s hard to start projects from such a lofty perch, so a task force might be one way. No worries, just don’t spend a lot of time getting projects and fooling around with assessments. The “exact right project” does not matter as much as the strategy, which must be sound and fast. If the approach to stopping the scrap and closing out the backlog were sound, the VP wouldn’t be involved, and there would be no task force. Maybe the strategy is the problem, and the task force should not perpetuate it. VP’s need an assessment, of course, but it shouldn’t take long. Perhaps an assessment of the strategy might be in order, instead of the scrap and rework. Nothing will be fixed until we have projects, an effective strategy, daily progress, and reviews that take but a few minutes.

David Hartshorne and I had a chat about this a few days ago. We talked about the effort people put into problem and project definition. Why do people spend so much time on this? Is it because they have a record of slow progress? Since projects take so long, they have to make sure it’s the project with the most effect? If projects were fast, selecting the perfect project wouldn’t matter so much. Do you know your teams will be slow, distracted, and have a hard time making progress? Better problem definitions won’t fix bad strategy and the trap of multi-tasking.

During this conversation, David told me about his last real job, the one before he became a consultant, many years ago. Rather than looking at scrap and reworking reports and sorting six-ways-to-breakfast in a computer, David collected all the scrap for several days. This included every part and part number, organized by operation. It turned out that hole-making operations were driving an outsized percentage of scrap, regardless of the type of part. “We are poor at holes, and even worse at deep holes.”

For all the rest, they picked projects by starting at the top of the alphabet, which took but a minute. Progress was expected and mandatory. It was mandatory because there would be no company and no jobs without it. Teams were small, perhaps two or three. There was no time for committees.

People began to feel excited after a few projects. They were confident, looking forward to another and another, knowing they would survive, and excited about thriving!

The approach was sound, an approach TNSFT has developed and improved, which is why we solve problems faster than any other group specializing in manufacturing, product performance and reliability projects. No matter if a project was not in the top five. In the time most people take to define a problem and a project, they had it fixed, and were on to the next. That’s what our clients expect from us.

In many companies, the structure dictates the strategy, rather than the strategy dictating the structure. Have you built a department and staffed it to “resolve issues” and don’t solve problems fast enough? Do you have titles and expensive belts for people who are impeded by the structure? Do you have a department of “experts” teaching problem solving and dictating procedures and format, rather than helping solve tough problems, people who teach, but who have not really mastered the new science of fixing things?

Do you have a structure that is cumbersome and universal, that dictates the approach to solve every problem that steals creativity?

One thing is for sure… when you get your factories running again, there will be no time to waste. You will need problems solved FAST!

After David and I talked, I looked at how many readers I had for the last article, The Case of the Run-out Rotors, and video, The Sparsity of Effects, which I posted on LinkedIn when I came across some postings about 8D.

There are either 8 or 9 Ds. Some people start at 0, so the list still ends on 8.

  • The first step is to plan. I’m OK with that, just don’t spend more than a few minutes.
  • Second, select a team. Assign 2-3 people. Another few minutes are gone.

Tell them the job is NOT to solve the problem, but to learn one thing every day about the physics of function and failed function which will lead to eliminating the problem. Funny thing is, they will be finished much faster that way, and each day will be a success. Daily progress creates the will to learn and do it again the next day. Guessing generates the pandemic of failure.

Progress and learning are made best by a process of elimination, from EFFECT to CAUSE, based upon forcing a process to reveal its physical nature.

That’s really all you need to get started.

The 8D program, which is for sale, states:

  • Step 4 “Identify Contributing Causes, keeping in mind that problems typically don’t happen because of one thing, so look for all possible causes using brainstorming and fishbone diagrams.”
  • Step 5 “Brainstorm Potential Countermeasures.”

Do that, and you are doomed to fail. Fishbone diagrams are organized guessing, taking resources just to find out that each guess is wrong. How demoralizing!

It ignores the FACTS of the Pareto and Sparsity of Effects Principles. It relies upon organized guessing as a pseudo-strategy (brainstorming) which is the biggest time-waster ever to be introduced to manufacturing.

Our next story, will be about The Analytic Logic Map, developed by The New Science of Fixing Things. It will be in two parts, and it will show why you already do a good job if solving about 95% of the problems that come up which are typically the toughest and have been around for a while.

Yes, that’s right! You are already good at solving most problems. The approach you use for most problems is sound, and fast. You have to be good at it. Your people are trained to recognize problems as they occur, and fix them quickly. Before you change anything, you might want to recognize this as the starting point.

How do I know? If you weren’t solving problems fast, you would be out of business.

If you are good at solving 95% of your problems, why would you need to have a huge structural change, expensive training programs, and new departments, belts, and certifications that end up being applied universally, when all you really need, is to recognize and have a way to fix the remaining 5% of the problems?

The Analytic Logic is a thinking model that will get you started. It’s a lot more simple than you think. And it fits right into your 8D program, replacing Steps 4 and 5 with the effective approach of The New Science of Fixing Things.

John Allen