Lines that connect with a change point
A manager owns a change point.
It sounds like a simple concept, yet I have seen many contradictions.
Can we draw a connection between a manager and the change point? Very often, we can’t. Can we draw the “Supplier - Customer” relationships of the change point? If so, is the changer pushed or pulled?
Is Kaizen connected to the manager?
When we have a changepoint, let’s observe all the lines.
Is the line connected between the manager and the responsible change point at the right time?
At this daily production review, a supervisor was asked what happened on the changeover, which took double the amount from the standard. The supervisor didn’t know. Then he was asked to investigate by the plant manager. I challenged the plant manager with this question. The variation has already happened. The facts or the change points were not captured. The better question to ask was, “Where were you?” “What were you doing?” “Why did the supervisor not observe the extended changeover?” The shop floor or the reality changes a lot. It shouldn’t, but it does. And if the change point belongs to the manager, the manager should be at the site. If the manager needs to leave for some reason, it better be a good one; otherwise, we contradict my statement, “a change point belongs to a manager.” Capturing and observing the change point is the responsibility of a manager. The line between this manager and the changepoint was not connected. And it frequently disconnects—some by the manager, others by the organizations.
Another point to think about in this line is the timing. What is the primary responsibility of a manager regarding the change point? Is it in reporting after the change happened or to take action before the changepoint happened? Yes, reporting is essential, but it is always the second move. The first move is to highlight the change point and prepare for it. In this case, the changeover is the change point of the day. If so, what did the manager do to prepare for it? Many use the Formula One pit stop as an example of a changeover. In Formula One, a pit stop is an essential call of the team manager. The manager must ensure that the driver and the pit crews are prepared for this stop. The same should be applied to any change point.
“Supplier - Customer” Relationships
Sometimes, the change point is “forced” towards a manager. Once, I arrived on the shop floor to see a manager pale. I asked him what was going on. He responded that half of his people were taken to training without prior notification. I immediately contacted the plant manager and the human resource manager responsible for the training. They both became pale and stopped the training. Don’t get me wrong, the training is essential. Yet, if we conduct training and introduce a change point, we must introduce such change peacefully according to a careful plan. What is the acceptable number of people we can allocate to training? Do we have enough substitution operators to cover the positions? Is the absence according to the plan? We have to plan to conduct such training successfully. We re-planned the training with the human resource and the production manager.
But if we think about this, we have more “forced changes” than we think. A machine is down. Material is on hold. Change of production plan. These changes are constantly happening. It is crucial to think about the “Supplier - Customer” relationships. Human resource supplies people for production. Engineering supplies machines, processes, and products. Logistics delivers materials to the line. Quality should be supplying quality assurances, not inspections. If we think in such relationships, we recognize that the suppliers are pushing their problems to the customer. Changes in supplies of such services do happen, and notification timing is crucial. The notification needs to arrive at the owner of the change point early enough to prepare for the change.
The bottom line of all this is about communications. Information about the change must flow between managers. The earlier the information flow, the better since that will give time to respond. If this lead time for preparation is not respected, it will have a negative impact. And the form of communication should be visual or something that is in physical form. If it is just verbal, there are chances of forgetting the change. The discussion of I-told-you-no-you-didn’t is pure waste.
Kaizen is a type of positive change point. And this belongs to the manager, too. Very often, we hear people say that Kaizen is people’s responsibility. I have met some managers who walk away from Kaizen, thinking it is not their responsibility. People should be involved in Kaizen, but they are not responsible. Managers can ask questions about how to improve, but they are ultimately responsible. We should be clear that people should respect the standards first. We can’t tell contradicting stories of following the standard and changing simultaneously. People can express their opinion about the standards at any time. Yet, the decision to change or not should belong to the manager. If the manager chooses to keep the current standard rather than the operator's idea, it should provide a good reason why it works. If there are no good reasons, we should compare the results scientifically.
Kaizen is also not some random changes. I have seen some places where they keep changing the colors of a label to reduce mistakes. Was the color the cause of the mistake? They don’t know. All they thought about was changing the color since the manager only asked for some numbers of Kaizen per operator. The hypothesis of what to improve comes from the observations of the change point. Only through such a hypothesis should we conduct a Kaizen.
When we have a changepoint, let’s observe all the lines. The same changepoint might have different causes.