It takes one man to run a factory

This morning at Acme we had some parts that were run wrong on the machine and needed to be fixed up. This already is a disgrace according to the standards of Lean manufacturing. But it was worse because K. D. wasn’t at the meeting to promise that he could fix them, and nobody else knew what to do with them.

As L. K. said disgustedly, “What are you going to do when that man retires?”

Well, we will find out soon enough. K. D. retires end of June. But we can already guess what will happen. We will continue to run bad parts, but when nobody knows how to rework them they will simply be scrapped. The kind of skilled reworking that K. D. does, all day, every day, cannot be taught in a short time and cannot very easily be found for hire.

Let us imagine that we could have K. D. mentor someone in the four or five months we have to work with. Still we can safely say that all is lost. The job I had now came to me when one person resigned and another retired, both long-time employees, both giving plenty of notice. I got a few days training. Then it was another full month before I was actually hired and on the job. We have been feeling the effects of that graceless transition over this past month and a half.

In my former role, as a temporary employee, I maintained a report that we used every day, and I was the only one who knew how the report worked. There were several things that I was relied on to accomplish for the daily functioning of the plant, things that I had to maintain myself or train others in after I took my full time position. But I was I temp; I could have disappeared at a moment’s notice.

Acme is not a Mom and Pop operation. Acme is international. Our little piece of the Acme pie is not the best and not the worst. But it will become a little worse this July when K. D. takes his leave, and we can no longer fix the mistakes we make.

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