Oh by the way

December 30th, 2007

On Tuesday the 18th I received an invitation to a meeting on Wednesday the 19th to discuss the implementation of Oracle software to replace our current factory software. Some of the high-level people who were part of the A-Team had assigned various people in the plant to be on teams to document critical functions of the existing system so they could be adequately replicated on the Oracle system. This Oracle implementation was not one of the projects of the A-Team, they were just announcing it as a post-script to their exploits. Not all of the people they had chosen for this documentation teams were invited to the meeting, and many who were invited, like myself, had heard nothing about it until the invitation.

In response to some of my questions, the lead presenter said, “Oh, my speciality is order management. It will be crucial for you to document how due dates and promise dates are calculated and transferred between systems,” which is partly a function of order placement, presently conducted by a sister facility that is being shut down, and the planning department–in other words, neither I nor any other members on my team know anything about it. So I asked to speak with him further. “Oh, I have been here for five weeks and now I am leaving.”

The first part of the documentation is due January 4th. That might seem a little bit of a short notice, if you think of the two days off for Christmas, but when you think that Acme is so frantic to post a big fat revenue number that they would have us working Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (New Year’s Eve), if only we could convince trucking companies to pull freight all of those days, then you can see that our mandated priorities leave us little room to work on this project until the new year. And the first day of the new year is a holiday, since, being a day later, it no longer has any bearing on the financial numbers for 2007. So it is not a somewhat short time frame to do this kind of project, it is very short.

And I figured out why. The actual IT experts will come later. This bit of documentation is only to make the actual user’s life easier by having the system tailored to our needs. Also it is possible that we might give some piece of insight that would help the IT team. But really, it is only us users who have anything to gain from this, so if we don’t have enough time to do a good job, who really cares?

The A team gets an F

December 30th, 2007

Lean Production, based on the Toyota Production System, recognizes 7 wastes:

  1. Transportation. Moving something from one spot to another does not make it worth more.
  2. Inventory. If a miser saves all of his money, what good does it do him? If a company has more product than someone is ready to pay for, what is it worth?
  3. Motion. Any kind of walking, reaching, moving, touching, searching, or other motion, which does not directly make the work in progress closer to what the customer will pay for, is a waste of time and money.
  4. Waiting. When a worker waits, he is being paid to do nothing. When a product waits, it is not returning money to the company.
  5. Overproduction. As long as you are making a perfect product, which will never need to be fixed, updated, or changed, and which somebody will always buy, you can make as much as you want. Otherwise you should only make as much as you can sell now, before something changes.
  6. Overprocessing. If you spend time and money to put a pretty design on a part that is going to unseen inside of the finished product, you have wasted your money. Anything you do that the customer does not want is a waste.
  7. Defects. If you inspect for defects and you do not find any, you have wasted time. If you find a defect, you will have to repair it or scrap the part entirely. If you have to rework a part you are paying twice for a part that the customer will only pay for once.

    The A-Team came to Acme with a mandate from on high, and scared all the management into not questioning any of their decisions. They set about with steely resolve to drastically reduce the waste of Inventory, and this they did–mainly by increasing Transportation.