Why do we need a Lean Six Sigma Project Hopper? We (the Management) already know what the problems are!

Let me ask you a question … Who is going to make more of an impact on identifying problems to improve and increase the company’s bottom line?

  1. The Leadership (who know the processes from a 30,000-foot view)?
  2. The operators (who know the intricate details of their respective processes)?

Hopefully, you said “BOTH”. Organizations need a holistic view of their process problems to understand the right “fix”. Using a Lean Six Sigma Project Hopper allows a company to identify problems (or potential continuous improvement projects) at all levels.

Although it baffles me that most companies only tune into the view of Leadership and are not interested in (or are deaf to) the Operators view when it comes to the identification of problems.

Let me tell you a story where the company ignored the Voice of the Operator (and the company paid significantly for it) …

 

I was consulting at a company in Detroit that built tooling. They had recently won a contract with an aerospace company. They (the leadership) believed that the machine they currently used was not able to keep up with the increased demand from the new contract, so they invested around $250k in a new machine.

The new machine was a nightmare. It was down constantly. Tech support was not helpful and field support took a long time to answer and resolve problems.

Meanwhile, the old machine was moved to a different part of the facility to work on other parts. When the machine was moved, maintenance was able to make some repairs before installing it in the new location. These repairs were long overdue and had been brought up numerous times to supervisors by the machine operators. Each time the operators up the issues, they were ignored.

Because the old machine had finally received the needed repairs (which equaled around $21,000) the old machine was now producing at a rate that easily kept up with demand. The other leads and supervisors quickly noticed the extra capacity at the old machine and more parts were scheduled on the old machine. It did not take long before the old machine was the machine running the new aerospace parts.

Why is this experience important? If the company leaders weren’t deaf to the Voice of the Operators (and had a Lean Six Sigma Project Hopper), they would have heard the recommendations to maintain the old machine and most likely would have reacted.

 

How do you capture the Voice of the Operator?

How do you Break down the Division between Management and Operators!

Often there is a rift between management and the Operators on the floor. Management believes they are there to manage the Operators and the Processes (which includes fixing broken stuff). The Operator is there to “Work” (to build transactions, services and/or products).

 

To break down the division between Management and the Operators and capture the Voice of the Operator (as well as the voice of everyone else), follow these six steps:

 

  • Educate your employees (Management and Operators) on what they should voice
  • Provide a Project Hopper solution to capture the problems and/or ideas the employee identifies to improve a process and the company’s bottom line
    • This can be through a simple system like a physical “Suggestion Box” and hard copies of “Continuous Improvement Suggestion Forms”.
    • You can use digital tools to develop a project hopper like Microsoft Excel, Access and/or SharePoint
    • or, You can invest in an online solution like KPI Fire, Minitab’s Companion or Moresteam’s Traction
  • Put together a team to evaluate and prioritize the problems and/or ideas the organization identifies. Optimally, the problems and/or ideas identified should be prioritized based on their effect on the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Advertise the Prioritized Projects so everyone can see what projects are being worked on and what projects are pending.
  • Invite the employee who identified the problem and/or idea on the team to solve the problem (or implement the idea).
  • Advertise to the Organization the success of the team to solve the problem or implement the idea. More importantly, advertise the employee who identified the problem and/or idea and helped the team.

Imagine the impact you will have on company morale and cohesiveness when you follow these steps. When the employee has the power to identify a problem or idea; see it materialize into a project and is a part of the team that implements the solution, the employee will feel like a valued part of the company.

 

How does your company capture continuous improvement project ideas? Let us know your story in the comments below.

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