Today’s factory teams are under enormous pressure. We need to achieve bigger targets with less.... less resource, shorter deadlines, smaller quantities, tighter quality standards and of course, for less money.
Who needs the added pressure of a TPM/Six-Sigma/Lean programme? Freeing up equipment and people from critacal production tasks is a tough ask when Customers, Marketers and CEOs are beating down your door.
Unfortunately continuous improvement activities, just like training activities, are usually the first casualties in a pressured environment.
However, while your Engineers'/Artisans' brilliant trouble shooting abilities may have saved the day, has it really helped? Did it really solve the problem or will it come back to bite you in the behind?
To break out of a fire-fighting mode you'll have to bite the bullet and start to solve the recurring issues.
Don't get me wrong... I’m not pretending it’s easy to make a start.
As a young maintenance manager I was very proud of my trouble shooting ability. The satisfaction I got from swooping down and saving the day was electric.... We were fire-fighters and we were good at it.
Then my whole life changed... I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Hajime Yamashima (Founder of World Class Manufacturing) and during a brutally honest audit he said something that I will never forget - "You need new EYES!"
With the limited resources we had at the time, we distilled his process into a very basic and easy to digest 5 Step plan to help us to break our fire-fighting cycle:
Step 1: Understanding
Collect some figures on what is stopping you achieving your daily targets.
Analyse them to find out what the biggest problem is. This analysis may be by cash, downtime or quality.
Break the biggest problem down into smaller categories.
Find out what the most appropriate improvement tools or techniques are to resolve your problem. You may have an internal improvement team to help you or you can find an external specialist who can work with you to deploy the techniques you need.
Now you are ready for when you get a slight lull in the fire-fighting!
Step 2: Communication
Step 3: Execution
Select a small team and deploy the tool or technique.
At the start of your journey the tools and techniques are easy to pick up and deploy. Even for the leadership team
Have a go, learn by doing and the next time you use any tool you'll be more experienced.
Step 4: Celebrate
Show your results on a board and keep briefing the wider team.
You can show results not only in the original analysis format but with before and after pictures, graphs and monetary savings.
Different people will be looking at your results; you need to show them in different ways.
Your teams are probably more interested in how much easier the job has become without all the problems and hassle.
Step 5: Don't STOP
When you have reduced the first problem pick the next biggest and keep going!
It takes time and perseverance but if you keep plugging away you will breakout of the fire-fighting mode and release time for more improvement.
Achieving daily targets becomes possible as you tackle each of the problems that exist now. Once stable you can concentrate on making those improvements you need to be competitive.
This is how I did it in my factories and simplistically how we help our clients, but let me know how you have broken out of your fire-fighting cycle.