Identify the opportunities for perfection

For people of a certain age, there was a certain way we learned how to do everything. To learn how to field ground balls and fly balls, I caught a lot of ground balls and fly balls. To learn to do multiplication, I ran down the multiplication tables. To spell, I got up in front of the class to participate in the spelling bee.



For people of a certain age, there was a certain way we learned how to do everything. To learn how to field ground balls and fly balls, I caught a lot of ground balls and fly balls. To learn to do multiplication, I ran down the multiplication tables. To spell, I got up in front of the class to participate in the spelling bee.

There were certain actions, of course, which didn't require repetition. Touch the hot burner just once and you remember. Stick your tongue on the frozen flagpole just once, and you remember. Consume a lot of baby aspirin just once, and you remember. (I had a colorful childhood.)

The way I learned most things is through repetition. Repetition is precise, it is exacting, it is… dull. That doesn't make it ineffective; it just means it isn't exciting.

But I'm in a business, as you are, where getting it right wins accolades and is profitable, and getting it wrong is a quick ticket to doing something else. So we strive first to get perfect at those things we already do. As things change and improve, as new technology comes along, we also learn those processes and techniques and equipment.

There are people who learn quickly, and people who learn at their own pace. Some do better by playing around with the equipment. Some people want to go through the manual step-by-step.

What they all have in common, especially today, is that they don't want it to be dull. Engaged training, and engaged students, make for the most effective learning environment.

That's true in the educational classroom and it's true in the professional classroom. As we strive to attract young people to manufacturing, and as we strive to take advantage of the new technology in front of us, we need to make education an interactive, dynamic experience.

We shouldn't sacrifice making it fun for getting it right, however. Those multiplication tables, those spelling bees taught us the fundamentals we needed to have to succeed in the world. Getting those things right is a measure of our competence.

If you want an object lesson in this, consider the plight of Toyota. Long touted for its Six Sigma approach to manufacturing, they found themselves in February with a massive recall over a fundamental part of the automobile: the accelerator.

The cynics among us might take time to revel in Toyota's struggles. The realists among us in manufacturing should be looking to the sky that this wasn't their problem. More correctly, they should be looking at their own operation to find ways so that it doesn't happen to them one day.

This month's cover story on root cause analysis tries to take that dynamic approach to an important but sometimes mundane process of fixing mistakes. In reality, as the article notes, the mistake is the genie out of the bottle %%MDASSML%% or the misspelled word on the cover of the magazine. It is gone and cannot be reclaimed. The opportunity to undo a mistake is gone. The opportunity to not repeat a mistake is right in front of you.

The goal of root cause analysis, as with all kinds of training, is to identify the opportunity for perfection and do everything you can to achieve that perfection, every time. The article correctly notes that humans make human error. There is no perfection. That actually makes striving for the goal of perfection all the more vital. The greater the emphasis on the end result, the greater the attention to detail.

If you told your team that they needed to get one day's worth of product out the door with absolutely no defects %%MDASSML%% and that includes on time, with no waste %%MDASSML%% would they be well-trained enough to do it? Do they have the confidence in their skills? Do you?

Especially if the answer to the last question is no, it's time to take a fresh look at engaging your staff in training. As manufacturing facilities ramp back up production, it's a perfect opportunity to make sure their skills are sharp.

We've long emphasized the importance of maintenance. It's not a sometime thing, and it shouldn't happen only when something breaks or wears down. Training is maintenance for your workers. You have the chance to give those workers the confidence to reach for that perfection.


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