18. Feb. 2016

Red-hot inefficiency

by Peet Wiid

The need for a more visual workplace

To reduce inefficiencies in a business we need to make our errors and problems more obvious. This is one of the fundamental KAIZEN™ principles – manage your workplace in a visual way. We need to see existing issues and potential problems immediately because the longer it takes the more the damage is usually incurred.

As a family we recently experienced this first hand when a visiting relative from overseas wanted to treat us by preparing his favourite pasta dish. Meticulous attention was given to buying the best and correct ingredients as he wanted (and maybe needed to) impress. While we were chasing our daily routine, my brother-in-law played his part as an up-and-coming Master Chef.

All excited about the new chef in our midst our son carefully laid the table (as is his standard task for dinner). The first taste of this Mediterranean dish was, well, how shall I put it…? More like Mexican… on steroids! That burning sensation ignited a whole chain reaction through-out my digestive track; mouth burning, sneezing, wheezing, oesophagus galloping, and stomach churning. Even my eyes were engulfed with tears which our Master Chef took as a gesture of extreme gratitude for his efforts… until he had his first bite!

Exposing the root cause took some investigation and we realised that the cook (by then downgraded in status!) used the unlabelled seasoning bottle. It is the same distinct container they use in their country and we also buy it here in New Zealand. Many moons ago I filled this handy container with cayenne pepper as nothing else was available… and this was the cause of the painful error.

After improvement

The root cause of the problem, however, was the lack of a visual indicator regarding the contents of the container. This was soon rectified (accompanied by an apology from my side) while still wiping the red-hot sweat from my brow.

Now here’s a few things to consider:

·        How can you make your workplace more visual to prevent costly errors in processes?

·        Do we “blame the chef”, the operators, when something goes wrong? Or do leaders and managers show accountability by using a visual system to prevent errors from occurring, or at least warn us when problems are present?

·        Do we care enough about our people to minimise these embarrassing inefficiencies with them?

 

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