Job Instruction Breakdown Sheets – Stabilizing for Improvement

I’m training a lean coordinator this week in how conduct Job Instruction Sessions. During the training, he needs to coach people out on the floor in breaking down jobs. An example he ran into yesterday highlights a common problem in manufacturing plants around the country and is one of the very subtle reasons why standards are hard to maintain and thus improve.

First consider the simple comparison of the headings on a breakdown sheet to the universal questions of "what, how, and why".

Important Steps are WHAT we are doing. (e.g., washing clothes)
Key Points are HOW we do it. (e.g., by hand or machine wash)
Reasons WHY help us emphasize the Key Points. (e.g., by hand for delicates, or machine wash makes the job easier for people and is safe for more durable textiles.)

Out of the laundromat and into the factory: a resistance welder has two electrodes that tarnish as they are used. An operator is expected to periodically remove the black residue from the electrodes. The important step here was recorded as “sand electrodes”. The key points were 1) between electrodes, 2) NOT bottoms, and 3) no black residue.

The problem here isn’t obvious, but it can result in two things happening and we see this all of the time. First, we think that WHAT we are doing is sanding, but WHAT we are really doing is cleaning. HOW we do it, or the key point then, is to sand. This sounds like nit-picking, but you need to put your kaizen hat on to understand this point. Someday, you must engage these employees to come up with better ways to do things. When I ask a person, “HOW can you improve the sanding”, what responses will I get? “Automate it! Have some else do it! Do it lightly! Sand it harder! Use a different grit size! All good suggestions, but remember, WHAT we are doing is not sanding, we are cleaning. The key point, or HOW we do it the job, is sanding.

So, now I ask the same question, but differently: “how can you improve the cleaning?” Now the possibilities are not limited to sanding, but new technologies, materials and methods. Good kaizen is now possible.

Second, when we mix up key points and important steps, it becomes difficult to maintain the standards. The reason for this is not as simple as the previous example, but we can illustrate this by focusing on SAFETY, which is always a key point and NEVER an important step. Before you call me crazy, let me explain:

Safety is ALWAYS a key point. Important steps are logical steps in the sequence of the work, those that actually advance the work. What does this mean, exactly? It means simply that value has been added to the product. So, if I list the important steps as 1) fixture plates, 2) put on gloves and mask 3) weld seam most people would find no problem with this. But what if I'm at the end of my shift and just completed step two? Do I expect the incoming welder to just pick up the stick and start welding on step three? Of course not. I fully expect him to do it safely. WHAT am I doing? Welding. HOW am I doing it? With gloves and mask. I'm doing the step safely. We can test this by asking ourselves some other fundamental kaizen-oriented questions. Does putting on gloves and mask advance the work, or add value to the product? If I improve welding by automating it, are their any potential safety problems that I solve or must consider? Knowing HOW we do things leads us to better thinking about the job.

This is why it is difficult to maintain standards. If people do the job and skip putting on their gloves, they can still go to step three and weld! They are still doing the job, but they are not doing it safely. The proof that safety is a key point is that we see these types of behavior all of the time. People learn shortcuts, really what they are doing is missing key points. Eventually though, those key points will come back to haunt you.

It is VERY easy to mix up our key points, thinking that they are important steps. This is natural as you begin breaking down jobs, but with the proper guidance from an experienced JI trainer, you will be able to see the possibilities for improvement in every important step and key point. This is why JI isn’t about documenting the job, it is about stabilizing the job so that you can think through further improvements in the future.



Post a Comment

Your involvement is essential to ongoing evolution of the leadership community.

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home