4 Rules of Process: Rule #2

It must be understood by those doing the work

It was Friday night November 5th. Several planning sessions were held the few days prior showing some statistics, trends, and other data to create a plan to optimize the weekend production run for a national customer of ours. About 11:30 PM I received the phone call from a seemingly nervous Batching Technician.

We were planning on transitioning from multiple pallets of #50 bags, very laborsome, to #2,000 super sacks where most of the labor would be done by a machine, except for one hiccup. The technician didn’t understand the process of how to use it.

But we were not ready for that yet. We had an internal agreement to delay the implementation due to some previous issues. Now, however, we were possibly being forced to move forward with the process.

The SOP Dilemma

I read through the SOP. It didn’t seem that difficult but then again, I will not be in the plant at 1:15 AM when they attempt to load the ingredient. I am not a fan when it comes to SOP’s. I align and agree that they serve a purpose in that they can document a process but too often they are miscategorized as a “training tool.” Fully support their use for ISO Standards and audits, etc. But when it comes to skill building in a competency matrix type of paradigm, their use is more for a general introduction and not in skill building.

Breaking Rule #2

If a process isn’t fully understood, it will result in individuals developing their own understanding of the process based on “educated guesses” and “trial and error.

Without a full understanding of this mixing process, we were at risk. We aren’t creating small batches or parts. We are mixing batches of liquids up to 15,000 gallons. To make a mistake would require scrapping an entire production order and facing a possible claim. This is unacceptable. But this is true of any industry or process.

When we create or update processes and they are not fully understood by the people doing the work, they will find ways to get the work done based on their own experiences. Evidence of this is when you try to train someone with different people and the trainer remarks “we don’t do it that way on our shift.” LOL. This is probably heard more often than not.

Back to our process. A mechanical delay caused just enough of a slow down that when we got to the point of needing to start this bulk mixing process, the early morning dayshift leader had already arrived. He had a lot of experience and was familiar with it. Needless to say, the batch went off without a hitch – or mistake! We focused on getting each team member familiar and fully understanding how to use the bulk mixer for supersacks.

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