Death to the SQDC Whiteboard

Tom Becker Standard Blog Leave a Comment

When I joined the manufacturing community over 20 years ago, technology in manufacturing was just starting to progress.  CNC was moving along and slowly other items were moving into a digital environment. Work instructions, deviations, drawings, order handling, billing – all were being moved to a rapidly progressing digital lifestyle.  But yet, there remains very manual processes that still exist.  Some improvement programs claim that you need a highly manual process to get the employees truly invested in the result.  We believe this is a misnomer…what no none (except us) has been able to do until now is craft an intuitive user interface.  The user interface and experience is key, not the manual process.  These quality programs need to be revisited and revised…the times have changed and technology is far beyond where it was when the SQDC boards first came into existence.

In many instances, the bottleneck (specifically American manufacturing) is the shop floor, shops are resource limited.  Processes and refinements have been made in support of the floor but nothing to the floor.  We feel that it’s about time to give back to the shop and try to push that bottleneck to somewhere else in the organization.

15 years ago I saw my first continuous improvement white board.  I thought to myself – “What a monstrosity…”.  Soon after, I was within an organization that was tasked with maintaining the daily action items, suggestions for improvement and all the related items in having a quality program. Eventually, a hatred developed for this board.  Every single day our techs and shop supervisors would spending four hours maintaining our boards.  These four hours would be spent translating data, re-organizing, ensuring all the various boards were in sync and making up the associated visual metrics that the organization had adopted.  In addition to that effort, a weekly one hour meeting would occur that would go over the suggestions for improvement or corrective actions.  After all this processing, we were finally able to move forward with making a change.

While you cannot deny the raw value of SQDC boards, what I saw was a weekly time sink of roughly 20 hours of productive time not including the improvement meeting (which was rather expensive considering the number of individuals involved).  All of this time was necessary to maintain this monstrosity.  Those 20 hours per week – for my old organization – equated to $1600 a week in lost productive time.  This isn’t including the value add time that my shop supervisor could be on the floor looking for the next incident, coaching my junior technicians or addressing some expedited product. Over time, that $1600 equates to roughly $6400 a month or $76,800 a year….roughly 540% more expensive that the solution we are providing here.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra $53,000 placed back into your business?  Before you all get the calculators out… this is back of the napkin math, accounting for time that would be needed with our program.

The whiteboards themselves are difficult to upkeep, get messy, and are potentially subjective to the different crews if the organization does not have a robust standard that is set – and followed.  Let’s be honest, things get erased between shifts, people have their opinions, etc etc etc.  These SQDC boards take up quite a bit of square footage that can be used for other things.  I have seen shops use a 10’x10’ layout just to display their boards in the middle of the shop….and while many of them may not be in the middle of the shop, many of them ARE in a productive area that is high visibility.  All of these SQDC boards are meant to provide a quick review (60 seconds or less) of the major metrics.  When is the last time you were able to assess the board in less than 60 seconds?…be honest.

Bottom Line…Shop metrics are costly, difficult to maintain and ready for an evolution.  We reduce cost and difficulty associated with shop metrics while adding a level of mobility and functionality that, until now, has never been seen.

Here’s to the Future and Cheers!

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