Categories: General.

The following story is about using a 10Kg sledgehammer to tap in a small nail! For every challenge there are multiple solutions – and in this economic climate, it is important to investigate ALL of them and then to choose wisely!

Enjoy the story!

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timing so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get ticked-off and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and R50 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done to re-start the line.

Everyone was happy. Well, almost everyone.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: Amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says!

And then he took a closer look at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 (as in zip, zero, zilch), after three weeks of production use. It should have been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He launched an investigation, and after some work, the engineers come back saying the report was in fact correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travelled down to the factory, and walked up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed.

A few feet before the scale, there was a R120 desk fan.

Curious, he asked one of the workers why the fan was there.

“Oh, that, we put it there to blow the empty boxes off the line because we were tired of walking over every time the bell rang to restart the line”.

Now everyone was happy. Except the CEO who spent a fortune to be defeated by a R120 fan!

And the moral? It doesn’t have to cost the earth to solve a problem. There are many cost-effective solutions that can be implemented which will efficiently and quickly solve the ROOT cause of your problem.

Give us a call – we might just have that solution for you!