Updated: Jul 20
One day we delivered a component for a piece of engine equipment that required testing on a testbed. During this test in the customer's factory, a bolt came loose and disappeared into the engine. The operator pressed the "Emergency Stop" button and the search for the bolt begun. It took two days to find the missing bolt and, as a result, the customer's test schedules were delayed also. Naturally, the customer was extremely unhappy and filed a complaint.
Thanks to the systems in place, we were able to track down who had assembled the component. We met with him, not in the spirit of admonishing him, but to try and find out how it had happened. That was the only way that we were going to be able to improve the quality systems that we had in place. He admitted that while assembling the equipment he had needed to go to the bathroom and may have forgotten to tighten one of the 32 bolts when he returned to his post. We explained to him what the consequences had been. His eyes widened as the shock dawned on him and feelings of guilt took hold. He was shattered to learn what consequences his moment of inattention had caused. We introduced new guidelines to ensure that this kind of incident didn't happen again.
But there was another important lesson that we learned from this incident. If you want staff to take pride in their work, they have to know how their work can affect customer outcomes. In many companies, particularly in manufacturing, many people on the shop floor have no idea what happens to products that they are making or how they are used by customers. They have no "line of sight" to the customer and cannot envisage what consequences an error on the shop floor may have on the customer’s operations.
Ensuring that they have this line of sight allows them to think on the job. To what extent are my actions going to affect the desired customer outcome? What will happen if I forget to do this or let a quality defect slide? Having this knowledge also helps to increase the level of identification with the product and the customer.
A further benefit is that it also makes it easier to handle customer complaints, knowing where potential customer pain points may be found!
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