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Are Cell Phones Causing Process Delays?

It’s the beginning of a new year.  OK so we are almost two months into the year.  Being the start of the new year, it means checkup time for me.  Dental checkup, physical and any other routine checks to be sure I am still healthy…preventive maintenance for the body if you will.

Needless to say, I have been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms at the doctors’ offices.  Usually, the first thing I do is get out my smartphone and start reading updates from blogs or checking email.  Then at my last doctor’s appointment I noticed a receptionist.  She looked in the direction of a person who was on their smartphone playing a game or reading.  I’m not sure.  She started to say something then stopped.  Saw the other receptionist wasn’t busy and started talking to her.  After 3 or 4 minutes she called the person that was on the smartphone over for some questions.

That got me thinking about delays.  Before smartphones, a person was lucky to have a magazine in a waiting area to read or even a TV with looping with the same news over and over again.  People found this to be a painful way to be spending their time.  Time that could have been used running errands or doing something enjoyable.  Now people have a way to stay connected and do things that pass the time in a way each individual finds enjoyable.  Whether it be reading a blog, playing Angry Birds, or even watching a video on our smartphones.

Because of this, are people becoming blind to delays and the amount of time they sit and wait?   Do service providers take extra time or delay because they know people are preoccupied with their smartphones?

I like to think not, but after what I saw at the doctor’s office maybe in some cases it is.  Maybe a mechanic takes a little extra time in returning the keys after the repair because a person is preoccupied?  Maybe the DMV is even slower in their responses knowing people are looking at smartphones?

It may only be a few minutes here and a few minutes there but I know I have witnessed it at least once.  Plus, on several occasions I can recall getting lost in my smartphone and before I knew it 40 minutes or so has passed.  When I realize it I have gone up to ask what is going on and within a minute or two I am taken care of.  Why wasn’t I taken care of earlier?  I know my timing isn’t always that good.

The delay may not be a conscious decision but I believe it is happening.  Would you consider this a waste of your time?  Or is the smartphone helping you to multitask so you are doing work in parallel?  What do you think?

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The Importance of TPM and SMED

There are two main types of manufacturing environments that I have worked in.  One is a heavy manual operation environment usually assembly lines.  The other is a heavy machining environment with painting and plating lines or injection molding machines, etc…

In a heavy machining manufacturing environment, there are two lean concepts that I believe need to be done very well to have sustained success…Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Quick Changeover (SMED).

Some may say continuous flow is the most important concept.  The issue is flow can not happen if the machines are down unexpectedly or if the changeovers are taking a long time.

If a machine goes down, then flow stops all together or WIP is built up between the processes so when the machine goes down unexpectedly the following process does not go down also.

The longer a changeover takes the more WIP needs to be built up in front of the next process.

In either case, this causes the flow to be interrupted. Any WIP that is introduced between the process interrupts the flow of that particular item even when things are running smoothly.  The item has to stop and wait will the items in queue in front of it go through the process first.  This can make it difficult to link processes together to create the smooth flow.

Yet, these are two tools that I rarely see as a high priority to master in a manufacturing environment.  5S seems to be the tool to try and master first and then standard work.  I do believe these are extremely valuable and necessary concepts, but if you don’t implement them trying to solve a particular business need then sustaining the gains is hard.

5S and standardized work can both be implemented through a TPM and SMED program.  5S can be used so tools are in their place and ready to go when a changeover is taking place or maintenance is being done so the machine is down for less time and production can start back up.  There should be standardized work to make sure the TPM is happening.  Checklists is a common way to have standardized work for TPM.  There should also be standardized work for changing over a machine in the quickest, safest, most efficient manner that is known.

All the concepts are important.  I see TPM and SMED as two concepts that are vehicles to other concepts introduction and success.

Are there other areas TPM and SMED are as important?  Maybe with IT systems?