Improvement often follows a change in one’s paradigm about the way things are done. A recent example illustrates the idea—and shows that a paradigm shift can be right under our nose.
The shipping department of an apparel manufacturing company is responsible for applying printed paper tags to the finished product before it is placed into the shipping queue. The company VP singled out this process for improvement due to the excessive amount of time required for tagging a particular line of outerwear.
A day and time was selected to take a closer look at the process on the shop floor. In attendance were the company owner, the VP, manufacturing manager, production scheduler, warehouse supervisor, product designer, and a warehouse employee to demonstrate the tagging process.
The existing process involved: (1) removing a folded garment from a box; (2) unfolding the garment and spreading it on a table; (3) visually inspecting the garment; (4) applying tags with a tagging gun; and, (4) refolding the garment for storage or shipment.
As we observed the process, several improvement ideas emerged and began to coalesce. Why were the garments folded and boxed by the production department (which was literally 20 feet away)? Why were the garments being inspected? Why were the garments tagged with a gun instead of using string to attach the tags to a button?
Then an interesting thing happened. Someone grabbed a nearby rolling rack and started taking garments out of the box and hanging them on the rack. Now it was possible to stretch out the garment and inspect it more quickly. And as an added bonus, the garment was much easier to tag on a hanger than on the table. The production department no longer needed to fold the garments, the shipping department no longer needed to unfold the garments, and the necessary work of inspecting and tagging could be done more efficiently.
With that success in view, the next steps are as follows. First, track down the source of the oil spots that necessitate inspection and rework of the garments. Next, try attaching the tags with strings in order to eliminate the need to pierce each garment with a tagging gun.
This improvement event took less than an hour, was a tremendous learning experience, and ended with smiles all around. Simpler process, less labor, less time. And some good ideas for making the process even better.
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