Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Hidden Factory

I've had some time for some more lean thinking. The concept of the hidden factory has me intrigued. How many opportunities are there out there that are clearly being missed or ignored. Obviously, the activities we work on each day in our lives and jobs are visible opportunities. What gets unnoticed are the small things. The parts that don't show up on time so we lose an opportunity to complete a scheduled repair. What about equipment failures that repeat and no root cause investigation is taken up. Sometimes we think we don't have time or we have to move on to the next fire to attack. We probably only work on about 10% of the real opportunities out there. If you work in a culture where continuous improvement is not the norm and you suggest tackling some of these "hidden opportunities" you might be surprised at the looks you receive. Some of them may even be low hanging fruit for improvement and very easy to tackle.
I know of one process owner always advertising 100% yield. In reality hidden rework and process losses are inside the calculations. It looks good to management on paper but the rework is costly. Because upper management thinks performance is excellent there is no motivation or driving force to solve the real "hidden" problems that exist.
The answer to some of these issues is a program of LEAN SIGMA improvements. Teaching LEAN thinking to employees in a top down management committed organization will eliminate and solve these issues. Kaizen improvement events will identify and tackle the low hanging fruit. Productivity improves and procedures become institutionalized.