Why I Chose Continuous Improvement Over Engineering
My career changed directions when I found that I could make more of a difference utilizing continuous improvement at the organizational level than as an engineer no matter how high my individual performance.
Recognizing the Need for Change
When the market downturn hit the steel foundry where I worked after the housing market bubble burst, I was at the top of my game as a Modeling Engineer with 40% more simulations completed per day and higher first pass yield on new product samples than anyone in my role had ever achieved. However, the company was in a crisis. Lead times were stretching out beyond acceptable limits, on-time delivery was plummeting from 66% to 34%, customers were cancelling orders, throughput was down, inventory was up, and overtime was climbing. With the backlog dropping off and heading quickly from black to red, they announced that half of the labor force and a third of the office & management staff were being laid off until further notice. Morale was in the gutter.
Despite my stellar individual performance, I came to the startling realization that there would be no raise, no bonus, and there was a pretty high probability that I would be the next person to be seeking unemployment considering my lack of seniority. With three kids in diapers at the time, this gave me a lot of anxiety.
Gaining Permission to Improve
So, I asked the plant manager if there was anything I could do to help the company in order to turn it around and avoid any additional layoffs (especially my own). He said sure, but I would have to continue to handle my normal responsibilities as well.
Without his blessing, I would be crossing into uncharted territory in a hostile environment without approval or support. He became the champion/sponsor. We had two core problems: Quality & Throughput. We formed two teams. I was on both. (The Quality Improvement Team was to solve the quality crisis, which we did, with a series of DOE's using the Shainin Red X Methods) Here I'm focused on the Throughput Improvement, which had 10X more bottom line impact.
Then I went on my first quest to find a constraint!
I found that the TLS methodology, which is the skillful combination of Theory of Constraints with Lean Six Sigma, enables significant results. From my very first TLS project, I was able to make a dramatic impact with minimal investment… and without adding additional labor or staff.
Schedule an initial consultation to find out how to utilize TLS for Rapid Improvement in your organization!
20% More Plant Throughput with $23K Invested
37% Less Labor $ (Even with $3/hour raise since weekend OT shifts were no longer needed)
25% Less Heat Treatment Utilities (~$50K/month by eliminating weekend OT shifts)
120% More through the Bottleneck Operation per Day
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North Carolina, United States