Are You Measuring the Right Results?

by James P. Tate on April 20, 2016

Many years ago when I was a Quality Assurance manager for a plant in North Carolina, I was approached by an enthusiastic purchasing manager.  He had found a new vendor for a major component of our product.  This vendor had a different design for the component and the cost was 75% less than our existing component.  The engineering department had confirmed that the design of this alternate component would not affect the performance of the product.  Because we were in a very price-competitive market the justification to change vendors was an easy decision, and the purchasing manager would be the hero of the year for his change.  A meeting was called for the next hour to implement the vendor change.   It didn’t work!

In a pre-implementation review we discovered that this new component would increase the labor time by over 100%.  The end result would be an increase in the total product cost.  The lesson learned from this near-disaster was that we must expand our view of a production action and look at all the effects of a proposed change.

This is easier said than done!  It is easy to get caught up in a potential success and fail to identify all the factors affected by a change.

One advantage of the Lean Philosophy is the preliminary Value Stream Map (VSM) of a process.  This map is a very comprehensive and fast means of identifying the key factors in a production process.  It gives you a good base for assessing the impact of a change in the process.

The use of an Engineering Change Review meeting prior to implementing a production change is beneficial to preventing mistakes.  Every department involved in production: manufacturing, engineering, QC, sales and purchasing should review a change and confirm the impact on the product.  In some cases it may be advisable to conduct a pilot run of the changed product to confirm the modification.  The time and money spent on a pilot run will reduce the danger of a catastrophic disaster at a later time.

One area that is often overlooked in the Change Review process is the financial impact of the pending revision.  This impact can be better assessed by looking at the Value Stream Map for the entire process.  Using the VSM you will be reviewing the effect of the potential change on inventory levels, process time, operating time, wait time and other non-value added steps in the process.  It is much faster and easier to get a full assessment of the pending change if you use the VSM as your guide.

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