Seth Godin (I highly recommend his books) has a post today on a theme that I constantly try to get across. Fixing the One Big Thing

I am always amazed at the resistance to fixing the biggest problems a business may have. The objections usually center on cost or time. But fixing a big problem doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Fixing a big problem takes initiative.

I worked for a company that had terrible production equipment failures. The down time was seriously hurting the company’s income. Things were always breaking down causing lost production. This company tried the 6 Sigma approach to solving their problem. They spent thousands of dollars analyzing equipment failure. After wasting a lot of time and money, they asked me to look at the problem. I first took a look at the equipment. The production people assumed I wouldn’t understand anything about their highly specialized machinery. But I could see potential problems.

When big machinery is vibrating enough to shake everything around, there is going to be wear. I noticed a counter weight mechanism. Could this be out of balance? I saw worn belts. Might these belts break under stress? I heard loud engines. Might they be in need of lubrication?

An inventory of the supply parts gave me the answer. Preventive maintenance was not being performed as necessary. Consumables were not being…consumed.

We set up a preventive maintenance schedule. I made a simple checklist in Excel to record maintenance. The unexpected failures ceased within a week.

We fixed the one big thing. It was easy. The company just needed a common sense observation to solve the problem.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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