The 6 Things You Need to Find and Fix Problems

I was walking through a parking lot today, and for some reason, I noticed the puddles of oil in the center of every parking space. Not an uncommon occurrence, but it got me thinking about abnormal conditions.

If your car was leaking oil, could you tell when you backed out of one of those spaces? With the oil on the ground there is no way to distinguish old oil from your oil.

So what goes into dealing with abnormal conditions?

You need:

  1. A standard. Abnormal implies that there is a ‘normal.’
  2. People who know the standard. An unknown standard cannot be followed.
  3. People who want to follow the standard. I’m a big believer in the WIFM principle. Find a way to make it better for people to follow the standard than to not follow it.
  4. An environment where problems can’t hide. This goes back to the oil example. If you have a dirty, cluttered, disorganized workplace, it’s the same as the parking spot—problems don’t get noticed. On the floor of a clean garage, though, fresh drips stand out.
  5. Visual indicators of the standard. In a dirty environment, you can’t tell what the condition is. But if you can see things clearly, you still need some way of telling if the condition is correct. Material locations are the most common example. An extra bin stands out, as do missing parts—if the standard is clearly marked.
  6. A plan for dealing with the abnormal condition. There’s a lot to this, but the biggest aspect is ownership. A specific person has to be responsible for dealing with each abnormal condition.

Once you get these things in place, you will find that abnormal conditions are less disruptive to your production process.

This article was originally published in the Gotta Go Lean blog.

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