If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Friday, February 21, 2014

New Beginnings and Old Weather

Thunder boomed in the distance.  Rolling through the air, resonating power and proclaiming the arrival of the storm.  Lighting flashed in the portal that served as a window.  The building shook as the deafening booms rocked the structure.
The man walked to the window, eyebrows raised.  What is this nonsense?  It is February.
Outside the tiny window, in the overhead door, the scene was complete whiteout.  The snow fell from the sky as if all the power of the icy heavens were directed on this one small spot.
Thundersnow!  The man had only witnessed it once before.
Within 2 short hours the snow pile up 4 inches thick.  Wet and heavy with snowflakes the size of half dollars.
More people rushed to the windows to stare in awe at the immense amount of snowfall.

Just as quickly it faded away into a light drizzle of rain and rapidly evolved into a rainstorm.  It rained most of the day and melted away almost all of the new snow.  Temperatures climbed into the upper 40s and held steady until night when they began to plummet and the winds picked up to a sustained 20 mph blow with heavy gusts which greeted the morning's dismal sunrise.
The wet slush began to freeze.
The man poured another cup of coffee and rubbed his sleeping yellow dog's belly.
He shook his head and sighed.

Crazy weather.  It is the norm.  You think I'd be used to it by now.
Not much going on right now.  It is after all winter.  I'm over it.

My news from last post is still unofficial but the announcement is going out this coming Monday so I'll spill it. Some already know anyways!
I have been assigned a temporary promotion at work.  The first assignment will last three months and be evaluated after that.  I see it going way beyond that and possibly into a full position but it is my choice to excel or screw it up.
In our business we manufacture Firetruck and Motorhome chassis.  We build other vehicles as well but for the point of this post we will leave it at that.  In my plant we build the firetruck chassis and also put the cab on it.  The cab is built across the parking lot at another plant and then moved to out plant to be integrated with the chassis.  I have been doing this job for around 7/8 years.  My immediate position is a Team Lead over a group of people who build and install specific components on the chassis.
My group consists of the people building the axles, building the engines and building the radiators.  My group also consists of the people installing the engines and the radiators into the chassis and also the people installing the exhaust components into the chassis.  Last but not least are the people who integrate the cab onto the chassis.  A great bunch of people who do really great work.  They do all the work, I simply manage the problems that may arise, assist in any engineering issues we may have, fill in for them if they are absent and a bunch of other menial tasks that are too boring to discuss.
In the years working here I have worked hard at organizing and facilitating a better workplace for all of us.
Last winter I began an unofficial program to organize and streamline some of our processes.  It was met with a little hesitation at first but my areas demonstrated a willingness and open minded approach and it was met with pretty good success.  As with anything, there were a few quirks but we managed to work them out.
I can't say enough about the immediate group of people I work with and how THEY ultimately made this a success and a stepping stone for bigger and better things.
In our world competition is fierce.  We are in the top five of the the nation for producing custom firetruck chassis's.
We want to be number one.  In order to do that we need to build a better product, consistently, cheaper and at a higher standard than our competition.  Only then will we grow.  It starts with every person in the company working as one unit to achieve solidarity.  How do we do that?

In my area of the company it begins with eliminating waste.  I'm not talking about actual refuse, even though that pertains too, but waste in the form of time loss, overprocessing, bad engineering, internal defects and the list goes on and on.  These are a few of the things that we have a responsibility to change.

After WWII the Japanese came to America to see how Henry Ford was able to manage such a monumental task as the automobile production assembly line.  The founder of Toyota was impressed at the capabilities but dismayed at the amount of waste it took to process these automobiles.  He went back to Japan and assembled a team to help reduce these wastes of manufacturing.  They came up with 5S.

5S is a set of Japanese words.  Seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.  Translated into English they read; Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

These steps are the building blocks of lean manufacturing.  A great place to start eliminating waste.

The sort step involves the clearing of any un needed items in the entire plant.  People tend to hoard things based on history and prior experiences in a non lean manufacturing environment.  These need to be cleaned up.  Only what you need to do your job is left.

The set stage is about putting everything in its place.  Not just placing things randomly but having a purpose behind everything.  There is a reason that it needs to be there.  It is about establishing a process flow so the worker is not making extra movements to do his/her job.

The shine stage is about total cleaning.  Clean everything inside and out.  Simple enough.  A cleaner workplace is more productive, healthier and is a showcase for your work.

The standardize step is about creating guidelines for everything you did in the first three steps.  How you propose to keep the first three from falling apart.  It involves training everyone exactly the same so there is no question on how things need to be done.  It also involves standardizing everything in the plant.  Nothing is too small.  Nothing is overlooked.  Color coding plays an important part in this.  Work center A has a yellow trash can and a yellow broom and dust pan.  Work center B has a red can, broom and pan.  You can clearly tell something is out of standard when a red tool shows up in a yellow tool's spot.  We have a huge number of customers that tour our plants and this is where it really pays off.  If we can pay such minute attention to the littlest of details like brooms and dust pans then it must translate into our workmanship and it should and it will!

The last step is the sustain step.  This step is all about following the rules and guidelines i the previous step to keep everything in perfect harmony.  It makes no sense to do the first four steps and not follow through with the last.

We recently made some big moves in our plants.  Our motorhome chassis division has moved into the same building as our firetruck chassis.  You can imagine the amount of work that needs to be done to make both of these divisions run smooth.
This is where my new job comes in.  I have been tasked with implementing the 5S program for both divisions as well as being on a team which will be evaluating our process flows and determining a better and more economical way of doing things.
It is a herculean task.  I accept it wholeheartedly.  It's not about the money (believe me!) or the prestige at all.  This job is going to be downright dirty and thankless in the beginning.  Not many people like change.  I will bear the brunt of the burden and many will not like what I have been assigned.  I'm Ok with that.
My reason for accepting it?

I am proud of what I do.  I build the trucks that help the people that save your lives.  It is an awesome thing to know that what you do everyday can make such a huge impact.  I want to see the company grow.  I have another 20 years before I retire.  I want to make sure of my future.  I don't see how letting someone else dictate every move that alters my future is a responsible way to live.  If I can better my job and my life and those of the people I work with then why shouldn't I?  Why shouldn't any of us?  If you can't agree with that then I strongly believe you don't belong in our work force.

It boils down to American Pride.  Pride in what we do.  It is what our country was founded on and it is what our country is slipping away from.  I'm proud to do my part, proud to stand up and fight for what I believe in even if the sacrifices are heavy in the beginning.

So there you have it.  My new job starts Monday.  I will be doing this on top of my already existing job so it will be a bust spring.  I look forward to it.

Watch this video

I saw this little comic yesterday which explains Michigan weather perfect.


  1. Congratulations on the job! That's great.
    I hear ya about the weather. I'm so over all this winter weather. But, even though the ground is still covered in snow, I'm cheered by all the bird song outside. Of course, since I don't speak "bird," they may be saying, "Damn, it's frikkin' freezing out here! Why didn't we go to Florida when we had the chance?"

  2. Thanks Al. I was on the middle of some editing on this post. Blogger is being a little feisty this morning. Hopefully you were able to see the video!

  3. Congratulations and good luck on the promotion! That's great news. Happy for you!

    BTW...others have seen my post so I would perhaps reboot when my blog is open?!


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