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You aren’t sure what to do when a problem halts production.

Production glitches and line stops are a fact of life. The better your team gets, the less frequent and shorter they stoppages are, but they will always occur. Even great teams are constantly working to make processes better. Sometimes, this is done by removing safety nets to see where the system breaks.

Regardless of why it is happening, though, when work stops, many people have to quickly decide what to do until the line is moving again. 

Problem

You aren’t sure what to do when a problem halts production.

How this affects you

Computers go down. Conveyors jam. A quality problem pops up. In any case, employees face one of three choices when production comes to a halt. You can stand around. You can try to get production going again. Or you can work on an improvement project.

The choice can be frustrating. What you might want to do (take a break) doesn’t match what you need to do to hit your targets, or what your boss (who will be around) wants you to do. You might even feel angry, since stoppages often cause unexpected overtime.

Action to take

Obviously, the priority will be to resolve issues and get production up and running again. So, if the problem is in your area or if you have Lean skills that might help solve the difficulty, offer to help. You might want to offer assistance even if you don’t have the right abilities; having an extra set of hands can be useful.

In some cases, you won’t have a choice about what to do—your boss will have let you know in advance what you should be doing when production stops. He will have a standing project list for the team.

If things are under control and you don’t have specific guidance from your boss, resist the urge to stand around, chat, or take a mini-break. As nice as it may seem when you are tired, it will serve you better in the long-run to do an individual project in the downtime instead. If being social is really important to you, find a partner to work with on a project. You’ll have a little more relaxed pace to catch up with a coworker while getting something done.

The time to figure out what to do is not when…

More information about the Action to Take is available to registered users for most strategies. Sign in to get access to it.

Why this works

The Why this Works section is only available in print copies of Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?.

 

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