The ridiculousness of the McDonald’s Ice Cream machine and dip cone disasters curl a 50 principle into my conscience. What is a 50 principle? It is one of the 50 mantra’s I have used to run business. This one? “When your customer comes to you with a mess, don’t hand them toilet paper. Fix it!” Our government could learn from that one, but that is another issue all together.
A large hospital struggled with failing nurse support equipment for the computer communication systems. Two color printers were constantly failing. The light pen driven tabletop consoles blipped constantly. The team assigned were going from station to station taking one piece out and bringing “repaired spares” to the nurses stations. Nurses were lived. Doctors were known to slam the equipment against the wall. And the repair techs hated their jobs. The vendor doing the repairs was making a fortune.
The area had just been assigned to me. It was early days for personal computers and IT took months to create a simple app. I needed a tracking system to do some analysis and so created my own using a home dual floppy computer and a copy of dbase. Only the oldest of managers and home computers will understand what I just wrote. But here’s the gist. My team and I invented a paper driven, quick solution system to analyze patterns. Immediately, we began to record ever interaction with every piece of equipment and every result. Second principle: Inspect what you expect. Expect what you inspect. Third Principle: Blue sheet every problem and idea. Document for later analysis.
After a month of analysis, we found that printers only lasted an average of six days at the nurses stations and some stations had averages closer to 3 days. Drilling down into the data and tapping the brains of the techs, a few amazing discoveries were made.
1. The most common problem was static electricity causing paper dust to get into the light sensors on the printers, which caused the mechanisms to jam and damage. Solution: Issue the techs air cans to blow out the dust. Result: Average went to 10 days between failures (MTBF - mean time between failure for you engineering geeks.)
2. Printers returned from the repair bay lasted half the time as those repaired in place between failures. Solution: Quit moving the equipment from station to repair bay. The movement was causing more problems than they had originally. Fix in place if at all possible. Result: MTBF went to 20 days.
3. The vendor repair tech was too slow to my liking. Solution: Turn these simple repairs over to internal techs, use the vendor for parts only. Result: Repair times went from 10 days to one day. MTBF went to 30 days. Cost reduced by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Vendor was not happy, but nurses began buying gifts for the techs. My staff received raises and all expenses of the area were paid in cost savings.
4. The equipment used a proprietary black box converter to operate in conjunction with the main computer system. This prevented us from acquiring more current equipment that was more reliable. Solution: Hire a brain to create our own “white box” converter for the simple algorithms and purchase new more reliably designed printers. Result: $300,000 in immediate savings in the purchase versus using the vendor supplied equipment and MTBF of 6 months. WOWZA! Techs were available to work on other issues.
All of this was done using the simplest of brain versus machine. No one was trained in LEAN principles, though I recommend that training. Just good ol’ common sense love the customer, love the product, love the team persistence along with the 50 principles.
Manage Well: An Eclectic Manager's Guide To Excellence by Philip Larson https://www.amazon.com/dp/1499503121/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_NMJBZQFM8ZASJQ1S6B6Z via @amazon (31 of the 50 principles)