In the profession of music making there are no unimportant parts. Composers create compositions in which the parts for each instrument scored have a specific musical purpose; conductors make sure all of the parts fit together and that the composer’s intentions are properly executed; musicians are responsible for knowing how their individual part fits in with and supports the whole ensemble in the music making process. Without understanding how the parts make it whole, it is extremely difficult for musicians to produce an artful performance worthy of praise which leaves the listener enthralled, satisfied, and coming back for more. Believe it or not, the same is true for manufacturing: there are no unimportant parts, especially at the ground level.
It is critical to the success of manufacturing operations that line workers, like musicians, understand how the specific job they execute fits in with and supports the efficiency of the fabrication process as well as the quality of the product that they are producing. Recently, I spent some time observing the manufacturing operations of a small Midwestern company that applies metal alloys to steel so that the steel can be turned into bearings for engines. The company wants to improve the efficiency of its fabrication process and ensure that the quality of its product is consistent with industry standards. One of the issues which inhibit this goal from being fully realized is that on certain shifts not all of the line workers understand how the job they execute fits into the whole operation. Consequently, when an error is made—such as an unsatisfactory welding together of two sheets of steel—either the line shuts down so that the error can be corrected thus compromising the efficiency of the fabrication process, or, another worker further down the line does what they can to minimize the effect of the error thus compromising the quality of the product. A possible solution to this particular situation is to rotate every line worker through each job on the line so that they understand how their eventual line assignment (job) or part fits into the whole: an error at one end of the line will not only affect efficiency along other parts of the line, but product quality as well. Only when sacrifices in efficiency and quality are reduced or eliminated will confidence in the completeness of the fabrication process be fully realized.
Thoughts and comments are welcome.