Everything you need to know about operations you learned in elementary?

Scientific Method

Officially, the method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, the scientific method is typically taught as early as 2nd grade.

Purpose: What do you want to learn?

A north American extrusion company was struggling with on-time delivery. The data showed that extrusion presses were literally at record production rates and inventory levels were at an all-time high. However, they were only able to ship products to the customers on the promised date, only 75% of the time.

How can that happen?

Research: Find out as much about the topic as you can.

The plant manager decided to find out why. He went to the extrusion press to find out as much as he could. In a short discussion with the press operator he leaned that the schedule provided to the press did not consider the fact that the next process – that age ovens – would fill up quickly with the product scheduled, forcing the operator to stop the press. The plant manager himself had declared that the presses should never stop. So, the operator would look farther down the schedule to find future work that he could run, but would not require the age oven.

The plant manager walked to the shipping area to see how much inventory was packed ready to ship, but early.

Hypothesis: Predict the Answer to the Problem

The plant manager realized the presses were all extruding product early in order to keep running. He checked the other three presses and discovered a similar story about the age ovens, but also realized that some presses would produce early because they did not have enough of the correct size rack for what was scheduled.

The plant manager predicted that if his scheduler would build a schedule that considered these constraints, the presses could keep running while producing the product that the customer needed. He realized that this would require calls to some customers to give a more realistic promise date, but that was still far better than shipping a product late.

Experiment: Design an experiment to prove or disprove your hypothesis

The plant manager spent an entire day with his scheduler creating a schedule that considered the age oven load size, the available racks and the customer due date. He handed the schedule off to the night shift supervisor and went home for the evening.

Analysis: Record what happened during the experiment

When he got home, the plant manager called his supervisor and asked him to have the press operator follow the schedule exactly in order and anytime he was not able to follow the exact sequence he wanted him to write it down.

Conclusion: Was your hypothesis correct?

The next morning the plant manager arrived earlier than usual. He dropped his computer bag in the office and went straight to the shop floor. He met the supervisor. “How did it go?” he asked with excitement. “Not so good. The cut back saw was packed all night long and couldn’t keep up. IT WAS A DISASTER!

The plant manager walked into the scheduler’s office and said, “Ready to try again?” “Why?” said the scheduler “The supervisor said we failed?”

“We did.” Smiled the Plant Manager. “But more importantly…we learned.”

Help your organization see everything as an experiment and a way to apply scientific method. You kids will be proud.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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