Every Day is a Day to Learn

On a recent trip to the Bakken oil field area in North Dakota, I was privileged to meet a family, including the patriarch who is in his late 70’s. We had a great time discussing our past experiences and moved on to my current endeavors. I explained that I worked on business process improvement primarily in the manufacturing industry in addition to presenting and teaching negotiation strategy and skills.

learning
To my surprise he asked me if I could add a few suggestions to the following focus that he has used throughout his ranching, hunting and more recently oil business experiences. They were:

1/ Show me a Quicker-Way, I want to see it.
2/ Show me an Easier-Way, I want to use it
3/ Cost must be weighed in the two (2) above.
4/ Safety! Always an issue, it has to be the Safe-way.
5/ When Done It has to Look-Right!

I thought for a little time, and answered: I look for 5 things when I walk through a facility. They are:

1/ People walking away from their work location.
2/ The minutes per hour the bottleneck machines are running per hour.
3/ How the equipment is set up.
4/ How fast materials are converted to finished goods, i.e. WIP speed.
5/ How many times inventory is being turned and why.

I said that the issue of safety in my opinion was a given, but as he outlined to me, many small businesses don’t always understand that point. I must say his comments struck home. He is a wise ranch farmer come oilman and he knew his stuff.

Interestingly his:
1/ Show me a quicker way resonates with my reduce set up time and how fast they convert materials in to finished goods.
2/ Show me an easier way resonates with how the equipment is set up.
3/ Cost improvement is a slogan I recount often, “continuous improvement is better than postponed perfection”. We discussed CQD, cost, quality and delivery. It was similar to his “When done it has to look-right”.

He said was it has to be safe, my assumption that it was a given was somewhat deflated. So I have picked up my game here and now formally list this in my top six things to look for.

No one is too experienced to learn and no age barrier exists to learn. My experience with this fascinating person will remain with me forever. I am approaching my 50th year of work life and I learn something of true value from both those younger than me as well as my elders.

I also noticed he was writing down the two acronyms I used that day, CQD as mentioned above, but SMED (single minute exchange of die) as well. He also wanted to learn something new as we discussed the difference between internal and external work for a setup.

Thank you Fred, for your inspiration.

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