Kaizen Consultant Asks: “Why is this Here?”

Last month I joined two kaizen consultants from our team to do an opportunity assessment at a tier one automotive company. It’s good to see kaizen and Lean manufacturing efforts increasing at automotive factories in the United States. It’s also interesting to see what people choose to call the things they do in their factories.
On our first of several walks through the factory we saw a small booth at the end of an automated welding line. There were people there with welding torches and grinders. Sparks flew.
I pointed at the booth and asked one of my favorite questions: “Why is this here?”
“It’s an inspection process.” The welding area manager said.
“What type of work do you do at the inspection process?” I asked very carefully.
“We inspect the welds and we fill voids.” He said.
“What’s your first pass yield for the robotic welding process?” I asked.
“About 40%” he said, looking away. “But we’re working on it.”
This was a repair station for an incapable robotic welding process. Sure they were working on the yield problem, but when you call it “inspection” you make it a legitimate process, and this allows you to continue “inspecting” for months and months. Call it “repair” and people will question much sooner why so many parts need fixing.
It’s a simple question, but people answer “Why is this here?” in so many interesting ways. If only they would learn to ask it themselves, they wouldn’t need kaizen consultants.

3 Comments

  1. rick fiddler

    June 4, 2006 - 7:46 pm

    has anyone got any contacts in japan for 2×4 north american houses in japan

  2. Pandu Badam

    August 2, 2006 - 6:38 pm

    By just asking questions like consultants problems will not disappear, we really need to find root cause for the problems and provide optimum solution.

  3. Jon Miller

    August 2, 2006 - 7:58 pm

    Problems will never disappear, just hide for a while or change shape. The first step in problem solving is to understand that there is a problem. That is why we ask why. Solving problems is relatively easy when the problem is visible and you can keep askying why.