Complexity and Love Songs

By Ron Pereira Published on August 31st, 2009

My family and I recently took a much needed vacation. One of our stops was in Chicago where my wife and daughters attended my sister-in-law’s wedding shower.

One of the party favors for the ladies that attended the wedding shower was a CD of love songs friends and family of the bride-to-be chose. Now if you are a guy you’re likely rolling your eyes at this… but I must admit it turned out pretty nice!

Anyhow, the day before the shower I was tasked with the job of putting the labels onto the CDs.

I was given the supplies, trained for a minute or two on how to use the little “fixture” and sent on my way.

The Process (Before Kaizen)

Here are the steps I followed when I first started this little project.

1. Peel off label from the sheet of labels.

2. Place label on the fixture. Note: this was sort of tricky as my fingers kept sticking to the back of the label. See image 1

3. Open CD case and remove disc.

4. Place disc on the top part of the fixture.

5. Press fixture/disc down which joined the disc with the label.

6. Pick up disc and place back in case.

7. Close case.

The Process (After Kaizen)

After trying this a few times I figured there had to be a better way to do this. So I thought about it and ended up with this process.

1. Open CD case and place in front of me while leaving the CD in the case.

2. Peel off label from the sheet of labels.

3. Carefully align and attach label to the disc by hand. See image 2.

4. Close case.

The Results

To be fair, it did take me a few times to practice my “fixture free” approach but after a few attempts I had it down and could perfectly place the labels onto the disc with no problems at all.

But the biggest benefit was the increased speed at which I was able to work. While I didn’t do a formal time study I’m confident I doubled the rate at which I was producing a finished product.

Plus, if I might be so bold… I’d say my quality was even better than the fixture method since there was a small amount of “play” when placing each label onto the fixture which then caused some variability in the finished product.

Complicating things

The thing this mini-kaizen reminded me of is how we producers of goods tend to overcomplicate things with fancy fixtures, robots, and gadgets when all that’s needed is simplification.

It also reminded me how small “tweaks” can lead to huge improvements.

What do you think? Do you agree?

  1. Chad

    August 31, 2009 - 9:09 pm

    Nice work and you have a good looking sister in law!

  2. Steve Harris

    September 1, 2009 - 6:33 am

    For the first time I’ve got to disagree with you here Ron (with tongue in cheek). Process sheets are an important to a controlled process, without which process improvement would be tough due to inconsistancy. I’m sure the quality of finish you achieved was admirable, but maybe not everyone could achieve that level of quality. This makes the process unstable.
    I could agree if all the people involved in label application were calibrated to an acceptable level, or if the Label/CD alignment was unimportant to customer satisfaction, but changing KPI’s without an understanding of their effect on KPC’s is not advisable.
    Hope the wedding goes well, keep up the good work; I always enjoy the blog.
    Steve Harris

  3. David McGan

    September 1, 2009 - 6:47 am

    Well, I have one of those “fixtures” for applying CD labels. I would be very much surprised if you maintained the consistency and quality of label application without utilizing the alignment fixture.

    While I understand the desire to eliminate steps (remove CD from case, apply label, replace in case), the overall cost of your revised method is probably higher, after you “scrapped” a few misaligned labels. And do you realize that the cost of the label is significantly higher than the CD on which it’s placed?

  4. Tim Stewart

    September 1, 2009 - 7:22 am

    This is a tough one and I do agree with parts of what Steve and David have said above.

    However I personally see myself agreeing with Ron on this one with one major caveat. The assembler must be fully trained and empowered to self inspect his or her work.

    Finally, I have used CD fixtures like these and must admit I find them cumbersome and clumsy to use.

  5. Ed Kemmerling

    September 1, 2009 - 11:40 am


    I like your example as a way to continuously improve a process.

    Once you are comfortable with your new process, you should make it the standard by documenting it. That should address Steve Harris’s concern (which is valid).

    Also, your process improved the product because all labels would be in the proper position after application. They could be rotated in any posiiton with the initial process.

    Ed Kemmerling

  6. Dragutin Vukovic

    September 2, 2009 - 1:09 am

    Well, this is an example of how simplification can turn bad if applied without enough insight.

    Those ‘fixtures’ are tools designed to ensure proper central alignment of label on the CD. Both CD’s and label’s centres fall in the empty space so it is not possible to align label manually in such a way that centres match, not to speak about keeping alignment consistently within acceptable boundaries.
    CD label misalignment will cause CD to ‘wobble’ while rotating in CD drive, having the effect of noisy operation, erroneous readings and excessive drive wearing.

    Your mini-kaizen will have very bad influence to customer satisfaction and possibly cause real damage to their equipment.

  7. Mark Graban

    September 17, 2009 - 7:53 am

    I also disagree that the CD label “stomper” falls into the category of “fancy fixtures.” It couldn’t be more simple. As someone who has done this a lot with CD and DVD labels, I’m really surprised you could do it better without the fixture. Is your process repeatable by others? Maybe you have extreme outlier dexterity and hand-eye coordiation?? 🙂

  8. Ron Pereira

    September 17, 2009 - 12:17 pm

    Mark, let’s race next time you’re in town… you know OSU versus NU… and don’t worry I won’t run the score up on you as time is running off the clock! 😉

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