May 15, 2006

Ideas are free, but easily prevented

An employee suggested five improvements to processes, as described below:

On air operated grease machine for XXX (Bay B73). One each right and left for injecting required amount of grease to front hubs. Sketches are attached showing detailed method of shortening the unnecessarily long stroke of the ram for grease seal pressing. For some unknown reason the present stroke is 18 inches when half of that would suffice as in the case of the Plymouth and Dodge front hub operations. To retain the long cylinders and precise cycling and metering (automatic by pressures) the ram must operate at the top and the table should be raised accordingly.

Solve present excessive wear on cup-leathers due to inside to outside bearing action and more accurately position ram over hub.

Remove present safety hazard (some operators actually placing bearing in hubs after sending ram on non-stoppable down stroke.)

Offer a stand-up schedule operation at 49 inch height instead of 19 inch sitting down. Make operation cycle mechanically four times as fast. Save approximately 1,000 cu. Inches of 105 PSI compressed air per operation.

Require only two additional cup leathers (1 each machine), 2 pcs 8 in dia CRs; 1 pc 4 in OD tubing 7 ¾ inches long; 1 ½ x 10 pipe nipple; a weldment platform 9 inches high. The removal of the top and bottom heads of the cylinder; drilling in the bottom one 7/8 dia hole and the shifting of only one hose connection.

J.R. McWhorter

The following is the reply:

XXXX CORPORATION - Suggestion System

Suggestion No, LA-XXXX

Date: 12-28-XXXX

Mr. John R. McWhorter
6526 E. Olympic
Los Angeles 33, California

Dear Suggester:

We are happy to report that your suggestion has been received by our Suggestion Committee. Thank you very much for submitting it. Ideas are so essential if we ar to continue to make progress and improve our American Way of Life. It is impossible as yet to determine whether your proposal will prove successful, however, be assured that you r idea will be thoroughly investigated by representatives of each of the several departments capable of passing sound judgment as to the merits of your idea. As soon as possible you will be advised of the results of our investigation.

Should your idea be usable, it must then be approved by the Suggestion Committee. Following this, our Accounting Department will study the results of its usage to determine the amount of a fair and equitable award as provided for by the rules of the Chrysler Corporation Employee Suggestion Plan.

In the event that your idea must be declined, you will be notified by letter at to the reasons for it being declined.

You will readily recognize that this process will take some time, however, please feel free to write or ‘phone us concerning your Suggestion and in such event, kindly refer to the Suggestion Number shown on your suggestion stub.

Best wishes for many award-winning ideas!

Your Plant Suggestion Committee

Phone: XXXX

[Sig.] by H. H. Brown

If you’ve read or heard Norman Bodek, Chuck Yorke, Alan Robinson or many others describe successful idea programs, you cringed at reading the response. I’d hardly feel it was worth the effort to save the company a few bucks after reading that. The “suggester” apparently hasn’t yet received a reply. He’s a notorious pack rat, so I’d expect to find it in his file, but it’s not there.

This exchange of letters took place at a Chrysler assembly plant in 1961. (Jeez- I hope those operators were stopped before they lost their hands.) They were submitted by my granddad, a toolmaker, and proud member of ASTE, the original name of SME. But he was no more clever than toolmakers, line operators and other plant-floor employees now. Today someone is thinking of improvements exactly like my grandfather’s. Companies like Chrysler – let’s hope they’ve changed since then – are either profiting by that kind of creativity, or throwing it away.

Q. for Larry Christiansen: What was your idea-program experience on the line at Chrysler? (and when?)


Mark Graban said...

I quit General Motors in 1997. Sometime, late 1998, I got some mail while I was in grad school. It was a suggestion rejection from some management committee. Ugh. Nice fast response on that suggestion, eh?

I always tell that story when I'm conducting lean training, to emphasize that lean is not about formal suggestion systems.

Kaizen at Toyota (or a lean system) happens without management reviews and bureaucracy.

That is the spirit of continuous improvement. It doesn't even require letters.

Anonymous said...

Our idea program at Chrysler was, if you had an idea, they told you why it was no good. Or maybe just that it was no good without telling you why. Of course we were only lowly assemblers.

A favorite story is when we identified left-slanted rear spring-to-axle spacers that were being wrongly installed on the right-slanted side. We were given the run-around for several weeks. One very particular repairman persisted when all others would have given up. Finally we were told it didn't matter, go ahead and keep running it. (I'm sure the design engineers knew it didn't matter, but just designed them with separate slants to confuse us?)

We always wondered how much warranty work those tow trucks generated. And we dearly hoped no one was injured when the springs shifted under heavy load and torque.

Anonymous said...

PS, that would have been around 1993 or so. -- LC

Karl On Sea (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

This is still hugely widespread. For some reason, management control = committees, with a response time usually measured in months

But most people live their working lives with a time horizon of Friday night.

The two timescales just aren't compatible.

To get over this problem, I know a local firm (first tier supplier to several UK plants) which hired a couple of handy-men. Getting the OK for this was like pulling teeth, but the results are nothing short of incerdible. With someone on site who for most improvements can 'just do it', the number of suggestions is through the roof, along with staff morale and productivity.

So come on, lets rip those suggestion scheme mail boxes off the wall, and focus instead on action!

Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm