Jun 5, 2006

Parking poka-yoke

(Inspired by the "Everyday Lean" contest on the Lean Blog.)

A two-car garage is a bit of a squeeze if you actually try to fit two cars into it, even if they’re small. One of us has to back her car in, while the other pulls his car in front-first. Unlike my husband who, having been born and raised in Detroit, has a physical sense of where his car’s wheels, bumpers and sheet-metal are whenever he is driving or parking, I’m always too close to or too far away from things when I park.

If I don’t pull far enough into the garage, I can’t close the garage door. If I pull in too far, I can’t get through the door into the house. If I’m too close to the side of the garage, I break the mirror off as I back in. Too far away and neither of us can get out of our cars. It drove my husband crazy.

One day, I thought about the 5S shadow-board. I moved the car up and back until I had the perfect fore-and-aft position, and the distance away from the wall was acceptable. Then I sighted a couple of locations from the driver’s seat, took a magic marker, and drew indicators on the wall showing where I had to locate the car when pulling in.

This was a big help, but didn’t address the problem of hitting the prescribed distance from the wall. Then I remembered a drive-through car wash I used to visit that had a rubber ball suspended from the ceiling, with a sign nearby that said to put your car in gear when your windshield bumped it.

It occurred to me that if there were a similar ball suspended from the garage ceiling that I’d only touch if I was in the perfect front-and-back and side-to-side position, the whole problem might be solved. I don’t do any physical maintenance tasks at home, so I had to persuade Mike that it was an idea with merit. Eventually he agreed to perform the experiment, and now sees its wisdom. The constant worry that I might not properly park the car is off his mind.

The only disadvantage I can think of is if you had a ten-year-old kid at home. It would only be a matter of time before there’d be the day when the car was out of the garage and he or she would be compelled to swing at it with some bat-like object so it would fly off and break something. Aaah, one more benefit of having already paid for college and sent the offspring off on his own. The tether ball is likely to remain unmolested. Don’t send your kid to my house, please.


Anonymous said...


Your parking poka yoke only works when you are sober. My ex-father in law had this system in his garage, with a tennis ball rather than a volleyball. He rarely came home sober, however, and usually saw at least two or three tennis balls ... and had a poor track record of deciding which of the multiple tennis balls to align his car with.

Anonymous said...

When you see three, pick the middle one.

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