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Articles from The Business Forum Journal

By Ron Chase


I have been fascinated with the various methods that experts have advertised as the one, true answer to the issues faced in the modern day manufacturing environment.  First this one, and then that one claimed to be the silver bullet, the formula for success.  What I, and certainly many of you, have actually observed is that each manufacturing entity is so unique in some respects and alike in others, that the best answer to most of our problems is typically combinations of some of or all of the tools available such as 6 SIGMA, JIT, TQM, SPC, CELL MANUFACTURING, etc.  Selected use of these tools, long term planning and training programs, and most of all, accessing and using the knowledge and common sense of the persons who actually do the work, appear to be the best possibility for success.  Lean Enterprise programs are the first “buzz word” programs that offer such possibilities.  The following is a summarized article taken from a small book that I am writing.  All of this work is under copywrite protection, but if you would like to use for your organization, please contact me.  

Once upon a time in the land of Manufacturing, the young prince was faced with a dilemma.  Who will save us from the Excess Waste monsters,” he asked himself.  In the past the kingdom had white knights that would come to provide rescue in time of need.  Among them were SPC, TQM, JIT, 6 SIGMA, KANBAN, the brothers FLOW and CELL MANUFACTURING, and others, all tried and true defenders who fought specific battles to force back the hordes of Wastes.  But none of them had ever fully defeated the beasts.  Successes had been limited to battles won with hard fought hand-to-hand combat, but never had the war been won.  The waste monsters were insidious in their penetration of the Manufacturing lines, sometimes in the forward lines manned by Production soldiers, and sometimes in the support lines populated by the Material, Sales/Marketing, Engineering, and Accounting groups.  Without the conscious knowledge of the Manufacturing army, wastes would inhabit even the seemingly simple, straightforward processes used by the army.  The prince knew that the monsters were among his people, but they were so hard to identify, and he could not think of a way to defeat them, even using all of the knights at his disposal.

So the young prince, who had inherited the responsibility of the Manufacturing Kingdom from his father, King No Change, had a great burden placed upon him.  His father had been very wise, but had not shared a great deal of his learned knowledge with his son.  The King thought that following the Status Quo philosophy was the safe and most efficient thing to do, and that changes to the Status Quo would bring an end to the peaceful world in which they existed.  Hadn’t life been good with the Status Quo?”  He had taught his son these precepts and knew that the prince would keep them and maintain the stability of the Manufacturing Kingdom!  But when the King died, the prince soon realized that his father’s great intellect and the wonderful white knights had staved off the Excess Waste monsters, but had never come close to annihilating them.   They had merely created Islands of Excellence in the Manufacturing Kingdom’s seas, but these had never been connected to complete an environment where all Excess Wastes were destroyed.  The King had thought that these Islands were the answer to defeating the Wastes monster hordes, but the beasts had sailed around the Islands and infiltrated all other parts of the land/sea kingdom. 

The prince did not have his father’s long experience, but he was a smart and brave warrior and he recognized that the Waste monsters were everywhere, sometimes totally visible and at other times almost imperceptible.  He also recognized that his army and his white knights were not enough to destroy the monsters, who had overwhelming numbers and were very hard to target.  He needed a plan, an edge that would give them the strategic advantage in this long and painful war, but his mind seemed to reach a wall every time he attempted to develop a war- winning strategy.  It seemed hopeless!

One day, while walking through the kingdom, the prince suddenly came upon a lake and decided to take a drink of water, but he soon realized this was a lake he had never visited before.  Little did he know, but this was the Lake of Knowledge, and it only appeared to those who truly sought the Answer, and only to those of true heart and purpose, and true love for their Kingdom.  The young prince approached the water and noticed a large frog sitting on a water lily at the edge of the lake. 

As the prince drank from the lake, he heard a voice say, “Do you seek the truth?” 

He looked around and saw no one.  Again drinking from the lake, he heard, “Do you seek the truth!? 

Again, he looked and saw no one.  Then the voice said, “ Look down, look down!”  As he gazed down, he saw the frog, but no person was there. 

But, as he began to look away, the voice said, “ I am the frog, look at me.” 

The prince was amazed, as he looked at the frog he saw the frog’s mouth move, saying, “I am the Lady Paradigm Shift, and was transformed into this shape by the evil wizard Complacency, and have remained so because many out there cannot think outside the Box.” 

The prince was startled and puzzled, so he stated, “A Talking Frog!!  And one with such a lovely, feminine voice must surely be a very special sign!”  The prince also thought, what a terrible shame, to be trapped as a frog, so he asked, “Is there any way you can be transformed back into human form?” 

The frog was elated he had asked the question, so she said, “There is only one way, I must meet a prince who can think outside the Box, and then, after doing so, his kiss frees me!” 

What is this Box you speak of?” 

The Box is the limit your mind places on your actions, your thoughts, your ability to innovate.” 

This must surely be a powerful thing, this Box, to have this dominance!”

It is most powerful,” she replied, ”but a person usually is not even aware of its existence.” 

That is mystical, indeed, but why did you talk to me, how did you know who I was?” 

It was foretold by the Lake of Knowledge that a true one would come, and approach the lake for a drink, then I would know and speak to him.” 

The prince was still in a quandary, “But I still don’t know how to think outside the Box!” 

The secret is very simple, all you have to do is seek the knowledge of others, and they do not have to be wizards, or sorcerers, or anyone special, but merely all the members of the Manufacturing Kingdom people, then use their knowledge to find and defeat the Excess Waste monsters.  Everyone in the Kingdom has bits of knowledge that can be added to all the others’ knowledge and, thus, expand the limits of everyone’s Box.  Once done, you will find that knowledge shared is the most powerful weapon that anyone can have.  Do this, and then you can free me.”

But I hate to leave you to do this!”

I have waited a long, long time.  Anything good and lasting cannot be accomplished in a short time, but for those who seek the truth and truly love their Kingdom, the just outcome is worth the wait.  Go, bring your Kingdom together, gather the people’s knowledge and, with the White Knights help where needed, Excess Waste monsters will be found and eliminated.  Then, come back to me.  I will wait.”

So the prince reluctantly left the Lake of Knowledge – even though the frog did not have the pretty exterior, there was something in her voice, and, indeed, in her soul, that touched him.  Her words rang true, why hadn’t he thought of it?  His father, the King, had always told him that people were good and the Kingdom only existed because of them.  However, his father thought that the people needed management from the Executive Royalty and could not possibly exist on their own.  His heart was good, but he did not understand that the people needed support, advice, and leadership from the Executive Royalty, not management.  And now the prince realized that the people were, indeed, the key, for they had accumulated the knowledge of the ages, but had not been allowed the opportunity to know the power of that knowledge.  Leadership had been missing, it was the link that the people needed to connect all of their knowledge and, then, use that combined knowledge to defeat the Excess Waste monsters.

So, the prince set out quickly to gather the people from the various groups, not only in each specialized group, but in mixed groups, for he had also come to the realization that these mixed groups, which he designated as the Cross Functional Combine, would make it much easier to share Knowledge and learn what each other’s constraints and strengths are.  Once gathered, these powerful groups would form the basis of the coalition required to find, target and destroy the Excess Waste monsters. 

But, in his meetings with the Cross Functional Combine, the prince heard the same input repeatedly, “ We don’t know how to effectively share our Knowledge, and we don’t know how to find, target and destroy the monsters.”  The prince soon realized that these were hard working and talented people, but knew only what they were doing everyday, and they were not trained warriors.  Another obstacle, so he had to think quickly, but the Lady Paradigm Shift had enlightened and empowered him to open his mind. He had it!!

The prince called all of the white knights together in the Great Manufacturing Meeting Hall, and, as they sat around the Oval Table of Consensus, the prince proposed this to them.  Great knights of the Manufacturing realm, you have served the kingdom well, but we have never been able to rid ourselves of the hordes of Excess Waste monsters!  I have met a wondrous person, the Lady Paradigm Shift, who has inspired my mind to open itself to all possibilities, and to think outside the Box – that which limits all of us from seeing all there is to see – and she gave me the strength and knowledge to be the leader of our war.  You each have specific battle skills and experience against the Excess Waste monsters.  But you are few and our people are many.  You must go forth and meet with the Cross Functional Combine, and teach them your skills and knowledge, and show them, as leaders in battle, how to apply these skills and knowledge to defeat the monsters.”

The knights roared their approval and declared that he prince was indeed the greatest of all.  But the prince simply said, that none are greater than another, and each has a part to add, so that the combining of all inputs is greater than the sum total of the same.  In possessing information, one’s power, and indeed, all of the people’s power is unlimited!  The prince listened to one, then another of the knights to seek their thoughts and knowledge to prepare for the next phase of the war.

The prince chose the Lead Knight to be Sir Lean Enterprise, for he alone had gone out among all of the white knights and had learned their strengths and weaknesses, and had developed a strategy that would give the Manufacturing people a lasting victory.  As the leaders directly under Sir Lean Enterprise, they chose three great and powerful fighters,  Sir Value Stream Mapping, the greatest of the scouts and planners, Sir Kaizen, the greatest of the lightning strike attackers, and Sir Pull Manufacturing, the cousin of Sirs Flow and Cell Manufacturing and a great battle tactician.

Together these leaders and all of the knights and the Cross Functional Combine met and trained, and talked and then came up with the ultimate weapon to fight against the Excess Waste monsters.  They named it the Lean Mean Green Machine.  Lean for their battle leader, Mean because this had to be a no-holds-barred fight, Green because that would be the color of the Manufacturing Kingdom when the Excess Waste monsters were defeated and prosperity returned.  This machine, and their training and planning would lead them in the long war to regain their efficiency and autonomy.

To war they went, and to everyone’s credit, they upheld the values that were now being instilled in the people, work together, train together, never be satisfied with success, but always know that the Excess Waste monsters would keep coming back and constant vigilance would be needed, respect and trust each other, and the most important of all, release the doctrine of the Status Quo, and replace it with that of the Continuous Improvement.

And though the battles were not always won, this combined force persisted and, after a long, hard war, the enemy was vanquished.  The people did indeed adopt the Continuous Improvement philosophy, and life in the Kingdom was very good!!

Therefore, the prince knew it was time to visit the Lake of Knowledge, and rescue the Lady Paradigm Shift.  He retraced his journey of before and found the frog sitting in the same place.  He ran to her and kissed the frog.  A large noise and ball of smoke appeared and out of it walked the Lady, glorious and radiant in her beauty. 

The story still goes on from there, the prince and the Lady wed, and led the Manufacturing people to the future.  But all in the Kingdom remembered and maintained their readiness to repel the future attempts of the Excess Waste monsters (for they knew that the beasts would always attempt to come back), and thus it was a happy and peaceful time in this marvelous place.

There is no end, just new beginnings.

About the Author:

Ron Chase is a Fellow of The Business Forum Association and is currently Vice President of Operations for Ducommun Technologies, Inc. (DTI), a division of Ducommun Incorporated, a Long Beach based corporation.  DTI designs and manufactures lighted and microwave switches, motors, and resolvers for various commercial, aerospace, and space applications. 

Ron has a BSME from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Masters Degree in Management from Georgia College, earned while on assignment with the United States Air Force in Warner Robins AFB, Georgia.  Ron flew several different aircraft in the USAF, including a stint as an Instructor in the T-38 Talon and the T-43 Navigator trainer aircraft (Boeing 737 modified for USAF use).  As part of a USAF engineering assignment, Ron also flew in both the F-4 Phantom and F-15 Eagle aircraft while evaluating sidewinder missile performance.

Ron’s career contains both engineering and operations assignments in defense, aerospace, and commercial manufacturing companies, and one significant tour as head of Consulting Operations for the California Manufacturing Technology Center (CMTC), headquartered in Southern California.  CMTC is a non-profit state and federally subsidized company, which provides manufacturing consulting to small and medium sized companies in California

Previous Articles from Ron Chase 

The Art of Manufacturing

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