Inspire Others to Dream

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering

Recently I had one of those experiences that make all of the delayed flights, living out of suitcases, and clients who are determined not to listen, worthwhile. A client invited me to visit a plant that we helped several years ago.

When we first visited this snack food plant, it was not pretty. Scrap was high, delivery commitments were consistently missed, and the workforce, beaten down by constant breakdowns, had given up. I will always remember the stooped posture, shuffling walk and look in the employees’ eyes as they finished their shift and the dread of those replacing them. This was a true example of complete defeat—one where lack of infrastructure, inherent design deficiencies and lack of consistent operations resulted in the system defeating the people.

Using a combination of reliability engineering, standard work, visual factory and change management, we were able to help them isolate and correct the inherent problems and to rejuvenate the workforce on their worst production line—one that had never operated profitably. The effort was successful and within a few months the line was meeting all its delivery commitments, scrap was minimal, and for the first time it was profitable.

Over the intervening years, the company’s management had shared periodic reports on the plant’s progress and it was good to hear that they were doing well. We were told that the methods used on the initial line had been extended to the entire plant; materials handling and other suggestions had been implemented. The shared information showed that the plant was, and is, posting positive numbers. Scrap, missed deliveries and negative profits quickly became fading memories. Everything we heard was positive and confirmation that our efforts had been successful, and we looked forward with great anticipation to the visit.

Upon arrival, we met with the plant’s management team and in glowing terms they recounted the journey since we were last on site. To say that they were pleased with the transformation would be a gross understatement. Obviously, I was pleased with the numbers and the tangible evidence of a plant operating as it should, but nothing could compare to the real, overwhelming thrill that I experienced on the factory floor.

After meeting the management team, I was permitted to spend the rest of the day walking the factory floor. I was greeted by old friends—some that I didn’t know I had—and smiles everywhere I looked. The plant was clean and organized—the clutter that defined the “before” was completely gone. The operating teams eagerly talked about the ongoing transformation and how the journey had affected them and their personal satisfaction. We were congratulated on what we had done so many times that it was almost embarrassing. It was the most enjoyable day that I have had in many, many years, but not for the reason you think. Sure, the numbers and gratitude are flattering; but the real joy for me was to witness the power of what one can do when one can inspire others to take charge of their own destiny.

Everything that we did to help the client was technical. The engineering, visual factory and problem-solving—anyone can do that. The real value that we were able to create was to rejuvenate a thoroughly defeated workforce and teach them to dream of a future-state operation where the production systems operated as they should and to learn how to achieve that dream. The result of these simple changes enabled them to become more, much more than they had been before. There is no greater pleasure than that achieved through helping others excel. The workforce created the success; we were simply the catalyst.

"Inspire others to dream, learn and become more."

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at [email protected].

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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