Letters To The Editor For August 2008

Wisdom from our readers.

Focus on the Top Priorities

>Re: "Just In Time -- Running on Empty," July 2008

It is nice to see that the message that I have been preaching to all of our employees for several years is also now in black and white. Too often employees waste considerable time and energy on areas outside of their control, and they lose focus on what is really important. It is unfortunate that when employees are not focused on the task at hand that some of these distractions can even lead to safety incidents. Similarly, too much time is spent on worrying or fretting over items that they do have control over, yet take no personal responsibility, accountability and direct action to actually change or address the issue.

It is no wonder that with all of this worrying and lack of focus that manufacturing employees are figuratively and literally running out of energy. I frequently tell employees that if each individual would focus, I mean really focus their hard work and energy on the top three priorities, we would be amazed at what we could accomplish and we would not be working so hard.

We have recently kicked off Operational Excellence (Lean Six Sigma) at our facility with a cross-functional team. It is hoped that this small group of believers can develop enough focus and momentum to achieve the tipping point. Sharing articles, like your editorial, with others will be one of the tools in the team's arsenal bag.

Scott Tatro
plant manager
Bristol, Pa.

Wisdom to Know the Difference

I thought your editorial "Just In Time -- Running on Empty" was excellent and right on the mark. I enjoyed reading it, especially about the need for people to focus on what actually is important, not on things that are out of their control.

Brad Slye
president
Electro-Sensors, Inc.
Minnetonka, Minn.

The Four-day Work Week

Re: "The Zero Effect," July 2008

Another way to "go green" is to get onto the four-day work week.

Paragon Industries, L.P., where I work, has been on the four-day work week since the 1970s. There is very little employee turnover here, because having Fridays off is like taking a holiday every week. And it doesn't take long to get used to 10-hour days. After a few weeks 10 hours seem like eight.

The factory starts at 7:00 a.m. and people leave at 5:30 p.m. Because we arrive early and stay late, we avoid some of the heaviest traffic. To handle customer calls, we have two people in the office on Fridays. They go home at noon.

For many manufacturers, the four-day work week is definitely viable. It is an easy way to save gasoline.

Arnold Howard
director of marketing
Paragon Industries, L.P.
Mesquite, Texas

Not Ready for Take-off

Re: "Just In Time -- If Supply Chain Management Is the Answer, What's the Question?" June 2008

I just came from a lean conference where I was a speaker and there were a lot of Boeing folks there. The lean efforts that they are taking, in my mind, were elemental and off target and the results show that.

On the plane ride home I was with a Ford engineer and then on another plane three days later with a manager of suppliers. They were not complimentary on the state of affairs in the auto industry and of their companies' contributions to success. They say the companies are filled with politics, backstabbing and watching out for their own well-being (and of course, beating up their suppliers!), not a great thing for the health and welfare of their companies.

What a shame that these companies are American icons yet seem to have such elemental challenges as scheduling, direction setting and attaining results. (One of the Boeing folks, when asked some questions, let it slip that they have to pull planes off the line due to not having seats available!) I do not understand how automakers such as Toyota, Honda and even GM, Ford and Chrysler can build hundreds of cars per day and sequence by the hour, yet Boeing, which cannot be building more than 30 planes per month per model, cannot assure delivery of seats to the line.

Thought I would share this with you because as I was sitting on the plane reading your magazine, a lot of what you wrote about I have just experienced in my travels.

David J. McDonald
senior vice president
Lean Management Solutions
Toledo, Ohio

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