Efficiency is a 2-sided sword. It’s easy to get infatuated with the bottom line improvements that process cuts offer, but it’s all for naught if your building’s quality suffers.
Cut processes too deeply, and you’re asking for trouble. Workers start to cut corners to meet Foreman demands, who in turn is reflecting Head Office expectations. That can lead to Inspectors finding defects in the build which can lead to (very) costly reworks.
The solution: build quality into the front end. It’s an integral part of Process Improvement and helps you negotiate the balance between cutting for efficiency and maintaining a top notch product.
A Culture of Quality
You can improve your processes from the corner office, but the improvements won’t last. To be sustainable (and save some real money) you need crew buy-in, and for that, you need to define a focus.
Focus on efficiencies in meetings and people get scared. Efficiencies means job cuts. Tilt the conversation to quality and ears perk up because:
A culture of quality will deputize every worker to ensure that everything they build represents the best of the company. Once they’re empowered to be stewarts of quality, they’ll probably be more receptive to hearing about efficiencies in processes.
Remember that your workforce cares about the projects they work on. The pride is already there, all you have to do is encourage them to actualize it.
Mistake-Proofing Your Processes
Once the Inspector comes around, all your money has gone into that project. It’s frozen into the floorboards and framing. Any defects that he or she finds, are going to come straight out of your bottom line and impede your ability to thaw out that cash.
Mistake-proofing (poka-yoke in Japanese), is about both catching defects early and empowering your workers to prevent them. It builds on the culture of Quality that you’re reminding people about every morning at your stand-up meeting.
It’s temptingly easy to give workers such clear instructions that they can shut off their minds. Empowering them, and building a Lean Culture, is about asking them to measure twice and take a second look at that angle before moving on.
A 5 degree error is easy to fix at the time. But build upon it and that error amplifies, with each step forward being another profit-eating step backward later to fix it.
Every worker who touches your product should be their own Quality-Control. Don’t wait until the end; empower your team to spot defects and improve them before they cost you another dime.
The Balance of Quality
Ironically, efficiency often trumps quality when it comes to cost savings, even though quality defines the value of your product. Your customers, and the Inspector, don’t judge you on efficiency; they judge your quality.
“Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product. Quality cannot be inspected into a product or service; it must be build into it.”
– W. Edwards Deming