Ralph began to fidget. By all counts, things should be better than ever. Volume in the department was up, but profitability was sinking. Julia, the new department manager had put the issue on the table. “How do we get the red line to turn up?”
She had warned me earlier that there would be friction. “Things get uncomfortable. Your stomach turns upside down. But you know you are dealing with real issues when your stomach is upside down.
“We can go one of two ways. We can avoid the issue so our stomachs feel better. Or we can work through the issue and make real improvements.”
Ralph spoke up first. “Well, I think we need a new machine on the line. We were promised a new machine by our last manager, but he got fired before we got it. I think our problems would be solved if we just got the new machine.”
In my briefing before the meeting, Julia told me they would blame the problem on one of the older machines. Truth be told, she said, that old machine had more uptime than any of the other equipment on the floor. There were never any materials stacked in front of it waiting. The old machine was definitely not the bottleneck, it was just an excuse covering up the problem somewhere else.
“Ed, write that on the board,” said Julia.
“Write what?” said Ed. “You mean the machine. I don’t think the machine is the problem.”
“Doesn’t matter. Ralph thinks it might be the problem. We are going to look at it, so write it up on the board. Alright, who has the next idea? How do we get the red line to turn up?”