How often can a business say that they have given employees the authority to stop the entire production line if they encounter a problem? Never mind that, there’s a second component here and that is how the culture has to first be developed before an employee would ever have the confidence to actually stop the entire production line. This is not a referral to only a small business, this is actually the practice in some of the biggest companies in the world, (emphasis on some).
Imagine this; you are working in a huge manufacturing company that makes some form of machinery parts. You are one of a thousand workers on the assembly line. As you are working on your assigned part you realize a defect. Most people at this point would ignore one defect as “normal,” and assume that because it’s a big assembly it’s not a big deal and there’s many more parts to replace it. The employee seeing the problem also most likely does not feel like reporting an error and having production stopped. This could look bad on them and also make management mad.
However, a different type of business might do everything they can to encourage an employee to stop the entire production line if any type of defect is found. In fact, some businesses are so extreme in this that they provide red stop buttons for almost every employee to hit which eventually stops the entire production. First of all it is not easy for a business to actually make this decision to give employees this “power,” and secondly, and also the hardest part, is actually developing a culture where employees feel confident enough to press the button without fearing getting reprimanded.
There is one more thing to clarify here before quickly going over the reasons for setting a business up like this. When I say that the entire production line is stopped, I really mean the entire line. One famous example is of Toyota who ran into a small defect issue with one of their parts. They didn’t just stop that specific line where the issue was found, rather they stopped every single other production as well. They did not allow themselves to move cars through the line in other assembly lines even though those cars had no issues with them.
Why is this drastic measure taken? It is actually quite simple. The goal is to make the mistake/issue really hurt. Make the hurt big enough that it forces you to fix it. Companies that do this, do it because they realize that one little mistake along the line can have big consequences further back in the line and even more consequences ahead if it turned into a bigger problem. If the defect is not announced as soon as it’s found, than it becomes harder to find out where it all began, thus solving the root problem. These companies have found that having your typical procedures to fix problems ends up taking too long. The hurt is not big enough to force people to work on it. These companies realize that the customer is paying for value, and therefore they aim to provide perfect value by constantly aiming for perfection. They do not accept little defects as common. Rather they aim to fix the problem immediately.
If you ever get a chance to visit a factory with this kind of procedure it proves to be quite interesting. Employees will be busy working when all of a sudden a red emergency light goes off announcing the line has been shut off because of a defect. Employees momentarily stop working while the engineers scurry over to fix the problem as quickly as possible or else no money is being made.
People often counter this by saying that too much value and money is being lost by stopping the entire line. What they fail to realize though, is that because they are constantly fixing problems from the root issue, they are always eliminating problems which for other companies are actually recurring because they tend to overlook them. This outweighs the momentary loss from stopping the entire production facility.
Make the issues hurt enough that you actually fix them.