Day 32-Quarantine-Science and Common Sense

I watched with great interest as Dr. Birx explained the process she and her team were using to analyze the corona virus. My mind flashed back to one of my trips to Singapore. I never went there for pleasure it was always a two week minimum troubleshooting and training trip. This particular time we were having trouble maintaining our production output with our most popular product we fondly referred to as the PLT1M. At home, we could maintain a production rate of over 98%, in Singapore they had dropped into the eighties. The molds were the same in both places but their’s was older than ours. I suspected the tool needed maintenance. I was not disappointed when I got there. The production team was being flogged by Corp to keep the numbers up. It was tantamount to running a car on bald tires on a cross country trip and stopping only long enough to pump up the flat with air before proceeding. They knew they needed new tires, but didn’t or couldn’t stop to find, buy and install new tires. Needless to say, these stoppages were killing their production.

Our production manager was in a quandary. He knew what was required, but didn’t know how to make it happen. His allegiance and pay check were dependent upon his making product as promised to Corp. I spent the better part of three days talking to the maintenance crew, production foreman, set up men, asking what their biggest problems were. When the mold was downed for maintenance, I was there to help the toolmaker analyze the problem and watched him repair. While I was doing that, the general manager visited the bench at least every twenty minutes to determine how fast the mold could be put back into service. President Trumps COVID-19 task force is faced with a similar situation, i.e. too many questions and not enough answers. The pressure comes from the public in the form of reporters asking dumb questions about when will? Problems of this magnitude need careful analysis. then, each problem needs to be prioritized for urgency and magnitude. Dr. Birx has reported each time with the most emergent problem. Behind the scenes others are working on more analysis, and solutions. She delegates everything she can, and reports progress on the most important issues.

In my case the problem I came to solve required some serious toolmaking capacity. I learned from the staff all the projects the tool makers were working on, and listed them. What phase were these projects in, and why were they needed? As I experienced in our home toolroom the number of projects were endless, but at home if an emergency popped  up we were trained to respond to the needs of production. Sadly, molds to make new products always lost out to the current money makers. Our staff in Singapore didn’t have new products to work on so I had to dig deeper. In their case whenever a mold needed repair they deferred making spare parts. My job became one of determining how they could use available resources to solve their problems. They were using the bulk of their capacity fixing the flats.

In the middle of my visit I came down with some sort of flu that caused me terrible discomfort. I locked myself in the conference room and began to analyze Singapore’s toolroom capacity. Thank God for spread sheet programs. Without same, I would still be there trying to do the job. By the end of my flu, I was able to show them how to use their available capacity, and how to prioritize projects to get their production up. At the same time, when I came home I initiated projects to make new tooling to replace the tired tooling Singapore was using. At that same point in history I was on a task force of Chief Engineers tasked with implementing a new concept to utilize all of the toolroom capacity of our combined divisions to run projects to completion quicker. The team leader was looking for projects to test his new concept. I happened to have a few for him to take on, and he did.  That is not unlike the COVID-19 Task Force finding and sourcing both government and private sector laboratories, and equipment to use idle capacity to its fullest.

A couple of years later I sat in a meeting with our CEO and overheard him ask one of the division managers how we got to the point of production over capacity in Singapore. It was then, that I knew my trip was productive.

President Trump’s effectiveness is derived from his experience working in the private sector at real jobs like building skyscrapers. He learned from hands on experience to troubleshoot, look for the root cause of the problems and to prioritize. The members of his task force all use the same methods, Trump’s leaderships evident in his ability to follow up on all aspects of the most important issues. His daily involvement conveys the seriousness of the solution to the team. He is also a great cheerleader, his positivity and optimism are contagious

I am confident that we will get through this corona virus problem. What we need to brace for is the political battle that looms on the horizon. All of the political blaming will be in the category of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. The party out of power will be placing blame on Trump. They will come up with, what if he had done this, or he screwed up on that. But the problem will be over and it will be mute questioning and blaming because we don’t get a repeat. If we do get a repeat our health care system and testing is improved and will be better able to function as a result of COVID-19.

2 Responses

  1. Enjoyed the read esp the 80 – 20 idea. The spread is quite different in classroom teaching. The misconduct of just 1 or 2 kids (plus teacher’s time in managing their behavior) could derail every lesson every day. Unless these problems become one of an event wherein a kid shoots and kills someone you are stuck with him the whole year. “Production” is permanently reduced and disabled for the whole class.

    • I have never had opportunity to use the Pareto principal toward a classroom environment. I’m sure it works as you have indicated the trick is to figure out how to deal with the 20% who need 80% of the effort. In industry it tells us to ignore the 20% problems in favor of getting the 80% benefit.
      The way my grandson’s school handled him as a disruptor was to threaten to expel him from the school. His mother chose to drug him up to get him into control. That is probably why we see so many kids on drugs for their ADD.

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