Avoiding Rework

gombadmin Blog

by Chad Whitlock, Operational Excellence Consultant

Remember the Bridgestone/Firestone recalls from the turn of the century? How about the Sony batteries that were overheating and causing Dell and Apple laptops to become high-tech campfires? Then there are the Braun coffee/espresso machines that caused glass carafes to break (a problem that persisted for two years spanning multiple products). And speaking of coffee; just how hot should your McDonald’s coffee be when you spill it in your lap?

Strollers, meats, peanut products, baby seats, cars, air conditioners, children’s toys…the list goes on and on. Thousands of product lines and millions of product yanked from shelves, shipped in for repairs, or replaced outright with each recall highlighting the role of quality (or lack thereof) in business and manufacturing practices.

At some point in your work career you have likely had some kind of training with a focus on quality. As you think about your training, think about where you work and the work of your team(s). What happens when quality goes awry (especially in the processes that you are involved in)? Do you push a big red button that stops everything (a tactic that exists at Toyota where anyone can push the button)? Do you sound the sirens or wave a red flag? Or do you do nothing? If you do nothing, the now defective item or service continues to sail along its merry way through the process until someone decides it needs to go back down the line to be repaired or corrected.

There is another term for “fixing”—it’s called rework.

If you really wanted to clog up a process, ignore quality and encourage lots of “fixing.” That way, the stuff that should have been completed can come back and haunt you and your co-workers again and again while everything else builds up, just waiting to be done. Then be sure to stay close to the phone as your customers will have some colorful things to say about your approach.

Back to rework.

Think again about the processes you and your teams are involved with. How much rework is happening? Is it even being tracked? Is there an active strategy in place to limit the amount of rework that happens in your work environments? If so, is it working? If not, what should the strategy look like?

Here are three simple steps that can assist you in developing a strategy for avoiding rework:

1. Establish ways that you and your teams can detect and eliminate defects early. In the Toyota example, workers can stop the entire assembly line if a defect is detected. Workers and management then team up to find where and why the problem occurred in the first place and work to minimize (if not eliminate) the cause completely.

  • Track rework data in a place that is highly visible—a place where management and team members can walk by and quickly understand what is going on with the processes. The rework data should be side by side with other relevant throughput and quality measurements that fit your processes.
  • Make it easy for team members to both spot and take action on items that require rework. Redesigning forms to make them more simple and easy to understand, mistake-proofing your process and data flows, defining full kits—all are excellent ways to go about implementing your strategy.

2. Eliminate the cause of the defects. While early detection minimizes rework, root cause-based process improvement virtually eliminates rework.

  • Run simple cause-and-effect analysis with your teams and then eliminate the reasons why rework is occurring.
  • Focus first on the defects that recur with the most frequency or those that have the most potential for a devastating impact.

3. Train workers and management continually about establishing work that is defect-free.

  • Develop workflow centers of excellence for your teams and identify the best way to do work and make the information easily accessible and actionable for your teams.
  • Develop knowledge centers of excellence for your teams and identify the knowledge, skills, and attributes required for your processes. Develop effective and ongoing training that builds skill-sets and knowledge.

It can be minimized.
It can be eliminated.
And developing a strategy is easy to do.

Think again about the processes and teams you are involved with. Would you like some help in tackling the rework happening in your work place? GOMB can assist—just give us a call.