Monday, January 30, 2012

Bluebirds and Manufacturing

I will get to my planning blog by EOW...

Do you ever get back to something you hadn't done in, say, 20 years? You realize how quickly the body, and mind, remembers the activity without pause. While there is a slight readjustment period, overall you fall right back into a groove and move forward. Like anything, repetition builds skill and familiarity that eventually makes you competent and proficient.

I spent Saturday with my son, 13, on the slopes on Mt. Hood. Well, technically, not on the slopes of Hood but close enough. You get the picture. This event was his first skiing, and I remembered all too well how difficult the first day can be. The frustration, the anger, etc. all build until you either throw your skis down the hill and pay the $800 rental deposit to rid your life of this mess, or end up bombing a run and realizing 'huh, not so bad.' For him, it took about 3 hours of saying 'I don't think I can' to eventually skiing a full mile down a run with an occasional spill, but more often a controlled cruise into the lodge. I am not sure where the tipping point for him was, but I can confidently tell you that he's been bit by the bug. Season passes, here we come...

For me, it was like visiting an old friend. We had both gotten older, perhaps the skis had progressed and I had gone backwards, but none the less, I courted the old sport for about a half an hour before I remembered all the nuances of the sport I abandoned some time ago. It wasn't long before my skis were parallel and my turns smooth.

This is very similar to our manufacturing processes as well. When we first begin a project, the thorns are all evident and the production is somewhat impaired by unfamiliarity. Getting through that challenge, and reaching the tipping point, is critical. You have to push through it and learn what you can in the process as it will eventually be the root of your success. Similar to what my son experienced, the best laid plans do not mean immediate success, rather, they give you the foundation for success later on. Lessons behind him, he found success after only three hours, much less than I remember my first experience on skis. In the manufacturing world, we live a very similar event history. We begin with a plan and goal, and then begin the process of pushing the plan through the course. We will inevitably make alterations to that plan based on incorrect assumptions, etc., but overall the desire and need to get to the goal will override the issues we experience and get us to the promised land.

In addition, when we have run through production on a project and eventually ended that production, we have to reacquaint ourselves, our equipment, and our staff with the nuances of that project. Things we learned in the initial development are not always remembered, and our ability to recollect those details can sometimes be difficult or slow. This is why we build a strong plan during our initial run so we have our foundation when we need it. Just like my weekend skiing, it usually comes back to us quickly and without much uncertainty.

So, I'll begin the planning talk shortly...

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