I live a couple blocks off a nice wide stretch of beach that’s about five miles long with an extinct volcano sitting right at my end of it. Two or three days each week I try to run to the other end and back, although I’ll readily admit "run" is a bit of a stretch. A big stretch. Usually it ends up being a leisurely stroll, taking in the sounds and sights while clearing the brain and remembering that life definitely does not suck. Now you probably understand why so many of my posts are just a little out of the box… after all, salt air can be corrosive…
A few weeks ago I tried something a friend of mine suggested: see how far I can walk with my eyes shut and still hit a distant spot in the sand. Morro Bay has a population of only 10,000 so there are very few people on the beach, and most of them are surfing, so the prospect of walking into someone isn’t exactly a worry. Wandering into the water or stepping on a seagull are. The purpose of my friend’s "blind" challenge is two-fold: get more in touch with your other senses and then trusting those senses as much as you do your eyes.
My first attempt lasted about five seconds before opening my eyes in panic. Eventually I went thirty seconds, then a minute, then two minutes. That’s currently my limit, and it took quite a while to achieve. But a funny thing happened: I became very attuned to the direction of the sun on my face, the sound of the waves, the wind on my arms, and the angle of the sand as it slopes toward the sea. I could aim for a spot on the sand far in front of me, even right on the water’s edge, and nail it. In many respects it was a cathartic experience.
This got me to thinking about how accustomed we’ve become to trusting our eyes. Sure, each sense has a primary purpose and I wouldn’t expect my eyes to tell me if a seared ahi salad was tasty. But at what point due we rely on the primary purpose of a sense without even using the input of the others?
I’m guessing many of us are in our early 40’s, or at least that’s what I like to believe. Like me, you probably remember your first calculator, that four-function monster. Then by the time we went to college we had a multi-function. But we were taught to first understand what the numbers meant by doing equations by hand. We obtained a sense of proportion and of accuracy based on the inputs. Does that still happen today?
Similarly, and my point (finally!), is the sense of "how to manufacture." When your customer service people receive an order, do they simply key it into the almighty MRP? Or are they conscious that an order is far larger than typical? When your shop floor folks decide to run an order, do they simply look at the MRP screen or do they think about upcoming orders and the nuances involved in running them, and use some judgment to optimize the runs? Have they developed the "sense" of manufacturing, or have they suboptimized that sense to automated tools? Would they know that they are making a few million extra candy bars?
Sometimes you just have to touch it, feel it, and see it. Upcoming orders on a white board, excessive scrap on the floor, a product that just doesn’t look right. Develop that competency and that awareness. If you must use electronic tools, use them to augment the senses, not replace them.
In the meantime I might just try running on the beach on a moonless night, using the wind and sound to guide me. Just call me Batman. Or foolish waterboy, depending on the outcome.