By Kevin Meyer
Regular readers know that I have a particular disdain for overly complex MRP and ERP systems, and recommend spending about 0.1% of the cost and going to Staples instead. Simple visual solutions using whiteboards now control the shop floors in several companies, even very large ones.
Thanks to Jason for pointing me to an article by Andy Sernovitz at Damn I Wish I'd Thought of That confirming I'm not totally nuts. Andy took a tour of one of the most leading edge pieces of technology… very very complex technology… an aircraft carrier. Filled with high tech systems in every nook and cranny, but guess how they manage their flight deck: with a visual board. I do need to apologize to Andy for quoting so much of his original post, but it's important to my point.
This is an incredibly important job. His job is to make sure every
plane is in the right place, fueled, and ready to take off, while
making sure the runway is clear, and no one gets run over, during war,
at sea. Imagine trying to park 60 semi-trailers on a 4-way freeway
intersection, during a pre-school soccer game, in a thunderstorm,
during a Harley rally, and never block traffic. Except they're
airplanes, on a boat, full of bombs. Look closely and you'll see that he uses metal models, washers, bolts, and thumbtacks. Why? Because it never breaks.
Now I know what you're probably thinking… in the realm of $500 toilet seats those toy planes probably cost a couple hundred grand, right? Nope.
system to replace it. His answer?: How do I fix it in
the Persian Gulf under attack, or during a typhoon? I've got
everything I need for $10 from Home Depot. And a spare set in a
tackle-box under my desk.
these whiteboards. Thousand of bombs have to
move across dozens of decks and find the plane to get loaded. You only
have minutes to get it right.
So the next time someone tells you you have to have a complex software system to manage your shop floor, remind them of the Nimitz. Spend some time leaning your processes, reduce excess material and wasteful activities, and then utilize the most simple… and inherently intuitive and robust… visual management method possible.