K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Smarty!

As an Engineer, I have a fondness for elegant solutions, but just received an email that reminded me that not all problems require the same level of complexity as building an A380 airplane.

To make a long story short, a toothpaste manufacturing plant had a quality issue where not every box that came off the line contained a tube of toothpaste.  This was a headache to the consumer, the seller and the company.

They hired an engineering firm to correct this problem, and 6 months (and $8MM) later they had a sophisticated system involving a high sensitivity scale which set off a loud alarm when an empty box passed over it.

It was, apparently, highly successful, as their defect rate fell to zero and everyone was thrilled.  Only one problem…anyone with 6 Sigma experience will tell you that a zero defect rate just doesn’t happen.  So they investigated.

During an inspection of the line, they found that a few feet before the scale was a $20 fan which blew any empty boxes into a recycle bin.  When they inquired further they were told: “One of the guys put it there because he was tired of walking over to the scale every time a bell went off.”

What’s the moral of the story…keep it simple, smarty!

If it’s your customer’s problem, find the simplest way to help them.  Don’t make them friend you on Facebook, or complete a multi-page survey unless that’s what they want to do.

If it’s an internal problem, involve the right people in developing the solution.  Don’t assume you know what “everybody” wants. And make sure the team members who are responsible for delivering are in the room – not just those who are experiencing the difficulty.

Our approach to simplicity is to find out what questions you need answered to determine who can best answer those questions, to figure out how we can best engage them; then… just do it (sorry Nike!).

Happy Mid-Winter!

Steve and Megann

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