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April 19, 2011

Are you really open to new ideas?

By kmiddelkoop April 19, 2011

It was the second day of the E3 process and still the company refused to believe or accept that there were opportunities to improve.  The day before we had shown them lights left on, areas over lit, compressed air leaks and poorly insulated equipment.

Recycling Container

Recycle by coljox, on Flickr

The facility manager was a long time employee of the company that had been in business for over 50 years. He nursed an unlit cigar that he held in the side of his mouth.  I keep asking myself why did he not want to change?  Could it have been that the company was making lots of money or the fact that he was close to retirement?  Maybe he had just gotten lazy and was set in his ways. Was I going to be like him one day?  

So we keep to the agenda of the E3 (Energy, Environment, Economy)…an on-site 2 day training to help manufacturers understand ways to reduce costs, utilities and other impacts to the environment.  We took the group for a walk outside their buildings to look at things…we had just trained them on Learning to See, an exercise to help identify non-value outputs from their processes.   The group included TMAC staff and 4 employees of the company.  This included the maintenance manager, operations manager, quality engineer and someone from the sales staff. 

Learning to See

As we walked around the property the maintenance manager commented saying “you guys just won’t give up..there is nothing out here to find”.  We were running out of time, just one more hour and the workshop would be over. This was going to be a disaster…. So we walked up to one of the 60 yard solid waste containers, it was closed.  I stood the group together in front of the dumpster and asked the team how much they spent each year on disposal.  They all looked at each other and said “oh maybe $4,000 per year”.

Why Are We Doing This?

So we took a look inside and discovered that there were over 100 wood pallets inside.  Then someone said that this was just one of 3 containers that were picked up weekly.   Then the operation manager turned to the others and asked “why are we doing this? How long have we been doing this?”  For the first time the facility mangers cigar pointed to the ground as they all look puzzled.  Once again the E3 process produced the results we were looking to find.  The actual cost to dispose of their wood pallets was over $60,000 per year. This expense could be fully eliminated through recycling or reuse. 

I slept better that night knowing that it wasn’t up to me to find future opportunities, but to just let the process lead the way.

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