New dishwasher and root causes.

I’m need to talk, once again, about our dish washing process. One of the problems remaining as we’ve tried to make our dish washing process leaner is that the dishwasher itself is in poor health. Cups and dishes on the top shelf always end up coated with a small amount of gross-looking baked-on crud, requiring me to re-wash many of them as I unload the dishwasher.

This re-washing of the same dishes that were JUST WASHED in the dishwasher is classic Overprocessing, one of the big seven wastes of lean production. We’ve tried to get rid of this waste (as I mentioned in my discussion of defects) by running various cleansers through the machine and having a dishwasher repair person out to look at it several times. It was no use. The dishwasher gets better for a few days, then gets bad again.

So, finally, we gave in and yesterday placed an order for a new dishwasher. It’s a shame that we have to lay down the not-insubstantial sum for a new piece of equipment, but we don’t have much choice. Either we get a dishwasher that works the first time, every time, or we’ll continue spending way too much of our time washing and rewashing dishes, piling up defects and overprocessing waste as we go along. That’s not the way to create a lean process!

I’ll have more to say on “root causes” some other time; for now I’ll just point at our new dishwasher (arriving in three weeks) as an example of the basic point: Until you go back through your process and find the real reason for the waste you are seeing, you will never be truly rid of it.

It’ll just keep happening, generating more waste (and more waste, since even in this simple dishwasher situation one kind of waste [Defects] quickly lead to another [Overprocessing]). It’s usually worth the extra time and expense to fix the root cause now rather than deal with its downstream effects indefinitely.

This idea of stopping everything until you solve the underlying waste-creating problem is called jidoka, and is one of the two pillars of lean production (“just-in-time” being the other one). And yes, there will be more to say about that in later posts. Right now I’m going to go fantasize about sparkling clean dishes that can go right in the cabinet. Bliss.


About adbenking

A journeyman sociologist living in Chicagoland.
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