Let's just say not every workout works out

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The manufacturer where this IT pilot fish works has implemented a process-improvement system that the company calls "workout," because it involves taking unneeded work out of processes, which saves money and improves profit.

"The manufacturing team looked at their processes and noticed that they were filling out this piece of paper with all kinds of statuses and quality stamps and completion checks," says fish.

"But they never used them. The parts arrived with a blank sheet and the completed assemblies left with filled-out sheets. Obviously they had no need for this document."

And since there's measurable time spent completing the form along the way, the team concludes it can save a lot of hours per year by not having to fill it out.

The change is approved, and gets top-of-the-page treatment in the daily internal newsletter -- after all, it both saves the company money and makes a good example of the benefits that "workout" can bring. It even gets a write-up in the corporate newsletter.

Fish's part in the process: He's the one who turns off the generation of that sheet in the production package from the planning system he maintains.

But a few weeks later, fish gets a call from a group within the company that he's never heard from before. They want to know why the planning system hasn't generated these sheets recently.

Turns out that now-deleted sheet provided documentation required as part of the company's government contracts. Without it, the company is out of compliance with the contract and regulations.

"There was no way for the manufacturing team to re-implement this process, since the workout 'win' had been broadcast far and wide," fish says. "So the quality team had to staff the position to fill out the form as it progressed through the manufacturing floor.

"And before that could happen, I received an emergency production change request to re-enable that form -- and to print it for all the production packages done since the disabling change, so we could backfill on those products and get back into compliance on those contracts."

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