Tools & Resources
You Can Take it With You
Mapping out and planning trips with quality as a trusty travel companion
I’m always thinking of ways to streamline (lean) my trips when I run errands. While I would love to go to Starbucks and have my iced coffee to enjoy while I go from place to place, it is, unfortunately, out of the way of the path that makes for the most efficient route home. Unless I’m going to the other end of town, I usually don’t make it to Starbucks, but instead I settle for gas station coffee that's on my route home.
—Carly Barry, marketing, Minitab Inc., State College, PA
Editors note: To see Barry demonstrate quality techniques she uses in her home click here.
My current project is about 160 miles from my residence, a two-and-a-half hour drive under normal circumstances. My drive, however, goes into the heart of Los Angeles. To avoid being stuck on the 405 freeway for hours on end and to avoid possible drunk drivers on the road at night, I leave at 2:30 a.m. At this time, the weather is cool, so I don’t need to run the air conditioning.
On the roads, there’s me, some truckers and the occasional highway patrol officer. The bars shut down about an hour earlier, so drunk drivers are at a minimum. I’m only stuck in traffic when there is highway construction, and even then, it is never stopped traffic—just a slowdown.
The quality of my sanity, as well as gas savings, is greatly enhanced by driving in the early morning. It is nice to be the customer to your own efforts. I would recommend you try it for any large city you might need to drive through.
—Joshua Barry, tech II, Shaw Group, Lompoc, CA
My wife and I are passionate about process improvement and the human side of business and quality. Our dinner table conversations involve discussions of the application of 5S to non-office environments, using checksheets and data collection systems for parenting, and ways to maintain positive energy and strong values in the home and workplace.
My two sons are both in elementary school. To help them keep track of their evening chores, we have a checklist of tasks each boy must complete before evening fun begins. In true quality tradition, we continually improve their performance: When they’ve mastered one set of tasks, we add more. We’ve adopted the same techniques for ourselves, ensuring that key tasks don’t go missed, like packing socks for a trip to a family reunion.
Recently, we defined a problem. Sometimes, we forget to pack a few things when we prepare for a trip. We measured the issue: We’ve had one to two misses each trip. We analyzed the problem: There are a lot of things to pack and little time. We improved the process: We created a packing-day checklist and use it to ensure we don’t miss anything important. The control step is to make sure we use the checklist for each trip. On our last trip, we didn’t forget to pack anything!
Now that we’ve mastered the use of the checklist and the define, measure, analyze, improve and control method to make small improvements at home, we’re on the lookout for our next process improvement project. Maybe it’s time to 5S the tool bench.
—Scott E. Davis, director of corporate quality, Kiva Systems, North Reading, MA
I live outside the city and tend to plan trips to town as if I was putting together a work station, which drives my wife crazy. When I go into town, I see a map of the city in my head and my possible routes as spaghetti diagrams. My goal is to minimize miles traveled and avoid back-tracking. My wife just wants to see her sister before we go to Target.
—Mike Haston, lead auditor, Spartech Packaging Technologies, Muncie, IN
I remember once when I slipped in a bathtub in a hotel room in London. I was in terrible pain because my head hit the side wall, and my back was killing me. I was figuring out just how I actually slipped. I wrote the results of my findings—including a diagram of the bathtub, what caused me to slip and how it could be prevented—in a detailed letter to the hotel manager.
—Govind Ramu, director of quality assurance, SunPower Corp., San Jose, CA