If you are finding that your operational abnormalities go undetected too long, perhaps you need to take a deeper look at your escalation process. If you haven’t reviewed your escalation process, tested knowledge and understanding of it, or don’t have them at all, perhaps this is a good starting point.
Clear and specific escalation criteria is a key element of an effective abnormality management system. Abnormality management and escalation criteria is NOT a manufacturing thing only! Abnormalities can and do occur in any operation. What’s important is what we do when they occur.
There are 3 main elements of a abnormality management system which are discussed below. In this post, we’ll focus more on the escalation element.
1.) Defined standards in place that specify what is normal and what is abnormal.
a) Maximum number of work in process (WIP) units is 20.
b) Maximum customer wait time is 15 minutes.
c) When not in use, equipment XYZ is stored at location ABC-01.
d) The line is to operate at greater than 90% operational availability (OA).
2.) Visual controls that quickly and efficiently identify an abnormal condition or situation.
a) 20 squares taped on the floor, each depicting where 1 unit of WIP can be placed. 15 squares taped in blue tape, and the last 5 in yellow.
b) If customer wait time is electronic, change the font colour and/or size of the customer’s name, or flash the name on the computer screen if the customer is not assisted within 15 minutes. If a manual system is in place, mark with a pen the time after which 15 minutes will have passed. Once the 15 minutes has elapsed highlight the time to differentiate from other customer orders.
c) Tape the floor in which equipment XYZ will fit. Post a picture at ABC-01 and add text indicating this is the home position of equipment XYZ. Or, draw a shadow outline of equipment XYZ which will quickly indicate if it is there or not. An equipment sign-out sheet is posted at the location indicating who signed out the equipment last.
d) Install a coloured light and/or audible sound connected to the line controls that indicates when the line is down or not operating. Have a downtime counter on the line indicating the cumulative downtime within the shift. Alternatively, have a manual tracking system that is updated by a designated person that displays the cumulative downtime within the shift.
3.) Escalation processes are documented standards and instructions that define what action is required to be taken by whom, at what point, and how they are to escalate the issue. The more descriptive the escalation process is, the better.
a) When there are 15 units in WIP (all 15 blue taped locations) immediately call the team leader by activating their andon and advise them of the situation. The team leader will assess the situation and make a determination as the appropriate response (i.e./ add or remove resources, resolve productivity issue, etc). When there are 20 units in WIP (all 15 blue and 5 yellow tape locations) immediately call the team leader and advise them of the situation. The team leader is to shutdown the line and assign team members alternative work. The team leader is to phone the manager within 10 minutes of the line down.
b) When a customer has been waiting 15 minutes, prioritize their order by following up and confirming their order and assessing when it will be completed. Advise the customer of delay and expected resolution. When two or more customers have been waiting more than 15 minutes, notify the supervisor immediately. The supervisor is to assign additional resources to assist with the customer orders. If any one customer has been waiting more than 25 minutes, the supervisor is to be immediately notified. The supervisor will resolve the issue with the customer’s order and make a determination (based on customer service policy) as to a discount to be offered to the customer.
c) If the equipment is found in an abnormal location and not in use, it is to be returned to the designated location immediately and the supervisor advised. The supervisor is to check the sign-out sheet and follow-up with the person responsible for not returning the equipment.
d) If the line is down more than 10 consecutive minutes, the team leader is to phone the maintenance manager to advise them of the situation. If the line is down more than 30 consecutive minutes, the maintenance manager is to phone the Production Director and advise them of the situation. The Production Director will assess the situation and determine what course of action for the employees i.e./ send for early break/lunch, send home, etc. When downtime exceeds 30 consecutive minutes and/or OA is less than 85% in a shift, the maintenance manager will complete a root cause analysis and provide a report to the Production Director the findings and actions within 24 hours.
Once you have these 3 elements in place, you need to periodically audit and confirm each of them. This means auditing that the standards are documented and all who use them are knowledgeable of the standards, know where to find them, and are following them. Confirm that the standards are documented, are in good condition, and revise them if anything has changed, or needs to change. Confirm the visual controls are in place, in good condition, being used and followed. If not, determine why not and correct. Also confirm that the escalation process is in place, being utilized, and is effective. Confirm for each of the elements that new hires are trained on them, and know what they are responsible for.
Your abnormality management system will only be as strong as your weakest of the 3 elements; Standards, Visual Controls, and Escalation. Audit them today!
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