The CEO sends you, the operations manager, a memo that customer complaints are up the past couple of months, and her directions are, “check into where quality is breaking down and tell me how we can fix it.”
You start your investigation by speaking to customer services, and they say customers are complaining that stitching is unraveling around the sleeves and bottoms of “The Beast”, your company’s top of the line athletic t-shirt marketed to high schools and colleges for their men’s and women’s competitive sports teams. The chief of customer service tells you, “these t-shirts are worn every day in practice and they go through a lot of washings…the teams are really rough on them.” He provides you with the specific orders and production lot #s for the majority of the defects. You ask to see samples of defective t-shirts returned by customers and you notice the thread weight is way too light for “The Beast”. The thread in the defects is used on low-end casual t-shirts, and would not withstand the harsh abuse of competitive sports teams.
As you delve into the production lot #s provided, you find most of the defective shirts are being stitched on the grave yard shift (10pm – 6am). Then you remember back to the days when you were production manager on the grave yard shift and start asking yourself, “what processes could be breaking down on that shift to cause the problem?” Then it comes to you; swing shift (2 – 10pm) is responsible for positioning precut t-shirt fabric and bulk thread for sewing on the grave yard shift because “grave yards” only has one forklift operator and “swings” has three, so the fabric and bulk thread required by grave yards has to be in place when swings leaves.
You talk to the grave yard shift production supervisor, and he says, “most of the time swings prepositions enough fabric and bulk thread for our production run that night, but occasionally they short us fabric or bulk thread so I have my forklift driver get some from stock.” Your gut sinks because you know the fork lift driver probably does not know “The Beast” shirt requires the heaviest thread in the warehouse.
Are you starting to “put two and two together”? Yes, the forklift driver was pulling the wrong thread from the warehouse, and since he was doing this toward the end of the shift it was not being caught by the sewing machine operator. As a result, the wrong thread was being used to stitch some of the shirts. In the assignments below, students get the opportunity to explore quality issues in organizations, conduct analysis of data to determine if quality is being compromised, and then formulate recommendations to improve quality in a process.
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