Volume 3, Number 3 - March 1, 2005

On a recent walk through a manufacturing operation, I saw a large display filled with charts and graphs. I asked the manager to explain a few of the key metrics. As he proudly described each one, it became clear that two of the metrics would always move together. ”Why,” I asked, “do you incur the cost of capturing and reporting both when the 2nd one provides no additional information?” His response: “Because we believe each area should have metrics.” It seems to me that, to pay its own way, a metric should provide useful information not already available. If we want each area to have a metric, let’s at least make sure that it tells us something we don’t already know, and that we need to know.

We then turned to another metric, which showed a very noticeable worsening trend. “What is causing that?” I asked. His response: “We don’t know, but we think it’s temporary.” If we don’t know what causes a metric to move, how does it help us improve our business?

Metrics are not inherently good. There is no correlation between the number of metrics and profitability. They add value when they tell us something that will help us improve our business. Review your metrics. They should help you and your employees understand the business and make better decisions. Don’t waste money on metrics that are interesting but irrelevant.

Ken Murphy and his team at Sunrise Medical in Avon Lake have lived and breathed continuous improvement for over a decade. Many of you have toured the plant, absorbing their willingness to freely share everything they’ve learned along the way. Unfortunately, the folks at corporate have decided to close the Avon Lake facility, moving its operations elsewhere. Sometimes world-class is not enough.
Without the work of Ken and his team, this plant would have been shuttered years ago. They have a lot to be proud of. For those of you looking for employees with Lean experience, contact the HR department at Sunrise. They have a plant full of them. Call 440-933-5609 and ask for HR or Ken Murphy.

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