The case of the excess caution

By KC Boxbottom in Optimization on October 29, 2014

I was sitting in my office waiting for August to end and my phone to ring again. It hadn't but it did. Samantha was having capacity problems and needed my help.

"How soon can you get here, KC?"

In her office over coffee Sam explained her problem. "We have been running along comfortably at a bit below capacity. We just took on a new customer and we are having trouble making enough product.

"Our product is reagent coated glass vials. Each morning quality has to inspect the line and sign off that it is ready to run. That delays startup by 30 minutes. The short potlife of the reagent means we would have to discard it if quality found a problem so we don't start mixing until quality has signed off. Mixing takes another 20-30 minutes before we can start production."

"Two questions, Sam: What is the cost of the reagent?"

"About $300."

"How often does quality find a problem that would cause discarding the product?"

"Not often," she said. "Maybe 5 times a year."

"Fiddlesticks on lost capacity!" I roared. "You're losing an 30 minutes a day or three weeks of annual production to avoid the possible loss of $1,500 of reagent. Those numbers don't add up.

"Start your formulation first thing. Then, when quality signs off, you can start running immediately."

Nobody likes to take a chance on throwing away good product but sometimes it's a smart risk worth taking.

 

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

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