How Do You Eat an Elephant?

By Chuck Gault, Max Coating President

We recently hired a Production Supervisor, Kelvin Allen, for our Atlanta plant. Kelvin has over ten years’ experience in the automotive industry and is well versed in systems and processes. We asked him to spend a few days out on our shop floor to get to know the team, watch what we do, and take notes about any potential improvements we can make.

The first day Kelvin filled up one page of a presentation flip chart with improvement ideas and put it on the wall in the conference room. The next day he did the same thing, And he did it again on the third day. And the fourth. By the end of the week our conference room looked like we had decided to put up new wallpaper full of Kelvin’s handwritten lists. We were running out of wall space fast.

The next step for us was to review what Kelvin had recorded. As we read each and every item it was hard to argue any of them weren’t things we should address. But could we really do everything? Even if we wanted to, where would we start? How long would it take? It was all a bit overwhelming to look at.

Thankfully Mike Hartman, our Quality Manager, was there to intervene with some words of wisdom. Mike explained in situations like this you need to think about how you eat an elephant. According to Mike there is only one way to do it: one bite at a time.

I’d say it’s hard to argue that point. It sure helped to put our situation into perspective.

We decided to keep the lists up on the walls and cross off items as they were addressed. The first week we only got to mark through one item, but it was a start. The second week we crossed off two more items. Now we were making progress.

It has now been five weeks since the lists were posted and although we’ve crossed off more items, we still have a long way to go. But we can see the progress, slow at times, but steady.

For us, the key is “one bite at a time.”

Max Coating is a leader in the metal finishing industry, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with an additional location in Atlanta, Georgia. Max Coating provides electrocoating and powder coating services for automotive, industrial and agricultural manufacturers. Learn more at