Move the Table

By Chuck Gault, Max Coating President

tableThere’s a method that’s routinely used in Japanese manufacturing companies to ensure they’re working as efficiently as possible – PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act). It works off the understanding that if you want to improve a process, you don’t simply go out and start making changes. You spend a LOT of time planning and figuring out where you want to go, you evaluate where you are, make the changes you think will get you the intended result, review those results and then make adjustments. Even though it originated in America, PDCA has been embraced by the Japanese to the point that it is the cornerstone of their Continuous Improvement philosophy.

I recently met with a customer who has found huge success by using the PDCA method.  They have grown their business from 75 to 275 employees, and are looking at opening a second plant. I knew they must be doing something special, so I asked their Quality Manager what was happening there. It just oozed out of his pores how important the work on the floor is. Sure, the support personnel (and by that, I mean the administrative assistants, sales reps and even president) are a key part of any business, but the team members on the plant floor who are actually making parts, sending shipments, etc, are the ones who make or break a company.

What do these things have to do with one another? If you utilize the PDCA method with your floor team members, you’re almost guaranteed to see changes for the better. Here’s an example:

We had an ecoat job on our floor that produced 30 parts every three minutes.  This happened 18 to 20 times during an eight-hour shift.  The next station for the parts was a table located about 20 feet from the end of the ecoat line.  We could see team members walking parts two at a time to the table – at times it looked like constant walking.  One of our managers held a meeting and put together a simple PDCA aimed at reducing the walking.

One of the team members asked if we could simply move the table.

MOVE THE TABLE?!?  You bet we can move the table. It was a simple, elegant solution that reduced waste and improved efficiency.  And more importantly, the idea came from a team member on the floor, so the all-important buy-in is a given.

The lesson here is to really take a look at what’s happening in your business with the people “in the trenches,” and come up with ways you can be more efficient. You may be surprised at the difference you can make when you just move the table.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Max Coating is the leader in metal finishing and provides electrocoating and powder coating services for the automotive, industrial and agricultural industries. Learn more at