Pixel Tracker

Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 12:25 pm | Fair with Haze 65º


Paul Burri: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Every idea that I’ve ever had did not always work out the way I planned. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

One time in my career I found myself managing the manufacturing division of a company that designed and manufactured packaging machinery. Our machines were designed to take printed tuck-end cartons (the kind that toothpaste comes in) from the flattened condition as they came from the carton manufacturer and open them up, tuck in the flaps and transfer them to the filling area where the product was inserted. (It sounds pretty basic and simple, but our machines saved thousands of manual labor hours for the manufacturers of all kinds of products.)

The manufacturing division of the company was itself divided into two parts — the fabrication division that made all of the individual components of the machines and the assembly division that assembled the various components into the finished machines. It was a system that worked well and allowed close coordination between the two divisions as well as with the engineering department that designed the machines.

But one little problem existed, and that was the occasional mistakes the two divisions would make. The fabrication department would make a part slightly out of specification or a component would have some flaw of one kind. On the other hand, the assembly division had its own problems maintaining quality without some slip-up of one kind or another — a belt installed incorrectly, a painted panel scratched or a motor wired incorrectly.

Taken individually, these mistakes were not that serious or expensive, but added up over a year they were fairly significant. If we could eliminate or reduce them, it would mean greater profitability for the company.

So I came up with an incentive program designed to reduce mistakes. I proposed a monthly reward to be paid to the division with the fewest mistakes. Each month a tally would be taken of the mistakes made by each division, and the one with the fewest mistakes would be awarded the cash prize. It’s a win-win situation. The company makes more money because of fewer mistakes, and the employees share in the savings.

So what could go wrong with this idea? In the game of golf, players are expected to call penalties on themselves when they violate a rule. And they do.

But in the case of XYZ Manufacturing, whatever savings we expected to see from fewer mistakes were outweighed by the amount of time each division spent spying on the other to detect the other’s mistakes. It was a disaster, and we abandoned the whole idea after only one month.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer, guerrilla marketer and iconoclast. He is available to local organizations for speaking engagements and to local businesses for business consulting and/or mentoring. The opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @BronxPaul, or click here to read previous columns.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.