Embrace Change in Machining

By Kip Hanson

The success of books like Who Moved My Cheese or Our Iceberg Is Melting proves it: Most people don’t like change. Isn’t it ironic then that the most successful companies — machine shops included — are the ones that embrace change like a trusted friend.

Unfortunately, all of us know people who respond, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” when questioned over a business procedure or practice. The worst part of attitudes like these is their infectious nature. Acceptance of the status quo spreads like a disease in such environments. Creativity is stymied, continuous improvement quashed.

What’s a creative company or its subset of “let’s move forward” employees to do in the face of a workforce afraid of change? The more jaded among us might pose a heartless response, but raising a company’s unemployment insurance rates by “whacking heads” is neither prudent or practical (nor is it very nice). Better to embark on a path of cultural change. Engage employees in continuous improvement. Get them excited about technology. Show them the benefits — financial, occupational, and social — of joining the let’s-make-our-company-awesome club. Then turn them loose.

Lean manufacturing experts refer to continuous improvement as Kaizen. Others call it common sense. The principles of taking small steps, fostering employee involvement, and providing metrics with which to measure the efficacy of incremental changes — these are all aspects of any change management project.

So too are tools such as the DMAIC method (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), The 5 Whys (repeatedly asking “why” until a root cause is revealed), PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act, which is also known as the Deming Cycle), and others. Call it what you will and use whatever tools are needed, but Lean is a necessary aspect of company and employee growth. Tired of the way you’ve always done it? Maybe it’s time for a change.