The World’s Most Dangerous Job? | James Lawther

“You shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, but according to some of the more reliable sources, during World War II:

  • Over 12,000 Bomber Command aircraft were shot down
  • 55,500 aircrew died.
  • The life expectancy of a Lancaster bomber was 3 weeks
  • Tail-gunners were lucky if they survived four missions.”



Michel Baudin‘s comments:

This is a great story both about effective visualization of series of events in space-time and about proper interpretation in the face of sample bias.

Manufacturing, thankfully, is less dangerous than flying bombers in World War II was, but it is still more dangerous than it should be. Posting the locations of injuries on a map of the human body is also an effective way to identify which body parts are most commonly affected, and which safety improvements are most effective.

But are all injuries reported? Many organizations blame the victims for lowering their safety metrics, and discourage reporting. As a consequence, we can expect under-reporting and a bias towards injuries severe enough that reporting is unavoidable.

If you get data on an entire population, or if you thoughtfully select a representative sample, you can avoid bias, but many of the most commonly used samples are biased, often in ways that are difficult to figure out.

Customer surveys of product quality, for example, are biased by self-selection of the respondents. Are unhappy customers more likely to take the opportunity to vent than happy customers to praise? If so, to what extent? The effect of self-selection is even stronger for posting reviews on websites.

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The Goals That Matter: SQDCM | Mark Graban

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Blog post at Lean Blog : “Today is the start of the 2014 World Cup, which means much of the world will be talking about goals.I’m not really a soccer, I mean football, fan but I’m all for goals. In the Lean management system, we generally have five high-level goals. These were the goals taught to us in the auto industry, where I started my career, and they apply in healthcare.”


Michel Baudin‘s comments:

As I learned it, it was “Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety, and Morale” -(QCDSM) rather than SQDCM. I am not sure the order matters that much. The rationale for grouping Quality, Cost, and Delivery is that they matter to customers, while Safety and Morale are internal issues of your organization, visible to customers only to the extent that they affect the other three.

They are actually dimensions of performance rather than goals. “Safety,” by itself, is not a goal; operating the safest plants in your industry is a goal. In management as taught in school, if you set this goal, you have to be able to assess how far you are from it and to tell when you have reached it. It means translating this goal into objectives that are quantified in metrics.

In this spirit, you decide to track, say, the number of consecutive days without lost time accidents, and the game begins. First, minor cuts and bruises, or repetitive stress, don’t count because they don’t result in the victims taking time off. Then, when a sleeve snagged by a machine pulls an operator’s hand into molten aluminum, the victim is blamed for hurting the plant’s performance.

Similar stories can be told about Quality, Cost, Delivery and Morale, and the recent scandal in the US Veterans’ Administration hospitals shows how far managers will go to fix their metrics.

To avoid this, you need to reduce metrics to their proper role of providing information an possibly generating alarms. In health care, you may measure patients’ temperature to detect an outbreak of fever, but you don’t measure doctors by their ability to keep the temperature of their patients under 102°F, with sanctions if they fail.

Likewise, on a production shop floor, the occurrence of incidents is a signal that you need to act. Then you improve safety by eliminating risks like oil on the floor, frayed cables, sharp corners on machines, unmarked transportation aisles, or inappropriate motions in operator jobs. You don’t make the workplace safer not by just rating managers based on metrics.

In summary, I don’t see anything wrong with SQDCM as a list. It covers all the dimensions of performance that you need to worry about in manufacturing operations, as well as many service operations. Mark uses it in health care, but it appears equally relevant in, say, car rental or restaurants. I don’t see it as universal, in that I don’t think it is sufficient in, for example, research and development.

And, in practice, focusing on SQDCM  easily degenerates into a metrics game.

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The Day I Thought I’d Get Fired from “The Old GM” – Putting Quality over Quantity | Mark Graban

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Blog post at Lean Blog :”[…]I’ve been in healthcare for 8.5 years now, but at the start of my career, I was an entry-level industrial engineer at the GM Powertrain Livonia Engine plant from June 1995 to May 1997. This plant was in my hometown, Livonia, Michigan and was located exactly 1.3 miles from the house where I grew up. The factory opened in 1971, two years before I was born. The factory closed in 2010 due to the GM bankruptcy and sits empty today as part of the ‘rust belt’ ..]”


Michel Baudin‘s comments:

About a decade before Mark, I spent time implementing scheduling systems in GM plants, and my memories, while not great, are less gloomy than Mark’s. My main project was at the GM aluminum foundry in Bedford, IN which is still open today, unlike the Livonia plant where Mark worked.

I remember being impressed by the depth of automotive and manufacturing knowledge of the GM engineers and managers; I also remember them as unable to implement any of their ideas, because it was dangerous to be perceived as someone who makes waves. They had no need for the scheduling system, but it was a corporate decision to deploy it in 150 plants, and they just had to get along.

The company culture was dysfunctional — particularly in quality, safety, and improvement —  but the plant was in a small town where the employees all knew each other and worked to make a go of it as best they could. And, they are still around.

I have since experienced a radically different quality culture in another car company. The quality manager in a parts plant once noticed that defectives had been shipped to final assembly. The parts had been machined so well that they didn’t leak at final test even though they were missing a gasket.

The quality manager —  who told me the story — felt that he had to do whatever it took to prevent the cars being shipped with the defective parts. What it did take was driving two hours to the assembly plant at night, locating the finished cars with the defective parts in the shipping yard, and removing their keys.

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What About Lean Machine Safety? | Industrial Automation

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“There are common misconceptions that keep manufacturers from integrating safety into lean manufacturing, McHale said. ‘People think there’s no place for safety in lean,” he said. “Safety will just impede things; all of my processes will slow down. Implementing safety doesn’t necessarily result in lost production.’

McHale believes safety and lean manufacturing principles can reinforce one another.”


Michel Baudin‘s insight:

I agree with McHale. If, in implementing Lean, you give the proper amount of attention to the engineering dimension and focus first on the design of the production lines, in the details of operations you see risks that were overlooked before, from accidents waiting to happen to movements and postures that generate repetitive stress.

As you improve the line, you also improve its safety and its ergonomics. It shows respect for people in a concrete way, ensures that you retain them, and secures their support of your efforts.

When you reduce the hand carrying distance of a car battery from 50ft to 2ft, you not only make the job safer and less tiring, but you increase productivity and reduce handling damage at the same time. You don’t improve one dimension of performance at the expense of another. Instead, you improve all of them concurrently. This is the essence of Lean.

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