Bad Habit Bye-Bye

I quit smoking recently. I don't want to quit, but I know that I must.

Columns From: 3/1/1997 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

I quit smoking recently. I don't want to quit, but I know that I must.

Moreover, I think my attitude is fairly typical. Most smokers would rather smoke than quit. The habit is comfortable. Its bad effects are almost imperceptible in the short run. We tell ourselves it'll be years before any bad health effects are noticeable.

Soon, thirty years pass! One day you're playing a B-ball with the kids and suddenly can't get enough air. Maybe it's time to consider losing one bad habit?

Shops can also pick up bad manufacturing habits. Many of these habits are traceable back to a time when each was considered acceptable practice.

Bad habits like doing only final inspections, bumping batch quantities to allow for scrap, not investing in technology and training along with ignoring changes in business environments will eventually catch up with a company.

Like the health effects of smoking, many of these bad manufacturing habits are not immediately fatal. It's hard for businesses to see the daily damage done by hanging on to bad manufacturing habits.

When I started smoking, it was a very different world. Cigarette ads were on TV and in magazines. It was still OK to smoke almost anywhere and anytime except movies, church, and during airplane take-offs and landings. Even hospitals allowed smoking.

Manufacturing too was very different only a few years ago. Once the grand concept of economic order quantities (EOQ) ruled the manufacturers' world. It was a push-through system based on mass quantity and long product life cycles. It was right because no one knew much about any other ways of doing things. Manufacturing was dedicated, using hard tooling designed to make lots of parts, and resistant to change. That was OK though because things changed much slower then. There was comfort with the old manufacturing habits.

But without knowing it, these and other bad habits were taking a toll on U.S. manufacturing health. A wake-up call came when several of our "most advanced" manufacturing industries were challenged to sprint by some uppity foreigners who had very different manufacturing habits. We wheezed and hacked and basically lost the sprint.

It took time--the withdrawal was painful--but eventually successful manufacturers did the business equivalent of quitting smoking. And, we're all healthier for it.

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