Fight boredom with an improvement project

Have you ever had a boring job? One where you did the same things day-after-day for months or years on end? Well then, shame on you! There is a saying that the biggest room of all is the room for improvement. No matter what your job is, there is room to do it better. Figuring out what that is and then making the improvement will definitely make your life more interesting.

I worked my way through college on the graveyard shift (11 pm – 7 am) of a factory that manufactured agricultural equipment and utility poles. 200 people worked the graveyard shift with me, scattered throughout a campus that was about 1 mile square. I was a “patrol inspector” and my job consisted of walking through the factory at least twice per shift checking various parts, as well as to respond to pages on the P.A. system for quality emergencies. After a few months the job became routine and I started to be bored. All that changed after I subscribed to The Journal of Quality Technology, a publication from The American Society for Quality Control[i]. The journal was full of technical articles about various arcane quality topics. I decided to lift my boredom by choosing an article from each journal (printed quarterly) and trying it in the factory.

One my early endeavors was to perform a measurement error study. I picked a dimension on a part that I thought was difficult to measure, the distance from the end of a shaft to the start of a groove. I used a digital height gauge and a surface plate to obtain the measurement (see figure). I picked 10 parts from inventory and had the chief inspector measure them each twice. I kept the results of the first inspection secret from him.

After crunching the numbers as shown in the journal article we determined that 100% of the variation was due to repeatability error! My results were even worse than the chief inspector’s. Talk about not boring! The QC department was abuzz with discussions of the experiment and changes in the way we measured this dimension were implemented. And, not least, I learned something.

I know it doesn’t sound like much of a project but, trust me, these little projects really spice things up for you and others. Give it a try!

[i] Now The American Society for Quality.

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