Two Universal Metrics We Can All Measure and Improve

Have you ever heard someone say “You can’t measure what I do!” Or maybe this one: “We are a job shop – we don’t do the same thing over and over – so we have nothing to measure.” Most likely you have if you are involved in process improvement, in using SPC, or getting people to take data and track it over time.

The reality is that you can easily find things that should be tracked over time. But there are two universal metrics that we can all measure and track over time. These two are described below.

The first one is rework. Yes, rework. We all do it. I am not talking about what you normally think of as rework – having to rework parts that are out of specification, for example. This rework is about you – and your time.

lost timeA simple definition of rework is having to do something over because it wasn’t done right the first time. It doesn’t matter if you or someone else caused the rework – it is the lost time you spend on rework. Fairly simple definition, don’t you think? Is it rework if you proofread a letter you wrote? If the letter was correct the first time, you wouldn’t need to proofread it. Or is proofreading part of the process?

How much time do you spend doing rework? Not much you say. How much time can people possibly spend doing rework? You will probably be surprised. At one time, I ran a Quality Development group for a chemical company. We tracked how much time we spent in rework. Over 30% of our time was spent on rework. Talk about opportunities for improvement! Imagine if everyone in the organization could reduce their own rework in half. Wow! What would you do with all your extra time?

There were five of us in the department. Each week, we plotted the total time spent on rework as an individuals control chart. Plus, we constructed a Pareto diagram on the reasons for rework. The Pareto diagram was updated each week with the new data. And we began to work on the largest reasons for rework.

frustratedAnother "universal" measurement is "things that get in the way of doing a quality job." This data really doesn’t fit on a control chart, but it is great data for determining what prevents you from doing a better job and you can use a Pareto diagram. For example, you can't get a report done on time because the data you need from another department is not accurate. This gets in the way of doing a quality job. Some of these things may well lead to rework. What gets in the way of you doing a quality job?

Two simple things to track and improve: rework and things that get in the way of you doing a quality job. So simple.

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