I once spent a summer working in an orange juice factory, screwing the caps on bottles, sorting the fruit, lugging boxes around, that sort of thing. One day we ran out of the usual cardboard boxes and had to use these boxes that were too big for the bottles. But the lines kept running, the bottles needed to go somewhere, people needed their juice. So the bigger boxes had to do.
But when we put the bigger boxes through the taping machine the boxes got squashed, because the bottles didn’t fill the boxes. So then the supervisor had to get a bunch of us with hand-held tape guns to seal up the boxes, to try and keep up with the flow of juice bottles. We weren’t really keeping up.
This is not the most exciting story you’ll hear today, I’ll be honest.
Stood there taping boxes, I realised that if we adjusted the taping machine and put the boxes of juice through on their side they should get taped up without getting bashed and broken. But – the drama – how do we change the machine while keeping up? What if it doesn’t work out? Orange juice everywhere, irritated supervisor, and possible demotion back to the milk bottling factory?
I went for it, and lucky for me the reconfigured box-taping machine worked, we caught up, and all the extra box-tapers could return to their regular roles.
I’ve always had a “there’s got to be a better way to do that… ” itch, which is partly how Lamplight came to be in the first place. But it can be hard to spot the things that need tweaking. And harder still to find the time to reconfigure things to work just a bit better, especially if you’re not sure it’ll work out. Although even if it doesn’t, you understand the problem better by having tried.
Do you have a mental list of “if only I had the time” tweaks and changes you’d like to make to your processes? Or does it become too disorientating to be constantly fiddling, especially with systems and people more complex than taping up boxes? Or do you have to do a full business case before changing anything?