One of the toughest challenges that a manufacturing black-belt faces is institutionalizing data collection systems that yield project-critical information. Whether the needed data is attribute or variable, it is still a tough challenge to implement the system.Once the GR&R issues are resolved, it doesn’t get any easier. At this point, the black-belt has to make it happen on the floor. Many of us have been there, standing on the line for hours training the personnel on the proper measurement procedures required.

If you are an integrated black-belt, you have even less time to dedicate to the system implementation, yet the need for the system still exists. I’ve found that in this case, it helps to obtain maximum leverage from resources at your disposal.

Some of the best sources of leverage are the front-line data collectors. These people are typically team leaders or production team members that actually make the products on the shop floor. They have a wealth of practical knowledge of the production process, and are, in most cases, willing to help improve the process in any way possible. However, I’ve seen cases where data collection sheets are pushed onto the data collectors, without any input from them, without giving them any insight as to where the data is going, or how it will be used. Naturally, the response from the data collector is less than enthusiastic, and since the system depends heavily on him/her, the system is likely to fail.

Here are some ways that I’ve found to leverage these very important team members to ensure data collection success:

1) Involve the people that build the product at the very start of your implementation. In this way, they are involved and realize why the need for the data is important. Remember, physically taking the data can be more of a burden to them, so it is absolutely important that they realize how important it really is.

2) Give the team members a chance to make the data collection system successful before going to their supervisor. It may be very tempting when activities seem to stall to go to the supervisor for support. Support the team members, and they will support you in most cases. Of course, there will be cases where you will need supervision to help.

3) Let the team member collecting the data be a part of the data report-out. Eventually, the data has to be reported on or used in an analysis. Giving the team member the opportunity to see how it is used and analyzed is a learning opportunity for him/her, and will also give a feeling of being a part of the business.

I’d really like to hear how your organizations have handled data collection at the front-line. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

About the Author