Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The Price of not Mistake Proofing

Call me a geek or something, but this item really jumped out at me from last Saturday's sports page. Yes, the sports page informs us about Lean tools.

So what happened?

At the Daytona 500 qualifying, driver Rusty Wallace was penalized for using an illegal carburetor. Click here for UPI's write up of the story.

What was illegal about it?

All NASCAR aficionados (which means almost all of my colleagues here at FBi Buildings) know that Daytona is one of two tracks which require the use of "restrictor plates." These plates limit the flow of air to the engine's cylinders, slowing the cars to a "safe" 180 mph on the superspeedway.

How did they mess it up?

It seems that Wallace's crew inadvertently grabbed a carburetor without the required restrictor plate and bolted it to the engine for his qualifying run. Wallace ran well and qualified to start 8th in the field of 43. But, at post-qualification inspection, officials found the error.

What was the penalty?

Plenty. Wallace lost $28,720 of prize money he earned through his qualification run. His crew chief was fined $10,000. Further, NASCAR bumped him back in the starting grid, from 8th to 38th. As a result, he had much more traffic to work through if he was to challenge for a top finish. In the conga-line traffic flow of Daytona, this created a real problem. We don't know what his sponsors thought about the adverse publicity.

So how did it affect him in the race?

Hard to tell, as the race was cut in half due to rain. But, he ended up only in 25th place. The 8th place finisher earned $240,000 in prize money. Wallace earned $186,000, a difference of $54,000. Clearly, starting farther back in the pack didn't help him. Further, had there been a major accident in the middle of the pack, he would have been far more vulnerable.

What on earth does mistake-proofing have to do with this?

Everything. One mistake cost them so very much!! Had the crew locked up all the wrong carburetors, they could only have bolted a correct one on. The sequence of failures and losses all stemmed from this one error. An error that was very, very, preventable.

Visual tools, labels, low inventory, clear instructions; all are ways to mistake-proof your processes. Do a web search on "mistake proof" or "poka yoke" and see what you find. Perhaps you can send the results to Wallace's crew chief.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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