Invisible barriers?

Dieter Adam, 9 January 2023

A recent observation got me thinking. A bumble bee ended up in my kitchen, repeatedly bumping against the window glass, even though I had opened a side window close by.

Lack of vision? Apparently not. Lack of intelligence? Bumble bees appear to be a lot smarter than we have given them credit for. So, are they just clumsy flyers? That doesn’t appear to be the case, either. Scientists are still working on a conclusive answer, so let’s leave them to it.

What made me think was the equivalent in human behaviour. Hands up anyone who hasn’t, when a computer failed to respond to an instruction in the way we expected, just repeated the same command at least once?

Such a response is perfectly normal, and in some situations quite appropriate. It’s a demonstration of what behavioural economist and Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahnemann called Fast Thinking. When your house is on fire, you try to get out, and if the door won’t open, you push at it again, and with greater force.

When we try to improve the performance of manufacturing processes, however, what’s required is Slow Thinking – a deliberate search for root causes and the most efficient and effective way of eliminating causes of poor performance. We all know that.

But what about the window glass we repeatedly bump against because we don’t even know it’s there – the factors we don’t consider in our root cause analyses, because we’ve never seen them, or considered them to have any impact on system performance? Have you ever thought about a change to LED lighting in your factory to improve productivity, to use a maybe more far-fetched example?

Let’s make 2023 a better year than 2022 for our manufacturing leaders, including those who have done really well last year. There may be a windowpane that we keep bumping against without noticing …

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