The Toothpaste Factory
“We’ve got a problem,” said the manager of the toothpaste factory to his quality control team. “We’re shipping a high percentage of empty boxes and getting a lot of bad publicity about it.”
The in-house engineers were already working overtime, so the quality control folks wrote up an RFP and finally hired an outside firm. After many months and many millions, they had determined that the two lines that fed toothpaste tube into toothpaste box sometimes went out of sync and an empty box resulted. They put in a scale further down the line. The scale weighed each box and beeped an alarm when it registered short weight—an empty box.
After a month, the head of quality control noticed that no boxes had been rejected for the entire last week. Since they had been having dozens of empty boxes a day, he ordered an investigation. The QC people reported that the scale is still functioning correctly. All the boxes it weighed were full.
The CEO himself goes onto the factory floor to inspect the problem. Walking past the junction where tube meets box on his way to the scale, he spots a cheap fan.
One of the workers explains, “Oh, that was Sam’s idea. He’s big on being efficient, even rides a motorcycle to work. He got tired of jumping up every time that scale beeped to take the empty box off the line. The fan blows any empty boxes into a bin he can empty once a day.