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Breaking News: New Blue Lego Plane World Record Set at PTA Plastics


World record holders Liz Santiago, Kenia Colon, Nikolle Tavarez, Gina Greco and Joselyn Espinal with some old guy and Greg Thayer


For some of us, there's nothing more fun than officiating college football or watching smart people working toward flow by tenaciously removing the 8 wastes from a blue Lego plane process.


The process is simple: 5 people set up an assembly line to build as many 15-piece Lego airplanes as they can in a 6-minute shift. It is so fun to watch as lean tools are learned and applied via fast, reversible learning cycles. The most impactful thinking is the ability to recognize and eliminate the 8 wastes. Once the 8 wastes are internalized and visible, get out of the way.


As some of you may recall, the previous world record as far as I know what set by one of my 15-week Lean Operations Management classes at CCSU in 2019. And it took these engineers 15 weeks to get to 60 planes in 6 minutes.


Fast forward to now. About 8 weeks ago, Greg Thayer of PTA Plastics asked for 5 volunteers to join a new 6 week Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt program. The idea that they would get me on Tuesday for 1 hour learning about the 14 Principles, SMED, 6S, TPM, Mapping, Six Sigma basics, etc., and then they would meet with Greg on Fridays to apply what they learned to plane making! They used a balance table to apply heijunka to the process to eliminate overburden and waiting, relentlessly eliminated unnecessary motion, applied Andon to see problems, etc.


Here is the last minute of the record-breaking shift.

Sometimes what gets lost in the pursuit of flow is JOY. What started as an exercise full of waste week 1 has evolved into smiles and singing. The same thing happens when people are free to work this same magic in their own real work processes. Part of the "respect for people" definition is to make sure people are not doing wasteful work (which they didn't design in the first place), and that can only happen when they can see it and are free to eliminate it using their A3 process! It's tough to argue that any process is better off without defects, over-producing, waiting, non-essential steps, un-necessary transport, excess inventory, un-necessary motion, or un-used employee brainpower, right?


We know creativity and problem solving live at the very top of Maslow's pyramid of human needs. Job satisfaction, morale and employee retention are some of the benefits I saw in my own business when frustration turns to smiles.


As a side note, I made the mistake of telling these 5 people I would take them to dinner if they broke the world record, thinking that the old record was out of reach. Wrong, we had dinner last night and enjoyed every second of it. Good people=Good lean=lots of planes, lol.

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