Case Study – Smith’s Problem

The Training Within Industry programme has an excellent exercise in it. Titled “Smith’s Problem”

Course attendees were introduced to the case as follows:

In order to “learn by doing” we will practice on real problems. Let me tell you about a problem that a certain Supervisor had to solve.

Brown, the drill press operator in Department A was working at his job, drilling the #1 hole in metal angle plates. He had cut his finger while moving containers of material to the work area.

The standard specifications for the job called for measuring one piece in twenty for size. Brown did this and although the pain from his finger was diverting his attention all that he gauged seemed to be good.

He therefore had no indication that the drill was not sharp and that the machine wasn’t running at the correct speed. It was just as the machine set-up person had left it. By mid-morning he had completed five material bins with a total of 100 pieces.

Smith the Supervisor suddenly called Brown to his desk and reprimanded him for carelessness in his work.

Brown was angry and felt discouraged. He told the supervisor he was going home at noon.

Smith the Supervisor was worried because Department B needed the work now or they would stop production.

The Inspector had told him that a great many of the metal angle plates were not to specification.

Having read the case, now answer the following questions:

What is the problem?

Develop a list of possible causes.

Develop a list of possible countermeasures.

The question is what do you think the problem is? There are lots of different problems in the case – from Brown cutting his finger, through to stopping production and eventually stopping delivery to the customer.

Typically a class of 16 people may come up with between 6 and 8 problems.

However they also come up with many more possible causes and possible countermeasures.

Have you ever disagreed on the causes and countermeasures to a problem?

One of the key benefits of the 8 Step Problem Solving approach is that the thinking becomes visible.

Discussion can take place to agree the problem, cause(s) and countermeasures required.

Now move on to the next Topic