ISD has recently formed a relationship with the United States Navy through its professional programs. Elaine Priest, the Product Line Director for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, shares how continuous improvement is an important part of the shipyard’s culture.
*This interview has been lightly edited for clarity*
What has your organization done in terms of quality improvement in the past?
Our past and current efforts include Lean Manufacturing principles–including visiting Lean companies and conferences; training on and adoption of Shingo Principles; ADKAR Change Management; sharing/Learning of innovations across DOD and private industry, and now learning about Kata.
Why did your organization turn to Kata? How will it benefit your organization? Were there any specific organizational challenges you were hoping to address?
We turned to Kata because it fills a gap we have in terms of changing our culture to one of continuous improvement. It will benefit our organization by giving us a path to develop and empower our people to make positive change. The challenge we were hoping to address is giving a single work crew a methodology for improvement that is understood and supported up and down the chain of command.
Why did you decide to team up with the University of Michigan to learn about the Kata for Daily Improvement?
Our Lean [department], as well as several of our product line organizations had attended the course approximately ten years ago, and we have decided to get back on the journey of Kata.
How have your employees reacted to the training?
Very well. The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive. It has been several months since we had the training, and both shops where the training occurred are using Kata with success. We are also using Kata for several other changes we are working on, such as updating our Product Line Desk Guide and improvements that are needed in our back shop organizational structure.
How has your organization changed its practices as a result of the Kata program?
We have become more mindful of several key principles, and we use and reinforce these principles in our daily conversations:
Threshold of knowledge – the acknowledgement that we only know so much
Experimentation – the freedom to “try” something, knowing it may or may not work but people are safe to try what they think might work
Measurements – we are reinforcing that we must be able to measure our results in some way to know if they are working.
Can you provide specific examples of ways you’ve employed the Kata methodology?
We are using Kata in our temporary hoses shop; in our ball valve shop; in our product line management to improve our processes.
Have you begun to see any changes as a result of the program?
Yes, we are seeing changes. Specifically, in the Temporary Services hose section, we are seeing reductions in cycle time in preparing hoses to be delivered to the waterfront. In the Machinist Ball Valve shop, we are seeing a greater understanding by the team of the current condition so they better understand the constraints/obstacles that need improved. We are seeing a shift in mindset as well, where the managers of these areas have taken on a more supportive role, rather than a directive role, and the work teams are showing ownership and vision of how to improve.
From a continuous improvement perspective, where do you hope your organization will be in five years, and how do you plan on getting there?
In five years, we would like every mechanic on the waterfront to know and embrace their role as continuous improvers. We would like every manager to know and embrace their role as supporters and coaches of the workforce. We would like to be delivering every ship we repair on time with passion and pride.