People may WANT to do the right thing, but they WILL always do the easy and most intuitive things!

The challenge for any manager, especially those in the manufacturing world, is making the “Right Things” as close to the “Easy” and “Intuitive” things as possible.  As a manufacturing process engineer, it is even more important that awareness and cooperation with this fact of human behavior is considered.  All too often equipment and process engineers get caught up in the details of what the machine needs to do or what the product requires and neglect the human elements often with significant but unseen negative effects on the efficiency (and ultimately the profitability) of the process.

So how can this be avoided?  How can managers and engineers identify and consider what the “easy” and “Intuitive” things are?  The simplest answer is to simply observe and note what the people in the work area are doing consistently when interacting with their environment.  Where are the hand tools congregating?  Where is the trash piling up?  Where are their lunch boxes and personal effects being stored?  Even the wear patterns on the floor or on the paint of the machine can be clues to an operator’s consistent actions.

Typical work area showing signs of use.

To recap, knowing and accepting the fact that people will always do the most easy, natural, and convenient version of the “Right” thing can be a powerful tool to streamline and smooth out process inefficiencies (thereby improving profitability) if the process engineer and / or production manager simply pause for a short while and observe what the workers are doing (or not doing) naturally.

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