Solve a Supply Chain Breakdown Immediately

Image - Line Stop Problem

It happened on one of the world’s most advanced automobile assembly lines. The kind that costs almost a million dollars per hour if it’s forced to stop.

They had a real problem on their hands — the wrong part caused the line to shut down at one of the world’s largest automobile final assembly lines. The line manager’s job was to keep the line running, but everyone was standing around with their hands on their hips, waiting for the problem to be solved. He felt as dead as the line.

The 80/20 rule couldn’t help. The critical path didn’t matter. The only thing that counted was the problem.

Breakdowns always surfaced the 1/100 rule:  Fix the one thing broken and 100% of everything moves forward again.

It was a crazy sensation. When everything stopped you couldn’t move fast enough.

He turned to the fastest and most powerful problem-solving advance he had ever seen — an Expandiverse Shared Space.

Typically, the cause of a line stop was unpredictable. Here, a quality inspection on a car found the bolts on the car’s axle were 1/2″X20X3″ instead of 1/2″X18X3″. As were the bolts in the next car’s axle.

He stopped the line and personally confirmed there was 18 days of this bad part ready to be used, with the same wrong part in the buffer stock.

People started running around looking for the correct bolts but there were none.

With his tablet he Focused an Expandiverse Shared Space and went to its Active Knowledge. There he selected “Line Stoppage” and then “Part Outage.”

The Shared Space reacted by clearing everything and displaying a list of steps in the upper right.

The first was “Focus First Responders,” which he selected. It started Focusing in a small response team of key managers. They were instantly live, in person, and turning to him almost as fast as he selected the second step – “Which Part?” When he selected that a large question displayed at the top center, asking which part SKU and displaying lookup tools below it. He already knew the SKU and entered it.

As the live people Focused in on the screen, each person’s name and title floated next to him or her. It stayed next to them as they moved.

He briefed the first responder team on the part outage. Based on their role they each chose their task from the Active Knowledge list. A procurement manager said, “I’ll check the suppliers.” A plant manager said, “I’ll check other vehicles’ parts.” A logistics manager said, “I’ll see if any are in route.” A maintenance manager said, “I’ll check local machine shops.” As each started, their Active Knowledge task dimmed. Then each muted their connection while using their own Shared Spaces to Focus in appropriate contacts and resources. They all stayed Active in this Shared Space so they could listen, and contribute what they found.

He unmuted one of them, the plant manager who was checking other vehicles’ parts. He said there was a small chance the correct 1/2″X18X3″ bolts were here. They might have been swapped, and were where the wrong bolts had been stored. With a quick smile he blended his Shared Space into about a third of the tablet’s display, to share what he was doing.

The plant manager had identified where the wrong bolts were stored. Then he geo-located an employee near each location and Focused them in. He sent them running to check each of the 1/2″X20X3″ bolts’ inventory, to see if it was the bolt they needed. He kept them all Focused while they checked, filling his Shared Space with video and sound from people running, breathing hard and shouting information.

He muted that and switched to a different responder, the procurement manager checking suppliers. The manager blended his Shared Space into about a third of the tablet’s display, so it was visible.

The procurement manager used that part’s SKU to open a list of all its suppliers. That gave him an option to auto-create a Shared Space with those suppliers’ primary contacts. He activated that Shared Space. The Expandiverse Presence System determined their individual availability right away, and substituted secondary contacts for those not available. As soon as a group was available the Shared Space Focused all of them at once.

They appeared in the procurement manager’s Shared Space. “Sorry to interrupt,” the procurement manager said. “Our Kentucky plant just had a line stoppage. We’re looking for this 1/2″X18X3″ bolt and need them right now.” He blended in an image of the bolt with its SKU.

“What happened?” asked one of the suppliers’ employees.

“An almost identical 1/2″X20X3″ bolt was being used and we just caught it. It’s a safety issue so we stopped the line until we have the right bolts.”

There were murmurs of “OMG, let me see what I can do” and “we’ll look.” Since that didn’t seem the fastest solution it was best to check another responder.

He switched to the logistics manager who was checking to see if any were in route. Unmuting him didn’t stop him from talking to someone, but he blended his Shared Space so it covered the last third of the tablet’s display. It wasn’t a clear visual. It showed a jumble of people and data displays that weren’t clear, making what was said more important.

“And you’re sure there’s 2 cases of these 1/2″X18X3″ bolts on that truck?”

“Yup. So far we know that truck left the depot this morning and it should be crossing your state about now.”

“Do you have access to your logistics company’s truck location system?”

“No, but I have the logistics company rep in a Shared Space. Here he is,” he said, turning to you and resizing him so he filled his Shared Space.

“Wait a sec. I’m getting the truck’s location right now,” the logistics company’s rep said. “It’s about an hour away from you.”

“Great,” your logistics manager said. “Give me a minute to check and I’ll let you know if we need it diverted right away. Thanks for being a great partner. We may owe you one.”

The logistics manager turned and said, “Assemble the Avengers. We have to decide what to do.”

Everyone was unmuted, adjusted and re-lit as a uniform group, with the logistics manager sized larger and put at the head of the others. He said, “We have a hot lead. One of our suppliers has two cases of 1/2″X18X3″ bolts just an hour away from our plant. It’s on a truck that we’ll have to divert here. We’ll have to pay through the nose for the costs, plus any late charges for anything on that truck that’s no longer on time. Is this our best shot, or does anyone have anything better?”

Everyone else had rolled snake eyes. There wouldn’t be any 1/2″X18X3″ bolts at the plant from any other source. Two cases on a truck an hour away sounded great. Everyone immediately agreed.

The logistics manager turned back to his own Shared Space to make the arrangements. Everyone else turned to theirs to tie up their loose ends.

Getting everything ready to restart was a relief. A Shared Space was Focused for most of those at the plant, to coordinate the preparations. Those not needed right away were asked to use a different Shared Space to start a root cause analysis on what caused the problem, so it wouldn’t happen again.

The line’s start was greeted by an amazing cheer. Everyone from the plant, the suppliers and logistics companies gathered in a Shared Space. They made their shared background the first bolt’s insertion. Its connection was like a lightning bolt that flashed through their screens, revealing their connected celebration as an “always together” world of immense speed and power.

Transformations / Discussion

Too often today’s breakdowns are dealt with using a whiteboard list of key people and their phone numbers, to call when there’s a problem.

This Use Case describes a disruptive Expandiverse Technology environment for a real-time task force response, literally at the push of a virtual team’s button that triggers multiple simultaneous digital responses across a supply chain. It includes:

  • Readiness to solve the unpredictable breakdowns that occur during daily operations.
  • Pre-deployment of Shared Spaces that include “continuously connected” people, data, tools, locations, Active Knowledge and more — all of them ready to be Focused in a single step.
  • Shared Spaces that provide “always on” connections that can be Activated (Focused) individually or as a group, so that people can work together immediately, with any combination of people, data, locations and resources needed.
  • A Presence System that indicates the availability of any person or item in a Shared Space for immediate Focusing (Activation). With continuous connections, Focusing is immediate, as if you were in the same room and turned to each other.
  • A pervasive network of Shared Spaces with each person’s unique set based on his or her individual projects, scope of responsibilities, span of control and individual choices.
  • The ability to immediately add any item from another Shared Space, whenever an immediate real-time addition is needed.
  • The combined power of multiple Shared Spaces working toward a single goal in real-time, as in this example with separate Shared Spaces from plant management, procurement, logistics and maintenance.
  • The integration of best practice protocols in the form of Active Knowledge, providing real-time interactive guidance, enabling everyone to perform at a high level immediately.

The result could be organization and employee enhancement beyond what competitors can achieve and deliver. The cost of this advance (see “Project Summary”) will certainly be paid by the ROI from solving a Supply Chain’s gaps and breakdowns.

The opportunity? Develop new levels of performance that outcompete others at a speed and scale sufficient to produce a “winner take all” industry.