I’ve recently read “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion. A hilarious novel that currently can be found in large piles in every bookstore. The leading character is a genetics professor, named Don Tillman, who researches Asperger’s syndrome and shows, without being aware of this fact, quite many symptoms of this syndrome himself. Without mentioning it with so many words, Don has a piece of advice for every manufacturing company.
Don’s need for order and regularity has made him invent the Standardized Meal System. Every day of the week, Don prepares the exact same dish. On every Tuesday for example, Don prepares a crayfish, mango and avocado salad. This standardized menu offers him plenty of advantages. It has allowed him to optimize the nutritional value of every dish and he doesn’t need to waste time by compiling grocery lists. He never wastes any food and he has even optimized the layout of his kitchen cupboards. Also not unimportant, he has perfected each dish to the quality of a top restaurant.
Don’s kitchen is a perfect analogy of a manufacturing environment. In every manufacturing environment a Standardized Meal System will provide many benefits. Although in those cases it is usually called a rhythm wheel instead. By using a rhythm wheel unnecessary changeovers are avoided. A learning curve enables the output and output rate to increase while changeover times are reduced. The output becomes more stable and predictable. Less mistakes are made, quality increases and inventory can be optimized. Also not unimportant, the organization does not need to waste time on putting out fires but can focus on more important issues such as optimization.
At home I am not likely to start using the Standardized Meal System any time soon. Eating the same dishes every week is plain boring. So I vary more and accept to waste food and time. Also my kitchen is not seldom in a state of chaos comparable to that of The Swedish Chef. But in a manufacturing environment boring is a synonym of good, predictability is a requirement for optimization and chaos does not contribute to the overall performance. When you come to think of it, the Standardized Meal System is a pretty good idea actually…