This story was told to Mark Graban by Alice Quesenberry and has been edited for clarity.
I’m the Director of Etch Engineering at Qorvo in Hillsboro, Oregon. We produce wafers and semiconductor solutions used primarily in mobile devices, network infrastructure, and defense applications. I spend my time mostly in the main factory here, working alongside manufacturing teams, operators, and maintenance technicians.
Starting A Lean Journey
We began our lean journey in earnest in June of 2013 when Gadi Dvir came in as a new VP. We call it HVCPI - high velocity continuous process improvement. Dvir wanted to use lean principles to drive improvement in all areas of the organization, from safety, speed, and cost to quality and employee education.
Dvir dove right in. He was obviously committed to the idea of Lean and was the primary teacher and coach of the cultural transformation. We’re lucky in that none of us ever had to worry about whether or not our boss would support our improvement work.
He started by training us, his staff team. Then we developed a three-day class that we used to start training the rest of the managers and the engineers, and then the support staff. We eventually trained all of the operators in a one-day class.
"This is Crazy."
I remember in one of the first classes that we had, one of the other engineering managers stood up and he said, "You know, this all sounds really great. But where are we going to keep all these ideas? This is crazy."
"You're asking everybody to go out and raise their hand when they find a problem, or document their PDCA process, and show how they're coordinating with the other shifts. How are we going to do all this?" We said, "Oh, that's a really good question." We didn't know at that point, because we were creating it almost from scratch.
Our first thought was that maybe we could train everybody on how to use an A3. We used a big piece of flipchart paper, and divided it into four quadrants. We used the A3s and we thought, "Maybe we'll just take pictures and put them online," or, "Maybe we'll figure out a way to put them in a one page PowerPoint that everyone can go look at, and we'll figure out how to do a search if you have to search them."
Everybody said, "Oh, OK." We got going and we trained more people and more people, and people were coming up with more ideas. We were trying to collect all these ideas, and do something with everything that we'd learned. But we were stumped on how to share the ideas.
From "Not Another Software Solution..."
Eventually Jeff Murray, who was our program manager for our HVCPI journey at the time, contacted our consultant, Jamie Flinchbaugh.* Jamie said, "I've got an idea. There's this company, KaiNexus, you should try it out." We said, "I don't know. The last thing we need is another software solution...” These days, I use one for my payroll, one for my expense reports - there are all of these different programs you have to use, and different logins to manage. The last thing we wanted was to add yet another software program to the pile.
In a way, we thought it would be refreshing just to have no computer solution needed in order to make improvements. Let's just get them done. But eventually we realized we needed something more than that.
To Needing KaiNexus.
So we started using the KaiNexus continuous improvement software as a way to track all other these ideas that we were asking people to identify. For us, that was the heart of it - to empower the person who's doing the work. We want the operator, the technician, the engineer - anyone, really - to say, "You know what? This bugs the crap out of me. I'm finally going to do something about it. Let me go write this down somewhere."
We wanted to have a way for them to do that easily, because you can't always stop what you're doing, get a flipchart, draw your A3, and start working on it. And if you did, where would you put it? Because of course, you're going to have to share it with the guy on the other shift, at the other end of the week.
That's what's been great for us - KaiNexus is a way to collect and potentially to share these ideas. It’s easy for people to put their ideas into the system without disrupting their workflow. KaiNexus makes it possible for us to share everyone’s improvement ideas with everyone else, and provides a searchable database of the ideas so that we can find them again later.
* Disclosure: Jamie Flinchbaugh is an investor in KaiNexus and a board member