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Can Motivational Talks Increase Defects?

Can Motivational Talks Increase Defects?
At a factory with high productivity, one worker was skipping break time to increase productivity. Was this causing mysterious defects?
Mysteries of Science


A metal decorating plant located in the farmlands of Iowa was an ideal work place for those not interested in farm chores.

The factory had a high productivity rate. A new supervisor was out to make a name for himself as a leader of this all female crew. He had been studying up on motivation and wanted to try some of the techniques on his employees.

One particular worker was highly motivated and started skipping a minute or two of her breaks. This already hard worker was able to process more parts than usual by the end of her shift.

But the next department was seeing defects on the parts, A straight line scratch near the bottom of the panels.

This defect would show up on three or four sheets and then everything would be fine only to repeat this pattern again.

What was causing the mysterious and repeating defect?

Here's the rest of the story.

The defects happened exactly 3 times every day. While investigators could not pinpoint the precise time of the problem, it seemed to be occurring with an equal time interval. The key was to ask what event happened three times every day, then focus in on that period and catch the scratch being made.

The crew stopped three times every day; a morning break, lunch and an afternoon break. An investigator stayed behind and didn't go to the lunchroom with the workers. One worker was still there inspecting and wiping sheets and asked why she was still working.

She said, "I wanted to boost productivity and I couldn't go any faster, so I'm donating my own time." As the investigator watched, she placed the next sheet against the two that were already leaning against the workstation. That was the cause of the scratches. As she accumulated extra sheets, there was no one to hand them to, so they were stacked.

The fix was simple the operator was required to take her full break.


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