‘Moonshine Wars’ knock back solutions
Via a free-thinking competition, factory pros are discovering ground-breaking, simple solutions to production woes
BY ALLEGRA BERRIAN
Boeing Lean Manufacturing gathered 16 teams of manufacturing employees—from mechanics to engineers—in the big executive auditorium in the former Seattle headquarters building late last year to participate in an unusual competition. They were there to demonstrate how some crack cross-functional teams are sharpening the worldclass Boeing production system.
Each team, made up of five or six employees trained in Lean production techniques, demonstrated a simple and groundbreaking solution to a chronic production problem. Dubbed "Moonshine Wars," the event was the first competition of its kind in the company. It was designed to draw creative solutions from the pros in the factory and recruit new "moonshiners."
"Moonshining" is a Boeing name for the Lean Manufacturing practice of dedicating non-production time and space to freewheeling problem solving. Boeing practitioners dubbed it that, explains Steve Kosonen, internal Lean Enterprise consultant, because, like a moonshine still (a name for a crudely made device used to make homemade liquor illegally), "it takes place out of the limelight—and it uses available materials."
And Lean sensei (teacher) Chihiro Nakao emphasized another element of the moonshine formula—having fun.
"In Moonshine shops you're supposed to think like a 12-year-old; they have no resources but they don't have limitations, either," explained Kosonen. "And mistakes are good, because that's how you learn."
The teams came from the Puget Sound area, Portland, Ore., and Wichita, Kan. Boeing Australia was there via video conference.
At the event, the Lean consultants assigned each team a manufacturing problem, gave it a budget of $1,000 and told it to have fun. Teams had one week to brainstorm ideas, draw plans and create a list of materials, but they were not permitted to begin constructing their mock-up or model until later.
After a week of creative brainstorming, the teams began four days of what Nakao called "trystorming," that is, using actual materials.
The winning model was the under-wing sanding cart—complete with a mini hood and decorative flames—that eliminates injuries for the sanding operator in the paint hangar. The pneumatically powered device, christened "Sky Sander" by its proud creators, won the grand prize for the Tube and Duct Center Moonshine team. Brian Hughey, team leader, was proud of the accomplishment.
"The next day we took it down to the paint hangar," Hughey said. "It performed as advertised, and the crew provided some simple modifications. We've been requested to submit it for patenting."
The grand prize, previously unannounced, was a trip to Japan for an international event.
"We were stunned at the magnitude of the prize," said Dan Healy, a veteran Moonshiner. "We'd have been happy with a dinner."
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