Steven King fans may recall “IT”, a 1990 television series, about an inter-dimensional creature that has the ability to transform itself into its victim’s worst fears.   In one scene, the protagonist is tortured in the school shower by telescoping shower valves.  Forced in one direction and then another by scalding water from dueling showerheads, the victim cannot escape the water’s control.

This scene occurred to me recently during a customer visit as I listened to the warehouse manager’s complaint:

“We have a request into IT to have theses two systems ‘talk’ to each other,” the warehouse manager related to me.  An inconsistency between the inventory control and shipping systems created daily Muri for his department.   “We get pick orders for which we have no material, and backorders don’t always show on the customer status screen.”

We continued to walk through the warehouse.  “We have several locator systems for inventory depending upon which system we log into,” he said.  “Repair parts have their own system, sales samples another, in addition to our regular picks.”

At the shipping dock, the manager began to describe yet another tracking system that matched kitted orders to shipping bays and trucks.  “This system worked fine when we first installed it, but we’ve added some services that no longer fit the model.  We have a request to IT correct the problem.”

“How many different systems do you have?” I finally asked.  “More than I can count,” replied the manager.

“It seems that they’re a bit out of date,” I commented.

“Yeah, as we’ve made changes over the years to our organization, the various computer systems haven’t kept up,” he remarked and then joked, ”and one of the org changes was outsourcing our IT support.  Now, we have no IT support on site.  It’s a nightmare.”

How many systems to you have?  Do they “talk to each other” or are they a Tower of Babel?  Do your IT systems support your Lean efforts or are they your “worst fear?”  Share your thoughts.


BTW.  Don’t miss Lean IT expert Mike Orzen, speaking our September 25-26 Northeast Shingo Conference in Worcester, Mass.    Hope to see you there.

4 thoughts on “IT

  1. Dave

    My story would sound a lot like that one, but I will spare you the details. I try and push for non computer related countermeasures (Kanban, Visual Factory, etc) but so often people think the computer system is the answer to everything. Im afraid we are swimming upstream against a strong current of IT solutions…

  2. Bruce Hamilton

    Thanks for your comment. Proliferation of bolted-on IT solutions is troubling. What’s more troubling is that often they are, as Dr. Shingo would say, “superficial improvements,” just automating a waste rather than eliminating it. And it the more technically oriented the industry, the greater the fascination IT solutions. It seems our servant has become our master.

  3. Matt

    Just a side comment–I find it ironic that I’m looking at an advertisement for Microsoft hosting solutions at the end of this particular article. Whatever keyword search is bringing that up as a good ad placement needs to learn a little context.

  4. Bruce Hamilton

    The irony seems appropriate. As I understand it, the ads that appear with the posts are not the same for everyone, but are selected and matched to the reader according to sites he/she has visited. Perhaps Microsoft thinks you are a prospect — or maybe this is just your worst fear 🙂


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