State of the Union 2017

2017 kicked off the process revolution at Kaspar Companies. The goal was to shift the focus and blame of problems away from our people and to the

“Better to be consistently good than occasionally great.”
-Mark Sanborn

There is not a more difficult task in sports than hitting a major league pitch. A 95 mph fastball coming from 60.5 feet away will hit the catcher’s mitt in .4 seconds. In less than half a second, a batter must determine the type of pitch, identify the location of the pitch, decide whether to swing at the pitch, and then proactively swing at the pitch directing his bat to make contact with the ball. It is the only sport where consistently failing 70% of the time will earn you a multimillion-dollar annual contract. While many individuals could occasionally connect with this 95 mph fastball, it is the consistent connection that separates us MLB couch fans from the players making millions. Regardless of the athlete’s natural born talent, this consistency is only the result of thousands of hours spent perfecting the process of hitting. While a batter’s stance may differ from player to player, once the swing starts, it is well documented that the process is uniform across all major league batters:

  1. Hit against a firm front side keeping the rest of the body and hands behind the baseball
  2. Back foot must rotate on its toe
  3. Wrist rolls over where the hands are palm up / palm down
  4. Head and eyes are on the ball
  5. Back knee, back hip and head remain in a straight balanced line
  6. Head should be right in the middle of the feet
  7. Top arm is bent generating the most power

This is the “standard work” of a hitter, and the more consistent and true to the process, the more successful the hitter. This process: over and over again. The same process: same way, every time, all the time.

Process within Kaspar Companies has historically not been thought about enough. Part of the reason may be that we are Texan. We are independent and believe we can power our way to success. This approach, while possibly noble and possibly results in occasional greatness, does not standardize processes — which ultimately makes all of our jobs much more difficult.

2017 kicked off the process revolution at Kaspar Companies. The goal was to shift the focus and blame of problems away from our people and to the processes behind the work.

This revolution started with bolt packs in the Ranch Hand paint and packaging departments. Approximately 5% (1 out of 20) grille guards were being shipped out with the wrong bolt pack. As a consumer, we have all had the experience of buying a bed or toy for our kids that requires assembly. You have all of the pieces all over the floor, and after an hour of work you realize you are missing a package of screws. If you are like me, you become terribly angry. This is what we were doing to our Ranch Hand customers. I do not believe that any of our employees came to work thinking, “let’s screw with our customers today and mess up a bolt pack.” I have spent a lot of time in the last three months in the Ranch Hand packaging and paint departments and we have good, solid, hardworking employees who like to have fun, want to succeed, and want to make our customers happy. So why were 1 out of 20 bolt packs being done incorrectly? The process they were given to ship the right bolt pack was terrible. After spending a week on the line, I told the team that the amazing thing was not that they got 1 out of 20 bolt packs wrong, but that they got 19 bolt packs right! Considering how we were doing what we were doing, it was incredible we got any of them right. Through pure brute force, the team was doing an incredible job considering what they had to work with, but like another group of Texans (“Remember the Alamo”), the outcome was ugly.

As a result, we held a kaizen event, brought in an outside consultant, and moved things around to create a process that would set up the team for success. This was not easy. Creating, and more importantly, consistently following a process, is never easy. It is a change of culture to do something the same way, every time, all the time. In business, it is called standard work. A detailed, documented written form of the process. The results? The same good, solid, hardworking employees who like to have fun, want to succeed, and want to make our customers happy have improved the outcome where now there is only a mistake on 1 out of 80 bolt packs. The best part is that they do not have to work nearly as hard! Prior to the kaizen, it was not uncommon to see employees literally sprinting to find a bolt pack to attach to the grille guard. Now, when I walk through packaging, the panicked scramble is rare. A good process means that work becomes easier. We still have a long way to go. We cannot be happy that 1 out of 80 of our customers will be extremely upset when trying to install their grille guard. In the true spirit of continuous improvement, we will continue to work on the process and improve the tools (RFID chips in the factory) for the team so that we eliminate these errors altogether. It is the process that we must continue to improve.

This process revolution has just recently reached the shores of Kaspar Manufacturing. In the Die & Tool department, the manufacturing of gun stocks was not going well. Success rate was maybe 10%? 20%? 30%? Most of the work done was rejected and behind schedule. Were these employees wanting to fail or did not care? No! They were as frustrated as everyone else and working their butts off, but the process was flawed. As I write this, it is still early as we are one week past the kaizen event, but the early results appear incredible with a 300% increase in quality and productivity.

The process revolution is not exclusively a manufacturing revolution. It applies to sales, accounting, HR, marketing, customer service, engineering, etc. etc. etc. We have incredible people who work at Kaspar Companies. Employees who care about our communities and this company. If you are in management, when mistakes happen, let’s first look at the process instead of the people at Kaspar Companies. We have to create good processes, continue to improve on those processes, and then follow that process the same way, every time, all the time.

Viva la revolución!

-Jason Kaspar
CFO, Kaspar Companies