“We scrap seven out of every eight bells we make.” An uneasy hush fell over the boardroom. Arthur scanned around the worried faces. He had their attention now. “This is costing us a small fortune. We have to find a way to make each bell right first time, or this company is going under.”
Derek, the purchasing manager, spluttered into life. “But we’ve been round this loop umpteen times Arthur. We can’t afford the new molds we need to solve the problem of casting surface finish. It’s poor surface finish that makes them go scrap: well, the majority of them anyway.”
Mike, production manager, grunted an agreement.
Arthur fought to control his temper “We cannot just accept this situation. If we don’t come up with a solution, we’re finished. This company has been founding bells in this town for two hundred and seventy years. We have to find a way to keep us going until we can fund the new moulds.”
“Can’t we borrow the money for the molds?” asked Mike without any conviction.
Tim, accounts manager, chipped in “Come on Mike, you know we’re stretched to the limit. The bank is twitchy enough already. They won’t let us take on any more debt.”
Arthur clenched his fists, then forced himself to relax. “Right, enough of this. I don’t know what any of you planned to do for the remainder of this week but, whatever it was, forget it. Go and find a solution for this problem. Surf the net, ask your granny, spy on another foundry, I don’t care but I don’t want to see any of you again until we have a solution we can work with. Now, go to it.”
Two days later, Arthur was at his desk and nearing despair. The management team had done a lot of scurrying but no-one had offered any useful ideas. He suspected the scurrying was more associated with looking for alternative employment than answers to quality problems.
Arthur heard a little tap at his door. “Come!” he barked. Sally Atkins, their only remaining apprentice, poked her head around the door. “I’m sorry Mr. Taylor, could you spare me a moment, please? I can come back later if…”
“No Sally, come on in and sit down. What can I do for you? How’s your granddad?”
“He’s fine Mr. Taylor, thank you: enjoying his retirement but still reminiscing every day about his years making bells here.”
“So, what’s up?”
“I’ve been thinking about this problem with the molds. I thought of a way of doing it. I know it’s not perfect but I think it might just do as a temporary fix.”
“OK” said Arthur, dubiously. “Have you asked Mike Donaldson about it?”
“Yes, I told him but he said I was being stupid. But I’m sure it can work.”
“Mike’s been making bells here for thirty years.”
“Yes, I know that: he was my granddad’s apprentice.”
Arthur had to laugh at that. “OK, so what’s your idea?”
“We make twenty-eight different sizes of bells. The molds are matched: inners and outers. If we use the correct size outer but a size smaller inner, we will cast a bell with a much thicker wall. It will mean a lot more machining to get them down to the correct size but we’re bound to remove any surface defects in the process.”
“Good grief, that’s brilliant. Sally, that’s just perfect. It’s so simple yet absolutely effective. Thank you, thank you so much. Why didn’t we think of that? You’re so clever. God, I could kiss you right now. Come on: we’ll go and explain it to Mike and get him started.”