Yesterday I had the opportunity to walk through a manufacturing plant with the goal of finding ways to achieve zero defects. I simply went over to one operator after another and asked, "What defects have been recently found from this operation?" I also asked them to give me examples. Amazingly, information and examples poured out. Since I teach Quick and Easy Kaizen I asked them to write each problem down on our Kaizen form; then I asked them to suggest ways to eliminate those defects and ideas poured forth.
As an example, in one area around 100 little stems came into this department on a board with the flat tops up, stems down, and it required the operator to first turn them over in order to insert little black O rings, (washers). I asked if there was a way to either receive the stems in reverse order or to develop a very simple device to allow them to flip all 100 stems over at one time. I didn't tell them how to do it. I asked. I then watched them insert little black O rings onto the stems and was told occasionally, one out of five, O rings fall into the wrong grove and have to be removed and re-inserted. I asked them more questions and sure enough one lady said, "Why can't I have a different tool with a stopper that would only allow the O rings to be placed into the correct grove." I quickly asked an engineer if he could make such a tool and his answer was, "of course." Another idea came out that after the o rings were placed onto the stem, all stems could be placed onto another board which would not hold stems with wrong O rings.
What I learned was that these people have great ideas, but you have to ask them. And we want them to come up with Poka-yoke ideas that absolutely prevent defects from occurring. I am hopeful that quickly we will have hundreds of poka-yoke devices implemented by the operators themselves.
It is a wonderful journey for me to find such "jewels," in the average worker. You must ask and not tell.