Baseball and Operational Excellence

DPA Insights

“Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You field the ball.” – Durham Bulls coach Larry Hockett, from the movie Bull Durham

As we congratulate the San Francisco Giants on their well-earned World Series title and look back at an exciting season, we never expected that one of our clients would apply baseball wisdom to how improvements happen in a company.

Nor did we expect him to compare baseball to what companies and the consultants they hire must do to consistently improve their batting average.

That’s what happened last summer when Unicorr Packaging Group operations executive vice president Jamie Pious gave DPA’s team a thumbs up for the two Kaizen events we facilitated at Unicorr’s Nutmeg Container facility.

These events, which we regularly conduct under the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund’s PRIME (Process Reengineering for Increased Manufacturing Efficiency) program, help companies save energy by improving efficiency. Over the past three years, we’ve conducted 40 of these events for 20 manufacturers throughout Connecticut.

During Nutmeg Container’s first Kaizen event, we found ways to increase output within the facility’s wood container assembly area. During the second Kaizen event, we helped Nutmeg’s maintenance department improve the cycle time and reliability of a strapping machine that bales pallets of folded boxes.

For both events, we brainstormed ideas with employees. We worked with them to map out new production layout options and test maintenance techniques. Each department then did ‘dry runs’ to measure improvements.

The outcomes? Reduced walking and setup times. Better equipment performance. Initial implementation showed a 52 percent increase in wood container production and a 36 percent reduction in the time it took to strap box pallets. Equally important, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) activities are now being applied for all manufacturing equipment at Nutmeg Container, enhancing reliability across the plant.

Ok, so what did our work have to do with an obscure quote from a blockbuster baseball flick? We asked Pious what Coach Larry’s saying had to do with us, or the two projects we completed. How he responded should be part of any Consulting 101 curriculum:

“While everyone thinks their business challenge is unique, the truth is that every company has established processes for getting things done. You know the coach’s saying from Bull Durham? “Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You field the ball.”

“Kaizen events are all about creating an environment that considers all ideas, then empowering your people to try and implement those ideas.”

“What does this mean for companies seeking a process expert? It means that you don’t need inside knowledge. What you do need are facilitators who understand the commonalities, how to build a team environment and how to help management reward employees on that team for the good outcomes they helped bring about.”

Jamie, we couldn’t agree more.

Now, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

What’s your favorite baseball quote? Does it apply to your business? If so, how?

If you’re a manufacturer or distributor, what does ‘throwing the ball, catching the ball and fielding the ball’ mean in terms of your internal and external processes?

If you’re a consultant, what practices do you consistently use to get to the core of your clients’ challenges and help them increase their RBI’s?

Leave your comments below. And feel free to share this with a friend or colleague!

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