Efficient Plant March 2021 - 8

column | implementations

Standardize
Before
Improving
Dr. Klaus M. Blache
Univ. of Tennessee Reliability
and Maintainability Center
(RMC)

The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England looks
confusing but is efficient (traffic throughput) and
safe. They took time to train (stabilize) by having
police officers stationed at each mini-roundabout
during the pilot phase to evaluate driver responses.
It illustrates how a seemingly complex process can be
made stable, standardized, and effective.

8

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EP2103implementations.indd 8

W

HEN YOU MAKE
changes (anticipated
improvements) in an
unstable process, you introduce chaos.
While living in the village of Dimondale, MI (suburb of Lansing), a small
roundabout was constructed at a
three-way, out-of-the-way intersection.
It was more like a small bump in the
road at first. It just showed up and as
I drove by periodically, I noticed that
there were a growing number of skid
marks over the bump. I surmised that
nighttime drivers were surprised and
stomped on the brakes, sliding over it.
Later, additional signage and a lighted
bollard made it more visible. Much
later, I found out that it was America's
first mini roundabout opened to traffic
on May 30, 2001.
Mini roundabouts are quite unlike
large roundabouts. They have a paved
central island that larger vehicles can
drive over, since the circle is often too
small to work for them.
Of course, knowing that, I needed to
know the location of the largest roundabout. Several sources pointed
to Putrajaya, Malaysia, with a
roundabout 2.7 miles in diameter. In 1972, designer/traffic
engineer, Frank Blackmore
created one of the largest traffic circles in the world-the
Seven Circle Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England.
According to Wikipedia,
" this massive roundabout may
look like chaos at first glance,
but there's serious planning
behind it. Traffic flow around
the inner circle is anticlockwise, and traffic flows in the

usual clockwise manner around the five
mini-roundabouts on the outer loop. The
complex junction offers multiple paths
between feeder roads. " I drove it twice
and it was very stressful.
In the big picture, roundabouts are
proven to be safe, and I've learned to
appreciate them. Most people, however, still drive poorly when using them,
primarily because they just showed up
without standardized training. As a
result, people follow what they observe
by watching others and assume the rest,
creating lots of variability. It should have
been:
1.	 Plan: Make sure what the best practice is for you. Then clarify the rules.
2.	 Do: Teach the best practice.
3.	 Check: Hold people accountable for
following the rule/best practice.
4.	 Act: Empower team members to
make ongoing changes. Follow up to
confirm that the new idea was effective.
A key part of W. Edwards Deming's
teaching was that it is necessary to
reduce variation before trying to
improve quality. Otherwise, you are
most likely increasing variation (other
defects) and hurting your processes. By
first standardizing to current daily best
practices, you're adding stability to your
processes. Similarly, improvements in
reliability and maintainability work
better on top of a stable process as a
foundation for meaningful change. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache
is director of the Reliability &
Maintainability Center at the Univ. of
Tennessee, and a research professor
in the College of Engineering.
Contact him at kblache@utk.edu.

MARCH 2021

3/1/21 9:26 AM


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Efficient Plant March 2021

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