January is my least favourite month. Here in the UK it is rare to see the sun, even today as I write this, it has just stayed a dull and dreary grey. However January is when we start back teaching for March exams, and in this series, I am teaching the L5M9 Operations Management Module from the CIPS Level 5 Advanced Diploma.
It’s a module students either love or hate, however, I am quite fond of this module as I love to talk about Poka Yoke (fail-safe) techniques as part of my CIPS training. In fact every year it reminds me of how a lack of Poke Yoke created one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life, and yes I am about to share that with you now.
Around four years I was on a train heading south, and this was an older train without all the bells and whistles of some of the newer models. At some point in the journey, I realised I needed to go to the toilet and made my way there fighting against crowds of people standing in the aisles (the great British train system strikes again!). The door was one of the slow opens/closes without a lock on the actual door, but a lock button on the wall. I sat down and will spare you details of what I was doing, but then all of a sudden the door started to open.
I stared at it in horror, unable to move off the toilet I think I just shouted no and froze. The guy who had opened the door locked eyes with me, a matching look of horror on his face. I somewhat unnecessarily stated, “I’m on the toilet!” and he squeaked “Sorry!” at me before pressing the close button again.
As I stated earlier, this was a slow opening and closing door. The closing of this door took probably only 5 seconds but it felt like five minutes. With my trousers around my ankles as the door slowly closed all I could see was a sea of people who had no seat and were standing in the vestibule area. They were all looking directly at me. I think one even grinned and waved, but this could be my horrific imagination trying to embarrass me further. After all that humiliation, I then had to walk past the crowd to get back to my seat. Everyone was excruciatingly silent. I guess I should be lucky I didn’t receive a slow clap!
So why am I telling you this? Well, this directly relates to your CIPS Level 5 modules. Poka Yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing”, it is meant to make it impossible for a process to fail or make a mistake. In the newer train models, they have a very well-spoken woman stating please lock the door behind you. This would have reminded me to lock the door, sparing the train passengers from being accidental voyeurs. Without this, I forgot, and you know the outcome.
Other examples of Poka Yoke you may be familiar with are things such as car sensors which pull you back into your lane if you feel you are starting to drift or washing machines that only start when the door is closed and cannot be opened until the cycle is over.
See who said Operations Management is boring 😉
If you are looking to start your CIPS Level 5 Advanced Diploma training, our Diamond Package starts at the end of March 23 for the May exams. Find more info here