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From: John (HI) (
Subject:         The Toothpaste Factory
Date: November 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm PST

A toothpaste factory had a problem. They sometimes shipped
empty boxes without the tube inside. This challenged their
perceived quality with the buyers and distributors.
Understanding how important the relationship with them was,
the CEO of the company assembled his top people. They
decided o hire an external engineering company to solve
their empty boxes problem.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project
sponsor allocated, RFP, and third-parties selected. Six
months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution
-- on time, on budget, and high quality. Everyone in the
project was pleased.

They solved the problem by using a high-tech precision scale
that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a
toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would
stop; someone would walk over, remove the defective box, and
then press another button to re-start the line. As a result
of the new package monitoring process, no empty boxes were
being shipped out of the factory.

With no more customer complaints, the CEO felt the $8
million was well spent. He then reviewed the line statistics
report and discovered the number of empty boxes picked up by
the scale in the first week was consistent with projections,
however, the next three weeks were zero! The estimated rate
should have been at least a dozen boxes a day. He had the
engineers check the equipment, they verified the report as

Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, viewed the
part of the line where the precision scale was installed,
and observed just ahead of the new $8 million dollar
solution sat a $20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes off the
belt and into a bin. He asked the line supervisor what that
was about.

"Oh, that," the supervisor replied, "Billy, the kid from
maintenance put it there because he was tired of walking
over, removing the box and re-starting the line every time
the bell rang.”

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