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The Empty Soap Box

This is a case study from a Japanese leading cosmetics company.

The  company received  a complaint that a consumer had  bought a soap box that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all  the  packaged  boxes  of soap  to  the  delivery department.  For some  reason,  one soap  box  went  through  the assembly line empty. Management  asked  its  engineers  to  solve the  problem.  Post-haste, the  engineers worked  hard  to  devise  an  X-ray  machine with  high- resolution  monitors  manned  by  two  people  to  watch  all  the  soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. It was effective but came at a huge cost.

The same problem was also posed to workers on the assembly line. One came up  with this cost-effective solution:

He  placed  a  heavy-duty industrial  electric fan near the exit-point of the conveyor belt, switched on the fan, and while filled soap boxes passed the fan, empty boxes were blown off the line.  


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