Getting Box-Binning accepted in two factories was one of my first large-scale macromemetic engineering projects. I was working on a factory floor with a hundred-plus people per shift. The manufacturing process involved "picking" from shelves of working inventory for each stage of the manufacturing process. I got the whole factory (and our other factory to the south unintentionally by memetic contagion) to change the way they performed this picking process using macromemetic engineering principles, in a matter of weeks, totally anonymously (nobody but a few people, who were not directly involved, knew I was behind it), with no "retraining" performed, and the adoption was total.
The situation that greeted me was that boxes of components came in from inventory and were taken out of the cardboard boxes and put into plastic bins of various sizes arranged on shelves (12), and then pickers would pick what they needed for a build out of these bins. We were working on a two-bin system (1) which the unpacking and bin-filling process made more complicated (2).
Our process involved scanning the bar codes of the components being "kitted" (14) for a build. Making these barcodes easy to get at was often a problem. The plastic bins would often have a barcode printed out from a special MS-Word file on a PC (13) and taped to the bin. Anyway, something that involved a lot of ad hoc work which only a few people knew how to do, undocumented.
I should point out that all of the cardboard boxes of components came with the barcodes on them, and also the quantity per box (which was needed to place a reorder).
The long story short is that with ESD restrictions having been almost totally removed in the new building, it was now possible to put the boxes right onto the shelf, two at a time, cut one of them open, and scan the barcodes right off the box.
The fact that this seemed like a brilliant solution impressed me, one of the senior line leads, and all of the supervisors, but as is true with humans, they like to keep doing whatever it was they have been doing, regardless of changing circumstances, regardless how silly and wasteful. This is why understanding the Laws of Macromemetics is valuable in making changes in mass human behavior where one would otherwise meet with stiff resistance.
One particularly bothersome situation was to do with the "shelves" (12) for the main unit assembly process. These so-called "shelves" were flat pieces of aluminum that IC boards would be bolted to and then slid into a unit chassis. There was a long history as to why things were done as they were, and I'll try to explain. In the old building, the whole area was ESD, so no plastic bags or cardboard boxes allowed, so the "shelves" had to be unpacked and stacked up on the storage shelves. When we first moved to the new building, the shelves were near the ESD area (4), and no cardboard or plastic allowed in ESD areas (static discharge danger), so it kind of made sense to preserve the old memeplex. Inside the boxes, each shelf was wrapped in a plastic bag, and so the routine was to open the box, and one by one unwrap each shelf from its plastic bag and stack them neatly one on top of the other. I have watched this process being performed (5), and it literally takes 20 minutes just to unpack one box (18).
The shelves with the shelves (12) were subsequently moved away from the ESD area, so moving cardboard boxes and removing plastic bags no longer remotely threatened electro-static sensitive components. No longer any need to empty entire boxes and stack up the shelves. Of course, this continued nonetheless.
Anyway, I reckoned we should just use the components right out of the boxes. We could just heave two of them up on the picking shelves, cut one of them open and pick stuff right out of it, use the barcodes on the boxes, order refills from the numbers and codes on the boxes, when a box empties, we just throw it into the cardboard recycling.
I showed the supervisors and one senior line lead what it looked like and got their agreement on my new process, but that, amazingly enough, was not enough to get other people on the line to adopt the process. They were resistant, uninterested, negative. Reason, authority, the power to command, etc., still don't change or negate the rules of macromemetics.
Macromemetic engineering is about replacing old memes with new, and making the new memes more appealing, so the old ones die out, atrophy, from disuse. The fact that my new system was better, and that I had the agreement and approval of supervision was nice, but not enough to change the mass behavior of the staff. I wanted to introduce the new processes, the new memes, and also systems of memes to support them, as well as bullying memes (immunomemes) against the old system.
My main focus was in designing immunomemes, bullying memes, and attaching them to bullying opportunities around the new process I wanted to implement (to defend them) and the old process I wanted to get rid of (to mock them, open them up to attack). The environment was fairly negative, interactions between workers containing a fair bit of bullying, and ideas like "How about this?" and "Wouldn't this work better?" were met with "Oh, this is the way we do things," or "That will never work" -- some pretty standard bullying memes (immunomemes), by the way.
I tried to dream up a lot of ways for people to bully each other over the old way and the new way. Regrettably, I don't have a lot of detailed notes or hard data as to how it went. I was just trying lots of things, saying things to people as if I had overheard them (17), putting Post-It notes up with slogans that I hoped would catch on, and so on.
But in the end, everybody was box-binning in all parts of our factory, even places where I didn't start it, including new lines that we opened, the process somehow made it an hour south to another factory (by what channel I don't know), mutate there and the mutations come back up to our factory. And I found myself being bullied by my coworkers for "not doing it right," which meant that they had learned it from somebody other than me, and did not recognize me as the creator of the whole system. Score! I succeeded without anybody knowing about it, except my supervisor, and also one line lead and most of the other supervisors at least knew what the process looked like, and had approved of it, because I showed them. Aside from that there had been no training, no lengthy approval cycles, no committees, nothing.
Spaghetti Against the Wall
(1) The two-bin system is part of the World-Class Manufacturing philosophy. It consists of having two "bins" of whatever item or component or whatever is being picked, the active bin and the reserve bin, with the idea that when the active bin is emptied, the reserve bin is immediately moved forward and a reorder is placed. The idea is that the two-bin system not only signals but also gives you time for a reorder to arrive and no interruption in the flow of inventory.
(2) Our manufacturing process was arranged into lines, each performing the same tasks. A propos of nothing, each line had about a half-dozen stages, including form-boarding, unit assembly, cabinet prep, cabinet install (building), and inspection. A big idea behind organizing by lines was that in order to increase throughput (or add specialty products), one could just add more lines (3). The lines were also a WCM concept, each worker was one step away and speaking distance from the worker that just completed the step just before, and so on.
(3) One problem with opening new lines at will is the vast number of plastic bins of all sizes that would be needed to stock all of the shelves all along the way. The shelves and workstations and tools could all be set up overnight or over a weekend, but getting the literally hundreds of bins sorted out, labeled, bar codes printed out and taped on, and stocked up was a formidable task, one that I wanted to make obsolete.
(4) ElectroStatic Discharge. In our original building, everywhere was an ESD area, that is, grounded, wearing smocks, and so on. And this may be the origin of keeping everything in ESD-safe plastic bins. In our new building, an effort was made to cut down the ESD areas, to just where they were absolutely necessary, namely the unit assembly area only.
(5) I termed this the "Shelf Elves," ie, people wasting their time with this chassis shelf unboxing, unbagging, and unstacking process.
(6) Adding memes to a system, to defend it (immunomemes) is something we see all the time, maddeningly in many cases. An existing memetic system, some practice that has been around, tends to be defended by adding more memes, in the form of other practices added to the old one, explanations, and so forth. Getting people to stop something, or switch to something better that would save time and resources, etc., tends to be met with resistance. This is bread and butter to memetic theory. A good sign for the memetic designer, if rather than discard your newly-injected memetic system outright, people try to come up with new memes to defend it (even if they seem silly, like box-flap-clips, or perhaps especially) then it indicates that your system may have taken firm root. Be encouraged!
(7) Sociologist have observed this quite a lot. When a culture borrows a memeplex from another culture, they tend to preserve it as-is. A good sign for the memetic designer.
(8) The effigy approach is where you roundly criticize some non-existent third party for the bad behavior, and people hearing about it will get the message, that they shouldn't do the bad way, and become interested in the new, good way. Here's an essay that discusses this: 模倣子 Immunomemetic Cheese-Dicks in the Platoon