The phrase “Stopping the Line” is a hallmark of great companies interested in quality, safety, performance, and integrity. “Stopping the Line” is a reference to a traditional manufacturing process where an item is assembled in a line with pieces and parts assembled together to form a complete, ready-to-go product at the end. If you have ever seen an automobile assembly line, then you know what a line manufacturing process looks like.
“Stopping The Line” is a sign of customer respect, employee respect, quality, safety, performance, and integrity because it means that everyone waits once the line is halted until the issue is resolved. Great companies believe that stopping the line for safety and quality issues is a right and a requirement for all employees to safely return to their families at the end of the day and simultaneously deliver a high quality product to customers. In the end, “Stopping the Line” is built on strong feeling of ethics and trust for employees and customers.
A military experience I had several years ago reinforced for me the vital importance and respect that “Stopping the Line” represents for a company. I was serving in a support role and my unit was preparing for an airborne parachute operation while training at a military base in Wyoming. It was early December and Wyoming was everything that you expected it to be: cold, bitter wind, and light falling snow. I was performing a critical series of safety checks on the soldiers, their parachutes and other equipment. The soldiers were in full parachute equipment with weapons, rucksacks, and all their cold weather gear. Despite the cold weather, they were sweating under the heavy load of their gear and anxious to get going.
While I was doing the safety checks, I was well aware that we were getting behind schedule. My Company Commander and my Battalion Commander were anxious and pressing me to hurry up and get going. As I did my checks, I took a deep breath and focused intently on doing my job the right way. For parachute jumpmasters, “Smooth is Fast and Fast is Smooth.” I was taught by great leaders that rushing a critical job will not make the quality better.
As I was almost done, I ran my hands over the last soldier's static line and felt a small tear and a burn in one of the most critical pieces of equipment that was facing down and away from me. I further inspected the tear and discovered a major equipment defect that could have seriously endangered the soldier. Right there, I “Stopped the Line” and had the soldier get a new parachute and equipment. An hour later and behind schedule, the parachute operation went off safely and effectively.
In every company, not just manufacturing, the concept of “Stopping the Line” for quality and safety exists. In a customer billing process, if the bill to the customer is not accurate, timely, and complete, then someone needs to “Stop the Line” to ensure the customer gets a fair bill and the company receives a timely payment for the services provided. In a government role, shortages of time, expertise, or people may lead to purchasing an inferior product or excessive quantity. Someone needs to “Stop The Line” to ensure that taxpayer funds are used for the current purpose and for the correct quantity.
“Stopping the Line” taught me that everyone is responsible for safety and quality all of the time. Additionally, there is never any reason to rush and complete a task if there is a chance that someone may be hurt or injured. What surprised me the most is that by “Stopping the Line,” it caused my peers and fellow soldiers to respect me even more because I took the time under stressful conditions to do my job right and ensure everyone was safe.
The military values of joining honesty, performance, safety and quality together are a great fit within any company's continuous focus on safety, performance, and delivering a quality product and experience to the customer.
Have you ever had to “Stop the Line”? Share your insights below.
Other Articles of Interest:
About the Blogger:
Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 200 articles in over 100 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.