Unchallenged Complex Problem for past 4 years!!

Here is a complex problem. I played with this ‘live’ problem for quite sometime and challenged many to solve this problem – verbally of course. Fair to say, it remains unsolved or unchallenged for the past 4 years. This is the first time I am writing it out.

Would you love to challenge your brains on this nagging problem? Here it goes for you:

A certain factory producing goods made out of rubber decides to raise its productivity. The rubber products are made in moulds that are placed in a hydraulic press and kept there under specified conditions of temperature, pressure and time for proper curing and formation to take place. The hydraulic operated presses have one mould cavity to place one mould at a time.

The owner comes up with a simple plan to improve productivity. He decides to increase the number of mould cavities in the hydraulic press allowing him to process multiple products at the same temperature, pressure and time. So, he goes for ‘two mould cavity’ presses and quickly replaces the old presses by these two mould cavity ones.  

He then calculates the possible output if he does that. Let us say that he would get 100 products by changing from single mould cavity press to double mould cavity press.

But he is dismayed when he finds out the actual output. It is less than 50% (acceptable products) of what he expected to get. How is that? He thinks that something must be wrong. So he decides to increase the number of presses accommodating double mould cavities.

What is the result? Again less than 50% (acceptable products) of what he thought he must get.

Infuriated, he goes for ‘3 mould cavity’ presses. He then increases the number of presses to 10. And also increases the number of operators and workmen to run the operation. He backs it up by increasing the number of supervisors to look after the operation. He also increases the number of overhead cranes from one to two. 

How did that turn out?

Again less than 50% of what he calculated would be the output.

Baffled, he then thinks to improve the system and institute a system of quality culture. He also thinks of training the workers and the supervisors to do their jobs better and pay close attention to the performance of the machines and moulds and the way rubber is injected into the mould cavities — trying to lessen the time and the apparent wastages in the system.

What happens?

The output refuses to move even a percentage point above 50%.

Can you crack this stubborn, nagging and chronic problem for the factory owner? He would be indebted. What would be the right thing for the owner to do?


Note: I first published this problem in Anveshan, Vol III, ’11 edition (April 2011) a technical magazine of NIT Durgapur, my alumnus


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