By Robert Minardi
In any optical lab, regardless of size or output, there are two mechanisms always intertwined: optics and manufacturing. As eyewear professionals, we sometimes tend to neglect some of the manufacturing principles that are the foundation of producing great quality eyewear quickly and efficiently. Here are three powerful, but sometimes overlooked, concepts your lab shouldn’t ignore.

Task Saturation: Breakage’s Best Buddy

Task saturation is a term used in aviation. It’s defined as having too much to do, without enough time, tools or resources to do it. Basically, if a fighter pilot has too many little tasks to do, they lose focus on much more important things like their altitude. Task Saturation can cost a pilot their life. Is it costing you money? Have you been noticing breakage for really simple mistakes? For instance, jobs that are loaded on the wrong edger or routed to the wrong areas? Do you constantly tell your techs to just “pay attention”? It may not be their fault. They may be task saturated. There’s a great article on the Psychology Today website that recites some neuroscience that shows our brain don’t multitask task like we think, or at all. The site also provides a simple, yet clever, demonstration of this.
Dr. Joann Deak, author of “Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” has some interesting insight into this topic. She claims, “When you try to multitask, in the short-term, it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually, at least, doubles the number of mistakes.”
If you’re attributing a lot of breakage to your staff not paying attention, you may need to make some adjustments. The first thing to do is make a list of every task someone performs.
Trust me, it adds up really fast. Then evaluate. How many tasks are they performing that can cause a breakage? If it’s more than one or two, can you give one task to someone else with less on their plate? Can you sequence the tasks such
that it makes it easier to remember the critical stuff?
If they’re making errors related to misreading paperwork or job routing, have them circle the items they need to check
with a colored pen to help them keep focus. Each operator has their own color that never changes. Yes, it may take an
extra second or two, but if it’s a high breakage or critical area, the payoff will be worth it.
Always stay conscious of how many tasks each staff member must perform in a given hour. This is biology, to overlook it is a big mistake.

Flow don’t you know?

Have you ever heard someone say “I was in the zone!”? In psychology it’s known as “Flow” and it’s defined as: The
mental state of operation, in which a person performing an activity, is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. That’s a very good place for your staff to be. Are you doing everything you can to make sure they get to a state of flow and stay there?
Flow killers:
• Repeated stopping and starting: A state of flow can be reached in about 15 minutes, and it takes another 15 if it’s broken.
• Unclear process methods: You can’t have your staff just making it up as they go along.
• Low energy environment: If you’re not excited to tackle the tasks at hand, why would your staff be?
Flow facilitators:
•No interruptions: How many times an hour do your techs have to stop what they’re doing? Do they say “I’d get much
more done if I didn’t have to _____________!” Listen to them, they’re probably right.
• Precisely defined processes: Everyone must know exactly what to do and how to do it. Make some rock solid Standard
Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and Work Instructions to reduce variation in your process.
•Energy: Don’t walk around like a Grumpy Gus! Your energy, positive or negative, has a corresponding effect on your staff.


Humans are, for the most part, visual learners. In a study by the 3M corporation, research concluded that visual information processes 60,000 times faster than text. Up to 90 percent of the information we absorb in a given day is visual and the other four senses share the remaining 10 percent. Take advantage of this!
Out of the following two examples, which do you think will prevent more breakage?
It’s tempting to throw this alert together in three minutes because you have things to do, but it’s really not very useful. The operator will read it once and then disregard it. I’ve seen an entire wall full of alerts and notices just like this. They had a big bold heading with a puny 20-point font and no picture or color.
In the bottom example, it’s very clear as to which way is correct.
When loading the engraver make sure the alloy indent is facing forward.
If it's facing backward, the lens will be engraved upside down.

Also, notice how the word “forward” is used in both examples. You don’t want to use the word “backward” because that’s the situation you don’t want to happen. Even the incorrect example, reinforces the correct way to load the job. Also, notice the change in angle from the correct and incorrect way. Make the correct example from the angle
they’ll see it at. The incorrect example should be a different angle and perspective. Don’t make two nearly identical
photographs for them to choose from. It’s a subtle detail, but aids in the alert's effectiveness. The picture should do
most of the talking anyway, so use as few words as possible.
The words are necessary to get the initial message across. After the first time the operator reads it, they disregard the
text anyway, so make the picture count! Don’t be lazy with your signage. It’s one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. A good sign should stream the critical information into your operator’s brains instantaneously with no conscious thought. Also, vertical field of vision is approximately 60 degrees up and 75 degrees down, so it’s better to mount it a little low than too high. Another tip is to place your signs in plastic documents sleeves to keep them looking fresh longer. Some sleeves even come with magnetic strips already on them; making it easy to stick them to machines and steel beams.
The Japanese have a principle called kaizen. It infers “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.”
It’s a powerful message for a tiny word. With a little effort, these tips you can ensure kaizen in your lab.

Robert Minardi, ABOC, has been in manufacturing for almost 25 years. He’s a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with a background in quality control.


Lab Talk-February/March 2018