What have paper lanterns got to do with improving the speed of publication of correct and high-quality documents by the CAA?
This question is triggered by the fact that after three months from the initial issue at the beginning of March, we are still without a useable version of CAP722H, the snappily named “Specific Category Operations – Pre-defined Risk Assessment Requirements, Guidance & Policy.
This document is important because it contains the risk assessment that all specific category operators will be expected to be working to. In most instances, the errors and inconsistencies in the document won’t matter, because , as we know for certain, it is very rare for anybody to get hurt by a drone during a specific category operation.
But if there was an incident under a CAP722H PDRA01 authorisation, the people checking the pilot’s actions will be lawyers. They won’t care about the practicalities of operations, they will just be looking to ensure you followed all the specified mitigations.
So, given that the current version 1 of CAP722H has been rejected by the specific category community, why is it taking sooo long to resolve the issues with the document?
It is entirely possible that there is a huge political intrigue behind the delay. That is unacceptable to those depending on drones for their livelihoods. Anybody involved in such mischief would, I assume, be hanging their heads in shame by now and looking for another job…they clearly shouldn’t be given any power over people’s businesses.
Let’s be kind and assume that there is a problem in the CAAs document production process itself. How might this be solved?
The process within the CAA may have a parallel with western mass production techniques from the middle to late 20th century. Back then, a typical European (yes, that includes British) car factory would turn out products which were fundamentally flawed, full of systemic problems that were built in as part of the manufacturing process. A huge proportion of the plant would be given over to fixing the brand new vehicles that has come off the production line.
It was incredibly inefficient as vehicles were being built, checked, then partially rebuilt. And of course there was no guarantee that the “repair” process would be any better than the initial production. This led to the sort of quality issues that dogged the industry for years.
The problem was caused by the fact that stopping the production line was a huge no-no. It could only be authorised by senior management and their reputations tested to rest on keeping that line running.
This is where paper lanterns come in.
In lean manufacturing processes, introduced by Toyota, the paper lantern is given the Japanese name “andon”. When a product is launched to the production line, anybody in the process is authorised to stop the line for any quality problem they spot.
A team is immediately put together to look at the root cause of the problem and to decide on a solution. The team will be made up of appropriate staff including the relevant engineers, production staff…whoever is appropriate and knowledgeable. The line doesn’t restart until a solution is in place. This can lead to lots of pauses in production…but the result is that poor quality product doesn’t get off the line.
The process of stopping the line is known as “pulling the andon”, the equivalent of drawing the paper lantern down to shine light on a problem.
I don’t know how the CAA organises the writing and checking of its documentation prior t publication. But if it doesn’t already, it may wish to consider empowering all staff or other stakeholders involved in the process to pull the andon at any stage in the process….yes, even on the planned day of publication.
Because when those paper lanterns have to be pulled by the drone pilots who are the end users of their efforts, there is a real risk of them catching fire.