Hot dogs: the classic food that North Americans can’t help but associate with good memories of sports, campfires, and family barbecues. Most people might find it hard to believe that someone had to “invent” the hotdog bun, which the two didn’t just magically appear in the world in perfect union. There’s a bunch of stories on how the hotdog met its bun, but the most plausible story comes from Josh Chetwynd’s book, How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink.
“… the best story comes out of St. Louis in the 1880s, and there was a street vendor who was selling [hot dogs]. At the time they weren’t called hot dogs, they were called either red hots or frankfurters. And while selling them, he would give out white gloves, because when someone would buy the red hot, they wouldn’t want to get their hands scalded or wouldn’t want to get too greasy. The problem was that a lot of the patrons were running off with the gloves, and this was hurting his bottom line. What he ended up doing was going to a brother-in-law of his and saying, look I have this problem, and he was lucky enough that his brother-in-law was a baker and suggested the soft roll.”
What did the bun do for the hot dog?
From the story above, it’s clear that the bun adds value to the customer: it prevents grease/condiments from getting on their hands. But that’s not all. For the inventor, it reduced the waste — people walking off with the vendor’s gloves — that cut into his bottom line while simultaneously increasing the portability of the hot dog. No longer did people need to scarf down the hot dog to avoid getting grease on their hands, and no longer did the customers need to eat right by the vendor so they could return the gloves. No, the bun provided a convenient, waste less packaging for the hot dog to be consumed in a variety of situations — in cramped sitting quarters, like at a baseball game without a plate, or on a stroll along the boardwalk without dealing with greasy, burnt fingers. Finally, the hot dog bun made the hot dog more customizable. You could top the hot dog with condiments that provide a lot of value in the eyes of the customer (ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, mayo, onions, sauerkraut, the list goes on) but barely affected the bottom line. Condiments are cheap after all.
What’s the point?
One problem I see is in manufacturing is that people feel they need to do something for everyone and everything. They will run into an issue on the production line, say a bottleneck, and they will quickly come up with a laundry list of solutions: perform the 5 whys, improve efficiency at the station, hire another employee to run a station in parallel, separate the step into two serial processes, and decrease the input into the bottleneck. What will happen if you implement all of these solutions all at once? You will likely cause your bottleneck to overproduce, which will lead to bottlenecks further down the line. Additionally, and most importantly you will frustrate the people working on the line, process or service and give your Lean or Continuous Improvement program bad rap.
The point of the story is this: find your hotdog bun. Quit messing around with a bunch of different things, different products, solutions, add-ons, etc. Find the solution that will solve your problem in the simplest, practical and most effective way possible.
To help you identify and find your “hot dog bun,” please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help you succeed.