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October 16, 2012

Fail Fast, Fail Cheap

By rbergs October 16, 2012
Thomas Edison behind an image of a light bulb

Thomas Edison

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
- Thomas Edison

Ok, let’s first address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the word FAIL.  Some people are actually afraid of the word fail…  But I contend – You haven’t failed if you learned something.

What is Fail-Fast-Fail-Cheap (FFFC)?
Stop spending time and money on developing new processes, products, or  marketing messages without trying (at least) pieces of it out.

TMAC, the U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate for Texas worked with a company that wasn’t getting all they needed from their vacuum system, it was not removing debris from the material they were cutting.  They were ready to spend thousands to tens-of-thousands of dollars for a new solution.  After listening to their concerns and watching the process, we came up with, admittedly what seemed like a dumb idea, which was simply make the vacuum pull over a smaller area.
Back at TMAC HQ we cobbled together a crude prototype and tested it with a milling machine and sample material.  It seemed to work, so it was time to try it on the real machine.

Can you imagine walking into a company with a 2-liter bottle and a roll of duct-tape? As you can imagine they laughed – mercilessly. However, after a quick test our concept proved to be a rousing success. So much so that the customer didn’t want us to take back our prototype – it worked so much better than what they already had in place.  For a minimal investment of time and money, we were able to test the concept – fast and cheap.  If it didn’t work, back to the drawing board and no one was out much.  This time it DID work, so the company moved forward with the adjustment without purchasing an entirely new system. This example of cost avoidance directly benefits your bottom line!

Function, not form, is key when proving out a concept.

On a side note, it is very important to ensure that sufficient resources, in terms of time, money or both, are spent to truly test out a concept.  Many (including us) have encountered instances where there wasn’t enough time spent to test a concept, and when it failed, it was not clear whether it was the concept or the implementation.

Bottom line: The key to Fail Fast Fail Cheap is to spend minimum resources to get the concept off the paper and into the application so you can tell if it needs to be revised, killed, or finalized.

Do you have a proven system for testing your new ideas?

September 24, 2012

Manufacturing in America (Infographic)

By Jennifer Wilson September 24, 2012

Manufacturing in America is central to our economic strength and a driver of innovation. Manufacturing jobs are some of the best in the country, yet the public doesn’t perceive them to be. And there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill them. But together, we can help tell the real story…

Manufacturing in America

Infographic courtsey of NIST MEP (http://mep.nist.gov)

August 6, 2012

Why Review?

By rhernandez August 6, 2012

The purpose of conducting management review is for the management team to get together at determined intervals to

Management review meetings are critical to the success of the organization.

Is everyone on the same page?

discuss how effective its business is. This included looking for “opportunities for improvement and the need for changes” to how the business is run.

To some organizations, holding management reviews is as dreaded and avoided as going to the dentist. Even dentist trips should occur twice a year for cleaning, so I recommend against annual reviews.

So how often should “Management Review” be held?

When should management review “results of audits”?

Why not within 5 working days after the audit is held?

When should management review “customer feedback”?

Why not the same or the same day received or the following day?

Or why not at a weekly management meeting and review applicable items? How often should management review open “action items”?

How often should management review key performance results (aka Quality Objectives)?

Certainly not annually.

You may have picked up on the recurring theme in the examples above. The answer to “How often the activities listed in “5.6, Management Review” (ISO 9001:2008) need to be reviewed?” is, it depends. It depends on how timely and effective you want your appropriate action to be. The ISO 9001:2008 standard does not say that all the activities listed in “5.6, Management Review” have to be reviewed at the same time. As long as all items of 5.6 are covered and records are kept, whatever frequency of management reviews enables the organization to run its business most effective is acceptable.

How often do you review?

May 1, 2012

Avoiding Conflict at Your Workplace

By Charaee May 1, 2012

Workplace Violence, Any Time – Any Where

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.  It can affect and involved employees, clients, customers and visitors. Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.

There are four recognized types of workplace violence.  They include:

  1. An employee involved with a criminal outsider (e.g. robbery)
  • Assailant has no business relationship to workplace
  • Motive is to commit robbery or other criminal act
  • Accounts for most of fatalities from workplace violence
  1. An employee involved with a client (e.g. customer, student, patient)
  • Assailants can be current or former customers or clients such as passengers, patients, students, inmates, criminal suspects or prisoners
  • The workers attacked typically provide direct services to the public

In some industries, violence by customers or clients occurs on a daily basis, especially verbal threats

  1. Assailant has employment-related involvement
  • Current or former employee or manager
  • An employee involved with a co-worker
  1. An employee involved with a spouse or other significant relationship
  • Assailant confronts a worker, at the worksite, with whom they have a personal relationship outside of work.
  • Personal relations include:
    • Current or former spouse
    • Lover
    • Friend
    • Relative
    • Acquaintance

Companies should take it upon themselves to:

1. Develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy

    • A policy should carefully define what workplace violence is, and should be written to complement any existing policies that deal with assistance programs. The policy should also let employees know what help is available from the employer.

    2. Train Employees

      • Procedures need to be developed to respond to situations in which violence erupts in the workplace. Employees should be trained on what specifically they should do when they spot it. Emphasis should be placed on how coworkers or close friends may assist in detecting potential violence. In addition, training should be given to managers and supervisors, human resources personnel and company security. The policy and procedures need to be communicated to all employees, with their specific reporting protocol.

      A number of different actions in the work environment can trigger or cause workplace violence. It may even be the result of non-work-related situations such as domestic violence or “road rage.” Workplace violence can be inflicted by an abusive employee, a manager, supervisor, co-worker, customer, family member, or even a stranger.

      Whatever the cause or whoever the perpetrator, workplace violence is not to be accepted or tolerated.

      April 24, 2012

      TWI Job Relations Session 1

      By Pat Boutier April 24, 2012

      Management Culture or Cultural Engineering & TWI Job Relations Blog

      Please read and answer the two questions below:

      Why do managers think they don’t need to learn how to deal with employees?

      Do any of the numbered items below ring through with yourself, or with managers you have observed?

      1)”Basically if a manager has treated one personnel problem successfully, he thinks everyone should be able to handle it too.”

      2) “Everyone has had a tremendous amount of personnel training, they should know how to deal with people problems.”

      3)  “I just wish they would all grow up and behave.”

      4) “We don’t have any real personnel problems, everyone is happy to have a job.”

      5) “Management doesn’t have it on their priority list.”

      A- Myself: please select one or more of the numbered responses, 1-5:

      B- My management: please select one or more of the numbered responses, 1-5

      April 17, 2012

      LSS and the Business Process

      By ayanez April 17, 2012

      Most industries or service provider’s organizations think that the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology should be tailored to their particular processes, culture or company idiosyncrasies.  The fact is that LSS is rather universal and can be applied to manufacturing industries that may include: high volume with low number of parts offered, high number of parts with low volume, chemical continuous processes, paper mills, insurance companies, Information Technology, banking industries and most recently to the healthcare industry.

      Even pure manufacturing companies have many business processes that, in many cases, are the constraint operation. These business processes may include: purchasing, accounts payable/receivables, accounting, human resources, IT, etc.  The fallacy is thinking that the only processes that need improvement are those related with manufacturing and thinking that business processes have little or no impact in improving quality, reducing lead time, lowering the cost or eliminating waste.  I have experienced that business processes can have a much bigger impact on reducing cost or lead time than manufacturing processes.

      I am a LSS instructor for Green and Black Belt and, one of the requirements for the GB/BB to get certified, is for the students to submit completed projects for certification.  In addition I provide coaching to GB or BB to assess that the projects follow the Define, Measure, Analyze Improve and Control (DMAIC) methodology.  While comparing manufacturing or business completed projects side by side, I have noticed that the projects are a mirror image and it is hard to differentiate them apart.  Granted, certain LSS tools need to be modified to accommodate a particular industry or process.  The main causes in a Fishbone diagram will be different between a business and manufacturing process and the same can be said about completing a Value Stream Map.

      My recommendation is to not overlook business process.

      April 10, 2012

      GE and Lean Innovation

      By Esteban Pedraza April 10, 2012

      The opening of GE’s new GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater plant in Kentucky isn’t just a great endorsement for American Manufacturing but an affirmation of Lean’s ability to help improve a company’s competitive edge in today’s global marketplace. The events that have taken place at GE and GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville read like a case study straight out of a Lean handbook.

      In the 1980s America was in an industrial decline and when the GE facility could no longer compete with production costs in Asia, for reasons such as an increase in wages and a decrease in the selling price of products, GE began moving production to the Asian plants. As expected GE was able to reduce labor cost and save on materials, but over time the cost savings from outsourcing was outweighed by the negative impact on GE’s competitiveness. The following examples are just a few problems GE encountered:

      • A longer and more complex supply chain emerged; this slowed the information feedback loop and impaired the company’s ability to respond to problems and customer needs in a timely manner.
      • Cycle time was affected.
      • GE had to carry more inventory in the U.S. for products made in China.
      • A lack of communication due to functional departmentalization led to some loss of overall product knowledge (core competencies) by employees.

      What did GE do to address these problems? They invested millions of dollars in Appliance Park.   In addition to the problems brought on by outsourcing, two major events helped initiate the investment. The first was the availability of job-creation incentives from the state and federal governments and the second was a competitive labor costs as a result of the 2009 Competitive Wage Agreement between GE and IUE-CWA Local 761. But according to GE the company had not invested in Appliance Park because the culture “wasn’t right to invest”. How did GE address the culture problem? They embarked on a lean initiative that “maximizes customer value while minimizing waste and identifies employees as the most valuable resource a company has”, said a GE spokesperson.

      GE’s upper management is showing their commitment to changing the company’s manufacturing culture by investing not just in the building with a multimillion dollar renovation but in their people. Investment in the people has been done through lean training and employee empowerment. The empowerment has removed barriers that would keep any employee from taking positive action that would lead to better quality and/or performance.  According to GE’s Appliance Lean Leaders and employees, the way of thinking and the way things are done at Appliance Park have changed:

      • Everyone is involved in the manufacturing process setup from Engineering to sourcing to production. (cross functional approach)
      • We focus on removing non-value added work from the design process through production
      • One team with one goal mindset
      • Communication is essential (information boards, visual tools, etc.)
      • Everything is built around supporting the operator getting the product out the door
      • Focused on greater customer satisfaction
      • Renewed emphasis on quality and technology
      • We Learn by doing and leverage the power of collaboration
      • Operators take pride in what they do

      Using lean practices and tools, GE has reported cutting cycle time by 50%, eliminated 20% of the parts included in the GeoSpring final assembly, and reduced equipment investment by 30%.  GE’s lean journey is demonstrating that Global competitiveness can be accomplished when the right tools are used in the right way.

      According to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), labor cost in China have risen dramatically and shipping and fuel costs have skyrocketed, this means China is not as cheap as it used to be and the United States is poised to bring back jobs from China. The report also points out that by 2015, it will only be about 10% cheaper to manufacture in China. If the BCG report is correct then the question for the United States will not be what company’s want the jobs but what companies have the capability (structure and culture) to compete in a global market.

      With the freedom that a consumer has, in today’s global market, to go almost anyplace for a product that meets their quality and price requirements companies must be agile enough to meet consumers changing needs. As GE is showing us, the place can be the United States and the way to get it done can be through American Manufacturing.

      March 20, 2012

      Achoo! Uh-oh, I think it’s the flu

      By Esteban Pedraza March 20, 2012
      The flu shot prevents recipients from contracting the flu.

      Have you gotten your flu shot?

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2003 American businesses lost earnings due to influenza illnesses and loss of life was $16.3 billion. What does this figure mean in a day to day business context? In 2005, the average per-employee cost of absenteeism was $660 a day in lost productivity according to CCH incorporated (a leading provider of human resources and employment law information). How can companies eliminate this loss of money, this waste?

      The single best way to prevent seasonal flu, according to the CDC, is to get a yearly flu vaccine, but good health habits and antiviral medications are other measures that can help protect against the flu. Studies have shown that American companies have had some success reducing the number of sick days taken by workers by offering the flu vaccine at the plant or office, not only is this more convenient for employees but it also reduces the time employees have to take away from work to receive the vaccination.

      Whether the flu vaccine is offered through an employer sponsored event or off site one of the biggest barriers for employees to taking the flu vaccine is lack of information/understanding about the flu and flu vaccine. Some misconceptions regarding the flu vaccine are that you can get the flu from the vaccine itself or you are protected from the vaccine you received three years ago. One of the company’s measures to prevent seasonal flu should always include educating the employees on what the flu is, how it can hurt you and how the flu vaccine can help.

      Companies should always educate employees on good health habits and strategies to prevent the spread of germs.

      Always Remember:

      • Wash hands with soap and water and/or use an alcohol-based hand rub
      • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze & throw the tissue in the trash after using it
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way
      • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
      • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them

      The CDC has put together a FREE toolkit for businesses and employers that provide educational material that can be used to fight the seasonal flu and help companies eliminate the loss of money caused by the flu (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/business/).

      March 13, 2012

      Uncovering the Hidden Factory through SMED

      By Rodney Reddic March 13, 2012
      Stopwatch

      Is time on your side?

      Too often, companies are quick to implement new equipment in order to meet increased customer demand for products, without maximizing the utilization of their current equipment.  Equipment changeover time is one area of the business that is often ignored and companies accept long changeover as a part of doing business.  The changeover time of equipment can be a Hidden Factory just waiting to be uncovered.  It is very common for equipment changeover from one product to the next product, to take a couple hours for completion.  Companies often make several product changeovers per week, consuming hours of potential production time.  If we could somehow reduce the changeover time from hours to minutes, we could have a dramatic effect on providing additional production capacity.  This is what Dr. Shigeo Shingo discovered while helping to develop the Toyota Production System.  Dr. Shingo terms his discovery SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), and it prescribe that changeover time should be less than ten minutes for a given product.

      What does SMED Involve?

      Companies can systematically reduce changeover time on their equipment by following a simply four step method.

      1. Document the current changeover process and break the process into elemental steps.  This is typically done through the shooting of a changeover video of the process and reviewing the video to document the steps and times associated with each step.  The steps are also classified as internal (Step occurs while the equipment is not running) or external (Step occurs while the equipment is running and producing product).
      2. Review each process step: Is it necessary or can it be eliminated.  During the review, ideas are generated on how to convert internal steps to external steps.  Internal steps in the changeover process are the driving factor for the overall changeover time on the equipment.   Thus, reducing the internal steps has a dramatic effect on the overall changeover time for the equipment.
      3. Re-examine the remaining internal steps with the goal of (Streamlining, Combining or Eliminating) the steps.   Often steps can be performed in parallel with the addition of Assist Operator during the equipment changeover.  Working as a team and performing parallel operations can have a dramatic effect on reducing the time on the equipment changeover.
      4. Focus on eliminating adjustments for the remaining internal setup steps.  In this step, the reliance on “Tribal Knowledge” is significantly reduced or eliminated through the development of hard settings for the equipment.  Often the equipment is updated with scales, gauges, and visual controls that can be used to establish initial settings for running a particular product on the equipment.  By establishing initial settings based on past production runs, the trial and error time at start-up can be significantly reduce and the equipment can produce good product much faster.

      SMED Four Step Process
      Finally, after completing the SMED four-step process a new changeover standard can be developed using the remaining internal and external steps.   The new changeover standard should prescribe the changeover sequence and operators required to complete the changeover on the equipment.

      For most companies that have not participated in any formal changeover reduction process on their equipment, applying the SMED approach typically reduces the changeover time by 50% when first applied.  By continuing to work as a team, planning changeovers, practicing, being innovative and standardizing changeover methods equipment changeover times can continue to be reduced.   Companies should strive to achieve the goal of single-minute changeover times and recapture the loss capacity due to long changeover times.

      • Planning
      • Practice
      • Innovation
      • Standardization
      • Continuous Improvement

      March 8, 2012

      EHS: Profit Center or Circumstantial Overhead?

      By christophermeeks March 8, 2012

      Historically, most companies have viewed their EHS department as a necessary evil that must be retained to avoid regulatory infractions.  However, some companies have shifted their thinking to include their EHS departments as profit centers through re-classifying wastes as revenue streams and identifying opportunities for cost reductions and cost avoidance.  This transition is becoming more noticeable as companies implement ISO programs, look for ‘Greener’ products and attempt to reduce the use of raw materials.  The following include techniques to demonstrate to executive managers that an EHS department can serve as more than just an overhead expense:

      • Lighting Upgrades – improve the quality of lighting in work areas, reduce cost, reduce certain pollutants emitted when generating electricity
      • Finding Markets for ‘Wastes’ – re-classify ‘wastes’ as feedstock in another company’s process to eliminate disposal costs, receive revenue, reduce regulatory requirements
      • Searching for Product Alternatives – compare ‘real’ price of existing materials versus ‘real’ price of using less hazardous materials
      • Deploy ‘Source Reduction’ – evaluate processes to implement procedures that significantly reduce or completely eliminate waste before it is created

      And, as always, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT.  Without an accurate baseline, results are hard to demonstrate.

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