Dallas Crawford’s picture

By: Dallas Crawford

Manufacturers know the value of automation on the plant floor. The world is more interconnected, with more competitors, and consumers are more informed and thus more selective with purchasing decisions. With increased competition and disruption, manufacturers must leverage automation to achieve operational efficiency.

Automation of any process delivers higher productivity, lower costs, improved workplace safety, enhanced precision, and ultimately allows associates to focus on more valuable activities. Technology, and specifically machine learning, has helped expand the breadth of automation by becoming more accessible and affordable for manufacturers of every size.

Transferring plant-floor efficiency to pricing efficiency

Robotic automation on the plant floor has helped companies produce high-quality goods more quickly and efficiently. Robots perform dull, repeatable steps with reliable accuracy and do not get tired, distracted, or endure repetitive injuries.

Pricing automation is simply transferring the same plant-floor efficiencies to pricing best practices. Physical strain is unlikely from a pricing process, but mentally it can be taxing and often impossible when determining the optimal prices for unique products.

Manfred Kets de Vries’s picture

By: Manfred Kets de Vries

Effective organizations rely on teamwork, not least because it facilitates problem solving. Many leaders, however, are ambivalent about teams. They fear overt and covert conflict, uneven participation, tunnel vision, lack of accountability, and indifference to the interests of the organization as a whole. Also, more than a few have no idea how to put together well-functioning teams. Their fear of delegating—losing control—reinforces the stereotype of the heroic leader who handles it all.

Although teams can generate a remarkable synergy, a number of them do become mired in endless sessions that generate very high coordination costs and little productivity gain. In some corporations and governments, the formation of teams, task forces, or committees can even be a defensive act that gives the illusion of real work while disguising unproductive attempts to preserve the status quo.

ASQ’s picture

By: ASQ

You already know that technological advances of the past decade have resulted in a new industrial revolution often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. It’s a revolution driven by the exponential growth of disruptive technologies and the changes those technologies are bringing to the workplace, the workforce, and the markets organizations serve.

With ever-increasing speed, quality professionals are arriving at the intersection of digital transformation with their responsibilities and may be best positioned within their organizations to serve in a leadership role to harness the power of digital in the quest for excellence. There’s never been a better time to learn about and embrace the concept of Quality 4.0.

Quality 4.0 is a term that references the future of quality and organizational excellence within the context of Industry 4.0. Quality professionals can play a vital role in leading their organizations to apply proven quality disciplines to new, digital, and disruptive technologies.

Katie Myers’s picture

By: Katie Myers

Freight trucks account for 23 percent of U.S. transportation. Transportation is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. The country’s freight industry is in no position to ignore its impact on the environment and the greater good.

We can break down the trucking industry’s environmental impact further. Each market segment emits the following amount of carbon emissions every year:
• Truckload (TL): 836 million tons of emissions
• Partials: 722 million tons of emissions
• Less-than truckload (LTL): 342 million tons of emissions

Fortunately, at least one logistics provider is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Flock Freight is transforming the $400 billion freight landscape by eliminating inefficiency and waste through green shipping practices.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

About one in two U.S. adults has a musculoskeletal disorder, costing an estimated $213 billion each year in treatment and lost wages, according to a report from the United States Bone and Joint Initiative. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are injuries and conditions to the bones, muscles, and joints that result in pain and can affect activity (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis). About 140 million Americans live with an MSD. The total of direct and indirect costs for people who have both musculoskeletal disorders and other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or obesity is $874 billion, according to the report.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

We’ve all been in lines that seem to last forever, especially if we choose our queue at the checkout, and the one next to ours is moving faster. You know the existential dread that comes along with standing in a dedicated queue and waiting interminably. To make service of all kinds more efficient, the predominant thinking in operations management is to form a single serpentine line that feeds different servers—a pooled queue.

Traditional operations management theory has determined that pooling is more efficient. And it may be, if tasks or widgets are the items in the queue, and it’s machines, not human beings, that are processing them. In a system with dedicated queues, it’s possible to have one that’s empty and another queue that’s full but no way to rebalance this. If the queue contains customers, naturally they can switch to the empty queue. But when we consider job assignments, for example, these can’t just move across queues. So the dedicated queue is viewed as less efficient than a pooled one in terms of throughput and waiting time.

James J. Kline’s picture

By: James J. Kline

In today’s coronavirus environment, governments at all levels are under greater fiscal pressure. For instance, Oregon’s governor has told state departments to prepare for a 12-percent reduction in their budgets. Given this environment, perhaps it is time to reexamine an established approach to improving operational performance. That approach is quality management.

From 1992 to 2002, I researched and wrote about quality award-winning governments in the United States.1 With extra time on my hands, I started cleaning out old files. In the process, I found a few of the documents backing up that work.

The documents included information about 32 local governments that were using total quality management (TQM). While reviewing the current websites of these local governments, I discovered that at least seven are using or mentioning quality management. It might seem disappointing that only seven of 32 are using some form of lean management, Six Sigma, continuous improvement, or Baldrige Criteria. However, that several of these local governments have been implementing quality management for 20 years shows there is a sound quality management foundation in local government. This is a foundation that can be built upon.

Jennifer Lauren Lee’s picture

By: Jennifer Lauren Lee

While awaiting full access to their labs due to Covid-19 restrictions, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken this rare opportunity to report the technical details of pioneering research they conducted on the disinfection of drinking water using ultraviolet (UV) light.

Back in 2012, the NIST scientists and their collaborators published several papers on some fundamental findings with potential benefits to water utility companies. But these articles never fully explained the irradiation setup that made the work possible.

Now, for the first time, NIST researchers are publishing the technical details of the unique experiment, which relied on a portable laser to test how well different wavelengths of UV light inactivated different microorganisms in water. The work appears in the Review of Scientific Instruments.

“We’ve been wanting to formally write this up for years,” says Tom Larason, an electronics engineer in the Sensor Science Division at NIST. “Now we have time to tell the world about it.”

Harry Hertz’s picture

By: Harry Hertz

Rest? The new normal will be about activity, you say. Actually, I believe some rest will be necessary. After the frenzy of activity since March 2020 to establish new work patterns and new home life patterns, many of us—especially those with young families—have been left totally exhausted. So some rest may be in order. However, the rest I am referring to in this article is RE2ST3 (resilience, ecosystems, e-wisdom, societal responsibility, telework, transition, and transformation).

I believe organizations that pay attention to these RE2ST3 components will be poised for a successful entry into the new normal. I base my conclusion on a significant amount of reading and many conversations with people across sectors, as well as with community leaders. As I summarize the parameters of each of the RE2ST3 components, I will reference some relevant publications. While my key points are addressed under specific headings below, it is clear that many of these could have been discussed under more than one heading, and that indeed the topics are interdependent and part of a systems response to creating the new normal.

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

Untitled Document


From Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (J. B. Lippincott, 1942)

The quote in the picture from Zora Neale Hurston does not end there; it finishes, “It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.”

Zora was describing something specific in her life: researching folk music while she was attending Barnard College. She started that quest by walking the grounds of Barnard and asking music scholars if they had any folk music she could listen to.

They looked at her blankly, trying to figure out what “folk music” actually meant and went back to their concertos.

Her search then took her to where folk music actually resided—sometimes putting her in unsafe or even life-threatening situations. Her research required going to the gemba. Not just reading about it.

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