BMGi’s picture

By: BMGi

On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, signaling the attainment of President John F. Kennedy’s vision to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. The accomplishment required nearly a decade of research and experimentation by NASA as it worked to overcome one technical challenge after another: the ability to dock two ships together in space, the design of the Lunar Excursion Module, and the inherent difficulties of manned space travel. Each of these breakthroughs not only made the Apollo moon missions possible, but also enabled many other excursions to outer space.

But what if President Kennedy had been less ambitious? What if his vision had been to send an unmanned “rover” to the moon, or what if he hadn’t even thought it possible to reach the moon? How many of these breakthroughs would exist today? Of course, it’s difficult to say with certainty, but one thing is for sure—if mankind had never set a goal to land on the moon, we never would have gotten there.

Max Kalehoff’s picture

By: Max Kalehoff

The science of harnessing customer loyalty and satisfaction is getting very trendy in business. And perhaps nothing has been more responsible for driving excitement than Net Promoter.

Developed by Fred Reichheld, Net Promoter is a loyalty metric and a discipline for using customer feedback to support business growth and profitability. You’re probably familiar with the ubiquitous Net Promoter question, “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

The basic idea is that you can use that question to segment your customers into three core groups: Promoters (scoring 9–10), Passives (7–8), and Detractors (0–6). You derive your Net Promoter Score (NPS) by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. The higher the score the better.

While the model has stirred some controversy, NPS proponents—including many prominent business leaders—claim this is a simple and effective framework to measure company performance, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. It’s gritty and actionable for frontline employees across business divisions, while insightful and predictive for management.

James Wells’s picture

By: James Wells

How many times has this happened to you? You’re leading a Six Sigma project on a transactional process of some kind, something not directly tied to manufacturing or measurement of product quality. You get to the measure phase of your Six Sigma project and struggle to figure out how to satisfy the requirement for a gauge repeatability and reproducibility (R&R) statistic to interpret. If that’s ever happened to you, read on for a solution to this sticky problem.

Where gauge R&R fits into a Six Sigma project

Before we get into the details, I want to spend a few words talking about where a gauge study fits into a Six Sigma project and a little bit on the “spirit” of the gauge R&R requirement.

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By: Eric Bennett and Wim Weekers

Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs) are used in practically every industry that requires precise dimensional inspection of manufactured parts. In today’s competitive environment, manufacturers demand CMMs that are accurate, reliable, fast, economical, and provide maximum flexibility with respect to operating environment. In order to meet these often conflicting requirements and provide maximum value in the products delivered to their customers, CMM manufacturers must make informed design decisions, intelligent material choices, and employ novel techniques. The end result should be an affordable machine that is highly accurate, moves fast, and is relatively insensitive to its environment. The key to achieving this goal is the careful management of the machine’s intrinsic error.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Toyota’s legendary lean processes didn’t come out of nowhere. They were forged by the fire of urgency in post-World War II Japan when resources were scarce. Toyota innovated—and continued to innovate. Today, the Toyota Production System is the most respected manufacturing and inventory control system on earth—and very hard to duplicate. The company has been able to consistently reduce waste and cost through it’s commitment to lean and high quality products.

Could lean processes transform the U.S. health care system, with its spiraling costs and inconsistent quality?

Health care, of course, is different from manufacturing. There are no shop floors, products, or assembly lines per se. But the industry’s growing problems—not to mention the challenges of health care reform—are creating a sense of urgency and a strong mandate for change. Can lean techniques help hospitals increase efficiency, streamline processes, and improve patient outcomes and patient satisfaction? In this article, part of a special report on how lean processes can transform businesses beyond the shop floor, experts from Wharton and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) explain how it is possible to accomplish these goals.

Vigneshwaran Chandran’s picture

By: Vigneshwaran Chandran

Testing times for the automotive industry continues as uncertainty looms over an anticipated sales rebound in developed markets in 2010. While some forecasters expect demand contraction owed to scrappage incentives in 2009, most expect full year sales in Western Europe and North America to grow marginally in 2010. However the industry’s woes only seem to be compounding with the latest loss in consumer confidence arising from Toyota’s biggest recall in its 70-year history.

For a brand synonymous with quality and reliability, what started as an innocuous issue of improperly laid out mats causing a recall of 4 million vehicles last year, was followed up by more than 8 million vehicles recalled for sticking accelerator pedals, and further problems with loss of braking on its latest Prius, Lexus HS250 h, and the Sai models. Frost & Sullivan estimates that Toyota is expected to lose a total of 80,000–100,000 cars in lost sales to other vehicle brands in the first half of 2010, as sales of its eight recalled models and the Prius suffer a slowdown. The company might also have to field new complaints received by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about steering issues on 2009 and 2010 Corollas.

redOrbit’s picture

By: redOrbit

With a silicone rubber “stick on” sheet containing dozens of miniature, powerful lenses, engineers at Harvard are one step closer to putting the capacity of a large laboratory into a microsized package.

The marriage of high-performance optics with microfluidics could prove the perfect match for making lab-on-a-chip technologies more practical.

Microfluidics, the ability to manipulate tiny volumes of liquid, is at the heart of many lab-on-a-chip devices. Such platforms can automatically mix and filter chemicals, making them ideal for disease detection and environmental sensing.

The performance of these devices, however, is typically inferior to larger scale laboratory equipment. While lab-on-a-chip systems can deliver and manipulate millions of liquid drops, there is not an equally scalable and efficient way to detect the activity, such as biological reactions, within the drops.

The Harvard team’s zone-plate array optical detection system, described in an article appearing in Lab on a Chip (Issue 5, 2010), may offer a solution. The array, which integrates directly into a parallel microfluidic device, can analyze nearly 200,000 droplets per second, is scalable and reusable, and can be readily customized.

Macro Sensors’s default image

By: Macro Sensors

A spring-loaded guided core AC-LVDT is an air-extended, spring retracted LVDT offering consistent measurement for dimensional gauging, factory automation, and similar position measurement applications.


Linear variable differential transformers (LVDTs) are a common type of linear position sensor widely used in electromechanical systems today. An LVDT consists of two basic elements: a stationary coil assembly and a movable core or armature. Because it’s a transformer, an LVDT is fundamentally an AC-in/AC-out device. However, some LVDTs have electronics built in to make them DC-in/DC-out devices. This gives rise to the terms “AC-LVDTs” and “DC-LVDTs.”

R. Eric Reidenbach Ph.D.’s picture

By: R. Eric Reidenbach Ph.D.

One of my clients, a wireless business-to-business (B2B) telecom company, was experiencing a significant problem in their call center. They were absolutely inundated with calls—most of them problems. They were spending a significant amount of money trying to manage the call center—adding new call center representatives, training new call center representatives, bringing in new call center supervisors, figuring out how to limit the duration of calls, developing escalation plans, etc.

The call center was deemed crucial because they were running about a 50-percent customer turnover annually, which they considered simply as a cost of doing business. Their unwritten strategy was to “outsell churn.” In addition, there was no real effort to retain customers—no provisions for doing so in the system. When customers were ready to leave the company, they simply told them how to do it, either by e-mail or fax… until someone in the organization got smart.

Mark Graban’s picture

By: Mark Graban

When I was in Sweden recently, we had a lot of good discussion about the lean concept of “standardized work.”

There was much agreement from different presenters at the lean laboratories conference, and from the hospital people we visited, concerning standardized work—that it isn’t a robotic form of cookbook medicine or cookbook processes. Standardized work isn’t “mindless conformity” as Bill Marriott writes about in regard to the hotel chain.

We found an interesting example of a situation where thinking is required.

Let’s say that according to a process for phlebotomy (drawing blood from a patient) it’s preferable to draw blood from the patient’s left arm. Having a standardized process doesn’t mean we always draw from the left arm.

Somebody asked about an extreme situation. “What if the patient is an amputee and they don’t have a left arm?” Clearly, the phlebotomist must be empowered to make a decision—draw from the right arm. Even if the patient just expresses a preference to using the right arm (because they are left-handed and don’t want that arm to hurt), the phlebotomist could be allowed to make a judgment call, even if the standardized work doesn’t spell out this choice.

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