Chet Marchwinski’s picture

By: Chet Marchwinski

I’ve now been continuously thinking about lean for 30 years, since the fall of 1979 when my bosses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) asked me to explore how a few Japanese companies had developed a striking advantage in designing and making motor vehicles. Recently, I’ve found myself reflecting on where we in the lean community have been, where we are today, and where we need to go next.

Stewart Anderson’s picture

By: Stewart Anderson

Recently, here in Canada, there has been a lot of talk about the need to increase productivity within Canadian businesses. Canada has consistently lagged behind other developed nations in productivity. According to 2009 data from the Conference Board of Canada, the country gets a “C” grade, and sits in the No. 12 spot among developed countries with a productivity growth rate of negative 0.9 percent. Canada’s productivity performance has been lower than that of top countries for several decades, which has undoubtedly hurt the country’s international competitiveness.

Productivity is a key economic term, measuring the output per unit hour of labor. Economists generally hold productivity to be a measure of how efficiently goods and services are produced. Typically, a country’s productivity is measured by dividing its gross domestic product (GDP) by the number of hours worked. Among the top 17 countries for productivity, the United States ranks as No. 1.

The intense focus on productivity raises interesting questions: How valid is productivity as a measure of business performance; and might a misplaced emphasis on productivity actually be damaging?

Rick Johnson Ph.D.’s default image

By: Rick Johnson Ph.D.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great (Harper Business, 2001), has said that “Good is often the enemy of great.” That may be true, but I also believe that good is often good enough, and too much focus on greatness can be the enemy of good. Most of us would be happy with good performance, a good life, and good friends and relationships. However, it seems like it’s human nature to strive for greatness when in charge of companies. This is more inspirational, more of the accepted standard of achievement, continuous improvement, excellence in everything we do; all this seems to be a natural instinct for most leaders.

Being an effective leader, striving for excellence, and being inspirational are essential aspects of creating a great company. There’s no doubt that during these tough economic times this average is not good enough. Look around. If you have average-performing employees who can’t seem to reach the level of performance that’s in alignment with your vision, now is the time to do something about it.

Direct Dimensions Inc.’s picture

By: Direct Dimensions Inc.

In 2009, Direct Dimensions Inc. was approached by Texas A&M University’s Flight Research Laboratory (FRL) with a challenging yet typical 3-D problem. The FRL, while primarily an active teaching facility, also offers both flight and wind tunnel test services. This particular project was for a customer who had contracted the FRL to perform feasibility and conceptual design studies for a flight-test program using a business-jet class aircraft.

This type of virtual aerodynamic testing, called CFD analysis, or computation fluid dynamics, requires a dimensionally accurate “as built” 3-D CAD model of this specific Gulfstream airplane. The FRL would also need additional 

 

3-D models showing the plane in various configurations, such as with and without the engine, and with and without the vortex generators.

Anantha Kollengode’s default image

By: Anantha Kollengode

T

he check sheet is a simple and effective tool useful in lean Six Sigma projects. It is sometimes referred to as a concentration diagram or location plot. It is a handy tool for qualitative and quantitative data gathering and analysis. Check sheets help to systematically collect and organize data and are useful in all phases of the define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC) statistical and analytical method used in lean Six Sigma.

Check sheet vs. check list

People sometimes confuse a check sheet with a check list. The list we use for groceries and the report you get from the auto repair shop with items checked off after service (oil, filter, tire pressure, tread, etc.) are examples of a check list. The following table highlights some key differences between a check list and a check sheet. 

Check Sheet

Check List

A tally sheet to collect data on frequency of occurrence

Paul Leavoy’s picture

By: Paul Leavoy

Courtesy of another controversy surrounding hazardous substances in children’s toys, China’s massive manufacturing sector is reliving a public relations disaster.

Four years ago, a nationwide recall on children’s toys containing lead paint—and manufactured in China—cast a pall on the integrity of the country’s quality standards. It also forced U.S. toy giant Mattel to recall more than 18 million products and face significant brand damage.

Now, in the wake of yet another recall on toy trinkets and jewelry containing significant amounts of cadmium, a substance as dangerous to children as lead, if not more, China is once again under the microscope.

For quality managers at companies that rely on contract manufacturers and suppliers overseas, the situation is a call to action: A proactive corporate ethos on quality management—and supply chain traceability in particular—will not only save time and costs long term, it will ensure products exceed minimal regulatory requirements and avert potential public relations and brand image crises. A comprehensive quality management system (QMS) that enables enhanced supply chain traceability is the hallmark of such an approach and will inevitably save costs in the long run.

Rip Stauffer’s picture

By: Rip Stauffer

It’s better to measure things when we can; that’s been well-established in the quality literature over the years. The use of go/no-go gauges will always provide much less information for improvement than measuring the pieces themselves. However, we don’t always have the luxury of using continuous or variables data. Sometimes, the only way to track the important events we want to track is to count them. Numbers of defectives, exceptions, reschedules, readmissions, rework rates, scrap rates… all these processes are vital to our operations, and all have to be counted. The performance of numerous transactional and other business processes can only be assessed using counts.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Supply chain organizations face significant pressures resulting from global competition, shorter product life cycles, and lean economic conditions. The escalating requirements of large customers create painful challenges for those companies still tied to conventional supply-chain processes. 

“These customers are compelling distributors to adopt value-added, supply-chain services, such as collaborative planning and vendor-managed inventories,” says Jeff Pyden, managing director at Georgia-based, OmniVue. “Predicting and responding to customer demand is a consistent problem. Distributors constantly struggle with too little, or too much, inventory. These factors have become the bottom-line quality control issues.”

At each step along the supply chain, outdated systems make it difficult to identify products that are moving slowly, or are out of stock. Left unresolved, these issues lead to discounts, lost orders, higher inventory costs, and lost customers. To stay competitive and avoid being bypassed altogether, supply chain businesses must adapt to evolving market demands by reducing costs and creating service-related income. A poorly managed supply chain is a key quality issue.

Norman Bodek and Jeremy Green’s default image

By: Norman Bodek and Jeremy Green

Imagine an automobile owner who goes to the service desk at the dealership and reports a problem, describing the symptoms in detail to the customer service representative. If the service desk employee sees the same or similar symptoms in the dealer’s or manufacturer’s database, she knows what to tell the customer and what to do to get the problem solved. But if the symptoms were not in the database, she would take responsibility for the customer’s problem. The representative would be the key point person for this set of symptoms, and would be able to call on other technical, safety, and quality resources within the company to verify and solve the customer’s problem. She would not immediately defend the company but would be on the customer’s side and enter the symptoms and raise a red flag in the database. This process becomes the zenjidoka equivalent of pulling the red cord, when a service worker relies on a combination of procedure and self-reliance to find the best approach to solve the customer’s problem.

Norman Bodek and Jeremy Green’s default image

By: Norman Bodek and Jeremy Green

Imagine an automobile owner who goes to the service desk at the dealership and reports a problem, describing the symptoms in detail to the customer service representative. If the service desk employee sees the same or similar symptoms in the dealer’s or manufacturer’s database, she knows what to tell the customer and what to do to get the problem solved. But if the symptoms were not in the database, she would take responsibility for the customer’s problem. The representative would be the key point person for this set of symptoms, and would be able to call on other technical, safety, and quality resources within the company to verify and solve the customer’s problem. She would not immediately defend the company but would be on the customer’s side and enter the symptoms and raise a red flag in the database. This process becomes the zenjidoka equivalent of pulling the red cord, when a service worker relies on a combination of procedure and self-reliance to find the best approach to solve the customer’s problem.

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