Michael Casey’s picture

By: Michael Casey

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llegra Print and Imaging of Portage, Michigan, was founded in 1988 and has been growing by at least 6 percent annually over the past five years, despite a weak local economy. Allegra Portage is a member of the Allegra Network, a large graphic communications franchise, with more than 600 locations worldwide. In early 2008, Allegra Portage faced a potentially significant drop in sales due to continued weakening of Michigan’s economy, and other printers becoming more aggressive. Seeing an increasingly difficult environment, Brian Kaufman, Allegra Portage’s vice president and owner, wanted to stay more closely connected with his customers without adding administrative and capital expenses. He hired Survey Advantage to develop a real-time survey process tied to the completion of printing jobs and services.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

What’s an extremely difficult part of lean? Sustained improvement. Kaizen is best known and most often described as continual, incremental improvement. Kaikaku is perhaps best described as revolutionary improvement. Thus we have two ways to pursue sustained improvement, evolution and revolution. How do we achieve them?

What’s an extremely difficult part of lean? Sustained improvement. Kaizen is best known and most often described as continual, incremental improvement. Kaikaku is perhaps best described as revolutionary improvement. Thus we have two ways to pursue sustained improvement, evolution and revolution. How do we achieve them?

Once the engine is rolling down the lean track, how do we keep it moving? By changing the way we think about the products we make. Before we can implement kaizen or kaikaku, we must understand how we make what we make.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

What’s an extremely difficult part of lean? Sustained improvement. Kaizen is best known and most often described as continual, incremental improvement. Kaikaku is perhaps best described as revolutionary improvement. Thus we have two ways to pursue sustained improvement, evolution and revolution. How do we achieve them?

Once the engine is rolling down the lean track, how do we keep it moving? By changing the way we think about the products we make. Before we can implement kaizen or kaikaku, we must understand how we make what we make.

Process management—the traditional approach
In traditional facilities, we track the progress of a product through each department—sales, customer service, scheduling, manufacturing, assembly, coating, packing, then through shipping to the transportation company. Each department has specific goals. Each has different day-to-day objectives than the others. How do we monitor and judge the success of a product when there are so many and varied avenues for the product to travel?

David A. Marshall’s default image

By: David A. Marshall

Not long ago many manufacturing companies considered accidents and the resulting costs part of the expense of doing business. Today’s companies are creating better safety programs that benefit the financial health of the organization and significantly improve the protection provided to individuals on the job.

Robroy Industries, for instance, recognizes that its people must be partners in the effort of ensuring safety and health in the working environment. The company knows that making any change in the plant environment can be difficult. Part of that challenge lies in getting everyone from management to plant floor associates to fully participate. When it committed itself to creating an effective safety program for its plants, it knew that it had to involve every level of its team in the development and implementation. Because this effort was intended to protect people, it was named “The Shield Program.”

The Shield Program

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

Mark Graban, consultant and host of www.leanblog.org , and a good lean friend, once posted a web log topic on “lean or lame” (a phrase he coined). That topic drew a variety of comments from his readership. He described L.A.M.E. as “lean as misguidedly executed,” and it’s his description that so many companies use to describe their efforts at developing implementations that aren’t based on true lean principles, but on using lean tools to maximize short-term benefits, reduce headcounts, and even to look good to current or potential customers (with no real intent to walk the walk). Many web logs, forums, and other mediums of communication gravitate toward conversations that fit this model.

In our corporation, I’m blessed to work with an external consulting group. Their objective is to help us understand the lean, or Toyota’s production system, philosophy, and guide us down the path. This group is made up of previous Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) and Toyota Supplier Support Center personnel.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

Mark Graban, consultant and host of www.leanblog.org , and a good lean friend, once posted a web log topic on “lean or lame” (a phrase he coined). That topic drew a variety of comments from his readership. He described L.A.M.E. as “lean as misguidedly executed,” and it’s his description that so many companies use to describe their efforts at developing implementations that aren’t based on true lean principles, but on using lean tools to maximize short-term benefits, reduce headcounts, and even to look good to current or potential customers (with no real intent to walk the walk). Many web logs, forums, and other mediums of communication gravitate toward conversations that fit this model.

In our corporation, I’m blessed to work with an external consulting group. Their objective is to help us understand the lean, or Toyota’s production system, philosophy, and guide us down the path. This group is made up of previous Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) and Toyota Supplier Support Center personnel. One consultant was previously a team leader at TMMC, another was a supplier logistics manager, another was from the human resources arena, and yet another was from the supplier side to TMMC.

Mike Staver’s picture

By: Mike Staver

It’s an election year in the United States, and if there ever was a need for clarity in communication, it’s now. Yet no matter how specific the question or how many times it’s asked, the candidates from both parties just seem to drone on and on. If you think you don’t suffer from the same problems as the presidential candidates, think again. You probably do, and if you don’t, you know someone who does.

With all the consultants and advisors the candidates are using to win their party’s nomination, you’d think that at some point there would be a briefing that started, “Let’s try to answer questions concisely and precisely during this debate and see if our numbers go up.”

Have you ever been in a conversation with a person who has already made his point but just won’t let it go? Worse yet, are you that person? Some people love the sound of their own voices, while others may simply chatter on out of nervousness or because they are uncomfortable with silence. Regardless, it’s annoying and counterproductive.

Many people unconsciously, repetitively make decisions to keep talking until the anxiety of silence goes away, or they’re convinced that the dead horse is sufficiently beaten.

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

America needs you to get your act together. This isn’t just about jobs, although many people are getting hurt because of your mismanagement of three of the most important name brands in America. You’re a symbol of what used to be the strength of America, and you have lost your way. Two of you have new management, so you have a good opportunity to right the ship.

Cutting jobs, slashing, and burning aren’t the answer. These short-term fixes are just that, short term, and won’t fix the problems that you have. Throwing people out of work is easy, but you have fundamental management changes you must make. Try to look back to when you made great cars that people were proud to own. The question isn’t whether you can make a good car; the question is whether you can make one at a cost that allows you to compete with other companies. I have a Mustang and it’s a great car.

Last fall, I ordered a Jeep Commander, and the order process spoke volumes about why you’re in trouble. My order was acknowledged on October 22. The car wasn’t scheduled to be built until November 19. On November 20, I received notification the car had been built—it only took one day to build the car. The car arrived at the dealership on December 3. Now remember, this is a company that is dying from lack of sales, so I don’t think Jeep has a huge backlog.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

As is the case with any lean implementation in a traditional environment, culture change is the most difficult obstacle to success. A company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and begin lean initiatives, but if it only talks the talk, the initiative soon becomes just talk.

The transformation to a lean enterprise isn’t easy. Senior management must lead the process while being driven by the employees. Goals must be established up front, so everyone is working toward the same goals. The difficult part is that the lean initiative isn’t like algebra; it’s the geometry you always tried to avoid.

Consider the following:

Our favorite algebra equation is: X+Y=Z

The area of a triangle is: ½ B x H

Think of algebra as traditional corporate metrics—apparently simple, straightforward, industry-accepted, black-and-white. Terms such as absorption, capacity, and cycle time should come to mind. In this environment, we set goals that require machines to run constantly to absorb minutes, regardless of the fact that needed product cannot be run on those machines. This translates into running products that aren’t needed, consuming valuable material and increasing finished-goods inventory to reduce variances in metrics.

At the end of a reporting period the focus shifts to inventory levels, and instantaneous inventory reduction is mandated.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

As is the case with any lean implementation in a traditional environment, culture change is the most difficult obstacle to success. A company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and begin lean initiatives, but if it only talks the talk, the initiative soon becomes just talk.

The transformation to a lean enterprise isn’t easy. Senior management must lead the process while being driven by the employees. Goals must be established up front, so everyone is working toward the same goals. The difficult part is that the lean initiative isn’t like algebra; it’s the geometry you always tried to avoid.

Consider the following:

Our favorite algebra equation is: X+Y=Z

The area of a triangle is: ½ B x H

Think of algebra as traditional corporate metrics—apparently simple, straightforward, industry-accepted, black-and-white. Terms such as absorption, capacity, and cycle time should come to mind. In this environment, we set goals that require machines to run constantly to absorb minutes, regardless of the fact that needed product cannot be run on those machines.

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