William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

On December 29, 2006, passengers of American Airlines’ Flight 1348 were confined in a parked aircraft for eight hours. By this time, “The toilets on the American Airlines jet were overflowing. There was no water to be found and no food except for a box of pretzel bags.” This fiasco was an easily foreseeable result of the airline’s apparent attitude toward quality, as might be perceived from CEO Gerard J. Arpey’s letter to Quality Digest magazine, written some time prior to this incident. The letter took issue with Quality Digest columnist James Harrington’s criticism “Of airline quality in general, and specifically that of American Airlines.” It stated in part, “We carry about a quarter of a million people every day, and, inevitably, there will be mistakes that impact our customers.” The attitude that mistakes are “inevitable” is inconsistent with modern quality science, and it fosters an organizational culture in which otherwise-avoidable mistakes do indeed become inevitable.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

More than 13 hours per week creating documents and nearly seven hours per week organizing documents are common among small and midsize engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturers; four hours per week are spent managing document routing and another 10 hours per week searching for information. All this time searching for documents is waste and counter to lean initiatives and established efficiency metrics. According to Ricardo Talbot, chief science officer for Elmo Solutions, “The biggest distinction in effective search tools that create and manage engineering documents is the capability to index, retrieve and display a wide range of CAD [computer-aided design] and imaging documents from AutoCAD, other Autodesk-flavored applications, Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks.”

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

On December 29, 2006, passengers of American Airlines’ Flight 1348 were confined in a parked aircraft for eight hours. By this time, “The toilets on the American Airlines jet were overflowing. There was no water to be found and no food except for a box of pretzel bags.” This fiasco was an easily foreseeable result of the airline’s apparent attitude toward quality, as might be perceived from CEO Gerard J. Arpey’s letter to Quality Digest magazine, written some time prior to this incident. The letter took issue with Quality Digest columnist James Harrington’s criticism “Of airline quality in general, and specifically that of American Airlines.” It stated in part, “We carry about a quarter of a million people every day, and, inevitably, there will be mistakes that impact our customers.” The attitude that mistakes are “inevitable” is inconsistent with modern quality science, and it fosters an organizational culture in which otherwise-avoidable mistakes do indeed become inevitable.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Last year I had the good fortune of doing some consulting with B&C Specialty Products in Hopeulikit, Georgia. B&C does light manufacturing, primarily plastic molding and assembly, and they also distribute imported products produced by companies in the Far East. They have about 150 employees and by far are the biggest employer in Hopeulikit.
B&C was a perfect place to learn about managing and quality. Every day presented a new lesson. Usually the lessons were hard-learned, and those are the ones that really stick with you. B&C was gracious enough to allow me to interview their personnel about things that came up during my time there. Here is an interesting lesson: Don’t assume that everyone knows what nonconforming product looks like. The scenario is described by the people who actually lived it.

Kevin Meyer’s picture

By: Kevin Meyer

Established in 1903, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company grew rapidly during the two world wars. Foreign competition hit the industry early, and by 1953 Harley-Davidson was the last remaining major motorcycle manufacturer in the United States.

Harley was bought by AMF in 1969 and by the late 1970s they were on the block again, thanks to a sharp reduction in sales because of poor quality levels. In 1981, 13 Harley executives purchased the company from AMF, and an overall reduction in the motorcycle market drove additional production cuts.

The company almost went bankrupt in 1985, but CEO Richard Teerlink persuaded lenders to accept a restructuring plan that included the application of “Japanese management principles,” in effect the Toyota Production System or lean manufacturing. A temporary and reducing tariff on large imported motorcycles created a brief time window for the turnaround.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Dairy plants are among the heaviest users of municipal water in the United States, using two gallons of water for every gallon of consumer product produced. The clean-in-place (CIP) systems that daily wash and sanitize every truck, tank, pipe and surface in the plant use the greatest amount of that precious water and waste the most as well. The cost of CIP water is high, because much of it has to be heated, chemicals must be added to it and cities levy charges for the use of municipal drain systems. A typical CIP system pushes water and chemicals through dairy plant equipment at 100–200 gallons per minute, although the required rate of flow (5–6 ft per second) across processing surfaces can be accomplished with much less water. Until recently, few companies even knew how long this flow should continue to ensure complete cleaning. It’s common for dairy manufacturers to deal with even minor quality problems that may be CIP-related by increasing time in each step of the CIP wash-and-rinse programs. Most of this water—and sometimes all of it—makes one pass through the equipment and then goes straight to drain. For each minute added to the wash in an attempt to correct quality, another 100–200 gallons of hot water go down the drain. In cleaning a typical dairy plant, three or four steps of each CIP program run water to drain.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Dairy plants are among the heaviest users of municipal water in the United States, using two gallons of water for every gallon of consumer product produced. The clean-in-place (CIP) systems that daily wash and sanitize every truck, tank, pipe and surface in the plant use the greatest amount of that precious water and waste the most as well.
The cost of CIP water is high, because much of it has to be heated, chemicals must be added to it and cities levy charges for the use of municipal drain systems. A typical CIP system pushes water and chemicals through dairy plant equipment at 100–200 gallons per minute, although the required rate of flow (5–6 ft per second) across processing surfaces can be accomplished with much less water. Until recently, few companies even knew how long this flow should continue to ensure complete cleaning.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Last year I had the good fortune of doing some consulting with B&C Specialty Products in Hopeulikit, Georgia. B&C does light manufacturing, primarily plastic molding and assembly, and they also distribute imported products produced by companies in the Far East. They have about 150 employees and are by far the biggest employer in Hopeulikit.
B&C was a perfect place to learn about managing and quality. Every day presented a new lesson. Usually the lessons were hard-learned, and those are the ones that really stick with you. B&C was gracious enough to allow me to interview their personnel about things that came up during my time there. Here is an interesting lesson: Don’t rely on traditional customer surveys. The scenario is described by the people who actually lived it.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

The hiring practices of manufacturing companies have become increasingly lean. The old processes of advertising, screening, interviewing, hiring and training are riddled with waste; it’s both too expensive and extremely time-consuming. The hiring shift to staffing companies has become increasingly cost-effective and an efficient, lean shortcut for manufacturers to acquire the right people with the right skills at the right price. Many executives are examining their hiring practices, training practices and employee retention rates as their enterprisewide lean initiatives land at the door of the human resources (HR) department. The plant floor, back office and most other aspects of the company have been evaluated for elimination of waste, but HR hasn’t.The rationale for this hiring process shift isn’t the same throughout all industrial sectors, nor is the quality of each placement organization the same. Generic placement organizations that can place a warm body in a position at the last minute often prove more costly and wasteful than the staffing organizations that recognize the specific personnel requirements and nuances of an industry.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

The hiring practices of manufacturing companies have become increasingly lean. The old processes of advertising, screening, interviewing, hiring and training are riddled with waste; it’s both too expensive and extremely time-consuming. The hiring shift to staffing companies has become increasingly cost-effective and an efficient, lean shortcut for manufacturers to acquire the right people with the right skills at the right price. Many executives are examining their hiring practices, training practices and employee retention rates as their enterprisewide lean initiatives land at the door of the human resources (HR) department. The plant floor, back office and most other aspects of the company have been evaluated for elimination of waste, but HR hasn't. The rationale for this hiring process shift isn’t the same throughout all industrial sectors, nor is the quality of each placement organization the same. Generic placement organizations that can place a warm body in a position at the last minute often prove more costly and wasteful than the staffing organizations that recognize the specific personnel requirements and nuances of an industry.

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