Nate Burke’s picture

By: Nate Burke

How many of us remember walking into a holiday gift shop when younger (and before a global pandemic put a stop to the H word), and eagerly searching for a fridge magnet, mug, or pencil inscribed with our name?

Personalization is a tactic brands and businesses have been using for years to hook us into their offerings. The idea is, as consumers, we forge stronger attachments to products that appear to have been created for or tailored to us, personally. For businesses, encouraging these deep connections with customers results in loyalty and greater lifetime value.

In theory, the formula is simple. But in reality, success requires so much more than printing a name on an everyday household object. Instead, brands must allocate large amounts of resources to really understanding their customers, and then develop offerings that suit.

Fortunately, the internet provides a more efficient and effective way to personalize offerings on a mass level. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of businesses, including Moonpig, Getting Personal, and Funky Pigeon, which offer customers a service to personalize common gift items, in order to create something with greater meaning and significance for a loved one.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

With the migration to remote and hybrid work during the last year, cyberattacks have increased at a rate of three to five times compared to pre-Covid. No big surprise that, for many businesses, virtual private newtworks (VPNs) have become standard operating procedure for security. But is VPN’s castle-and-moat concept an effective security strategy in today’s hybrid workplace?

The ubiquity of the decentralized workforce is now evident—we may never revert to the pre-Covid leviathan offices. Even before 2020 brought the world to a standstill, the office environment was fast becoming less centralized with the rise of software as a service (SaaS) applications for businesses.

Many companies are claiming an increase in productivity with their work-from-home (WFH) employees. And there must be a savings in operating costs associated with office closures. However, there is a downside.

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

By: Bruce Hamilton

PDCA—plan, do, check, act (or adjust)—is one of those acronymic concepts that regularly finds its way into lean discussions. Descended from Francis Bacon’s scientific method (hypothesis, experiment, confirmation), PDCA has become a ubiquitous catchword for business process improvement. From standardization and problem solving on the frontline to iterative product and process design to hoshin, this approach is the engine for continuous improvement.

But like many lean concepts, when layered over a traditional organizational structure, PDCA can fall far short of its promises.

My initial exposure to the concept, Shigeo Shingo’s Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-Yoke System (Routledge, 1986) offered an unusual, nontechnical insight into PDCA. Referring to the concept in the context of quality improvement as “informative inspection,” Shingo posed a couple of critical questions:
1. How rapid is the feedback?
2. Who is involved?

Matt Fieldman’s picture

By: Matt Fieldman

This article is the fourth in a monthly series brought to you by the America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development.

Growing up, my parents used to always joke that we needed a money tree to provide endless funding for my many expensive tastes.

Today, U.S. manufacturers joke that they need a “skilled workers tree,” where they can endlessly grow qualified workers to fill their open advanced manufacturing roles. We know from a recent Deloitte study that U.S. manufacturers will need 2.1 million qualified workers by 2030. And this shortage will only grow worse, as 69 percent of manufacturers are looking to reshore production to North America.

Harish Jose’s picture

By: Harish Jose

Recently, I came across an interesting insight at Toyota’s website. I was taken aback by the first sentence of this paragraph: “Eventually, the value added by the line’s human operators disappears.”

The complete paragraph is shown below:
“Eventually, the value added by the line’s human operators disappears, meaning any operator can use the line to produce the same result. Only then is the jidoka mechanism incorporated into actual production lines. Through the repetition of this process, machinery becomes simpler and less expensive, while maintenance becomes less time consuming and less costly, enabling the creation of simple, slim, flexible lines that are adaptable to fluctuations in production volume.”

Generally, we talk about increasing the value-added activities in lean or the Toyota Production System (TPS). Here, Toyota seems to be stating a paradox: We should get so good at what we do that we do not add value anymore. We keep finding better and better ways at doing what we do so eventually the process doesn’t necessarily need us to do that job.

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

Getting inside the mind of an ISO 9001 auditor is crucial to a successful ISO audit. Think of it like a gift: Even the best of presents can be unappealing when wrapped in crumpled, messy newspaper and duct tape.

Understanding the background and motivating factors for ISO auditors will help you portray the excellence of your operation in the best light possible. This article can help.

Where do auditors come from?

ISO creates standards but doesn’t enforce them
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops standards such as ISO 9001—“Quality management systems—Requirements,” but it doesn’t provide certification of those standards to companies; this is where third-party auditors come in. These third-party auditors are accredited bodies that perform audits and issue certifications to companies.

Multiple Authors
By: Suneel Kumar, Sreelal Sreedhar

The word “aptitude” is sometimes misused to mean ability or achievement. There is, however, a real and meaningful difference between the three words. Understanding the relationship between aptitude and ability can be a significant factor for your inspection operators.

A basic description of the three terms can be thought of as:
• Aptitude: How quickly or easily you will be able to learn in the future
• Ability: What you are able to demonstrate in the present
• Achievement: What you have accomplished in the past

The nine aptitudes of the GATB

The nine aptitudes, as established by the U.S. Employment Service in its General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), are purported to be useful for vocational and career assessment and counseling.

GATB aptitudes
Figure 1: The nine aptitudes of the U.S. Employment Service General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB)

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

Measurement error is ubiquitous. As a result, over the past 250 years, different areas of science and engineering have come up with many different ways to deal with the problem of measurement error. One approach to the problem of measurement error was developed during the 1960s within General Motors. Over the years it was modified and revised until, in 1989, it was turned over to the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG). Since that time the AIAG Gauge R&R Study has been promoted throughout many different industries. Unfortunately, the original procedure contained some fundamental problems that have not been corrected over the years. This column will address these historic problems and suggest solutions.

The AIAG Gauge R&R Study

The AIAG Gauge R&R Study starts out with a sound strategy for collecting data. A simple fully crossed experiment is performed where two or more operators measure each of three to 10 parts two or three times apiece. To have an example to use we shall use the data shown in figure 1 where three operators measure each of five parts two times apiece.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

When you played cowboys and Indians as a kid, did you want to be the cowboy or the Indian? I wanted to be the Indian. All the ones I saw in comic books had super-cool moccasins and could move around with their bow and arrows without making a sound. And there were plenty of famous Native Americans from which to choose. We all knew about Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Tonto, Pocahontas, and Crazy Horse. Because his name better fit my personality, I chose Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was a member of the Lakota tribe, a part of the Sioux nation. He was born around 1840 in the area that is now Wyoming and became a brave defender of Native American land being stolen by white settlers. His fame as a leader grew after the defeat of Colonel George Custer’s 7th Calvary at the Battle of Big Horn River on June 25, 1876.

Crazy Horse was shy as a young man. He was also a leader. Author John Neihardt described Crazy Horse in his book Black Elk Speaks (Bison Books, 2014) as a person of great modesty and reserve but who was generous to the poor, the elderly, and children. “Everybody liked him,” wrote Neihardt, “and would do anything he wanted or go anywhere he said.”

Kate Zabriskie’s picture

By: Kate Zabriskie

Regardless of their intentions, people who micromanage often create an environment of fear, mistrust, and disengagement. The constant oversight, checking in, and nitpicking wears down even the strongest employee. Turnover goes up, engagement goes down, and all the while, the managers who micromanage may not even know they’re the source of the problem.

Perhaps you have said or felt the following about your boss:

“He gives me an assignment and tells me to do it my way. I only wish he meant it. My way doesn’t seem to hit the mark. He changes the smallest details. I dread getting new work.”

“I’ve had this job for six years. At this point, I think I understand how it works. It’s so frustrating to be treated like someone who just walked in the door.”

“Yesterday, I found her checking my spreadsheets when she thought I was at lunch. It feels terrible not to be trusted. I need to look for a new job.”

The good news? With a little self-awareness and some hard work, micromanagers can learn to let go.

Step one: Recognize the behavior pattern

One sign of micromanaging is if your employees seem to lack initiative and wait for you to micro-delegate. You may have created a culture where they don’t feel comfortable taking the next step without your say so.

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