Content By Quality Digest

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

When we look at a Personal Kanban, its simplicity belies its power. Visualizing our work as individuals, as teams, and even as teams of teams creates trust, reliability, and understanding. When we want to coordinate work, these are serious prerequisites.

The image below is from a construction trailer, they are engaged in a lean construction exercise known as a “pull-plan.” Each color is a different contractor; each diamond is a delivery or a milestone. In this case we have five different contractors whose daily work relies on the completion of daily work done by the other contractors.

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A construction team planning work openly and honestly

To spell this out, their work directly relies on people in other companies, every day.

Historically, this had led to predictable delays as different companies worked at different speeds for different reasons. You might recognize this from different departments in your company or different people in your family. Our work often relies on other people who are often simply ignorant of our needs.

What's new with the Baldrige Program?

We talk with Robert Fangmeyer, director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, about the latest developments in the Baldrige Program. Learn about this year's recipients, communities of excellence, redesigning the Baldridge evaluation process, and more.

NIST’s picture

By: NIST

A new research effort at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) aims to address a pervasive issue in our data-driven society: a lack of fairness that sometimes turns up in the answers we get from information retrieval software.

A measurably “fair search” would not always return the exact same list of answers to a repeated, identical query. Instead, the software would consider the relative relevance of the answers each time the search runs—thereby allowing different, potentially interesting answers to appear higher in the list at times.

Software of this type is everywhere, from popular search engines to less-known algorithms that help specialists comb through databases. This software usually incorporates forms of artificial intelligence that help it learn to make better decisions over time. But it bases these decisions on the data it receives, and if those data are biased in some way, the software will learn to make decisions that reflect that bias, too. These decisions can have real-world consequences—for instance, influencing which music artists a streaming service suggests, and whether you get recommended for a job interview.

NVision Inc.’s picture

By: NVision Inc.

It roamed Texas long before the first dinosaurs. Growing to 12 ft in length, with powerful jaws and specialized teeth for stabbing and tearing apart its prey, it was not a creature you’d want to encounter while on a Saturday morning hike. “It” was Dimetrodon limbatus, and a fossilized skeleton of the Paleozoic predator was recently scanned by NVision, a leader in 3D noncontact optical scanning/measurement, for the Texas Through Time museum in Hillsboro, Texas. The detailed scan data will enable the paleontology museum to 3D-print exact replicas of the fossil for further study and education.

Billed as the “Best Little Fossil Museum in Texas,” the nonprofit Texas Through Time was created by paleontologist Andre LuJan to preserve and promote the rich fossil history of the Lone Star State. Free to the public, the museum features a wide assortment of fossils from all ages and formations, including many one-of-a-kind fossils not available anywhere else. Although primarily focused on the noteworthy fossil diversity of Texas, the museum’s collection also includes fossils from around the world.

Nico Thomas’s picture

By: Nico Thomas

Earlier this year, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, celebrated its 50th anniversary. The recognition is much deserved for an agency that has worked hard to strengthen minority-owned businesses. Through a network of centers and partners not unlike our own Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network, the MBDA works with minority-owned businesses to create and retain jobs, build scale and capacity, and increase revenues. The drive to increase the competitiveness of underserved businesses by leveraging a network is something that connects the MBDA and the MEP program.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

When was the last time you as a quality professional saw a major failure in implementing decisions? What about in project or process management? Such disasters can have devastating consequences for high-flying careers and successful companies. Yet they happen all too often, with little effort taken to prevent failure.

For example, many leaders stake their reputations on key projects such as successful product launches. However, research shows that most product launches fail. Nike’s FuelBand, launched with much fanfare in 2012, flopped on arrival. By 2014, Nike fired most of the team behind FuelBand, discontinuing this product.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Quality control and inventory control are equally important to the ongoing success of all manufacturing businesses. Both form the basis of an efficient organization that operates at high productivity levels, minimizes waste, and delivers quality products to meet or exceed consumers’ expectations.

Until a about decade ago, there were layers of quality assurance and quality control steps before products reached the end user. Along with production controls, these steps included quality controls related to warehouse operations, logistics, and inventory verification at retail stores, in order to double-check product quality and order fulfilment accuracy.

Today, more than a million small manufacturers worldwide have forgone any retail sales in favor of a D2C (direct to consumer) model, cutting out warehouse operations and retail stores. The reason is simple: margins. A jewelry manufacturer, for example, selling a bracelet for $20 online, with hard costs of $2, can realize huge profit margins by eliminating the wholesale middleman. That same bracelet would have wholesaled to retailers for $8. But now, while product quality is still a customer expectation, consumers also expect quality delivery and customer service.

Marposs’s picture

By: Marposs

(Marposs: Auburn Hills, MI) -- Marposs has announced the availability of its new data management software—C-THRU4.0, designed to collect and process data from multiple machine tools equipped with Artis machine monitoring systems via a central hub. This information can be accessed remotely, via an iPad, computer or laptop as well as offering the ability to integrate with MES and higher level ERP systems. The data collected can be used to analyze tool life, machine capability and cost comparisons, as well as alarm tracing and counts, profit and loss accounting, profitability analysis and more, all leading to enhanced productivity and profitability.

The software works by feeding real-time information from the machine tools to a cloud platform network, which can then be accessed and used in either a centralized or decentralized manner. This interconnectivity helps to optimize production flow from preventative maintenance, process stabilization, and quality assurance to resource planning.  Production costs and quality are always transparent and traceable through the statistical recording and evaluation of performance indicators.  

Dustin Poppendieck’s picture

By: Dustin Poppendieck

On August 29, 2005, I was starting my first semester teaching freshman environmental engineering majors at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. At the exact same time, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi with 190 kph (120 mph) winds and a storm surge in excess of 6 meters (20 feet). Levees failed, flooding more than 80 percent of New Orleans and many surrounding areas. This tragedy left more than 1,800 people dead, many of whom had been trapped in their own homes. It took nearly six weeks for the water to recede, exposing more than 130,000 destroyed housing units.

I spent the rest of the semester (and subsequent ones) discussing with my students the lessons that environmental engineers should learn from Katrina and its aftermath (levees, water treatment, mold, air testing, planning for disasters, and more). Little did I know I would still be dealing with some of the issues revealed by Hurricane Katrina nearly 15 years later as a scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Helmel Engineering’s picture

By: Helmel Engineering

(Helmel Engineering: Niagara Falls, NY) -- Helmel Engineering, a 46-year-old American manufacturer of coordinate measuring machines (CMM), has introduced a new CMM developed to take advantage of the capabilities of Renishaw’s PH20 Probe concept. The Microstar Model 320-185 is an evolution of the company’s venerable Microstar line of durable mechanical bearing CMMs that are proven workhorses in labs, gauge rooms, and on the production floor.

Virtually all moving-bridge CMMs today were developed for slower probe systems that index between limited numbers of locked A-B position angles then measure with 3-axis moves. In contrast, the Renishaw PH20 Probe system with UCCT5 Controller provides true 5-axis functionality with infinite positions throughout the 230° × 360° head range in combination with the X-, Y-, and Z-axis motion of the CMM. The PH20 also includes “head-tap” mode where the probe rapidly acquires data autonomously while the CMM remains stationary.