Content By Thomas R. Cutler

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

In an unforgiving and increasingly competitive marketplace, manufacturers struggle to squeeze 5 percent to 7 percent from operational cost reductions. Those who fail often don’t survive, and more than 1,000 North American plants closed last year because continued improvement to the bottom line came at the expense of critical quality controls and quality assurance.

Manufacturers that can increase throughput with the same or fewer resources have the best chances of continuing operations in North America; otherwise, their only recourse is to move to lower-cost regions around the world.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Berner Food and Beverage is a leading private-label and store-brand supplier of food and beverage products such as processed cheese, snack dips, latte, and meal replacement beverages. From merchandising solutions to a full spectrum of value-added services, Berner’s clients experience the same high level of service and support that has earned the company the Category Colonel Award from Private Label Buyer Magazine for 10 of the last 11 years.

Berner attributes its success and consistent approval from retailers in part to its certification to the Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Code. Berner’s facilities, based in Dakota, Illinois, are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and certified to the SQF 2000 Code, Level 3. The SQF Program provides food suppliers with a food-safety and quality management certification program that is tailored to its needs. The program enables them to meet product trace, regulatory, food safety, and commercial quality criteria in a structured and cost-effective manner.

Thomas R. Cutler
By: Thomas R. Cutler, Rich McGrath

Editor’s note: This is the second article of a multipart series about the role of quality in education and its effect on workforce development. In part one of the series, the role of accountability was detailed and profiled.

The well-established quality control mechanisms and processes used in business for more than two decades are now infiltrating academia. Rather than quality control professionals, accountability directors are assuming the functions of ensuring best practices in schools. Where business refers to continuous process improvement, the education model refers to monitoring.

Based on the voluminous mandates and initiatives from local school districts and state and federal governments as required by No Child Left Behind, schools are attempting to quickly respond with strategies that will improve students’ achievement test scores as well as skill sets in reading and math. Just as industry selects a process strategy, such as lean Six Sigma, education models use similar methods to select and assess the efficacy of their solutions.

Thomas R. Cutler
By: Thomas R. Cutler, Rich McGrath

Editor’s note: In this first part of a multipart series on quality in education, we will provide an overview of the current state of quality education issues. In addition, a few of the lean practices that are now being adopted by education thought leaders will be shared.

Schools and businesses are more alike than different. Standards of excellence apply to both. There is much finger-pointing at how the U.S. education system is failing to prepare another generation of workers with the requisite skill sets.

Indeed, there are more than six million jobs available in the United States and an unemployment rate stubbornly stuck above 8 percent. These two pieces of information would appear incongruent, yet employers regularly insist that basic needed skills—rudimentary math, reading, and comprehension—are lacking among more than 80 percent of all applicants.

It is impossible to examine the role of preparing a future workforce without looking at early education: All roads lead to elementary education.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

In production, “zero defects” is a frequent quality metric, but zero worker injuries, while a stated goal of most manufacturing plants and distribution centers, has not made it to the gold standard. There is no disputing that defective product costs companies millions of dollars in repairs, reshipments, and bad customer relations. Ironically though, cost containment through fewer workers’ compensation claims, litigation, absenteeism, and employer reputation has a more significant impact on the bottom line than all other quality initiatives combined.

All employers will agree in principle that workforce health and safety is paramount and affects quality. Yet the documented physical labor processes in most companies continue to reveal that that repetitive lifting, lowering, and moving injuries cost businesses millions of dollars each year. Automating those tasks significantly reduces the potential for injuries and downtime. No approach has been found for totally eliminating back injuries caused by lifting, though effective safety control programs and ergonomic design of work tasks can be greatly improved.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

In a little more than a month, the U.S. presidential primaries will begin; in a year the national election will be upon us. To most politicians, most Americans, and the millions of unemployed, no issue is greater than creating jobs in the United States.

Calls for funding and stimulus inevitably revert to a conversation about the lost manufacturing jobs in this country. Regardless of political perspective and catch phrases such as reshoring (returning jobs that were outsourced from the United States), the role and need for quality American laborers has changed significantly during the past year.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Process requirements for catalog and online fulfillment centers are quite distinguishable from brick-and-mortar retailers. Even catalog companies such as Oriental Trading Co., Cornerstone Brands, and Augusta Sportswear face unique challenges, and each of them has turned to voice-picking technology to address logistical challenges.

The very nature of products sold, defines the requirement of voice systems needed to achieve fulfillment objectives. Oriental Trading sells party supplies, toys, and novelties; Augusta sells apparel; and Cornerstone sells housewares, including indoor and patio furniture.

“Standard order profiles, warehouse systems, and fulfillment processes vary from company to company,” says Jeff Slevin, chief operating officer of Lucas Systems, provider of voice-directed logistics applications for warehouses and fulfillment centers. “At Cornerstone, order fillers use turret trucks to pick large items from high-bay racks, while staff at Augusta walk among shelves in pick modules.”

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Food safety standards are becoming increasingly stringent. Although government legislation has long been implemented, your customers may be driving an even higher standard of food safety through the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) or Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute, which require third-party audits.

The GFSI is a global collaboration between leading food-safety experts from retail, manufacturing, and food-service companies, as well as service providers associated with the food supply chain. The initiative is coordinated by The Consumer Goods Forum, the only independent global network for consumer goods retailers and manufacturers worldwide. It serves the CEOs and senior management of nearly 400 members in more than 150 countries.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Blount is a discrete manufacturer specializing in chain-saw components. At their plant in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, the company operates a 1,200-machine facility and serves a global market. Manufacturing executives were looking for a performance management solution to support the company’s lean initiatives and needed to find a means to improve production reporting accuracy, reliability, and frequency.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Burger King’s advertising jingle during the 1970s was, “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!”

In late August, Sarah E. Needleman profiled in the Wall Street Journal that entrepreneurial manufacturers are experiencing a demand for made-to-order goods. In her feature titled, “‘Custom’ is Customary,” Needleman hop-scotches through a variety of businesses from Create-a-mattress.com to Panraven, a 3-year-old customer photo-scrapbooking business.

Along with these customized products and one-at-a-time customer orders comes not only the opportunity for increased profit margin but also the potential for dissatisfied clients if the fulfillment process is lacking or mispicked. Returned materials, and the corrective actions and express shipping that result, can consume all the profit-margin benefits of a customer build-to-order operation.