Content By Thomas R. Cutler

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

In a repetitive manufacturing environment, Six Sigma’s quantification is much easier than in the engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing environment, where no two products are identical.

Six Sigma is a program that affects the entire company. What have been missing for ETO manufacturers are the central management tools to ensure the entire Six Sigma implementation is applied systematically. While Six Sigma affects external and internal users, centralized communication is critical to the program’s success, particularly when there’s a strong need for interaction between engineering and manufacturing.

According to Stephen Carson, executive vice president for Visibility Corp., “Many project-based manufacturers provide contract engineering and manufacturing services related to the production of components and assemblies with multiple domestic and off-shore locations. These companies must have a consistent track record of growth by concentrating and effectively competing on quality, timeliness and price. They require a state-of-the-art process and quality control system that provide both the flexibility and consistency to deliver the highest quality manufacturing services and cost effective product delivery.”

Following are some key quality ETO challenges:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

In a repetitive manufacturing environment, Six Sigma’s quantification is much easier than in the engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing environment, where no two products are identical.

Six Sigma is a program that affects the entire company. What have been missing for ETO manufacturers are the central management tools to ensure the entire Six Sigma implementation is applied systematically. While Six Sigma affects external and internal users, centralized communication is critical to the program’s success, particularly when there's a strong need for interaction between engineering and manufacturing.

According to Stephen Carson, executive vice president for Visibility Corp., “Many project-based manufacturers provide contract engineering and manufacturing services related to the production of components and assemblies with multiple domestic and off-shore locations. These companies must have a consistent track record of growth by concentrating and effectively competing on quality, timeliness and price. They require a state-of-the-art process and quality control system that provide both the flexibility and consistency to deliver the highest quality manufacturing services and cost effective product delivery.”

Following are some key quality ETO challenges:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

The tagline to the 1989 film "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" was “The Enterprise is back. This time, have they gone too far?”

With up to 10 years of continued process improvements on the plant floor, and in back office and distribution operations, manufacturers have finally arrived at the front door of customer relationship management (CRM). Many senior manufacturing engineering and operations executives are strongly resistant and assert that lean CRM is the final frontier in the lean enterprise process. Now that the quick gains have been achieved from eliminating waste in the rest of the manufacturing enterprise, the areas most neglected—customer service, sales and marketing—are front and center.

Achieving bottom-line benefits from the implementation of many of the CRM technology solutions that provide “electronic” connections and profound data analysis and reporting capabilities is only part of the quality equation. There are systematic processes designed to achieve significant CRM benefits including:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

The key to quality throughput within a warehouse, especially in a high-speed/high-volume environment, is the ability to move a carton into and out of a pick zone expeditiously.

When a warehouse control system (WCS) doesn’t process the information to divert products quickly enough, it causes cartons to be recirculated on the conveyor. This diminishes effectiveness, efficiency and quality control. Software must allow for consistent high-quality throughput, eliminating recirculation with effective communication between the WCS and the programmable logic controllers (PLC).

To achieve quality order fulfillment, the cartonization algorithm of a WCS selects the correct-sized carton for an order before the pick-and-pack process begins. The elimination of repacking is a central component in quality distribution: When the number of “touches” of the product is drastically reduced, quality control becomes lean and quantifiable.

Implementing a WCS with cartonization and zone skipping reduces the number of touches because of:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Challenges
HR Nicholson Co., “pioneers in the juice industry,” has operated for nearly a century. The company has grown from 45 employees to 75 employees in just the past six years. The family-owned, Baltimore-based manufacturing and distribution company realized that, unlike the first eighty-plus years when products were manufactured and shipped from the same location, the need to set up distribution locations separate from the manufacturing plant created several challenges.According to Su Shaffer, senior executive with the fruit juice manufacturer, “When HR Nicholson started looking at solutions to manage the multiple-location scenario, production planning was critical to meet the growth.” Beyond growth, part of what drove the lean process and the search for technological solutions were the government regulatory demands of the food industry.

Similarly, Green Bay Cheese Co. faced significant challenges due to government regulations and customer-compliance issues. Green Bay Cheese needed an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software package that could:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

At the Shorewood Packaging Midland Avenue facility in Toronto, real-time information helps yield world-class lean manufacturing results. Shorewood Packaging is part of International Paper, which has operations in more than 40 countries and sells its products in more than 120 nations. Shorewood Packaging has three plants in Ontario, Canada, and is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium packaging. The company could identify machines that were ahead or behind in productivity through key performance measurements, but these numbers weren’t relevant to machine operators. Management needed to find a way to provide relevant information to operators and give them the ability to set efficiency goals on a per-job basis.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Manufacturing products produces waste that ranges from overproduction, waiting time, and transportation costs to overprocessing, excess inventory, unnecessary motion and scrap. By eliminating these wastes, production time and cost of goods sold (COGS) are reduced, and quality is improved. COGS reduction is one of the fundamental drivers of a lean manufacturing initiative. Used to measure the ongoing success of lean manufacturing, it fundamentally captures material, labor, overhead and tooling costs. However, COGS reduction shouldn’t be thought of as a phase in a lean manufacturing process initiative.

If lean manufacturing initiatives are reducing COGS, manufacturers must be able to accurately measure and manage costs in real time. Only real-time, predictive cost estimates can reliably be used to validate lean initiative decisions and guide corrective actions throughout all the processes of engineering, planning and production, sourcing, quality control, program management and production delivery.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Kanban, e-kanban and digital kanban aren’t the same. Kanban is a Japanese term that means "signal." It’s one of the primary tools of just-in-time (JIT) systems. It signals a cycle of replenishment for production and materials, and it should maintain an orderly and efficient flow of materials throughout the entire manufacturing process. Until the development of e-kanban, kanban was usually a printed card that contained specific information such as part name, description or quantity. Production control managers are discovering the limitations of a manual card kanban system. At its best, an integrated digital kanbanbrings high-volume production under control, cuts inventory by half and links data across locations.

When a kanban system is purely manual, cards are placed on products when they come in, pulled as the items are used and then put back in the receiving area to be recycled for new shipments. Deciding what to order and granting a release are based on counting the pulled cards, and this process can be frustrating.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software helping or hindering quality? Many companies that purchased their first ERP package years ago now find that the system is hindering their efforts to adopt new quality initiatives, including lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Since the purchase several years ago, the business has changed, and the ERP system wasn’t flexible enough to keep pace. Perhaps it was the wrong system. The wrong ERP system selection is more apparent than in the engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing sector.Following are some areas of ERP deficiency for the ETO manufacturing environment:

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Many organizations are turning to outside operations-expense management companies due to the recognition of billing scrutiny as a key quality control and quality assurance issue. “When performing bill-auditing and rate-analysis services, many utilities in the United States have errors on at least one to three percent of the bills they send to their customers and have at least some of their customers on the wrong rate. Sometimes finding and fixing these quality mistakes translate into small incremental savings, but other times it’s a quality error that can add up to a major erroneous expense,” says Jeffrey Hart, CEO of Cadence Network, an operations-expense management firm.

When most customers receive their utility bill, they go through the following steps: