Content By Ryan E. Day

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By: Ryan E. Day

I can’t believe he said that. Well, wrote that. I’m reading another reader’s comment to an article about quality in manufacturing. The reader says, “We shouldn’t drag politics into this!” Really?

First of all, how can you drag something into where it already is? Somebody tell me one facet of manufacturing that regulation or taxation does not affect. Heavily.

Where to locate? Property tax and permits.
What material to use? Better take EPA regulations into account.
Workforce? Enough said.

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By: Ryan E. Day

They did it again—ruined my scoop.  I pride myself on what I consider a natural ability to read between the lines and then find information and facts to fill in that void. Like the void created when companies wax verbose about some altruistic subject like “trust,” but keep mum on their motivation for publicly broaching the subject in the first place. So what am I to think when they just won’t be sneaky?

Last year Ford Motor Co. invited me to attend its 2012 trend conference. I thought I’d figured out its true motivation for inviting so many “social media types” as a covert attempt to exploit the expanding reach of the social media platform. I was crushed when Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, openly confirmed that motivation and went on to explain to me the virtues and effectiveness of this tactic as a service to readers. You can read about my ensuing meal of crow here.

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By: Ryan E. Day

Before writing and editing I kept the lights on and the bulldog fed by building things. I spent three decades in manufacturing. Alarm systems, hang gliders, moulding products, and motorhomes have my fingerprints all over them. Building the highest-quality product possible was an absolute top priority for me personally. Believe it or not, that mindset landed me in hot water more than once.

Before moving into lead positions, I had to learn an important lesson in the real world of manufacturing: Quality is not always king.

Quality (Q) is but one factor in the trifecta known as value (V). The other two are cost of quality (COQ) and customer perception.

Quality without the context of the customer’s perception of value is meaningless.

The customer’s perception of value at the time of purchase should always be the underlying factor when designing and manufacturing any product. That was a hard lesson for me. How could it not be a priority to spend a little more time to make the wiring harness a bit cleaner, the carpeting fit a little better? Surely slowing down the moulding machine just a little to produce a more consistent shape would be preferable, right? The short answer was, “Not always.”

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By: Ryan E. Day

When discussing supply-chain security, what could be more important than the security of our food supply? In view of the fact that we die if we don't eat, I'd say food supply-chain security ranks very high indeed. Unfortunately, the food supply system that has developed across much of the world can only be described as industrial food production (IFP). Recent debacles such as pink slime, meat glue, and horseburgers perfectly demonstrate the frailty and risk presented by the long and convoluted road of the IFP supply chain.

First, what is industrial food production?

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By: Ryan E. Day

We’ve been hearing complaints of a lack of skilled workers for quite some time now. It’s even gotten to the point of controversy. Lack of skilled workers or lack of incentive? Those companies adversely affected by this skills gap are slowly but surely separating themselves into two camps: the complainers and the problem solvers.

The problem solvers

British Petroleum (BP) is one company that takes a proactive approach in courting prospective hi-tech employees. Rather than waiting for others to solve the skills gap, BP launched STEM scholarships at UK universities and initiated paid internships to graduates.

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By: Ryan E. Day


In May 2012 the United States Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released the report, “Inquiry into Counterfeit Electronic Parts in the Department of Defense Supply Chain.” As noted in the first and second pages of the report’s executive summary, the committee’s investigation during 2009–2010 found approximately 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit electronic parts, and “the total number of suspect parts in those cases exceeded one million.” Apparently, all the regulations, standard operating procedures (SOP), and oversight committees were no match for clever counterfeiters.

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By: Ryan E. Day

I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but at 36,000 feet inside a Boeing 747, things are pretty cozy, and the guy across the aisle from me wasn’t exactly shy. He was having what sounded like a not so pleasant conversation with a client. It seems he began a transaction based on some assumptions that may not have been accurate. Conversations like his are all too common. He was talking at his client, not with him. It’s the difference between talking and communicating. In fact, it highlights what he doesn’t understand: The new communicating is not just understanding, but sharing.

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By: Ryan E. Day

Edison, Bell, Carver, Ford. Names synonymous with ingenuity and perseverance. These people inspire me to listen to that small voice that guides and goads my intuition. That voice is rarely wrong, but my translation of intuition into action sometimes leads me to bite off a tad more than I can chew. Single-handedly covering the “Go Further with Ford” trend conference, scheduled for June 26–28, 2012, in Dearborn, Michigan, may be just such a time.

Through an odd, but fortunate, string of circumstances, I was contacted by a PR agent of the Ford Motor Co. She inquired if Quality Digest would be interested in interviewing Benny Fowler, group vice president at Ford. “Why, yes, ma’am,” I said. “We would indeed.” It turned out to be a great conversation (interview starts 7:20 into video), and I was impressed with Fowler’s apparent dedication and enthusiasm as well as his easy manner.

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By: Ryan E. Day

“Stop!” Our shop’s trade-school intern froze in mid-swing. A 5-lb hammer clutched in his right hand, he was attempting to disassemble a spindle unit from a late model Mazda. More than likely, our newbie would have ruined the spindle in the process. I suggested he would be better served using a bearing puller. That was Monday.

“What are you doing?” Tuesday, I arrived at the shop greeted by the sight of our intern struggling to use the bearing puller on a king pin assembly. To no avail. I grabbed the 5-lb hammer and administered half a dozen strategically placed blows. The assembly came apart. “The right tool for the job, my friend.”

Although this is a simple anecdote, it is a valid object lesson to be applied to processes at large.

I have no clue where the idea that one quality process tool is better than another came from, but I believe it has fueled the fire of a “silver bullet” mentality that excludes many useful tools and too often boxes folks into, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

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By: Ryan E. Day

Perhaps I am overendowed with self-confidence; or perhaps nothing more than plain old hubris. Then again, maybe some things are just as obvious as they seem to me. Take 5S, for instance. Really? There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. If you got it out, you put it back.

Six Sigma: Know what you want to do, do it, check back later to make sure it worked. Rinse and repeat.

Root cause analysis: ’nuff said.

It boggles my mind to think there is an entire industry thriving on the codification of the obvious. I have to wonder if there is any real value in these seminars, schools, and materials. This particular line of thought (read: rant) comes up often with me, and I always end up like a dog chasing my own tail. The circular logic starts with the previous paragraph. I bemoan that my personal experience has shown that very few leaders demonstrate any understanding of what I would call the basics. Judging by the lack of leadership skills in the business world, apparently there must be a need for basic management and operation training.

It then occurs to me that quality process training can transform a basic axiom, such as 5S, into a valuable tool by teaching the methods to employ that basic idea at a companywide scale.