Lean Article

Katie Myers’s picture

By: Katie Myers

Freight trucks account for 23 percent of U.S. transportation. Transportation is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. The country’s freight industry is in no position to ignore its impact on the environment and the greater good.

We can break down the trucking industry’s environmental impact further. Each market segment emits the following amount of carbon emissions every year:
• Truckload (TL): 836 million tons of emissions
• Partials: 722 million tons of emissions
• Less-than truckload (LTL): 342 million tons of emissions

Fortunately, at least one logistics provider is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Flock Freight is transforming the $400 billion freight landscape by eliminating inefficiency and waste through green shipping practices.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

We’ve all been in lines that seem to last forever, especially if we choose our queue at the checkout, and the one next to ours is moving faster. You know the existential dread that comes along with standing in a dedicated queue and waiting interminably. To make service of all kinds more efficient, the predominant thinking in operations management is to form a single serpentine line that feeds different servers—a pooled queue.

Traditional operations management theory has determined that pooling is more efficient. And it may be, if tasks or widgets are the items in the queue, and it’s machines, not human beings, that are processing them. In a system with dedicated queues, it’s possible to have one that’s empty and another queue that’s full but no way to rebalance this. If the queue contains customers, naturally they can switch to the empty queue. But when we consider job assignments, for example, these can’t just move across queues. So the dedicated queue is viewed as less efficient than a pooled one in terms of throughput and waiting time.

James J. Kline’s picture

By: James J. Kline

In today’s coronavirus environment, governments at all levels are under greater fiscal pressure. For instance, Oregon’s governor has told state departments to prepare for a 12-percent reduction in their budgets. Given this environment, perhaps it is time to reexamine an established approach to improving operational performance. That approach is quality management.

From 1992 to 2002, I researched and wrote about quality award-winning governments in the United States.1 With extra time on my hands, I started cleaning out old files. In the process, I found a few of the documents backing up that work.

The documents included information about 32 local governments that were using total quality management (TQM). While reviewing the current websites of these local governments, I discovered that at least seven are using or mentioning quality management. It might seem disappointing that only seven of 32 are using some form of lean management, Six Sigma, continuous improvement, or Baldrige Criteria. However, that several of these local governments have been implementing quality management for 20 years shows there is a sound quality management foundation in local government. This is a foundation that can be built upon.

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

Untitled Document


From Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (J. B. Lippincott, 1942)

The quote in the picture from Zora Neale Hurston does not end there; it finishes, “It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.”

Zora was describing something specific in her life: researching folk music while she was attending Barnard College. She started that quest by walking the grounds of Barnard and asking music scholars if they had any folk music she could listen to.

They looked at her blankly, trying to figure out what “folk music” actually meant and went back to their concertos.

Her search then took her to where folk music actually resided—sometimes putting her in unsafe or even life-threatening situations. Her research required going to the gemba. Not just reading about it.

Steven Forrest’s default image

By: Steven Forrest

The ongoing pandemic will likely change, if not completely alter, many aspects of our daily lives. One facet that will significantly change is the way we work. After months of being in lockdown, the massive shift to working from home has proven to be effective in helping employees stay productive. This led a lot of companies—including those that were initially suspicious about it—to seriously consider remote working as a viable and legitimate work arrangement.

Andrew Peterson’s picture

By: Andrew Peterson

Collaborative robots are increasingly attractive to manufacturers that require flexible solutions for their growing product mix but may not have the scale of work or capital resources needed to justify larger investments in automation systems.

These collaborative robots, commonly referred to as “cobots,” can execute tasks with minimal programming and adapt to variations in part position and size. Humans work side by side with cobots to reduce the need for custom fixturing that can make high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) work inefficient. Cobots can also go to where the work is on the shop floor.

The Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership has identified manufacturers that have a lot to gain from cobot adoption. Investing in collaborative robots may make the most sense for:
• Manufacturers from 50 to 500 employees with a family product mix
• Owners who are looking for a fast payback period on capital investments (e.g., six months)
• Managers who can’t fill shifts but can redeploy employees to more value-added positions
• Operators with repetitive or dangerous jobs

Farhana Ahmad’s picture

By: Farhana Ahmad

Despite juggling competing priorities, building resilient systems and processes within their organizations continues to be top of mind for business leaders today and is anticipated to be so for the foreseeable future. As such, the first logical step is to turn to existing methods and approaches that have been proven to be effective—of these, lean is a strong contender.

Starting from the beginning: the definition of lean

Defined as “a way of providing maximum customer value while minimizing effort, equipment, time, and waste in the production system,” lean is based on five principles:
• Value is defined according to the customer’s perception of it.
• Organizations must map the entire value stream and eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to customer value.
• Products and services must flow smoothly to the customer with no interruptions.
• Customer requirements pull value upstream along the process.
• Perfection with no waste is the goal of the production system.

From an applicability perspective, the business process most commonly linked to lean is that of waste reduction, which is summarized into eight key types. This includes everything from motion to overproduction to underutilized talent.

Lolly Daskal’s picture

By: Lolly Daskal

In a recent survey, only 3 percent said they have confidence in corporate executives.

The news was equally dismal for others: 3 percent reported having confidence in government officials, 5 percent in reporters and journalists, 8 percent in small business owners, and only 11 percent in ministers and clergy.

These results show, among other things, how hard it can be to find the leader who can be credible, courageous, trustworthy, ethical, and transparent.

But we all know great leadership is possible—because we ourselves want it.

Here are some basic ways we can be the example of what it looks like.

1. Do what you say you will do. Too many leaders just do whatever they can get away with. Be credible.

2. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. This one can be hard; doing what is right is rarely easy. And many times leaders choose the wrong path. Be courageous.

3. Take responsibility for your actions. Stop making excuses for your decisions and rationalizing your choices. The more excuses they hear from you, the less people will trust you. Be trustworthy.

Multiple Authors
By: Bill Bernstein, Teodar Vernica

Step into the factory of the future. Alicia, an operations manager, sits at her workstation viewing a digitally enhanced video feed of the facility, using cameras installed in strategic locations. Wearing safety gear, a maintenance engineer named Bob checks his tablet for the next machine to fix. Equipped with a headset and controllers, Dave, a software engineer at HQ, serves as a virtual tour guide for Carrie, the company’s lead executive. Wearing an augmented reality (AR) headset, Carrie surveys her machines as she walks through the facility. With Dave’s guidance, she sees digital information, such as a machine’s status, appearing in her view.

Each able to experience a virtual overlay onto a physical environment that provides more context relevant for their jobs, these co-workers can realize their potential as a team through industrial extended reality (XR), an umbrella term that encompasses a spectrum of technologies, from partially immersive AR to completely immersive virtual reality.

This factory might be hard to imagine, but each technology already exists. What’s missing are standard formats, protocols, and guidelines for them to work seamlessly with one another. In other words, the communication channels among these technologies remain shut.

Ted Theyerl’s picture

By: Ted Theyerl

‘Forward!” It’s the state motto of Wisconsin, where I work to help manufacturing companies improve their operations and processes. It’s one simple word that holds a lot of meaning and relevance. It’s what I want companies I work with to embrace, practice, and execute. Forward is a word that helps summarize an entire scope of improvement practices, and it’s a word that has become even more relevant in these times of uncertainty. This motto and mindset can help your company serve everyone—your owners, employees, and customers—even better in the future. Forward!

When the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic hit hard in mid-March 2020, the entire business and economic landscape shifted, almost instantly. Manufacturing companies had no option but to adapt rapidly to change or suffer the consequences—which could be immediate or long lasting.

How well did you do? If you adjusted quickly and smoothly, that’s a good sign you have solid improvement practices in place. If it was a struggle or worse, a threat to your business, that is a signal you need to get better at getting better—rapidly. How can you improve your ability to adapt rapidly?

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