Lean Article

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

More than 80 percent of U.S. food manufacturing plants operating today were built more than 20 years ago and may lack safety features. The average age of manufacturing assets and equipment currently in operation in the United States, according to IndustryWeek, is close to 20 years, and since 1990, the age of assets has virtually doubled.

This means equipment such as conveyors, pallet jacks, and tuggers represent myriad potential safety hazards. Addressing those issues means that more maintenance, more labor, more training, and more certifications are required, all of which come with a steep price tag.

Multiple Authors
By: Ryan E. Day, Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest, Taran March @ Quality Digest

In order to best illustrate how enterprisewide SPC software can help address shop-floor problems and then funnel the captured data to the corporate level where strategic issues can be analyzed, here is a case study of a hypothetical manufacturing facility. In it, the company makes effective use of SPC for data-driven decisions.

A global food products manufacturing company with 11 sites worldwide had chosen to master quality, both tactically and strategically, as its top goal. Each site collected and analysed data in the company’s enterprisewide SPC software, both to monitor and respond to quality issues at the site, and to share those same data with the corporate office.

At the company’s Prague site, the quality manager looked at her shop-floor data for the previous month. As figure 1 indicates, the software reported a total of 737 events, which at first glance seemed like a big deal to the manager. However, on closer inspection, she could see that these weren’t massive quality issues with the product or processes. However, there were 517 missed data checks. Although not a line-stopping issue, missed checks could result in noncompliance to agreements with customers or industry requirements.

Michael Popenas’s picture

By: Michael Popenas

Product development (PD) is the life blood of a company’s success and is the process for innovation. Today, product life cycles are shrinking due to an ever-increasing number of competitive and disruptive products coming to market quicker.

To stay in business, a company’s PD needs to become more effective, more productive, and faster. Product development systems can no longer take years or months to deliver something that the customer will hopefully still want. Planning, design and development, testing, and release can no longer rely on the currently widely practiced sequential phase-gate waterfall methods developed years ago.

Multiple Authors
By: Sridhar Kota, Glenn Daehn

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed glaring deficiencies in the U.S. manufacturing sector’s ability to provide necessary products—especially amidst a crisis. It’s been five months since the nation declared a national emergency, yet shortages of test kit components, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies persist.

Globalization is at the heart of the problem. With heavy reliance on global supply chains and foreign producers, the pandemic has interrupted shipping of parts and materials to nearly 75 percent of U.S. companies.

LauraLee Rose’s picture

By: LauraLee Rose

The reality for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) is that they are going to have to be good at training their workforce or they won’t make as much money. That’s a blunt assessment, but the need for proficiency in training will only increase, whether it’s retraining current employees for new products, processes, and equipment or getting new employees up to speed more quickly. Effective training should be able to drive down the time for training.

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.

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