Lean Article

Jeremy L. Boerger’s picture

By: Jeremy L. Boerger

You may not be familiar with the term “information technology asset management” (ITAM), but most businesses deal with it on a regular basis (for better or worse). ITAM is what helps control the costs of computers, servers, software, and services used to create the computing environment modern businesses need to function.

Ideally, the ITAM team (you do have one, right?) should be able to tell their business leadership the exact number of laptops in use by a remote sales force, or if more software licenses are needed to avoid a monstrous audit penalty at year’s end, or the costs of limping along on Windows 7 because that one CAD/CAM tool can’t handle the latest operating system.

Kevin Ketels’s picture

By: Kevin Ketels

The conditions that led to a shortage of baby formula were set in motion long before the February 2022 closure of the Similac factory tipped the U.S. into a crisis.

Retailers nationwide reported supplies of baby formula were out of stock at a rate of 43 percent during the week that ended May 8, 2022, compared with less than 5 percent during the first half of 2021. In some states, such as Texas and Tennessee, shortages were over 50 percent, which has prompted parents to travel long distances and pay exorbitant sums of money to grab dwindling supplies of formula for their babies.

Joe Vernon’s picture

By: Joe Vernon

The pandemic has had many consequences for manufacturing companies, the most prevalent being supply chain disruptions. In light of these, it’s paramount that organizations establish robust and reliable operations to ensure that productivity targets are met, especially as consumer demands continue to rise regarding speed, accuracy, and quality.

To keep up with the rapidly accelerating and challenging economy, many in the manufacturing sector have deployed computer vision (CV) technologies. Coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) it’s possible to train computers to interpret, identify, and classify objects in the visual world using digital images, cameras, videos, and machine learning.

Brandon Cornuke’s picture

By: Brandon Cornuke

Manufacturers work hard to minimize disruptions to their operations and invest significant resources to minimize production risk. They also are under constant pressure to find new ways to deliver more value to their customers. Sustainable business growth is critical to delivering this value. Many achieve that sustainability through experimentation.

But innovation and experimentation involve risk, which could lead to wasted resources, not meeting expectations, or a lack of return on investment. Sometimes precious resources will be devoted to experiments that will not work out. But just as there is the risk of failure, there is risk associated with not being innovative as well. For instance, the business may not stay competitive.

Manufacturers can reduce their innovation risk by linking initiatives to the unmet needs of their customers. They need to anticipate how their customers’ needs will change in the future.

Emily Newton’s picture

By: Emily Newton

There’s no better time than now. As a species, we need to mitigate the effect we have on our planet. There are many ways to do this—namely, through green and eco-friendly initiatives—but one sector is having the biggest impact of all: the industrial and manufacturing sector. In the 2010s, the industrial sector accounted for nearly 50 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, and during the last 60 years, that has almost doubled.

Manufacturing isn’t just energy-intensive, however. It’s also responsible for harmful emissions and is a huge producer of waste. Establishing more energy-aware manufacturing processes and systems would be a massive step in the right direction. It could mean the difference between slowing climate change or stepping over our fast-approaching tipping point.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Negotiating a salary increase or a job promotion ranks high on the list of hard conversations to have at work, and it doesn’t get any easier without a plan.

“People think, ‘I’m just going to knock on their door, sit down with them, and noodle around and see where this goes.’ That’s not a plan,” says Maurice Schweitzer, Wharton professor of operations, information, and decisions. “You want to have a specific goal in mind. People often fail to achieve their conversational goals because they fail to identify their objectives.”

In his latest paper, Schweitzer and his co-authors introduce a framework to help people have more successful conversations by identifying and understanding the motives of each participant. The model is called the “conversational circumplex,” and it maps conversations along two key axes: informational and relational. (See image below.)

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

Ryan Day1 describes how the rise of independent auto dealers is a “gray swan” event for the automobile industry. This was not only bound to happen, as observed by the author, but also long overdue. The article states, “...current state laws prohibit OEMs from selling new vehicles directly to consumers (D2C). Selling directly would cut out the dealership franchise—the middleman—and all the associated price markup fees. This could theoretically save car buyers an alleged 30 percent of the cost of a car.”

This problem has been known for decades, and it is not something the supply chain’s value-adding stakeholders should continue to tolerate. Dealerships do not add value to the transaction, but if the 30 percent figure is correct, then $7,500 of the price tag of a $25,000 vehicle constitutes pure waste. My recommendation to consumers, as an immediate recourse in the absence of changes of the laws in question, is to game the system by waiting until the end of the model year to buy a new car. The car is still new but, as it is now last year’s model, the dealership must offer a substantial discount to get it off the lot to make room for more inventory.

V R Vijay Anand’s picture

By: V R Vijay Anand

As the world moves toward a new, post-pandemic normal, industries must leverage digital transformation at an accelerated pace. This is already happening. According to IBM, 67 percent of manufacturers have accelerated digital projects since Covid-19.

Although improved operational efficiency is typically the reason for these changes, manufacturers should capitalize on the convergence of Industry 4.0 and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals to improve their sustainability credentials. Data hold the key to reducing manufacturing’s waste problem.

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

By: Bruce Hamilton

Every February, there are welcome reminders that spring is on the way. The first for me is a witch hazel bush in my front yard that defies subfreezing weather to produce fragrant yellow flowers. Then, a few weeks later, crocuses and winter aconites will emerge from the snow. The cycle continues through spring and summer as each species awakens, blooms, and then rests. Some plants, like witch hazel, develop with very little support. Others, like a late-summer blooming Rose of Sharon, require special protection from blight and insects.

Keith Groves’s picture

By: Keith Groves

The lean manufacturing movement evolved from a desire to reduce waste and inefficiencies and improve productivity on the shop floor. Many manufacturers have also benefited from the resulting continuous improvement mindset as engaged employees became empowered to change things for the better. Moreover, just as you assign a value to the benefit of lean for production, you can do the same in the front office.

Lean principles apply to traditional scheduling functions, finance, even sales and marketing. Bringing lean principles to your manufacturing office will save you time and, ultimately, money by addressing these common issues:
• Nonvalue-added time spent on tasks
• Delays in communication
• Lack of proper information flow

A huge invisible wall often separates office functions from manufacturing operations. Each side may not understand what the other side does and how they do it. A lean office mindset will help with transparency and breaking down that wall.

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