Lean Article

Trevor Blumenau’s picture

By: Trevor Blumenau

How does one define quality in the context of a warehouse? The perfect warehouse is clean, has everything in its place, and is easy to access. Your warehouse looks like the one below, right?

You have a perfectly accurate database table that tells you exactly where everything is, correct?  And your fast-moving products are easily accessible right near the loading dock! And all your warehouse employees have perfect attendance and never make mistakes.

Figure 1: Your warehouse. Right?


As they say, “You get what you measure.” So if you want a perfect warehouse, you should measure the “quality” of your warehouse against the perfect ideal. For example, if you want your warehouse floor to be clean, define a quality metric to track of the number of pieces of trash left on the floor, and publish the metric for all employees to see.

Bonnie Stone’s picture

By: Bonnie Stone

Lean, also known as “lean manufacturing” or “lean production,” focuses on maximizing customer value by removing waste and eliminating defects. Lean tools are about understanding the process, looking for waste, preventing mistakes, and documenting what you did. 

Let’s look at five lean tools used in process improvements, what they do, and why they’re important. Companion by Minitab can help you get started leveraging the tools of lean and other continuous improvement methods to thrive in your business. These tools are even more powerful if you can share and collaborate with your team, so try Companion’s online dashboard reporting capabilities as well.

1. Voice of the customer (VOC) summary

Click here for larger image.

Jordan Kraemer’s picture

By: Jordan Kraemer

During the past year, I stopped responding to customer surveys, providing user feedback or, mostly, contributing product reviews. Sometimes I feel obligated—even eager—to provide this information. Who doesn’t like being asked his opinion? But, in researching media technologies as an anthropologist, I see these requests as part of a broader trend making home life bureaucratic.

Consumer technologies, whether user reviews and recommendations, social media or healthcare portals, involve logistical effort that means more administrative work at home. As economic anthropologist David Graeber observes, “All the software designed to save us from administrative responsibilities [has] turned us into part- or full-time administrators.” Companies may benefit when customers create content, provide feedback, and do busywork once done by paid employees, but what about the customers themselves—all of us?

Mike Richman’s picture

By: Mike Richman

During the Nov. 3, 2017, episode of QDL, we (figuratively) traveled the globe to bring you quality information. Let’s take a closer look:

“‘Made in Japan’ Falls from Grace Amid Scandals, Systematic Flaws in Manufacturing Industry”

Kobe Steel is the latest Japanese manufacturer to admit to wrongdoing, in this case falsifying and fabricating data. What has befallen Japanese industry, and can it recover?

“G7 Leaders Recognize International Standards to Drive Innovation, Competitiveness in Information and Communications Technologies”

The Group of Seven is the world’s most exclusive economy club, as it represents nearly $300 trillion of net financial worth. In a recent declaration, the G7 nations pledged to support standardization and interoperability in IT as part of the Next Production Revolution.

Jun Nakamuro’s picture

By: Jun Nakamuro

The world first became aware of the Toyota Production System (TPS) when Taiichi Ohno published a book about his groundbreaking efforts at Toyota. It was published in Japan in 1978. The Japanese version of his book wasn’t translated into English until 1988. Because 10 years had passed, this translation did not fully communicate the nuances of Ohno’s vision. The direct translation into English does not communicate the depth hidden within Ohno’s choice of words.

Ohno was very specific in his use of language. He did this to express to his trainees the intent, sequence, and purpose of each TPS principle and method. Some important concepts, such as the spirit of kaizen, were not even mentioned in his original book. I am writing this to communicate what has been lost in translation based on a number of unpublished lessons from Taiichi Ohno and what I have learned from those who have continued to evolve TPS beyond Toyota after 1979. (More on the TPS beyond Toyota.)

Matthew Barsalou’s picture

By: Matthew Barsalou

Quality tools can serve many purposes in problem solving. They may be used to assist in decision making, selecting quality improvement projects, and in performing root cause analysis. They provide useful structure to brainstorming sessions, for communicating information, and for sharing ideas with a team. They also help with identifying the optimal option when more than one potential solution is available. Quality tools can also provide assistance in managing a problem-solving or quality improvement project.

Seven classic quality tools

The Classic Seven Quality tools were compiled by Kaoru Ishikawa in his book, Guide to Quality Control (Asian Productivity Organization, 1991). Also known as “The Seven Tools” and “The Seven Quality Tools,” these basic tools should be understood by every quality professional. The Classic Seven Tools were first presented as tools for production employees to use in analyzing their own problems; they are both simple enough for everybody to use, yet powerful enough to tackle complex problems.

Jeff Dewar’s picture

By: Jeff Dewar

This photo shows the Milky Way (from the Latin via lactea), part of our galaxy as seen from Earth. It’s a barred spiral galaxy, essentially a flat disk of at least 100 billion stars. Our galaxy is just one of about 400 billion in the universe, only three of which can be seen by the naked eye. Which means almost everything we see unaided is part of our own Milky Way.

That ribbon of “milk” that forms the Milky Way is composed of stars that can’t be distinguished from each other by looking with the naked eye. It was only resolved into individual stars by Galileo in 1610 with his new telescope. The reason it looks like a ribbon is because we are inside the disk, looking out. Think of yourself inside a faintly colored white glass plate, inside a black room. As you look out through the plane of the plate, you see a white ribbon on a black background.

The Milky Way: Inside, looking out

Bob Emiliani’s picture

By: Bob Emiliani

I recently posted a version of the graphic below with the caption: “Not perfect, but close. It’s about right.” The response was overwhelmingly positive. A great majority of people recognized it as a unique comparison, one that they had never seen before, and also as an accurate comparison that effectively captures differences that actually exist.

My intent in producing the graphic was to address the decades-long confusion that has existed between the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean, and to help people understand the critical differences. It was also to help people realize why they are often unable to achieve much success with lean despite a lot of effort over many years.

Tonianne DeMaria’s picture

By: Tonianne DeMaria

While heading to a session at the most recent Lean Transformation Summit, I found myself confronted with signage that posed the following open-ended question: “All problem solvers must....”

Given how the work we do at Modus Cooperandi focuses largely on the nexus between lean for knowledge work, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and the teachings of W. Edwards Deming, one response in particular resonated:

“Understand how their behaviors are contributing to the problem.”

Knowledge workers’ “machinery”—i.e., their brains—can be capricious, rendering thought processes less than reliable, and actions less than rational.

While lean offers us a set of principles and practices to help us create value for our customers, for our organizations, and for ourselves, it’s our brains that seem to pose the greatest challenge to its successful implementation.

But it’s not our fault, you see. Our brains hate us.

GBMP’s picture


American Rheinmetall Systems (ARS) LLC, formerly Vingtech, is located in Biddeford, Maine. Established in January 2007, as part of a Norwegian company that had received a supplier contract for the U.S. Army’s CROWS remote weapon station program, the company was acquired by the Rheinmetall Group in June 2010. In 2016, the company changed its name to American Rheinmetall Systems to better associate itself with its parent company in Germany, Rheinmetall Defence.

ARS is a mechanical and electro-optical engineering company specializing in sophisticated system integration, assembly, and R&D. Its core business has not changed over the years; ARS still supports the remote weapon station but has also won additional contracts with the U.S. Army and Navy. Electro-optics and fire controls are their specialties; assembly and testing is done at their plant in Biddeford.

They don’t do fabrication; all the components are purchased from suppliers. These are militarized products that must perform in rigorous environments, in both high and low temperatures, and through heavy vibration. The tolerances to make them work across this wide band are incredibly tight; everything has to go together exactly.

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