Lean Article

Mike Richman’s picture

By: Mike Richman

QDL from Fri., Sept. 15, 2017, demonstrated that everywhere you look, you’ll find the positive effect of better quality. Here’s what we chatted about:

“U.S. Business Sectors Gain or Hold Steady in Public Esteem”

According to a recent Gallup survey, U.S. citizens’ outlook on a number of industries have improved so far in 2017. The news is especially good for agriculture, education, and computers, the three sectors to experience the biggest gains from 2016 to now.

CMS Corner Interview: Randy Gruver

Gruver is the chair of the Coordinate Metrology Society’s Certification Committee as well as an employee development specialist at Boeing. In these roles, he is well-versed in the positive effects of personnel metrology certification, both for individual technicians as well as the companies that employ them.

Anthony D. Burns’s picture

By: Anthony D. Burns

I had humble, that is, poor, beginnings. I didn’t even know the taste of real ice cream until later in life. One of the first impacts I felt of the luxury that technology brings was the diode my father bought for me to replace the cat’s whisker on my crystal radio. My high school was lovingly called “shack town.” I spoke as much English as a European refugee, because I had a stammer worse that King George VI.

I was admitted to the hallowed halls of one of the country’s biggest companies, shortly after it ended the compulsory wearing of hats. (Down here in the antipodes we have been a little slower than in the United States to shrug off the vestiges of British colonialism.) My employer, in fact, was the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. It was fortunate that hat-wearing had ended, because I didn’t own a hat. But I was fortunate I wasn’t a woman, since the first women the company employed were kept in a locked room.

Unlike the 100 other internees, I didn’t have a white handkerchief in my lapel pocket, speak with a plum in my mouth, or have a private-school education. They let me in simply because I was smart.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Our August 11, 2017, episode of QDL looked at the role of technology in after-market service, stairs that help you up, Fidget Cubes, and more.

“Climbing Stairs Just Got Easier With Energy-Recycling Steps”

These stairs actually help you go up.

“The Curious Case of the Fidget Cube”

How a product almost went from a million-dollar success story to a footnote in under a year.

“How Technology Is Disrupting the After-Sales Service Industry”

Two new technologies are helping companies make the most of their after-market service.

Jun Nakamuro’s picture

By: Jun Nakamuro

Japanese improvement techniques have been emulated across the globe for decades, and none carries more cultural weight than the theory of kaizen. When I expose Western leaders to lean practices in Japan, they often express that they have come away with a better understanding of “true kaizen.” They are clearly witnessing something in Japanese society that is not carried over in mainstream guides to lean.

Despite what you may have been told, kaizen does not just mean “continuous improvement.” “Change for the better” is a part of kaizen, to be sure, but there is much more to it. Many experts might show you the kanji (Japanese letters 改善) that make up the word kaizen and explain their composition and history, but this would be a lesson in etymology rather than an exploration of what kaizen actually means. I feel that an over-emphasis of the word “kaizen” has distracted people from the theory of kaizen. The theory cannot be contained in a single phrase, so instead I will walk you through what it means to those who have experienced its benefits, myself included.

Multiple Authors
By: Ken Levine, Satish Nargundkar

Completing the define phase of a lean Six Sigma (LSS) project is a critical part of any project, although it’s often underestimated in practice. The define phase of the define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC) process typically includes three elements. The first is selecting a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) project objective. Second is creating a charter, and third is selecting a process to be improved. However, a lot more needs to be done before moving to the measure phase.

When Motorola created Six Sigma, it was originally set up as a four-step process, namely “MAIC.” The define step was added when it was found that having a clear, agreed-upon understanding of the project was critical to success. In this article, we discuss 10 key elements project leaders must keep in mind in completing the define phase. These ideas can also serve as a rubric for evaluating project presentations.

Mike Richman’s picture

By: Mike Richman

The June 30, 2017, episode of QDL offered a wrinkle in time, of sorts: not only orbiting debris and medieval medicine, but moments in the here and now such as our interview with Keith Bevan of the Coordinate Metrology Society and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, and an on-the-go version of the Ohno Circle. Here’s a closer look:

“Space Junk: The Cluttered Frontier”
MIT professor Kerri Cahoy and former graduate student Mike Pascual devised a sensing technique, known as laser polarimetry, to detect the surface features of space junk from the surface of Earth, thereby helping spacecraft avoid potentially ruinous collisions.


Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

Plant-floor quality issues tend to focus on a company’s technical resources. When products fall out of spec, alarms sound and all hands are immediately on deck to fix things. Despite large technology investments to monitor and adjust production processes, manufacturers are still bedeviled by quality problems. The issue is not a lack of technology. It is a lack of quality intelligence.

When problems occur, manufacturers must obviously fix them. But the typical organization expends much more energy reacting to problems rather than preventing them. This is true despite our understanding that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We know that proactive measures can be immensely profitable, and yet our limited quality resources spend little time identifying strategic imperatives for avoiding problems. Instead, most of their time is spent responding to issues. Today’s quality professionals are too preoccupied with just fighting the fires that rage on shop floors.

Michael Ray Fincher’s picture

By: Michael Ray Fincher

To meet the 2018 deadline for becoming certified to ISO 9001:2015, organizations are scrambling to overhaul their quality management systems. One major revision to ISO 9001 is the requirement to identify, evaluate, and address risks. Unfortunately, a tool most appropriate for these actions has fallen to the wayside. Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is the perfect tool to satisfy an organization’s risk analysis needs—provided that the technique is understood.

Robert A. Brown’s picture

By: Robert A. Brown

Lean thinking has taken its rightful place in the effort to improve efficiency in manufacturing. However, it isn’t fulfilling its potential in many areas, most notably with knowledge workers. This is due to a fundamental flaw in how lean is presented and utilized. With a better constructed approach, lean can be of value in nonproduction environments, including improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how people interact—a true boon to every business. For lean thinking, one size does not fit all.

Mark Whitworth’s picture

By: Mark Whitworth

Reading the Automotive Industry Action Group’s CQI-8 Layered Process Audit (LPA) Guideline, you might notice a line saying LPAs are “completed on site ‘where the work is done.’”

For lean manufacturing experts, this specific quote might bring to mind gemba walks, a method where leaders observe and solve problems on the shop floor. In Japanese, gemba means “the real place,” or in manufacturing, where the work is done.

Whether the reference is intentional or not, LPAs and gemba walks share clear similarities. Could this be why companies doing gemba walks have an easier time with LPA programs, despite their complexity? This article compares gemba walks with LPAs, exploring how to tell if you’re ready for LPAs and how to prepare.

Comparing gemba walks to layered process audits

Gemba walks are an essential strategy for getting managers out of their offices to experience shop floor processes up close. In this sense, they’re similar to LPAs, where frequent checks of critical processes give managers fresh perspectives (and maybe even challenge some assumptions).

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