Lean Article

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

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You might say what Henry Ford did for the automobile, GE, Siemens, and Mitsubishi have done for the gas and steam turbine industry. Naturally, the tools and technicians of both sectors have had to evolve right along with the challenges of new technology and the ever-increasing demands for improved accuracy and efficiency.

If you work in a facility that looks something like this:

you are probably familiar with machines that look like this:

If you’re familiar with steam turbines like the one seen above, then you certainly understand the fundamental challenges posed when they require internal alignment in the course of a maintenance or a major outage. The efficiency of today’s higher-rated turbines depends on precision alignment of components, and everything counts—nozzles, seals, bearings, and packing are all of critical importance.

Peter J. Sherman’s picture

By: Peter J. Sherman

As organizations become successful and grow, uncertainty is generally the enemy. Thriving organizations seek to eliminate variation and increase efficiency. They identify best practices and policies, and design standard operating procedures. Such efforts can make a business wildly efficient at what it does, but they can have a serious downside as well: a dearth of variation, creativity, and innovation.

As a lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt working for several large and medium-sized organizations, I’ve always been taught to strive for efficiency, standardization, and predictability. These were my guiding principles, and it made perfectly good sense to follow them in that environment. But now that I’ve started my own process improvement consulting practice, I find these principles don’t readily apply. Instead of seeking stable, predictable processes, I’m actually embracing the uncertainty that’s required in a startup. How ironic! The ability to create, improvise, adapt, and innovate is proving to be my best ally. I’m learning to embrace uncertainty in terms of how I develop my service offerings and grow the business.

Multiple Authors
By: Afaq Ahmed, Yves Van Nuland

New technologies have empowered customers to seek out the best products and services at the lowest cost and shortest delivery times. Customers can compare price and delivery information as well as reviews about product quality. Thus, the importance of sustaining outstanding quality in order to stand out from competitors and be profitable is critical. It requires a sustainable quality culture with intrinsically motivated employees who view quality not as a chore but as a source of satisfaction.

Of course, integral to a quality culture is the work environment that promotes team spirit, growth, and fairness. A sustainable quality strategy depends on creating a culture of quality. In this article, we’ll describe four key success factors for creating a quality culture as well as a way to measure where your organization stands.

Critical success factors for a quality culture

Although factors that affect a quality culture vary from industry to industry and country to country, it’s safe to say that these four major factors are common among all:
1. Leadership
2. Motivation
3. Empowerment
4. Work environment

Steve Garbrecht’s picture

By: Steve Garbrecht

Here’s a stat that might surprise you—according to LNS Research, 50 percent of manufacturers have implemented or will be implementing cross-functional groups to support their operational excellence journeys within a year. At the same time, only 18 percent have software or processes in place to deliver relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to personnel in real time.

The question is this: Why, by a margin of nearly 3:1, are manufacturers implementing cross-functional groups to improve operational excellence, but aren’t investing in the  tools to best deliver needed information?

In my view, what’s missing is a focus on a fundamental element of continuous improvement: measure current performance to institute a process improvement program. Without a baseline measurement there’s nothing from which to compare future improvements. How can you optimize production if you don’t know how bad it’s been?

Eugene Daniell’s picture

By: Eugene Daniell

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For more than 30 years, Hendrick Motorsports has consistently been one of NASCAR’s most successful teams. In the course of winning a record 11 Sprint Cup Series championships, Hendrick Motorsports has learned that it must innovate constantly to stay ahead of the competition. Because auto racing is a sport that rewards risk takers and innovators, the engineering team needed to adopt a more flexible and nimble culture to find the speed needed to win on race day.

When faced with technological hurdles, this culture encourages engineers to ask, “Why not?” rather than say, “We can’t.” One of the ways that Hendrick Motorsports does this is by using intelligent measurement technology to go fast on the track.

Heinz Schandl’s picture

By: Heinz Schandl

The world is using its natural resources at an ever-increasing rate. Worldwide, annual extraction of primary materials—biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores, and minerals—tripled between 1970 and 2010. People in the richest countries now consume up to 10 times more resources than those in the poorest nations.

Clearly, if the developing world is to enjoy a similar standard of living to those in the developed world, this can’t continue. We need to break the link between global economic development and primary resource consumption.

During the last week of July 2016, nations met in New York to discuss the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which aim to “promote prosperity while protecting the planet.”

Ken Voytek’s picture

By: Ken Voytek

In a recent post, I examined the differences in productivity across small and large manufacturing firms, and noted that there were differences across manufacturers in terms of size. But it’s also clear from the literature that productivity differs across companies even in the same industry.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s picture

By: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

An improved titanium alloy—stronger than any commercial titanium alloy currently on the market—gets its strength from the novel way atoms are arranged to form a special nanostructure. For the first time, researchers have been able to see this alignment and then manipulate it to make the strongest titanium alloy ever developed, and with a lower cost process to boot.

They note in a paper published in April 2016 by Nature Communications that the material is an excellent candidate for producing lighter vehicle parts, and that this newfound understanding may lead to the creation of other high-strength alloys.


Using atom-probe tomography, researchers are able to create an “atomic map” of the arrangement of various atoms in this titanium alloy.

Fred Schenkelberg’s picture

By: Fred Schenkelberg

A fault tree analysis (FTA) is a logical, graphical diagram that starts with an unwanted, undesirable, or anomalous state of a system. The diagram then lays out the many possible faults, and combinations of faults, within the subsystems, components, assemblies, software, and parts comprising the system that may lead to the top-level unwanted fault condition.

An FTA shows the many possible cause-and-effect paths to a specific fault condition. For example, a laptop computer may have a top-level fault of not turning on. A few possible causes are a dead battery, faulty power distribution circuitry, or a broken power switch.

Howard Sklamberg’s picture

By: Howard Sklamberg

Globalization is posing challenges for public health. For the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), part of that challenge is the ever-increasing volume and complexity of FDA-regulated products coming to America’s shores.

In fiscal year 2015, there were more than 34 million shipments of FDA-regulated products into the United States, up from just 15 million a decade ago. These products are handled by 130,000 importers, and are manufactured, processed, or packaged at more than 300,000 foreign facilities.

We know this global trade expansion has ramifications for our nation’s public health. We also know we can’t be the inspectors for the world. Hence, we need to effectively direct our resources in a risk-based manner as we grapple with this tremendous volume of imported goods.

How? One way is to identify foreign regulators that we can rely on to partner with in verifying that safety standards are being met, and then construct an approach that will meet the requirements of multiple regulatory jurisdictions. We’re currently engaged in three innovative programs to meet this challenge.

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