Operations Article

Multiple Authors
By: Lola Butcher, Knowable Magazine

Any patient scheduled for surgery hopes, and maybe assumes, that his surgeon will do a high-quality job. Surgeons know better. Nearly three decades of research have made clear that some hospitals and surgeons have significantly better outcomes than others.

Exactly how to measure the quality of a surgeon’s skills, however, is up for debate. Surgical volume—the number of operations of a specific kind performed at a hospital or by an individual surgeon—is known to be a good marker for quality. But it’s not perfect. For example, looking only at hospitals that perform at least 125 bariatric surgeries per year, a recent review found that the rate of serious complications ranged from less than 1 percent to more than 10 percent.

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

So it seems the contentious wall along our southern border, variously known as the Trump wall or the Mexico-United States barrier, isn’t meeting requirements. Walls keep people in; walls keep people out. They serve as backdrops for graffiti. But aside from fulfilling the last item, this wall might more accurately be called a solution for the wrong problem. Time, and past time, for quality assurance folks to step in.

Richard Ruiz’s picture

By: Richard Ruiz

According to the Deloitte Automotive Quality 2020 report, auto manufacturers spend an average of 116 days annually on quality management system (QMS) compliance.

Layered process audits (LPAs), which can number more than a thousand audits per year, can take up many of those hours for companies that perform these short, frequent checks.

Executed correctly, LPAs can help sharply reduce defects and quality costs relatively quickly, but these high-frequency audits can also bury companies in administrative work if they’re not prepared.

This article examines classic problems standing in the way of quality, and how to fix them to make bigger and faster improvements.

Scheduling inefficiencies

Making and sticking to a schedule is fundamental to LPAs success, but the reality of scheduling daily, shift-level audits of critical to quality processes can quickly become overwhelming. Scheduling around paid time off and planned downtime is more complex and time-consuming, as is notifying auditors of their responsibilities.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Dimensional Engineering was born on the back of a dream, a major contract from an aircraft manufacturer, and a process developed specifically to fulfill that project. Dimensional Engineering has steadily grown to become a full-service team of consulting and field metrologists, focused on the application of 3D metrology services. With aerospace and automotive applications firmly established, Dimensional Engineering has expanded into the fields of gas and oil, while positioning itself to tackle marine applications as well.

Challenge

Equipment at gas and oil facilities present a unique challenge in that many system components involve precision-machined interior features, but a rough casting on the outer surfaces. In addition, the cast pieces present numerous compound curves and varying wall thicknesses. This means that many components in an oil and gas system are an inspection nightmare, and traditional tools are often incapable of providing the quality dimensional data necessary for repairs and reverse engineering.

Janelle Farkas’s picture

By: Janelle Farkas

According to the International Institute for Analytics, businesses that use data will gain $430 billion in productivity benefits over competitors who aren’t using data by 2020. As an industrial engineer for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, part of the MEP National Network, I tell small-business owners and manufacturers that this quote does not say you have to use “big” data. You don’t have to use complex analysis methods and the latest and greatest technology. It just says in order to get a piece of that productivity pie, you have to do something.

Unfortunately, many small- to medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) are still not taking advantage of data to boost their bottom-line margins. This is often due to a common misconception that utilizing data requires a Ph.D. in statistics or a state-of-the-art ERP system to crunch the information for you. Utilizing data for manufacturing does require a willingness to experiment and a time investment to realize bottom-line benefits, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Theodoros Evgeniou’s picture

By: Theodoros Evgeniou

It seems that every week, AI technology has learned to do something humans do, but faster and better. From detecting cancers and eye conditions to predicting floods; or analyzing the language, tone, and facial expressions of candidates during recruitment processes, AI is now at the stage where it not only supports human judgment, but also makes increasingly more complex and accurate decisions.

As technology further improves and we learn how to better work and collaborate with AI, interactions between humans and computers will significantly enhance creativity—of both humans and bots.

Martin Abel’s picture

By: Martin Abel

Imagine that your boss Ethan calls you into his office. He expresses disappointment in your recent performance and lack of commitment. How would you react? Accept the feedback and put in more effort? Would you pout in your office and start looking for a new job?

Now, would your reaction be different if your boss was not named Ethan but Emily?

I’m a professor of economics, and my research investigates this very question. We hired 2,700 workers online to transcribe receipts, randomly assigning a male or female name to a manager, and randomly assigning which workers would receive performance feedback.

Results show that both women and men react more negatively to criticism if it comes from a woman. Our subjects reported that criticism by a woman led to a larger reduction in job satisfaction than criticism by a man. Employees were also doubly disinterested in working for the firm in the future if they had been criticized by a female boss.

Jody Muelaner’s picture

By: Jody Muelaner

One of the key ideas in lean manufacturing is that defects should be detected as early as possible. Efforts to control manufacturing processes, so that issues can be detected before defects occur, actually predate lean. Statistical process control (SPC) is a set of methods first created by Walter A. Shewhart at Bell Laboratories during the early 1920s. W. Edwards Deming standardized SPC for U.S. industry during WWII and introduced it to Japan during the American occupation after the war. SPC became a key part of Six Sigma, the Toyota Production System (TPS), and by extension, lean manufacturing.

SPC measures the outputs of processes, looking for small but statistically significant changes, so that corrections can be made before defects occur. SPC was first used within manufacturing, where it can greatly reduce waste due to rework and scrap. It can be used for any process that has a measurable output, and SPC is now widely used in service industries and healthcare.

Multiple Authors
By: Kendall Powell, Knowable Magazine

When my kids, ages 11 and 8, bang through the back door after school, often the first thing out of their mouths is: “Mom! Can we play Prodigy?”

After a quick mental calculation of how much screen time they've already had for the week and how much peace and quiet I need to finish my work, I acquiesce. After all, Prodigy is a role-playing video game that encourages kids to practice math facts. It’s educational.

Right?

Though video games are increasingly making their way into classrooms, scientists who study them say the data are lacking on whether they can actually improve learning—and most agree that teachers still outperform games in all but a few circumstances.

But there is growing evidence that some types of video games may improve brain performance on a narrow set of tasks. This is potentially good news for students, as well as for the millions of people who love to play, or at least can’t seem to stop playing (see infographic).

“There is a lot of evidence that people—and not just young people—spend a lot of time playing games on their screens,” says Richard Mayer, an education psychology researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “If we could turn that into something more productive, that would be a worthwhile thing to do.”

Tom Comstock’s picture

By: Tom Comstock

How can industrial and manufacturing enterprises achieve better new product introduction (NPI), a critical element of operational excellence? Corporate goals of improving market share and revenue, maintaining competitive differentiators, and improving customer experiences are especially challenging when developing and launching new products—making it vitally important that NPI is seamless and high quality. Despite significant investment in NPI, a startling 44 percent of new products fail to meet most NPI success criteria.

Manufacturers and industrials face three key challenges:
• Organizational and data siloes, with little collaboration among increasingly complex supplier networks
• Core process deficiencies, as shown by key performance metrics, even as solutions are within reach
• Outdated or poorly integrated operations and quality systems, and data sources

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