Going to the Gemba vs MBWA

Companies are always looking for ways to improve their productivity, safety, and of course, profit margins. While there are many different strategies that have been shown to be effective in various ways. For example, companies that put more effort into visual communication can help to improve the safety of the facility quite significantly. While this should definitely be done, there are also certain changes and strategies for improvement that can actually benefit the entire organization. …

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Just-in-Time Production: Just the Basics

Kanban manufacturing bins

When trying to improve the efficiency of a facility there are many different options to consider. For decades now, one of the best options is to implement just-in-time (JIT) production strategies. This is a concept that was originally started by the Toyota Motor Company as a key component of their Toyota Production System. This strategy has changed the way large-scale production was handled by many corporations. It is also one of the things that helped …

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Workplace Organization: Equipment Labels vs. Asset Tagging

asset tags equipment labels

Both equipment labeling and asset tagging operate with the same objective: to make your workplace more manageable by organizing the things—tools, supplies, equipment, etc.—you use to do your job. The biggest difference between the two organizational systems is this: equipment labeling simply identifies a tool and where it belongs, while asset tagging uses scannable codes to track precisely where an item is. For companies that operate out of one, manageably-sized facility, equipment labels will probably …

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The Third 5S Pillar: Shine

5S Shine

You eliminated clutter with Sort, and you organized with Set in Order, now it’s time to sanitize with Shine. The third step of the 5S methodology, Seiso or Shine, is a complete cleaning of the work cell. It is important to be thorough with the dusting, shining, sweeping, polishing, and maintaining of the space. A clean workplace is a safer workplace, and this phase will help you achieve that. Not only will the sanitization help …

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Using Kaizen with Kanban

Using Kaizen with Kanban

Kanban, translated to mean visual card or sign, is an extremely helpful too for manufacturing facilities that use pull systems or the Just-In-Time system. A kanban system utilizes visual communication and works to avoid overproduction and excess inventory, but it is a concept that can be a little tricky to dive into. In order to use kanban effectively, it is important to understand a few other related concepts. Kanban is an inventory system that is …

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“Morale” of the Story

workers waiting for respect
2 min read

Often times in continuous manufacturing improvement activities, only the machines and processes get the focus and the people are slapped back on the production line with little more than new instructions or even added responsibilities. When people are continuously dealing with alterations in what they are told to do and how to do it, it can become demeaning; you are changing the way they do their job that they have done everyday for possibly years. All of their skills and learned tricks for their job may have just been thrown out the door or replaced. An employee can feel replaceable or mistreated in this case, which lowers morale. It isn’t hard to believe that low morale leads to low productivity, lapses in concentration, and increased unplanned absences. All of these factors hurt your capacity, decrease safety, dampen improvement initiatives, and cause a void between management and labor. Therefore, high morale is important in any company for continued success and improvement.

Transparency and incorporation in the improvement process is key for maintaining higher morale. With transparency, at the very least, the employee gains exposure to the reasons why their responsibilities are changing. Accommodating the workers in this way can give them a sense of importance and

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A Question of Ethics

Ethics
3 min read

An important consideration in engineering is ethics. Whether it is a product or a manufacturing process, there are ethical decisions to be made. How many safeguards does the process need to have? How safe does the product need to be? Can the product contain a toxic material because it is cheaper than the alternative?

Many times, guidelines from powerful organizations, such as OSHA, are available that enforce ethical decisions and to what degree they are to be enforced. Without these powerful organizations there would be little incentive for companies to develop enhanced safety features, other than normal market competition. Certainly the market could use safety features as a competitive advantage, and that does exist, but without harsh protocols and penalties, it is hard to believe that safety features would be implemented as readily as they are today. The reason is simply this: developing and implementing safety features costs money and creates many engineering problems that require solving, such as what feature is to be made, where to install it, and how effective it is. A company has little incentive to self-impose higher costs. Business decisions are made based on needs and profits; if there is no “need” for a feature and it costs more to implement, then there is no reason for it to exist. Safety protocols and laws provide the need in many cases.

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Moneyball? How About Moneydesk?

Moneyball
4 min read

The movie, Moneyball, is one of my favorites. I haven’t gotten around to reading the book, yet. I have watched this movie multiple times and each time it invigorates my love for baseball statistics and makes me want to come up with my own player analyses. Some analyses have made such splashing success. The Oakland Athletics are continuously competitive each year for a fraction of the price that the richer teams are paying. In a way, “moneyball” methods are analogous to lean methods; in this case, getting more production out of the same amount of payroll. But that isn’t where I wanted to go with this post. I wanted to focus on the statistical aspects and their affect on free agency and relate them to the common workplace.

Yes, we do have methods to seek out the best prospects; its called screening and interviewing. But we ultimately base our decisions on self-representation. We base the screening process on a resume; a self-made advertisement that outlines only positives and probably embellishes on successes and responsibilities. Then in the interviewing process, we base that off how well the person comes across and presents themselves and decisions are based on potentially practiced answers that may or may not be true. When you look at the hiring process, it will probably screen out the incompetent, but it still is basically arbitrary and may not always lead the best candidate being hired. Something should be done to improve this process.

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Lean Way to the Danger Zone

Dangerous Path
3 min read

Looking for motivation on industry topics, I searched around various sites and stumbled across an article on lloyds.com called Building Supply Chain Resilience. The article brought up something that I hadn’t written about yet; lean manufacturing, like most engineering decisions, has risks. This article specifically refers to the natural disasters in 2011 that left large businesses crippled and the negative effects that lean principles have in such cases.

The crippled, or even destroyed, businesses were suppliers for other businesses and manufacturing facilities, which then sell their finished goods to retailers. The effects of disasters reach deeply into the affected industries. Lean manufacturing principles, specifically just-in-time (JIT) production, emphasizes low inventory levels of raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods so as to minimize costs. For companies that are in the affected disaster area, JIT is ideal because it means losses were minimized. However, if you practice JIT production, what happens when your supplier unexpectedly shuts down or is destroyed by a natural disaster?

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Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed

Inventory Auditor
3 min read

I recently discovered an article by Beau Groover that outlines his less-than-ideal experience in a government office process. He notes that at one point he was “almost three hours into this process and had accomplished absolutely nothing.” While Groover is clearly experienced in process improvement and has a trained eye for seeing that his experience wasn’t favorable, the general populous would also find this experience distasteful. It doesn’t take an expert to know that you are unhappily accomplishing nothing and wasting time. At the end of the article, he correctly concludes that the customer should be kept in mind when process development and improvement. It’s true, the customer is the most important part of business. The customer is the driving force behind why your business exists and the goal of your business should be to please the customer and improve ways of doing so.

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