By: Alberto B. Ayulo

Every journey has a beginning, and mine began during a U.S. Air Force commander’s first week on the job. He called a staff meeting and told everyone that things had to change for the organization to succeed, and “lean” was the solution. Everyone in the room looked dazed and confused, wondering what this incoming commander was referring to. The question was quickly answered when he placed James P. Womak’s and Daniel P. Jones’ Lean Thinking (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2003) on the conference room table.

Initially, after reading the book and doing some basic research, many within the organization thought it seemed great for manufacturing and private businesses, but were curious to see how lean was going to apply within a military environment. So we did what many companies do when faced with a situation that is beyond their area of expertise: We hired a consultant from a contracted company who was well versed in lean Six Sigma.

By: John David Kendrick

Complexity can be thought of as the level of difficulty in solving mathematically presented problems. Six Sigma practitioners and operations research professionals are often asked to predict the complexity of a hardware or software product by predicting (in man-hours or full-time equivalents) the expected development time, the expected number of customer-facing defects, the expected number of production defects, or the expected level of effort for a new object.

One effective approach I employ to solve this problem involves combining two statistical techniques: cluster analysis and principal component analysis. Employing cluster analysis helps to identify objects that are similar. The advantage of cluster analysis over other statistical techniques such as discriminant analysis is that the groups are determined by the cluster analysis and aren’t predetermined before the analysis. After the groups are established, employing principal component analysis, a data reduction technique, enables the practitioner to map the attributes of an object into a cluster of similar objects.

By: American Customer Satisfaction Index ACSI

(ACSI: Ann Arbor, MI) -- Customer satisfaction with domestic automobiles has shown resilience despite an overall decline for the industry, according to a report released Aug. 17 by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Automobile satisfaction dipped 2.4 percent from an all-time industry high to a score of 82 on ACSI’s zero-to-100 scale, but Ford and General Motors are holding steady, and their Lincoln-Mercury and Buick nameplates have taken the lead for the first time ever. Chrysler, however, continues to underperform, with two of its three divisions at the bottom.

“It was not long ago when Detroit’s products were clustered at the bottom of the industry,” says Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). “Although very few automakers improved this year, the domestic ones are either steady or have lost less in customer satisfaction compared to international competition. In this sense, the near future looks good for Ford and General Motors. Satisfied customers tend to do more repeat business, generate good word-of-mouth, and don’t require greater price incentives to come back.”

By: Barbara Hemphill

Kathy is the office manager for a large corporation. The great news is that the company is growing and Kathy is looking for employees to handle all the new clients. The bad news is that she has no office space for these new employees to work in. The truth is, the office and storage areas are full of filing cabinets and the desks are covered in stacks of paper. The worst part is, Kathy and her staff don’t even know what all that information is. It’s no surprise that Kathy can’t find space for new employees as she is wasting it with massive amounts of files and paperwork.

Does your organization have offices, file cabinets, storage rooms, and off-site facilities full of unidentified paper files and electronic documents? Are there files in your office that you’ve never opened and probably couldn't identify the contents? Have you ever come across a piece of information you didn’t know whether to save or throw away, so you saved it, just in case? If so, you are working in an “Information Toxic Dump.”

By: Jennifer Robison

As many as 14.6 million Americans are unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That means 14.6 million people have been dealing with the losses that come with unemployment: the loss of financial stability, of identity, and of their normal daily routine.

Emily Wright dealt with these losses for a whole year. She lost her management job in consumer marketing in September 2008 and didn't find another one for exactly a year. “It was scary,” Wright says. “Some of the others who were laid off didn’t know how they were going to be paying the mortgage that month.” Fortunately, Wright had six months’ worth of living expenses saved, and she received unemployment benefits. But her income and savings barely covered her scaled-down cost of living.

By: Gwendolyn Galsworth

Editor's note: In this second in a series of articles on workplace visuality, Gwendolyn Galsworth, Ph.D., author of  Work That Makes Sense (Visual Lean Enterprise Press, 2010)  and Visual Workplace/Visual Thinking (Visual-Lean Enterprise Press, 2005), and recognized visual expert, shows us how visual devices let the workplace speak.

 Brilliant floor borders in this massive food manufacturer in Australia show us the walk lanes while alerting forklift drivers to pedestrian traffic.

By: Jacques Hoffmann

In part one of this series, we considered the pros and cons of pressure-decay testing. In part two, we’ll take a close look at a leak-testing method called “differential pressure decay.” This method is similar to simple pressure-decay testing discussed in part one.

By: Bob Cramblitt

Although he’s not one for clichés, Rus Emerick, process improvement specialist at Schneider-Electric, endorses this one: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

This concept, which dates back to Aristotle, is at the core of an approach called functional analysis that has implications throughout Schneider-Electric, a company with nearly 90,000 employees in 130 countries.

According to Emerick, functional analysis at Schneider-Electric took a quantum leap with the feature-inspection capabilities in Geomagic Qualify software. The software enables users to quickly detect, create, and inspect geometrical features for tasks such as calculating size, analyzing fit, comparing 2-D and 3-D features, and measuring point-to-point and feature-to-feature distances and angles.

By: Robert Parsons

Finally, the long and arduous process that appears to be a requisite phase in the development of an international quality management system standard appears to be nearing an end. Though the AS9100:2009 and AS9101:2009 (checklist) have been available for quite some time, the aerospace industry has anxiously been awaiting the release of AS9104, the final document to complete the trilogy of aerospace standards.

Even though this standard is the least well-known to most people in the aerospace industry, its importance cannot be overlooked. AS9104 is actually made up of three standards: AS9104-1, AS9104-2, and AS9104-3. Combined, they provide the structure that accreditation bodies such as ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), and certification bodies such as National Quality Assurance (NQA), need to carry out effective certification audits. They also include requirements that affect almost every decision your certification body (CB) makes.

By: Gwendolyn Galsworth

Editor's note: In this first in a series of articles on workplace visuality, Gwendolyn Galsworth, Ph.D., author of Work That Makes Sense (Visual Lean Enterprise Press, 2010)  and Visual Workplace/Visual Thinking (Visual-Lean Enterprise Press, 2005), and recognized visual expert, sets out the basic concepts and definitions of this powerful adherence and empowerment approach.

The entire world of work—whether assembly plant, hospital, bank, airport, military depot or pharmaceutical factory—is striving to make work safe; simpler; more logical, reliable, and linked; and less costly. Central to this is the visual workplace.