John Hamm’s picture

By: John Hamm

There are people in every organization whose titles indicate they are leaders. Often, and unfortunately, their employees beg to differ. Oh, they don’t say it directly, not to the boss’s face, anyway. They say it with their ho-hum performance, their games of avoidance, and their dearth of enthusiasm. Leaders—real leaders who have mastered their craft—don’t preside over such lackluster followers. If reading this makes you squirm with recognition, you may have a problem lurking.

Real leadership equity is only earned, not bestowed. When times are good, not-so-great leaders can get by. They’re cushioned by a surplus of cash, and their missteps are covered up by the thrill of top-line growth, which hides a multitude of sins. But when the cloak of prosperity falls away, their mediocrity is ruthlessly exposed.

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

By: Bruce Hamilton

Sometimes things that seem factual are not exactly true. Here are a few examples relating to inventory:

• When I was a materials manager, the auditors would declare that we had taken a “good inventory” at year-end when the amount of positive variances was counterbalanced by an equal amount of negative variances. The economic definition of optimize” was at play here with the intent to meet budget. From the standpoint of profits and taxes, the statement was correct—but still not a good thing. Why celebrate the fact that you have too many of some parts and too few of others?

By: Joel Delman

For years now, outsourcing U.S. manufacturing overseas has been a common practice. Asia leads the way in producing most consumer goods—from electronics to housewares and everything in between—at a far lower cost than would be possible in the United States. Although this has resulted in a painful transition period for countless U.S. workers, by and large U.S. companies have embraced the ability to produce their products at significantly reduced tooling, parts, and labor costs.

Yet while U.S. firms have given up manufacturing and production to overseas vendors, the tacit assumption has been that we would remain the headquarters for research, strategy, concept development, and engineering. Unfortunately, we are seeing the beginning of a new phase of outsourcing, one that could transform the playing field all over again. Having already gained the lion’s share of manufacturing work, countries like China and India are now focusing on building their capabilities in the innovation and design phases of product development. While some may dismiss the seriousness of this trend, we’d be naive to believe that the United States has a monopoly on a creative workforce.

Mark R. Hamel’s picture

By: Mark R. Hamel

A recent George F. Will column referenced the sign re-created to the right. Although I don’t necessarily believe that the signage encompasses the complete definition of discipline, it certainly provides food for thought.

A lot of folks think of discipline, especially in the context of lean, as something extrinsic. It’s something that is applied and reinforced through the rigor of a standard work, daily accountability processes, the value-stream improvement plan, and strategy deployment checkpoints. Discipline is enforced—by leaders—on others.

Obviously, this is not even close to the full story, but we are not so naive as to believe that extrinsic discipline is not important or necessary.

What about the lean leaders? Sure, the leaders of the leaders can drive discipline. But purely extrinsic discipline is more like a dictatorship. Lean leaders must have intrinsic discipline. It’s got to come from within.

Vision Engineering Ltd.’s picture

By: Vision Engineering Ltd.

From its humble beginnings as a music carrier, the compact disc (CD)—and later the digital versatile disc (DVD)—is now entering its third generation for the high-definition market as HD DVDs or Blu-ray. However, one thing that must stay consistent throughout these evolutions is the high-quality production of these polycarbonate replicas.

CDs are a part of nearly everyone’s life, and they have become versatile enough for us to store data, copy data, and, on occasion, use as coasters. This is generally common knowledge, but how many of us are aware of the production method for CDs and how this can affect the disc’s overall quality and its output.

CDs or any optical disc format are made from polycarbonate that has been injection molded to reproduce the exact profile of the disc’s data. Before the molten granules of polymer are fed into an injection molding machine from the hopper, the injection molder is set with a nickel master called a stamper. This is a critical part of the process, because if the stamper is anything less than perfect, the whole batch of CDs (which could be thousands) could be wasted.

Ed OBoyle’s picture

By: Ed OBoyle

We all know these are difficult economic times. Consumers’ priorities have shifted dramatically, and that means dramatic changes for many businesses. Gallup has analyzed consumer behavior in many different sectors of the economy throughout the recession. What they’ve discovered is a foundational shift in the way people are spending and saving money. Ignoring this “new normal” can put companies in peril.

Spending is down significantly in fast-food and casual dining

According to Gallup research, 46 percent of Americans say they’re spending less than they were a year ago. About 1 in 10 (11%) see this change in spending as temporary, and they intend to start spending more in the future. But 35 percent say their spending changes are permanent.

So it’s time to face the new consumer spending facts: Americans don’t believe they’re going back to the way things were, regardless of when and how quickly the economy recovers. As a result, consumers are weighing tough choices about everything—and every brand—before they buy. Brands that embrace this change and find ways to engage their customers will outperform their competitors now and as the economy improves.

Pierre Huot’s picture

By: Pierre Huot

Whether you are manufacturing small electronic appliances, automobiles, consumer goods, or large-scale parts, you know how much inspection and quality control affect the continued success of your organization.

3-D laser imaging is used for more than just inspection purposes. The ability to scan an object or surroundings and produce digital 3-D models with the collected information is proving helpful across diverse fields. Other areas in which 3-D laser imaging is creating a great impact are reverse engineering, the film business, anthropology, and industrial design.

Although several methods exist for effectively conducting inspections at numerous points during production, noncontact 3-D laser imaging offers the advantage of speed and repeatability. By introducing 3-D laser imaging to your production process, you will be ensuring a high degree of quality control for your final product, while revealing a dedication to quality and safety that will send a positive message to a loyal and happy consumer base.

Dan Adams’s picture

By: Dan Adams

The U.S. economy is finally on an uptick. According to Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke, the economy is set to grow by 3–4 percent in 2011. That’s great news for businesses that have been seeing decreasing or stagnant numbers on their revenue reports for the last couple of years. But now that more growth is possible, it’s time to make sure your company is poised to take advantage of this.

The best way to shape your company’s economic recovery into the most profitable form possible is to deliver more than your share of customer value. Keep in mind your competition won’t be standing idly by while you innovate and grow during the improving economy. To stay ahead of your competition, you should keep a targeted focus on what sets your company apart in your industry.

There could be any number of marketable differences. Are your scientists smarter? Do you spend more on research and development? Do you have a longer time horizon? These things can give you an incremental edge, but the best way to deliver substantial new customer value is this: Don’t approach the problem the same way your competitors do.

GKS Global Services’s picture

By: GKS Global Services

Mystery Science Theater 3000, an award-winning television comedy, created many unique puppet characters during the course of its 20-year existence. The show quickly became a cult classic and is still popular today with a large devoted fan base.


Producers wanted to create a collector’s item of one of the show’s robot characters. The “real” robot puppet was more than six-feet tall, so a life-sized replica was impractical and too expensive to make.

The series’ six-foot robot needed to be scanned to create a six-inch figurine.

They decided to scale the robot down to a six-inch tall size. Because they had already re-created another scaled-down puppet character using 3-D laser scanning technology, they knew that this technology would provide the most accurate and detailed model from which realistic figures could be easily manufactured.

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

Back when I was yardstick high, a well-dressed couple on TV kept breaking into the show I was watching to enthuse about a new technology that was going to cook a complete steak dinner during the hour-long program. It was an early demonstration of an appliance that would become both more efficient and commonplace: the microwave.

I’m reminded of that incident as I read about technology’s new wunderkind, 3-D printing, variously known as additive manufacturing, fused deposition modeling, selective laser sintering, and multi-jet modeling. Whether a do-it-yourself kit, desktop model, or factory-floor production system, their basic function is the same: to read pretty much any 3-D file—STL, WRL, PLY, or SFX—and convert it into a tangible object made from a variety of materials.

I find this fascinating, a magic-wand-meets-ultimate-engineering moment in human development. And if the word online is any indication, so do many others, the most zealous of whom consider 3-D printers harbingers of a new industrial revolution.

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