Stephen C. Welch’s default image

By: Stephen C. Welch

Many companies view production maintenance as a necessary evil, and through the years, manufacturers have simply accepted maintenance as-is and made little little or no effort to improve it. But some forward-thinking manufacturers, committed to lean processes, and their outsourced maintenance partners are proving that a well-executed maintenance strategy delivers a competitive advantage.

A look at the manufacturing marketplace shows why outsourcing manufacturing maintenance has become a viable option. During the last 20 years, manufacturers invested billions of dollars to become more competitive in the global marketplace. The focus of this investment was on reducing costs in the manufacturing processes, i.e., getting lean, with the ultimate goal to become the “low-cost producer” in their respective industries. From the executive offices to the front lines, corporations supported these lean initiatives, and significant improvements were achieved in manufacturing processes.

Fred L. Eargle’s default image

By: Fred L. Eargle

It probably started when my favorite diner served my coffee cold three visits in a row. “Why can’t I get a hot cup of coffee?” I thought. “This is the Quality Diner.” After all, I always left a nice tip. In fact, I had become so accustomed to leaving the suggested tip, that I didn’t connect it with good service. My bad.

That event must have scrambled the synapses in my brain. Suddenly, I could not get quality off my mind. One quality thought led to another, and soon I realized I might be acting strangely to other people. So, I tried hiding my quality thoughts from others, but that only worked for a short time. I even had quality dreams.

At first, I applied my quality thoughts only at work. I asked my supervisor, “Why do we make six copies of the daily absentee report when only two are required? and “Why do we enter the date three times on an order form?” He didn’t have a satisfactory answer.

After a week of this, he suggested I spend more time concentrating on just doing my own work, and let the rest of the organization do theirs. I finally got a reason from one of the old-timers—“because we’ve always done it that way.” That did make some distorted sense, but it didn’t satisfy my appetite for quality.

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By: David Blanchard

Not long ago, the economic outlook for small- and medium-size manufacturers in the United States looked problematic. The latest China-U.S. trade talks had ended with little progress on the key issue of the undervalued Yuan, and slow economic growth had led to a decrease in optimism among manufacturing executives. Chinese currency, which is expected to remain intentionally undervalued, creates an immense competitive advantage for Chinese manufacturers, which perhaps feeds the pessimism among industry leaders in the United States.

Professor Peter Morici, who teaches at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, explains, “China’s undervalued Yuan provides a 24-percent subsidy to exports, as measured by Beijing’s purchases of dollars and other currencies in foreign exchange markets to maintain an undervalued Yuan.” This mercantile policy, coupled with cheap Asian labor, lowers costs because of less-stringent environmental regulations, and explicit government subsidies gravely challenge the future feasibility of U.S. manufacturing.

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By: Scott Deming

Today’s world is filled with savvy consumers. They know how to find the best deals. They’re up on all the latest trends. If there’s a hot new product on the market, they don’t want to miss it. (Remember those iPhone lines!). A remarkable blend of exuberance and skepticism leaves many business owners wondering, “How can I keep my customers’ attention no matter what product or service my competitor is putting on the market?” It takes more than great products to keep your customers coming back. You must create the ultimate customer experience.   

What does the ultimate customer experience look like? Maybe it’s an individual making a personal connection with a customer on behalf of the business. Perhaps it’s an employee going out of his way to make sure a customer has everything she needs and is more than satisfied with the transaction. Essentially, it’s keeping your promise—whether that promise is implied or stated outright.

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By: Anthony V. Fasolo

As a regional director for loss prevention for the Marriott Corp. in the 1980s, I attended an “Insight To Time Management” seminar conducted by Charles Hobbs of Salt Lake City. The ideas in this article I got from that seminar and from more than 40 years of personal experience, with Marriott and with local, state, and the federal government. Planning is the key to good time management and to understanding how all this can fit into your lifestyle.

Here are a few ideas you might want to consider:

1. Put everything in writing. Use the Day-Timer system or another monthly planner system. According to a Chinese proverb, “Even the palest ink is better than the best memory.” This is especially true the older you get.

2. Learn these three concepts:

  • Time management. What is time? It’s the occurrence of events, one after another. What is management? It’s the act of controlling. What is time management? Time management is the act of controlling events, as much as humanly possible.

Fred L. Eargle’s default image

By: Fred L. Eargle

Meet Chet, industrial engineer and manager of a small manufacturing department. He just came to this company a few months ago. This is his second job since graduation. He was a line supervisor for about a year at his previous company. He felt that job was too confining and prevented him from using the full extent of his college degree. He’s read all about quality and human relations and can’t wait to bring his people to their full potential.

In the next few minutes Chet is scheduled to perform several annual performance evaluations in a manufacturing cell that he manages.

This is new territory for him and he could use some advice, but he’s not about to ask for it. It might be a sign of weakness, and that would destroy the image he’s trying to create.

David, his unofficial mentor and plant human resources (HR) manager, is about to earn his keep.

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By: Dan Coughlin

If you have only $10,000 to improve your business, should you pour it into a marketing initiative or a performance initiative? I vote for improving performance every time. The long-term payback will be extraordinary.

The quality you provide to customers is the value that they receive from the performance of your products and services.

In a manufacturing process, quality refers to number of mistakes per million parts. It also refers to the refreshing taste of a dessert at a frozen custard stand, the speed with which a pizza is delivered, and the friendliness of a hostess at a local restaurant. Your marketing theme will soon be ridiculed if the actual performance doesn’t live up to the promises made.

Performance enhancement or marketing splash?
Quality builds the brand. Here’s a phrase-association game. What do you think of when you read the following?:

“An amazingly well-designed, user-friendly computer…”

“Entertainment for all members of the family…”

“A cup of coffee so delicious it feels like a reward…”

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By: David Weldon

This article is reprinted with permission from the July 2007 issue of ExecDigital.

At age 160, the New England Confectionery Co. is the oldest multiline candy company in the United States and one of the newest. Four years ago, the popular candy manufacturer embraced lean manufacturing practices, relocated its antiquated facilities, consolidated its operations, and re-emerged as a state-of-the-art production facility that is now a showroom for ultramodern processing perfection.

It was a move that turned out to be one sweet deal.

“We have a lot more capability and more capacity,” says Bill Leva, vice president of operations at NECCO. “We also have better working conditions, better work flow, less product handling, and our cycle times to the customer are better.”

In short, everything about the move paid off in spades, Leva says.

The move and the lessons that the company has learned since also provide a textbook example of how a long-standing manufacturer can make what’s old new again, and do so without sacrificing quality, slowing sales, or missing a day on the production floor.

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By: Paul Midler

Numerous news stories this past month have focused on concerns about the quality and safety of certain Chinese exports. In this opinion piece, Paul Midler discusses “quality fade” in China, which he defines as “the deliberate and secretive habit of widening profit margins through a reduction in the quality of materials.”

Recent media reports detailing quality problems with Chinese-made exports—pet food tainted with prohibited chemicals, toys covered with lead paint, and tires that fall apart at high speed—have understandably alarmed the American public and resulted in a number of international product recalls. But supply-chain professionals not directly affected by these recalls remain unusually calm. “Everything will be all right,” said one U.S. importer on a buying mission to China. “As the country continues to develop, the quality of its products will naturally rise.”

Bipin Roy’s picture

By: Bipin Roy

Story update 11/1/2010: We had the incorrect author shown for this story. The author is Bipin Roy.

 

Welcome to the information technology world of governance boards, compliance councils, Sarbanes Oxley, and audit committees that continually invent stringent rules and regulations to make the daily job of an IT manager harder than ever before. It’s scary to visualize all these new regulatory bodies chiming in to see whether you’re doing the right thing!

What is good governance?

Good governance is the ability of an organization to steer itself into the future and is influenced by complex relationships among all its stakeholders. A governance model can only be as successful as the level at which its stakeholders allow themselves to be governed.

Before the IT industry matured, the rules of the game were very different. Compared to those times, the current scenario looks like overkill. Now a software-development manager may think, “Come on! Let’s just do our jobs and get out of here. Why should I bother about all these councils and rules trying to ensure that my job is done correctly? This is my job! What does a corporate scandal somewhere have to do with my project and my team? Give me a break!”

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