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By: Pierre Gouvin

Moles are invading Seattle. Not the small, furry mammals often reviled for destroying lawns, but the specialized boring machines used to excavate tunnels in urban environments. As part of its long-range capital investment plan, Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, known simply as “Sound Transit,” recently initiated the University Link (U-Link) light rail extension that will serve the three largest urban centers in the state—downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, and the University District. 

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By: George Angelucci and Diane Prange

What can you do when your organization has a critical mission—e.g., to help more transplant patients live longer, healthier lives—and you know your processes desperately need improvement?

This was the dilemma faced by the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR). The CIBMTR was recently created by the merger of two leaders in the field of blood and marrow transplant, with facilities in Minneapolis and Milwaukee.  

CIBMTR vice president Roberta King and senior management recognized this critical issue. King contacted Charles Loew, president of Maset LLC, and discussed the benefits of using the quick change process, which focuses on results that can be achieved in 30 days or fewer.

“The impetus for CIBMTR to go through the quick change process was that we recently merged two different campuses together, and the processes were being done differently at both,” says King. “We needed to get joint agreement on how to do things and wanted a thorough process review.”

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By: Xia Enyu

Industrial organizations face numerous compliance regulations such as management system certification, information security, corporate social responsibility compliance, and limiting the content of hazardous substances in products. Now they can add carbon management to the list. This task is one that will gain momentum as countries legislate to control carbon emissions. All industry sectors will benefit by acting now to understand, prepare, and respond to the convergent yet varied requirements for carbon management.

To fully understand the origin of carbon management, you first need to know about the greenhouse effect. As one of the most fundamental phenomena in nature, the greenhouse effect refers to a natural process by which energy radiating from the Earth’s surface toward space, as well as some of the energy from the sun, are absorbed and reflected by atmospheric gases. Like a greenhouse, this process enables the planet to keep a warm climate and sustain life.  

Willie L. Carter’s picture

By: Willie L. Carter

Higher customer expectations, cost-cutting pressures, thinner margins, and shorter lead times are some of the daily challenges that organizations face. A management system built around lean processes enables companies to achieve operational excellence, while providing flexibility in the way processes are managed. Organizations need robust, waste-free, flexible office processes that meet their customer needs and help them survive in the global marketplace.

Considering that 60 to 80 percent of all costs related to meeting customer demand are administrative or office-related functions, it doesn’t take rocket science to conclude that applying lean principles to streamline and eliminate waste from your office and administrative processes will result in bottom-line savings.

The benefits of a lean office

A lean office management system can affect administrative processes at all levels of your organization.

Enterprise-level processes—The processes that touch your external customers and suppliers: order entry, customer service, accounts payable, accounts receivables, marketing/sales, research and development, product development, and distribution. Lean management tools can streamline and speed up these processes.

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By: David L. Westphal

Ideas for quality and continuous improvement can come from the most unconventional sources. As an automotive supplier, improving competitiveness, quality, and productivity are always top of mind. Put simply, in this industry, companies live and die by continuous improvement. As the only tier-one supplier dedicated exclusively to advanced wheel-to-wheel steering, Nexteer Automotive launched last year with a fresh approach to quality and manufacturing precision. We at Nexteer challenge what is normal and strive to uncover nontraditional methods that help us work smarter and more efficiently for our automaker clients.

For me, inspiration came in the form of competitive figure skating. My daughter is a figure skater and is constantly training to improve her on-ice form and jumps. One of the tools used by her coaches and trainers is Dartfish, a video analysis software. This motion analysis technology has a solid reputation in the sports community; in fact, 95 percent of medals won by the United States during the Vancouver Olympics were won by athletes and teams who trained with Dartfish.

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By: Jon Miller

When we say that a task is Herculean, it means it is extremely difficult. Heracles was a Greek hero (Hercules in the Roman version) who got into some trouble for killing a member of his family in a fit of madness and was assigned a series of challenging tasks as penance. Sometimes we face Herculean challenges as penance for far smaller crimes, or even for doing nothing wrong at all. In fact, change agents and leaders learn that many times we are “punished” with seemingly impossible tasks for trying to do the right thing, as is the case when we try to implement a lean culture.

Legend has it that for 12 years Heracles traveled all over the classical world to complete a dozen incredible tasks given him by King Eurystheus. Following are the 12 Herculean Labors of Heracles and what lean leaders can learn from them:

Michael Ohler, Ph.D., Leo Bloch, and Volker Müller’s default image

By: Michael Ohler, Ph.D., Leo Bloch, and Volker Müller

Value stream or other lean analysis helps identify the main obstacles to  flow in a process. Improvement projects using lean tools in a transactional environment (i.e., office) are often confronted with the following problem: Lean teams lack a methodology to consistently problem-solve how to remove obstacles from a value stream. Especially for the transactional arena, teaching and coaching teams to employ innovation tools can be constructive.

Challenges in the transactional environment

During the past 30 years, lean and Six Sigma methods have been refined, first for manufacturing and then for transactional environments. The challenges for the latter are many, which is why major training houses offer specialized “transactional lean” or “transactional design for Six Sigma” classes.

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By: Laser Design Inc.

Kimberly-Clark and its well-known global brands are indispensable parts of life for people in more than 150 countries. Every day, 1.3 billion people—nearly a quarter of the world’s population—trust Kimberly-Clark brands (e.g., Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, and Depend) and the solutions they provide to enhance their health, hygiene, and well-being. This has been a constant throughout the company’s 137-year history of innovation.


At Kimberly-Clark a decision was made to determine if a capital investment in larger-diameter embossing modules is needed instead of the current embosser.

Embossing serves several purposes on the surface and within absorbent pads of disposable hygiene products. On the surface, embossing can introduce an aesthetically pleasing pattern onto the pad (e.g., appearing soft) that can also affect fit and comfort attributes. It also has a functional purpose of controlling and directing surface flows. The embossing process is evaluated by the resulting embossing quality, which may be a composite measure of embossing depth, breadth, and shape.

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By: Sal Lucido

In Part I, “Savvy Compliance Strategy Can Improve GMP,” we took a high-level look at a process for automating regulatory compliance management. The closed-loop process starts with documenting your processes, followed by monitoring or checking that the processes are being followed. Next, you provide a means of tracking or logging any problems that may arise and then take actions to improve. Improvement should then result in a revision to the documented process followed by notifying or training those affected by the process improvement. This closed-loop process, which I call the “Circle of Compliance,” should be used to automate compliance with regulatory standards (see figure 1).

Figure 1: The Circle of Compliance

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

During the 1996 Summer Olympics, I saw a young athlete with his brand-new silver medal around his neck and a massive smile on his face. He was so thrilled with his achievement that he was mixing and mingling with everyone he met on the sidewalk. Perfect strangers were shaking his hand, slapping him on the back, and having their picture taken with him. I didn't know who he was, but it was clear that he was relishing the highest point of his life to date.

On March 29, 1982, amid thunderous applause, Katherine Hepburn stepped onto the stage at the Academy Awards to receive the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in On Golden Pond. Was she as thrilled as the Olympic athlete that I saw? Probably not. It was her fourth award. Been there, done that, the mantle is getting crowded.

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