Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Lean theory suggests that the possibilities for quality improvement exist everywhere. Rarely does that concept translate to a damaged corrugated box in a warehouse—but it should. The cost of damaged packaging, particularly cardboard containers, is very significant in bottom-line costs (damaged merchandise, replacement, and reshipping costs) as well as negative customer satisfaction costs.

Cardboard box makers cannot guarantee that orders will be free of gluing defects, the primary source of box quality defects. Even technology that promises box makers the ability to provide 100-percent visual inspection of every glue tab to ensure their perfectly glued boxes, falter under weight capacities and stacking realities.

The Fibre Box Association (FBA) and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) have attempted to help companies benchmark plant performance with the newly updated Productivity and Waste Survey, which provides useful benchmarking data. The report provides metrics so that companies can evaluate productivity, waste, and starch consumption data against participating plants. Surveying top performers, it includes information on machinery and labor operations, as well as waste from box plants in U.S. operations, as well as several international plants.

Brian Hughes’s picture

By: Brian Hughes

Jodi Ullman glanced at her watch: 10:25 a.m. She pushed back from her desk, stood up, and stretched—after first peeking out the door of her office toward the cubical maze to make sure no one was watching. She’d been staring at the screen of her laptop for two hours, poring over the latest qualification test data for a new component. As the quality director for Kulshan Industries, a midsized aerospace manufacturer, she had been spending hundreds of hours working toward the rollout of their latest product—a special electronic control system for a new type of unmanned aircraft. The system was formally named “Natural Instrumentation True Matching Response.” Internally, it was referred to by its acronym NITMAR. However, in private, the project had begun to be referred to as “Nightmare.” After the initial elation at winning the multimillion dollar bid wore off, the realities of actually designing, building, testing, and integrating the system began to set in. “Nightmare” was truly a more accurate moniker.

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

By: Akhilesh Gulati

A physics exam question asked students to describe how they would use a barometer to measure the height of a skyscraper. One student who failed the test contested that his answer was correct. He was given a second chance to defend his position, verbally, to the professor. When the student didn’t answer right away, the professor challenged him stating that he didn’t have an answer after all. At this point, the student said that he had lots of answers, only he wasn’t sure which answer the professor wanted. He started by giving the following answers:

  • Tie the barometer to a string and lower that from the roof of the skyscraper. When it touched the ground, add the length of the string with the length of the instrument and calculate the height of the building.
  • Go to the caretaker’s office and offer him the barometer in exchange for a look at the buildings plans to get the height of the skyscraper.
  • Go the boring route of calculating the difference of the pressure at the base and at the top of the building to determine the height of the skyscraper.

Most of us would have thought of only the last solution because that is how we are taught to think—logically. However, lateral thinking is more fun and can sometimes lead to easier and better solutions.

Thomas Hinton’s picture

By: Thomas Hinton

It was Kermit the Frog who said “It’s not easy being green.” With all due respect to my favorite Muppet, I beg to differ. In fact, it’s never been easier to be green. Kermit would be proud to know that companies around the world are finally discovering the gold in going green.

This decade, the role of quality managers has shifted to include two nontraditional areas—environmental compliance and safety. Today, more quality managers are being tasked with establishing green policies and finding ways to ensure that their workplaces remain safe as well as in compliance with state and federal environmental regulators.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

One of the most demanding problems lean manufacturing faces in discrete manufacturing is control of first operations, where raw material may be cut into multiple parts. First operations such as laser or CNC Punch Press processes dictate what parts are available to subsequent operations, thereby controlling much of the downstream process flow.

Building an optimal nest of parts is a complex problem. Nesting isn’t axiomatic. The ability to read an active-order file for the current demand of parts, extract the appropriate ready-to-nest parts, drawing upon parameters established to create the optimal nesting pattern, is far from axiomatic. A host of factors must be considered, from material efficiency, part priorities (today’s orders, hot parts, filler parts), setup costs, order completion, labor, and machine throughput to name a few.

John J. Casey’s picture

By: John J. Casey

When I was a boy, my grandmother used to read me nursery rhymes to entertain me and teach me about the world. One has resonated with me for years:

"For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a nail the horse was lost
For want of a horse the warrior was lost
For want of a warrior the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
All for the want of a nail.

This little poem displays the heart of the five-why problem-solving method that’s used mainly in the automobile industry, especially the Japanese auto industry. Basically, five-why analysis is a fundamental approach to thinking, based on the logical linkage of elements into a cause-and-effect analysis. Look at a problem and ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” Then with each specific answer, repeat the question about five times and you will typically end up with a rather solid root cause. In the poem above, the problem was that the kingdom was lost. The series of why questions leads you through the loss of the battle due to not enough soldiers, and ultimately due to not enough nails in the hands of the blacksmiths.

jmarzola’s picture

By: jmarzola

A mortgage lender in Kansas implemented a customer relationship management (CRM) solution and experienced a 304 percent return on investment (ROI) over three years. Would a similar investment make sense for your organization? Upgrading or changing your CRM system can be a big decision, and many business leaders question the value of implementing a CRM software strategy. Every business wants improved processes, greater visibility into their sales pipeline, predictability, and increased revenue. The right strategies plus proper execution lead to greater profits. Value begins with the executives. When the major stakeholders agree on the value and communicate to their staff effectively, the true ROI of a CRM software strategy is realized. Success is always on the other side of inconvenience. Three key points of view: CEO, CFO, and CIO Usually, in small- and medium-sized businesses there are three key people involved in making a CRM software strategy decision. As they understand and agree upon the value of a CRM software strategy and take a leadership role in its implementation, the investment will benefit the organization in several important areas. CEO A well-assembled CRM software strategy addresses key chief executive concerns for benefits and costs.

Mike Thelen’s picture

By: Mike Thelen

As with any lean implementation in a traditional environment, culture change is the most difficult obstacle to success. A company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and begin lean initiatives, but if it only talks the talk, the initiative soon becomes just talk. Early in 2007, we hosted a kaizen blitz to focus on setup reduction in our newly-formed product cell. As one of numerous subsidiaries of a corporation, we were able to invite many people from beyond our four walls to participate and share knowledge. The goal was two-fold: To help us see during the event and help the participant’s sight when they returned home. We also involved the consulting firm that we have worked with over the last two years. During the first day’s activities, one consultant asked the operators of a gear-hobbing machine why the process was being done that way. After agonizing minutes of pondering and stammering, an operator admitted that it had simply “always been done that way.” Does this sound familiar? Later that day, the operator came to me and remarked that a kid probably would have wondered why he did things that way, but he never takes the time to look carefully at what he does.

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

By: Akhilesh Gulati

Since one of the pillars of lean thinking is the visual workplace, why hasn’t problem solving in the workplace been taken to the visual level?

Flowcharts are popular visual tools that can show what’s currently happening, what could be happening, or what should be happening—a great opportunity to show where there may be a disconnection between procedures and reality. A flowchart also provides a pictorial display of where problems occur and where and how proposed solutions may or may not solve the issue.

This pictorial display isn't used just in the workplace. Consider explaining the sports of baseball or American football. Just words in explanation can be a bit difficult to follow, but when paired with pictures drawn on a napkin, various positions and plays become quite obvious. Why don't we say it with pictures more often? Using pictorial displays isn’t a new approach in problem solving or process improvement. Lean and Six Sigma use pictures extensively, qualitatively (value stream mapping, fishbone diagrams, affinity diagrams) and quantitatively (pie charts, histograms, control charts, radar charts).

These tools and concepts aren’t new, and some of the more popular examples include:

Ron Kirscht’s default image

By: Ron Kirscht

Donnelly Custom Manufacturing of Alexandria, Minnesota, a short-run injection molding company, knows that proper training is vital to productivity and quality. Still, using traditional methods, training at Donnelly was taking longer than desired and employees often weren’t retaining enough of what had been taught. Donnelly was committed to continuous improvement, and the company needed more advanced training practices to help employees more fully understand their jobs, improve quality, and eliminate any turnover associated with job confusion.

Sam Wagner, job methods certified trainer at Donnelly, has this story to share about teaching Donnelly employees this method.

“One group I taught came to class in the second day with only one example for improvement rather than the two I had asked for. When asked why there wasn’t a second example, a trainee said he walked the floor from one end to the other but was unable to find a job that could be improved.

Syndicate content