Lean Article

Emily Newton’s picture

By: Emily Newton

There’s no better time than now. As a species, we need to mitigate the effect we have on our planet. There are many ways to do this—namely, through green and eco-friendly initiatives—but one sector is having the biggest impact of all: the industrial and manufacturing sector. In the 2010s, the industrial sector accounted for nearly 50 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, and during the last 60 years, that has almost doubled.

Manufacturing isn’t just energy-intensive, however. It’s also responsible for harmful emissions and is a huge producer of waste. Establishing more energy-aware manufacturing processes and systems would be a massive step in the right direction. It could mean the difference between slowing climate change or stepping over our fast-approaching tipping point.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Negotiating a salary increase or a job promotion ranks high on the list of hard conversations to have at work, and it doesn’t get any easier without a plan.

“People think, ‘I’m just going to knock on their door, sit down with them, and noodle around and see where this goes.’ That’s not a plan,” says Maurice Schweitzer, Wharton professor of operations, information, and decisions. “You want to have a specific goal in mind. People often fail to achieve their conversational goals because they fail to identify their objectives.”

In his latest paper, Schweitzer and his co-authors introduce a framework to help people have more successful conversations by identifying and understanding the motives of each participant. The model is called the “conversational circumplex,” and it maps conversations along two key axes: informational and relational. (See image below.)

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

Ryan Day1 describes how the rise of independent auto dealers is a “gray swan” event for the automobile industry. This was not only bound to happen, as observed by the author, but also long overdue. The article states, “...current state laws prohibit OEMs from selling new vehicles directly to consumers (D2C). Selling directly would cut out the dealership franchise—the middleman—and all the associated price markup fees. This could theoretically save car buyers an alleged 30 percent of the cost of a car.”

This problem has been known for decades, and it is not something the supply chain’s value-adding stakeholders should continue to tolerate. Dealerships do not add value to the transaction, but if the 30 percent figure is correct, then $7,500 of the price tag of a $25,000 vehicle constitutes pure waste. My recommendation to consumers, as an immediate recourse in the absence of changes of the laws in question, is to game the system by waiting until the end of the model year to buy a new car. The car is still new but, as it is now last year’s model, the dealership must offer a substantial discount to get it off the lot to make room for more inventory.

V R Vijay Anand’s picture

By: V R Vijay Anand

As the world moves toward a new, post-pandemic normal, industries must leverage digital transformation at an accelerated pace. This is already happening. According to IBM, 67 percent of manufacturers have accelerated digital projects since Covid-19.

Although improved operational efficiency is typically the reason for these changes, manufacturers should capitalize on the convergence of Industry 4.0 and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals to improve their sustainability credentials. Data hold the key to reducing manufacturing’s waste problem.

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

By: Bruce Hamilton

Every February, there are welcome reminders that spring is on the way. The first for me is a witch hazel bush in my front yard that defies subfreezing weather to produce fragrant yellow flowers. Then, a few weeks later, crocuses and winter aconites will emerge from the snow. The cycle continues through spring and summer as each species awakens, blooms, and then rests. Some plants, like witch hazel, develop with very little support. Others, like a late-summer blooming Rose of Sharon, require special protection from blight and insects.

Keith Groves’s picture

By: Keith Groves

The lean manufacturing movement evolved from a desire to reduce waste and inefficiencies and improve productivity on the shop floor. Many manufacturers have also benefited from the resulting continuous improvement mindset as engaged employees became empowered to change things for the better. Moreover, just as you assign a value to the benefit of lean for production, you can do the same in the front office.

Lean principles apply to traditional scheduling functions, finance, even sales and marketing. Bringing lean principles to your manufacturing office will save you time and, ultimately, money by addressing these common issues:
• Nonvalue-added time spent on tasks
• Delays in communication
• Lack of proper information flow

A huge invisible wall often separates office functions from manufacturing operations. Each side may not understand what the other side does and how they do it. A lean office mindset will help with transparency and breaking down that wall.

Anthony Murphy’s picture

By: Anthony Murphy

Kendrick Plastics is an IATF/TS 16949-certified, tier one and tier two supplier of interior decorative trim components and assemblies to the automotive industry. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, its 300,000 sq ft engineering and manufacturing facility has more than 50 presses serving fully automated paint lines and assembly stations.

After being spun off from its previous ownership, Kendrick Plastics needed to scale down from a multinational system to a middle-market regional system. Using multiple software systems to facilitate manufacturing operations was inefficient and uncompetitive for a business of its scale; doing so absorbed valuable resources across departments, including manual data reconciliation, IT support for hardware and software management, and limited quality tracking and visibility. This software environment created data silos, leading to issues with synchronization that resulted in high costs and limitations on Kendrick’s ability to innovate.

One of the manufacturer’s top priorities was to find business systems that would support its new organization. Up until that point, the company had operated using 27 software systems. Though change is always challenging, Kendrick embraced it because of the benefits it would bring.

Multiple Authors
By: Theodoros Evgeniou, Caroline Zimmerman

This isn’t a new story: A novel technology disrupts society, bringing with it many benefits but also major risks and costs. We saw it during the Industrial Revolution, which vastly improved the average living standard but also led to poor labor conditions and environmental degradation, all within a timeline that was difficult to foresee.

And here we are now at the dawn of the AI revolution. This time, cloud computing and computer processing power, cheap storage, new algorithms, as well as new product and service innovations, are poised to bring about driverless cars, virtual reality, AI-enabled medical diagnostics, and predictive machine maintenance.

In tandem with the positive technological breakthroughs, however, we also see some negative, often unintended consequences of these technologies. They run the gamut of fake news and algorithms that favor the incendiary and divisive over the factual, to major privacy breaches and AI models that discriminate against minority groups or even cost human lives.

Emily Newton’s picture

By: Emily Newton

Welding technology has progressed over the years, thanks to innovations that improve accuracy and overall productivity. Some advances have been in welding automation handled by advanced robots. Other breakthroughs rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine vision for better defect detection. Here’s a closer look at how those two technologies have helped the industry move forward.

Welding automation reduces human labor needs

One of the reasons for manufacturers’ interest in welding technology is that it could solve or at least ease labor shortages. According to the American Welding Society, more than 50 percent of human-created projects require some type of welding. Additionally, American Welding Society data forecast 400,000 unfilled welding jobs by 2024. Some analysts believe the shortage could surpass that figure.

Training programs make younger generations aware of their opportunities in welding roles. Such programs are good starts, but they won’t bring about an immediate change. AI-powered robots could assist with the deficit in the meantime.

Anthony D. Burns’s picture

By: Anthony D. Burns

I’m a chemical engineer. The fundamentals of the chemical engineering profession were laid down 150 years ago by Osborne Reynolds. Although chemical engineering has seen many advances, such as digital process control and evolutionary process optimization, every engineer understands and uses Reynold’s work. Most people have heard of the Reynolds number, which plays a key role in calculating air and liquid fluid flows. There are no fads. Engineers use the fundamentals of the profession.

Fads, fads, fads

By contrast, in the past 70 years, “quality” has seen more than 20 fads. The fundamentals have been forgotten and corrupted. Quality has been lost. Quality managers engage in an endless pursuit of magic pudding that will fix all their problems.

Alarmingly, the latest “quality” fad, Agile, has nothing to do with quality. It’s a software development fad that evolved from James Martin’s rapid application development (RAD) fad of the 1980s. This in turn grew into the rapid iterative processing (RIP) fad. When it comes to quality today, anything will do, no matter how unrelated.

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