Management Article

David Isaacson’s picture

By: David Isaacson

During the last decade, product quality has become increasingly important to consumers. In fact, a recent B2C study found that consumers rank quality as the most important component in making a purchase, rather than price. This change in focus can be attributed to several factors but is paced by leading brands that set a high bar for exceptional product experiences which drive customer preference. Take Herschel, for example, which prominently prints the word “quality” on everything it produces—a bold brand promise that is meaningful to consumers.

Jody Muelaner’s picture

By: Jody Muelaner

Understanding the causes of faults and defects, and then improving the system or process so it won’t happen again, is central to lean manufacturing. This article looks at some of the methods used to identify the root causes of issues so that you can prevent downtime and move toward zero-defect manufacturing.

Benjamin Kessler’s picture

By: Benjamin Kessler

It’s generally accepted that large organizations, for a host of structural and cultural reasons, are at a disadvantage when it comes to innovation. Less agreed upon is why their employees outside of R&D should care. Can’t acquisitions and partnerships make up the creative deficit?

Think again, counsels Manuel Sosa, INSEAD associate professor of technology and operations management, in a recent interview for the INSEAD Knowledge podcast. Sosa says that the fruits of innovation—novel, valuable products and services—should not be confused with the tree itself.

First and foremost, innovation is a process for conceiving “novel and useful” solutions, which is necessary for business and career success, no matter where you’re sitting in an industry or organization. The fruits can easily be bought and sold, but planting, cultivating, and harvesting know-how is far less transferable. For the neophyte, learning to innovate requires diligence, patience, and (most of all) direct collaboration with skillful role models.

Takeshi Yoshida’s picture

By: Takeshi Yoshida

‘Lean” is such a convenient term; everyone uses it based on their own definition. People frequently use “lean” in place of “efficiency,” probably because it sounds more cool. Another round of cost cutting? Sure, let’s tell everyone we’re “going lean,” again.

Lean is a proven, powerful productivity approach (we probably owe post-WWII modernity and the internet age to lean), yet most people don’t know what lean is really about beyond the hype. And in this age of hyper-competition, not knowing or using tools that are proven to work is a big disadvantage.

So people should learn and practice lean. But there’s one complexity: Today’s lean is a mix-up between two different but same-sounding management concepts—lean manufacturing and lean startup. Lean startup is a recent-decade thing—it was inspired by, and hence not disassociated with, lean manufacturing, but it serves a somewhat different purpose and audience. Lean manufacturing traces its roots to Japan’s post-WWII industrial recovery with the aid of some key American industrial engineers.

Let’s clarify.

Steven Brand’s picture

By: Steven Brand

Conferences are a great way for you and your team to network with others, demo exciting new technologies, learn about topics that interest you, and gain valuable insights from industry experts. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of events happening in 2020. Here are 29 conferences happening in California and throughout North America that you can attend.

Nine manufacturing conferences in California

Pacific Design & Manufacturing
Feb. 11–13, 2020: Anaheim, CA
Join 20,000 manufacturing professionals and 1,900 suppliers in Anaheim for this large–scale event. You’ll meet leaders in contract design and manufacturing, and gain insights during educational sessions at the “Design Dome” and the six–track conference on 3D printing, smart manufacturing, and MedTech.

Travis Carlton’s picture

By: Travis Carlton

Whether we’re talking to a front-line operator, a plant manager, or CEO, people’s reactions to being assigned a new recurring task are remarkably similar: “Oh great—more to do.” Sound familiar?

It’s a reaction that’s common in organizations transitioning from paper-based to an automated digital process for layered process audits (LPAs), even though the end result may be a sharp reduction in defects and simpler audit processes. Although there are numerous benefits to moving from a paper-based to a mobile digital platform for your LPA program, the focus of this article is how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Layered process audits focus on quick, straightforward elements of process inputs, helping ensure process standardization and reduce defects upstream from the point of manufacture. Automating LPAs can involve a transition process, one made easier by adopting a pilot program to help you learn as you go. Here we discuss different types of pilot programs, as well as some best practices to ensure success.

Different types of pilot programs

Most commonly, manufacturers will roll out automated LPAs on a site-by-site basis. The first acts as a test site, with the goal of bringing on additional sites once the team has refined the process.

Tom Taormina’s picture

By: Tom Taormina

In 1989, I was handed a copy of ISO 9001:1987 by my employer with the direction to find out what it was all about. Our company was headquartered in Europe, and we would be compelled to implement the standard straightaway.

My first reaction was that I wished it had been published 20 years earlier when I was operating under the burdensome military specification MIL-Q-9858A. ISO 9001 was very straightforward and written so that virtually any organization could use is as the foundation for an effective quality management system.

The local ASQ section was abuzz about the new standard and eager to “interpret” the requirements. Those who were in quality management were excited to present the standard to senior management as the new solution for lowering defects and scrap rates.

Early adopters were classically trained quality professionals. ISO 9001:1987 was titled “Quality systems—Model for quality assurance in design/development, production, installation, and servicing.” This standard had the potential, we hoped, to inculcate the tenets of quality management into an entire organization. And the quality managers saw it was good.

Dave Coffaro’s picture

By: Dave Coffaro

One of the greatest responsibilities of leadership is driving continual evolution of the organization toward a well-defined future state. Implied in this role is the need to lead change. Easily said, complex in practice.

Navigating change has been prevalent in management literature for decades. Notwithstanding the books, articles, consultants, and experts, change efforts generally produce moderate success at best. Why? In the words of a long-time colleague, “Change would be easy if it didn’t involve people.”

Human beings are wired for free will. Change requires us to alter established, and perhaps comfortable, behavior patterns. With self-imposed change, redesigning our patterns is challenging enough. There can be an additional layer of resistance in an organizational setting, where change is triggered by someone or something outside ourselves, because the motivation stimulating behavioral pattern redefinition is not our own.

The term “reactance” refers to a feeling that our behavioral freedoms or choices are being taken away. As leaders, we must attune to the emotional side of change that takes place within the people being asked to refine their activities.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

In the context of our increasingly disrupted, globalizing, and multicultural world, quality leaders greatly appreciate the security and comfort of clear-cut strategic plans for the future. After all, following our in-the-moment intuitions frequently leads to business disasters, and strategic plans help prevent such problems.

Tragically, popular strategic analyses meant to address the weaknesses of human thinking are deeply flawed. They give a false sense of comfort and security to quality professionals who use them, leading them into the exact business disasters that they seek to avoid.

Take one of the most popular of them, the SWOT analysis, where you try to figure out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your business. SWOT doesn’t account for the dangerous errors of judgement revealed by recent research in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience, what scholars call cognitive biases.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

With more than 300 employees headquartered in a modern 150,000+ sq ft facility, Plasser American Corp. (PAC) manufactures top-quality, heavy railway construction and maintenance equipment for customers in North America. To stay competitive with international competition, PAC continually looks for ways to improve its processes and best practices.

“We made a goal to drastically reduce welding rework in the assembly area, so that all the welding of individual component parts on our frames would be done in the frame shop during initial welding,” explains Joe Stark vice president of operations and production. “At that time, we were laying out each machine we built by hand using tape measures and soap stones. Our machine-to-machine consistency just wasn’t where it needed to be which meant too much rework having to be done in the main assembly areas. We knew we needed to develop some standardization and best practices to accomplish our goals.”

Challenge

The PAC team assessed the possibility of their engineering department creating models detailing every tab, bracket, plate, etc. The idea was rejected due to the tremendous amount of engineering time that would be necessary to keep the models 100-percent accurate.

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