Additive Manufacturing: A Game Changer

amThroughout the decades I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the evolution manufacturing. I’m sure most of you old time I mean seasoned professionals remember the cam controlled chucking lathes. Cutting those cams to make the tool cut a certain path took skill and patience’s.

 
When manufacturing evolved into CNC digital machining then robotics I was simply elated and amazed at the progress. The simplicity of setup along with the repeatability and precision made these machines state of the art for many years. I can remember making my first .005 offset on a CNC machine then checking the part. It was an incredible feeling of power when the part checked exactly .005 smaller (big deal back in the day). In the past this offset took a touch of a surgeon using the positive stop method.

 
But we’re here to discuss the latest emerging technology in machining called Additive Manufacturing. This is the newest innovation in manufacturing and it will simply change the game.

 
Additive Manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. Compare this to our typical machining model of removing metal from a blank or a bar. True geeks can check out ASTM F2792-10 for the complete technical definition.

 
To get your mind focus let’s consider the lighter side 3D printing. Imagine creating a chess set were all the pieces were replicas of members of your family. You could be the King your wife the Queen, Uncle Ed the Bishops and so on. All that is required is to scan each of you then create a simple 3D model. Load the model into your 3D printer and voila Smith Family Replica Chess set!

 
Now take that technology and put it in the hands of a company like General Electric!

Below is snippet from their site

 
“GE is using laser-powered 3-D printers, 3-D “inking” and “painting” machines, and other advanced manufacturing tools to make parts and products that were thought impossible to produce and which sometimes verge on art. We see advanced manufacturing as the next chapter in the industrial revolution.”

 
In my view it’s like cloning parts rather than machining them. With little waste and no significant dimensional variability within the batch! You now have the ability to fax 3D models or easily reverse engineer obsolete parts and then affordably manufacture them! This process isn’t labor intensive therefore off shoring labor won’t be as profitable, keeping jobs at home.

 
Value Stream Managers and Lean Practitioners had better embrace this technology early because Additive Manufacturing is a game changer and here to stay.
What are your thoughts?

 

Do you have an article to submit, always looking for guest authors!

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Develop, Manage and Motivate Beyond the Measurements

heartHearing the phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ always gives me a reason for pause. Too often it’s the beginning of MBC (Management By Charts) which many employees are accustomed. Lean practitioners everywhere will tell you charts are valuable but rarely convey the true picture. For instance how do you measure loyalty, job satisfaction, ethics and values?

I know there are qualitative research models that can extract quantitative values that can be charted showing a trend. However this is lagging data and typically requires further study and interpretation. I prefer the stand by water cooler method; it’s real-time, cheap and not censored. Talking to real people can be frightening but also enlightening.

Toyota has it right with the expression “We build people not cars”. Managers become teachers developing exceptional people. Let me repeat this developing exceptional people!
Too often organizations primary efforts go into mining for exceptional talent from the outside. Searching for talent in College and Universities is customary and should continue however ignoring talent in your own organization is ludicrous. Where is the chart that reflects a stagnating workforce unable to reach potential due to organizational constraints? Leadership is not a plug and play proposition every employee top down requires development.

Oftentimes an employee doesn’t even recognize their own potential. Once they obtain the perceived organizational ceiling most cease to develop both personally and professionally. Think of this in sports terms do coaches allow players to ever believe they have peaked in their performance, of course not. Even we Cub fans believe the coaches will find a way to win it all! On that note congratulations to the Jack Robinson West little league the new United States Champion!

That is the passion needed in the workforce, not written in a handbook but felt and shared throughout the organization!

 
For example one becomes an expert at welding possibly suggest they could learn more about metallurgy. A Senior Engineer could take a finance class; Customer Service Representative could study a second language! Motivate individuals to learn the science or business surrounding their job not for professional reward but personal development!

I believe organizational culture is truly derived from the ability to lead, teach and guide organically. If you’re always searching for supermen but cannot develop them internally you’re in trouble.

 
Let me pose this thought provoking question; How far could Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (neither finished college) been able to progress in your organization? Be honest do your exceptional employees get frustrated and quit, are identified and developed or give up and coast.

Tell us your thoughts solutions or stories. Remember in Lean it’s the journey not the destination that makes us grow!

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Save Your Sanity with PFEP

PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part. A simple material control concept from the past resurrected and touted as a new transformative process. PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part .

Material Control professionals first thought after introduction to PFEP is always “What do they think we do now, plan for half the parts?”

Planning every part is what these folks they do every day. Be cognizant of this in your roll out so not to offend. PFEP in this instance means team rather than individual planning. Success or failure is now shared.
A simple value stream map provides best method to flush out every part along with its interdependency within the process. The plan that comes out of these sessions is usually based on best case assumptions and scenarios. Do we ever really plan for the reality of the environment? If we did could we ever move forward?
Typically the problem isn’t the plan it’s the measuring and execution of the plan! On paper the plan can look flawless. But let’s throw in a little standard chaos you know scrap, rework, inspection, design change, transportation costs, EOQ, machine capacity and labor constraints. Couple this with your inventory goals that are oftentimes arbitrary. Many companies inventory goals are simply one word ”less”.
How does today’s PFEP differ from all the previous iterations of lean implementations. With PFEP you actually have measurable plan that is put together by a team and scrutinized as a group! Purchasing agents and Material Control personnel will no longer be constantly seconded guessed. A plan is established for every part with the goal of maintaining linkage and flow with minimal inventory.
Expected Inventory levels can be calculated and dollarized from the onset. No longer are you just shooting for arbitrary goal of less-inventory and ultimately starving the process and disrupting flow.
Once PFEP is in place you simply manage the plan not the parts! The key for success at this point is to use your lean tools to methodically flush out the problems with the plan. Problems that have been painfully obvious for years will now have management’s attention to either resolved or buffer.
Think of PFEP as the S&OP of the shop floor give it try and share the chaos and save your sanity!
What has been your experience with PFEP?

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LEAN MANUFACTURING – WAITING ON SUPERMAN

WOSWaiting on Superman is a fascinating documentary critiquing America’s educational system which has become so large and complex that it no longer meets the needs of the end customer, the student. The primary goal of educating our children is lost in a labyrinth of special interests and political maneuvering.

 
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes” while following several students journey to a charter school. The film dispels much of the conventional (stereotypical) logic that children from low-income neighborhoods don’t want to learn. Another myth is that low performing or just plain bad educators are removed from the system. The reference to “Superman” describes educators Geoffrey Canada realization that there isn’t just one person powerful enough to save the system. Superman was fictional so you will wait forever if that was your plan.

 
As a Lean Practitioner I’m constantly mixing life, science and art. This documentary reminded me so much of lean programs past, present and possibly future. The parallels of systems and bureaucracies becoming so large and complex they lose focus and no longer function effectively. Lean in many organizations has become the “product” rather than the “tool”. Participation in value streams, kaizen events and other similar type programs have become mandatory in many companies. Rather than true problem solving of relevant issues practitioners look for “projects” to become lean certified or re-certified. Hence the tool is becoming the product rather than the tool enhancing the product.

 
This is where I had an epiphany … are serial quality programs organizations attempt to search for Superman! That fictional character or system that will save them from themselves!

 
Perfect quality, seamless linkage and flow along with world-class customer service and products are not results of complex and conflicting bureaucracies. According to Deming “A bad system, will defeat a good person, every time.”

 
Take heart Lean Soldier it isn’t all doom and gloom. Just as the documentary suggests there is hope in education and I’m sure lean manufacturing as well. But we might need to redirect the tools of quality to the process. Not the process of manufacturing but the process of managing the process if that makes sense. Maybe we should create “Charter” manufacturing cells detached from the beast or mother ship.

 
What are your thoughts?

 
One parting question “Is you’re a lean program more of a product or a tool of your organization? “  In other words do you use lean tools to solve problems or find problems to use lean tools.

 
Thanks and enjoy your Lean Journey it never ends!

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IS HOSHIN KANRI REALLY NECESSARY

compassThroughout my lean journey I noticed that practically every organizations mission can be summed up with an age old timeless sentence or variant thereof.

“ABC organization will provide a product or service that meets the needs of our customers while providing profit to our investors and value to our employees. “

 
That’s clear concise and to the point to everyone in an out of the organization.

 
Organizational communication over time has evolved into complex labyrinth of legalese, jargon and branding. Mission and vision statements today are more like social manifestos’.
To translate these new manifestos to into actions many large organization rely on Hoshin Kanri a.k.a Policy Deployment.

 
The goal of policy deployment is to drive the company’s strategic goals throughout the organization. Popularized in Japan during the 1950’s Hoshin Kanri on its face appears pretty logical.

 
Following is excerpt from Wikipedia ……

 
“The discipline of hoshin kanri is intended to help an organization:

 
• Focus on a shared goal.
• Communicate that goal to all leaders.
• Involve all leaders in planning to achieve the goal.
• Hold participants accountable for achieving their part of the plan.

 
It assumes daily controls and performance measures are in place: “With hoshin kanri… the daily crush of events and quarterly bottom-line pressures do not take precedence over strategic plans; rather, these short-term activities are determined and managed by the plans themselves”

 
In the past organization simply expressed their yearly goals through memos, meetings then move forward. Now it takes 25 lean tools to express and execute multiple key performance targets. Everyone in these organizations must create an individual goal that must be specific, measurable, and achievable and time bound. The organization now needs to manage review and control literally thousands of individual plans yearly! This labyrinth of communication has become time consuming, conflicting and complex.
I don’t believe Hoshin Kanri developers meant this to occur.

 

As a lean practitioner I’m always reviewing practices and testing assumptions. If your organization is truly into continuous improvement aren’t many policy deployment activities redundant? So the question remains is HOSHIN KANRI REALLY NECESSARY?

 
Share your experience with policy deployment. Has your job changed significantly because of it? Are your goals shared, relevant an attainable? Or are the goals just mandated driven from the top and policy deployment the tool used to measure adherence to the targets. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence for both.

 

 

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Lean Kryptonite – Running To The Numbers

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

From my perspective the largest cause of failure for lean initiatives is continuing to run the company by the numbers. You know the month, quarter and year end projections. I recognize to remain in business companies must have goals, objective and targets. However you can’t just set an arbitrary number then believe your system can accommodate it.

 

Imagine telling Tony Steward your number 14 Chevrolet Impala must operate on half the fuel next race because that what is needed to make the monthly projection. While sounding crazy in this context this is exactly what happens in many manufacturing companies throughout the nation.

Whenever running a drag race or manufacturing widgets you must know one thing from the onset “How much resources (fuel, inventory) is required to operate a lean and robust process that results in operational linkage and flow”.

Oftentimes setting up lean Kanban lines results in higher inventory but the inventory is relevant and turning. Think of a NASCAR engine, as it improves you may require more tires per race. But advanced engine might also result in less pit stop for fuel and repairs.  Lets not leave out an additional victory or two.

Kanban lines optimize and stabilize inventory it does not always reduce. This stabilization is what allows you to make methodical and continual incremental improvements. If your lines are constantly starved of inventory you will only create an expedite loop and never get the benefits of lean.

Edwards Deming recognized that operating on visible numbers and observations alone could destroy organizations. This is one of his seven deadly diseases of management, number 5 “Operating on visible numbers alone”.  Dust the book ”Out of Crisis” off and review that section it will offer amazing insight to this issue.

Hope enjoyed this short discussion. I’m always looking for content and guest authors so if you have thought or a story please submit it.

Enjoy your lean Journey … remember it has no end!

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Coping With Serial Quality Programs – Groundhog C.I.

ghDoes the movie Groundhog Day eerily remind you of your continuous improvement program cycle?  Just when you’re making true headway and ready to tackle the hard issues the alarm goes off and you awake only to find yourself back at square one!

After a short yawn and stretch look around only find a new focus, program or leadership team. But while names of the programs and people are different you are right back at square one of principally the same continuous improvement journey. Then like déjà vu you hear the chant to remove waste, strive for one piece flow, poka-yoke along with sort, straighten, standardize and sustain.

In other words the much work was completed when Groundhog Day reset the register.  You know all the low hanging fruit. Tools are now put at point of use, order sized optimized, floor stock added, back flushing used when possible and more in process signals.

Went to bed believing you were further along the yellow brick road of your lean journey only to wake up back in Kansas! How many times can a movie be get remade before it becomes redundant! A sequel maybe but remake! It’s the same storyline just in color!

How to cope Groundhog C.I. programs?

  1. Be patient remember while this might be quality program 3.0 to you there are quality virgins in the company that are in awe of the possibilities. Don’t burst their bubble, soldier up and stay positive
  2. Continuous improvement programs are major marketing vehicles for organizations. Prepare yourself to sell the sizzle not the steak. Remember there are competitors out there! The best product / company don’t always survive, but the best perceived product / company typically does. Would love to be a purist here but don’t want you to run into the brick wall of reality. You probably have the sales pitch memorized by now anyway.
  3. Finally to break this cycle you must document and file your projects.  The best method is the single page A4 process. This is a fantastic tool draw attention to process improvement redundancy.  Possibly just possibly presenting a past A4 during a current problem solving session might result in forward motion. Fixing a flat is much easier than recreating the wheel over and over again!
  4. Know that education can breed frustration. The untapped areas of opportunity are more visible to lifelong learners. Stay positive and balanced but keep reading!
  5. Most of all enjoy your lean journey it’s a rewarding path without end.
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Lean Tools 101 – Run Chart

During our lean journey we oftentimes become overwhelmed with the jargon, anecdotes and theories. In our rush to out “Toyota” one another some of the foundational tools are lost in the process or simply taught in passing. I’ve seen leaders who could tell you the life story of Aiichi Ohno but never created a fish-bone diagram.

A lean soldier must periodically re-visit all the simple side arms in his/her continuous improvement arsenal. The first tool to review is the run chart.

In practice the run chart is a very effective visual for a new practitioner. This should be taught extensively in high school. School sports stats offer an excellent opportunity bring relevant and power of the tool.  I’m sure coaches would love hundreds of young statisticians charting the numbers and critiquing the team strategy!

The Run Chart

chart

Run charts are simple line graphs that show how often a process characteristic or problem occurs over a period of time and focuses attention on any substantial changes.

 

 

A run chart is used to organize countable data collected over a period of time to identify process problems. You will be able to detect trends or cycles of variation once enough data is collected. Ideally, an equal number of points should fall above and below a determined average.  When data points skew to either end of midpoint (which will ultimately cause average to change) the process needs to be investigated.

Change itself isn’t always bad. It could be a result of a problem solving event. However you will need to document the new normal for future review.

Typical usage includes trying to reduce tolerance variation in a machining process, percentage of scrap per operation or possibly identifying the number of sales orders released to production with errors.

Your ultimate goal is to reduce variation through to create a more robust and predictable process.

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The Reverse B.S. Principle and Lean

Fast job!

While reading blogs I came across one that continually comes to mind in my lean journey. The post was entitled the “Reverse [B.S]. Principle” Written by Elsiem see excerpt below.

 

The Reverse [B.S.] Principle

“The reverse [B.S] principle holds that if, when the sentiments contained in a given statement are reversed, the statement becomes ridiculous, then it wasn’t worth making to begin with.

For example, this sentence, taken from a different job advert:

In addition, the applicant must want to be a contributor on a team that strives for excellence and continuous improvement on a daily basis.

Could, when subjected to the reverse bullshit principle, be rewritten thus:

In addition, the applicant must want to be a contributor on a team that strives for mediocrity and sporadic improvement on an infrequent basis.

As the example illustrates, if the opposite of what you’re saying is clearly ridiculous, then what you’re saying should – well, it should go without saying.

The use of the reverse [B.S.] principle makes it easier to work out when someone is spouting nonsense for the sake of making a noise, rather than because they have anything worth saying. It is useful in all walks of life, but writers in particular should take careful note of it. ”

Has your organization ever asked you to remember or have ability recite a quality policy or company vision? How important was this really in shaping the actions of your daily work? Which bullet points would pass the reverse [B.S] principle? Try it you’ll find it amusing.

In your lean journey remember this principle and take a moment to smile whenever it can be applied. Also before your presentations don’t forget to add this prefix “This goes without saying” …

…. our goal is …

  • 100 percent on time delivery
  • Zero Defects
  • Strive to be Industry leader ….

Never can tell if there just might be a lean soldier in the audience smiling at you!

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5 tips to Career Pathing the Material Management Field

Fastjob.org

The field of material management is a vast and rewarding. Material management or logistics should receive more visibility as a career option to prep school students.

 

Unfortunately our educational system does little to bring awareness to this field. If you ask a student what profession do you plan to pursue? Practically every kid would give the same programmed answer doctor, lawyer, fireman or policeman. Typically said with the caveat, that their movie, rap, singing or pro sports careers don’t materialize.

Invariably most of us land in position or jobs more by chance than choice. Once in the workforce we truly begin see the wide range of professional skill sets needed to operate organizations efficiently. Engineering, finance, quality, material control along with building maintenance is just a few typical disciplines.

Of these I truly believe material management provides the best path for career advancement for the non-degree and entry level employee. This is because unlike engineering or finance there are plenty of entry level paths that can lead to advancement. This includes, shipping receiving clerks, storeroom clerks, purchasing agents, expediters, material control clerks practically any position in the logistics value stream.

First know career pathing is your responsibility. Don’t expect much help from your human resource department. From discussions and observation that path too often leaves employees more confused and less motivated. That comment is naturally anecdotal. The best advice is to seek mentors and sponsors within and outside the organization.

Developing the Plan

1. Decide on a path – Duh!

a. Find out the job requirements for the position you want. REMEMBER no matter what the requirements even if written in stone they are subjective. If you believe you have the experience but not the credentials apply for it regardless.

2. Develop a mentor or sponsor network.

a. During your annual review provide a written statement outlining your professional goals.

b. During annual review ask for direction in obtaining those goals.

c. Follow the plan agreed upon, this will give others a vested interest in your success.

d. Speak to the people doing the job you want, ask for tips, and show interest.

3. Education

a. Take full advantage of tuition reimbursement if company offers it.

b. Take full advantage of tuition reimbursements if company offers it. (Worth saying twice)

c. Night School, Day School or Online just do it.

4. Professional Development

a. Join a professional organization.

b. Give priority to college courses before trying to study for professional certifications. Don’t rob mental horsepower from your college classes.

c. Organizations such as APICS and ISM are great for networking and staying abreast of the profession.

5. Organizational Politics

a. Don’t be blind understand the culture and sub culture of the company.

b. Know the power brokers and the informal leaders of your organizing. Understanding how their measured is one secret to success.

Every organization requires some level of logistics and or material management. Industry continues to struggle with how to structure this discipline. Oftentimes its felt other department can better manage linkage, flow and inventory, but invariably some form of Production and Inventory control structure resurfaces

If for some reason you don’t believe your organization has a material management path for you, look closer.

Good luck in your Journey!

Do you have tips or article to present!

Always looking for guest authors!

 

 

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