Manufacturing Tips of the Week
GaMEP staff at Georgia Tech provide tips to help manufacturers in areas of business development, lean, management systems, sustainability, energy, and innovation strategies.
Tip of the Week: Innovation by Changing the Mindset of the Organization (Mark Heflin)
Most organizations who are embarking on an innovative approach to their business understand that they need to recognize those things that are changing, such as their customers, their industry’s technology, and their competitors.
But to facilitate innovation, it takes a change of mindset in the organization. This is a cultural and organizational issue and is difficult to accomplish. Mindset implies people and it is helpful to bring in an outside look or fresh perspective. One can hire from outside, but the organization can also bring in consultants that have a broad and multi-industry perspective. It can also be done internally by having the courage to collaborate with other departments from within the organization. Collaborative efforts from all parts of the organization should be encouraged. Changing the performance measurement system can be a key, since employees respond to the way they are measured and rewarded. To get a different or innovative outcome, try changing the measurement system. One other technique is in tolerating failures. Trying new methods is not going to lead to 100% successes, so try to tolerate the innovative attempts to do new things and in new ways.
How do you try to modify the mindset in your innovation efforts?
Tip of the Week: Lean is a Team Sport (Art Ford)
Lean like football…requires a team effort to be successful…and you have to know and execute the basics!!!
I enjoy watching a good game of football, especially when my team is winning!!! A winning football team usually has a dedicated coaching staff that has plan for how the team is going to play (playbook & game strategy), players that knows how to execute the basics of blocking and tackling and that work together as a team. They measure their success by the scoreboard at the end of the game and always celebrate when they win!!!! But they are also about continuous improvement because they watch the film of the game and work on their mistakes so they can improve!!!
To be successful your lean team requires no less effort:
- You need a vision—what are you trying to achieve?
- Metrics are a must---you can’t improve it if you can’t measure it.
- Goals move you forward—Where would you like to be a year from now?
- Execute the basics---Concentrating on flow is the key to lean improvement.
- Celebrate your successes…and work on your weaknesses!!!
Have you ever thought about approaching your lean improvement efforts like a team sport?
Tip of the Week: Who Comes First, Customers or Employees (Mark Heflin)
In most manufacturing companies, there is typically a top down structure. There is a lot of management research and innovation lately that suggests the opposite might be best. After all, it usually isn't the management or CEO that creates value for a company, it is the employees that create value for the company. Employees have great ideas and solutions to problems they work with every day, but often go unheard. Innovative management models suggest that management should be accountable to the employee. Employees that are truly valued and have management that removes obstacles to their achievement of management's goals can achieve far more than anyone realizes. There are lots of examples to study. Management still needs to provide the vision for the company and to nurture the enthusiasm and trust of the employees to see and carry out the vision.
Who comes first in your company?
Tip of the Week: Earn Respect from your employees with focus on Safety (David Apple)
We sometimes say 5S is a good way to begin involving employees in continuous improvement. 5S is easy (at least the first 3S’s are easy) and fun. Employees typically enjoy organizing and cleaning their work area, and enjoy having management help.
One company in our Lean Consortium has found another starting point. They attended our Lean & Safe Course (the beta version, the full version is now available - see link ).
At this course they learned some new insights to more effectively look at operations from a safety viewpoint. Now the company conducts safety kaizens. They find that employees are very interested in improving safety. This is a good step toward establishing trust and credibility between management and employees.
The initial efforts focusing on safety is a good foundation for fostering employee involvement. I recall comments from our recent guest speaker Norman Bodek, “Employee suggestions are not for the company, they are for the employees.” Granted, there will be ideas that save money and increase productivity. But that is not the focus. The focus is getting employees contributing to improvement and the developing a problem solving work force.
How do you develop mutual respect between your management and your workforce?
Tip of the Week: The China Price (Tom Sammon)
When I was 16 years old, I had a summer job unloading trucks at the Lowe’s Distribution Center in Villa Rica, GA. There was a special part of the truck yard for cargo shipping containers marked with names like “Yang Ming Line” and “Nippon Express”. It was an adventure to open one of those containers. You never knew what you might find- like the time we found half a pack of Chinese cigarettes in the floor of a container. Of course we dared each other to smoke one. Bad Idea.
30 years later, opening an overseas container can still be a bad idea. In exchange for the “China price” there are plenty of down sides to be considered. Large order quantities leading to excessive inventories, poor quality, and product obsolescence, just to name a few. Make sure you take into account all of the “hidden” costs and risks that come with sourcing overseas. And never smoke cigarettes that you find in a shipping container. Trust me.
Tip of the Week: Managing Expectations for Projects (Mark Heflin)
I have found that when doing product or process development work, it is often the case that expectations of the results can be all over the board. It is essential to get everyone involved on the same page in regards to their expectations. Usually, expectations are based on some past experience, but with development work, or work new to the organization, there are not many past experiences to draw from. Not everyone knows how the development process works. It is wise to discuss the process with all the partners and ask everyone how they would describe or envisions the successful outcome. A little up front conversation can save problems down the road.
How have you experienced the management of expectations in your work?
Tip of the Week: Where to Look for Innovation (Art Ford)
There is a lot of talk about innovation these days, i.e., What it is, What it isn’t, and How to do it!!! But in our efforts to define innovation and learn how to do it, we often miss opportunities to apply our newly gained “Innovative Genius” because we don’t know where to look. Where should we be looking?
It has been my experience that innovations often arise from one or a combination of three interrelated states of mind/situations:
Chances of Innovation
- Inspiration 10%
- Perspiration 90%
- Desperation 100%
Inspiration—Look at what inspires you…If something you see or experience gives you a feeling of inspiration, then innovation could be close by. It is at these times that you might be able to see something new in the situation that could lead to an innovation.
Perspiration—What are you sweating over in your work situation or personal life? Often the beginning of inspiration which leads to innovation is struggle with a problem of some sort. When you have struggled honestly for a long time with a problem, then innovation could be close by. After you have struggled with a problem long enough, it will give up a secret or two that, if you are looking, can give you the inspiration for an innovation to solve the problem. Don’t give up…keep struggling and looking.
Desperation—There is truth in the old saying, “Necessity is the Mother of all Invention.” When you are at your most desperate moment, you are closer than ever to innovation. When you have worked hard (sweated over) on a problem and have not been able to solve it, and a deadline is approaching you can get desperate for a solution, you’ll try anything that you think might work and some things you don’t think will work…It is at these times that you are the closest to innovation. When you are desperate for a solution to a problem, it is easier to look past your prejudices, biases, we’ve never done it that way attitudes and see the obvious innovation!!! When you are desperate, take time to look around it’ll be much easier to see innovations!!!
Examples of Innovation Sparked By…
Inspiration--On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy gave the inspiring speech that said we would put a man on the moon and bring him home safely before the end of the decade. This was an inspiring speech in a desperate situation that mobilized a nation.
Perspiration—Thousands of people worked long and hard for NASA and “sweated out” the innovations that were needed to put us on the moon, it didn’t come easy. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon and returned to earth safely after an 8 day mission.
Desperation--Who can forget the words of Jim Lovell on April 14, 1970, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” that led to many innovative solutions to keep the crew alive during the flight and sling-shot them around the moon and back toward earth for a safe landing on April 17, 1970.
Inspiration, Perspiration and Desperation are our friends that will show us the way to innovations…greet them with a handshake and a smile because they are there to help you!!!
Have you ever had similar experiences or am I the only one that has to be “Clutched” to become Innovative?
Tip of the Week: Smart leaders cultivate charisma (Craig Cochran)
The myth of leadership is that it is all about greatness. It’s not only a myth, but a harmful deception. Leadership is all about relationships. Charisma is one of the key ways you develop these relationships. Some people think of charisma as fake or showy. It’s not. Charisma is having the sort of personality that draws people toward you and makes them want to follow you to success. This is exactly what you need as a leader.
People mistakenly think of charisma as something that you either have or don’t have, and if you don’t have it, you never will. As usual, this is not correct. Everybody has the capacity to increase their charisma through a few simple acts.
- The first thing is to smile confidently. The public generally thinks of leaders as being solemn and stone faced. That’s the movie version of leadership. Sure, during the heat of battle, leaders don’t do a lot of smiling. In your day to day interactions as a leader in your organization, smiling confidently is one of the best and simplest tools you have for connecting to people. When you smile, you’re telling people that you’d like them to be part of your team. That’s the message you want to convey most of the time.
- Speak clearly: Effective leaders speak in a way that can be understood. The clarity of their words are a reflection of the clarity of their ideas. Besides speaking clearly, leaders often talk in a more animated way, and the pace of their speech has more urgency to it. The animation, urgency, and clarity of a leader’s speaking voice grabs the attention of constituents and draws them toward the cause.
- Move with energy and animation: Who wants to follow a sloth? Nobody. Constituents desire leaders who embody vigor and energy. This raises the confidence of followers, because deep down most people are attracted to those leaders who have strength. Do what you need to do to have the energy that inspires others. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of rest are keys to keeping the energy levels high.
- Finally, know your people: Take the time to really get to know your constituents. Does this mean becoming everybody’s best friend? Of course not. But you should do everything possible to know people’s names, their family situations, their interests, backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and long term plans. The degree to which you know these things will certainly depend on the number of constituents you have and the culture of the organization, but the charismatic leader always makes the effort.
Tip of the Week: Is Lean just another management driven cost reduction program? (David Apple)
Failure to change a company’s culture is a leading cause of Lean Manufacturing failures. Face the fact, if you don’t change your culture, all of your lean-inspired efforts look merely like management driven cost reduction programs to your employees.
What is this culture change we are talking about? Toyota calls it “Respect for People”.
Because it was missing in the American manufacturing culture, we had to add an 8th item to Toyota’s list of 7 Deadly Wastes. Our 8th waste is “not using employee’s ideas.” Or as management guru Peter Drucker said it, back in 1946, ““The Corporation simply cannot afford to deprive itself of the intelligence, imagination, and initiative of 90% of the people who work for it, that is, the workers."
At our 4th Annual Lean Leadership Event, Norman Bodek challenged us, “If you don’t already have a way that you are involving your employees in improvement, you can start ‘quick and easy kaizen’ tomorrow.” Listen to Norman explain it. Here is the key point Norman makes about quick and easy kaizen: It is not a suggestion system, it is an involvement system and a way to develop the problem solving skills of your people.
Are you respecting your employees by expecting them to contribute to the success of the business?
Tip of the Week: Quality Management (Angie Gilleland)
Implementing a quality management system based on ISO 9001: 2008 may require a little work up front, but the results are worth the effort. Documented procedures ensure uniformity, and improve the quality of manufactured products. Under a QMS, quality is measured, and corrective/preventive action is taken to maintain quality. Finally, some organizations favor businesses that are registered as ISO 9001:2008 companies because conforming to internationally recognized standards states that your product or service is at the highest standard of quality.
Can anyone share a success story related to the implementation of an ISO 9001:2008 quality management system?
Tip of the Week: Innovation Systems: Are Quality and Continuous Improvement Systems enough? (Bill Ritsch)
Innovation has been the most recent buzz word for the last few years, but how exactly is it defined? In the MEP system, we define innovation as meaningfully unique. In other words, it is unique in that no one else is delivering the product/service/model and it is meaningful in that it is something customers want and you can deliver it at higher margins.
In today's global markets, it is a requirement to have quality products that can be delivered at the right time and cost (Lean/Six Sigma) to your customers. These two movements in business systems were buzz words at one time as well. Many organizations discovered the hard way that ignoring these movements most likely ended in failure. A similar relationship can be drawn to the recent development of innovation systems. If you are not focusing on innovation, you may essentially be in a race to the bottom(shrinking margins) with your current products/services. A 2010 Manufacturing survey conducted by Georgia Tech of Georgia manufacturers discovered those that included innovation in their strategy yielded 2 to 5 times higher margins than companies that placed emphasis on cost reductions, delivery, or quality.
As the world continues to flatten and competition further heats up, it becomes increasingly important to develop innovation systems. This will lead the way to ensuring healthy margins and sustainable business models. This doesn't mean you should scrap Quality and Continuous Improvement practices. By now, they should be rooted well enough into the organization that they mostly maintain themselves. It's time to start thinking about how to build innovation into the culture of your organization. It sure would stink to learn a hard lesson by ignoring it.
Tip of the Week: When Buying Robots, Know Thyself (Tom Sammon)
Robots and flexible automation have been around for some time now, but some of the basic application concepts bear repeating. Applying automation can yield great productivity gains, but can also get you in hot water if you are not honest with yourself about your readiness. Your first tasks should be:
- Identify a problem area and evaluate- pick simpler applications first so you get good successes early
- Determine current and future production (sufficient volumes will help the financial justification)
- Write the specification as detailed as possible but leave room for creativity
- Decide who will integrate the system (Systems Integrator, robot manufacturer, or You)
Who do I buy from?
Depending on your organization’s collective experience and the complexity of the application itself, you should select your automation vendor very carefully. They fall into 3 categories:
- Systems Integrator - If you want a ‘turn-key’, custom-built system that is constructed and tested prior to installation in your facility, hire a systems integrator. This is especially true if you have never had any robotic automation in the plant before. Having someone responsible for building the system will take a huge load off your shoulders.
- Robot Manufacturer – if you have a good tooling vendor already, buying directly from a robot manufacturer (or their distributor) can make sense. Their ‘pre-engineered systems’ can be up and running very quickly, but still require a lot of knowledge of the equipment on your part. You can also buy the robot & controller alone, but be ready for the time investment required to integrate the system yourself.
- You and the Used Equipment market- Caveat Emptor! Know what you are buying and how you intend to use it. Be realistic about you and your staff’s desire to bring a used piece of equipment back to life. Keep in mind that there may be little documentation included, you may not know how many times the robot has been crashed, whether the programming language is obsolete, etc. I’ve seen many good used robots collecting dust or are thrown out because they were bought by someone who made an impulse buy and didn’t consider these factors. That said, there are a lot of good deals out there on used robots- just watch your step.
Where can I get Ideas?
There are some great videos online now of many different automation applications. Doing an internet search on your particular application can yield some interesting results. Robot manufacturers and integrators all have good videos on their sites. You should try to be involved in industry groups that will allow you to tour other plants and benchmark yourself against others, such as:
- Existing Industry Committees of your local Chamber of Commerce,
- Next Generation Manufacturing in Georgia,
- Georgia Tech Lean Manufacturing Consortium
There are several yearly shows where you can go to see the latest equipment and talk to experts in the field. Some of my favorites are:
- IMTS – International Machine Tool Show - September 2012 - Chicago
- Fabtech - November 2012 – Las Vegas
- Automate 2013 (Formerly the Int’l Robotics and Vision Show) – January 2013 -Chicago
- Pack Expo - Packaging Machine Manufacturers – October 2012 - Chicago
- Interpack – every three years- May 2014- Dusseldorf, Germany
Robotics and automation can be a great way to increase productivity, improve quality, and implement safety. Just be realistic about your capabilities and your available time so you can build a robust system without re-inventing the wheel or breaking the bank.
Tip of the Week: Use storytelling as a Leader (Craig Cochran)
President Obama was recently quoted in a CBS news article as saying that if he could change anything about his first term, it would be to tell more stories. That got me thinking. Could storytelling really be a legitimate role of a leader? Obama spoke of storytelling almost like it was the central responsibility of a leader. That is a gross overstatement, but storytelling certainly be a tool of a leader. Armed with strong character and an effective vision, storytelling can be one of the most effective vehicles for sharing the vision. Here are the reasons why:
- Stories are memorable: Because the leader’s message is folded into the dramatic context of a story, it is more likely to be remembered. This is not just anecdotal. Research has shown that messages that are communicated in the form of a story are understood more readily and retained for a longer period of time than other forms of communication.
- Stories can be shared: When a leader tells a story, he is literally spreading the seeds of his message far and wide. Not only do constituents enjoy hearing a story, they enjoy retelling it.
- Stories illustrate concepts clearly: A story paints a picture with words. It makes concepts come alive in vivid color. How many memos or emails have you seen that make concepts come live? Very few indeed.
- Stories provide examples to be followed: The leader’s intentions, wrapped in the form of story, provide a living example to be followed.
- A story makes the leader more human and empathetic: Leaders are not always the most accessible creatures. They are often perceived to exist in a different world from the rest of us, gazing down from their ivory towers and executive offices. A story brings the leader down to everybody’s level. It makes them REAL. The leader becomes more human, more empathetic, and much more likeable.
Tip of the Week: Tracking your costs (Mark Heflin)
A great method of improving a manufacturing process is to reduce labor costs, increase production rates, and improve product quality by implementing some automated machinery. To justify the costs of the new equipment and to calculate the ROI, one has to know the true costs in the existing process. Tracking theses costs is critical in any Lean improvement or automation implementation. Many companies feel too busy to accurately track these costs, but that does not have to be time consuming or expensive.
What inexpensive and quick ways have you found to track process costs?
Tip of the Week: What is ISO 50001, and how can your organization get started? (Angie Gilleland)
Have you heard the new term ISO 50001? If not, it’s time to get familiar. Just like ISO 9001 is the international standard for quality management systems and ISO 14001 is for environmental management systems, ISO 50001 provides a framework for energy management systems. Members of our Energy and Sustainability staff here, at the EI2-GA Tech helped develop the ISO 50001 Standard.
A helpful link is the U.S. Department of Energy’s eGuide for ISO 50001, which Georgia Tech helped develop, designed to help organizations implement an energy management system using a step-by-step process.
Implementing an energy management system can increase sustainability of operations and improve efficiency. What other benefits do you see?
Tip of the Week: Use risk as the starting point for your ISO 9001 system (Craig Cochran)
Many organizations use ISO 9001:2008 as the basis for their quality management systems. While not quite “world class excellence,” ISO 9001 represents a practical foundation of discipline and consistency. It provides basic guidelines around the roles of top management, product realization, monitoring and measurement, and analysis and improvement. If implemented correctly, ISO 9001 results in improvement and customer satisfaction. This is a big “IF,” though. In many organizations, the ISO 9001 systems consists of nothing more than a collection of procedures and forms, developed for no other reason than somebody thought they were required
Here’s a wild idea: Before implementing a quality management system, examine the risks facing the organization. Catalogue these risks, evaluate them, and determine the biggest ones that threaten your success. Then develop processes and procedures to control the risks. Does this sound like common sense? Of course, but it’s not the way most companies implement a quality management system. System implementation is seen mainly as simply a project of developing a bunch of documents and keeping records. Whether they help manage risks is a secondary concern, if it hits the radar screen at all.
Start with risks, and make this the sun around which all our management system processes revolve. You’ll end up with a more meaningful system, and find that your threats and weaknesses are significantly reduced.
Tip of the Week: How to be a Machine Whisperer (Tom Sammon)
In his milestone 1985 book SMED: A Revolution in Manufacturing, Shigeo Shingo is quoted to say “If you can’t figure out how to do something, talk it over with your machines.” What he means is that if we simply question our machines’ work habits, they will be more than willing to share their problems, fatigues, and obstacles. But what questions to ask? What is the source of unplanned downtime? Is the machine running at top capacity, and if not, why not? Are the changeover times minimized? Are checklists used to do routine maintenance by the operator? Until we can accurately answer these questions and more, our machine will continue to be that “wild horse” that we cannot tame.
What are some other ways you use to gain understanding and control over a machine’s productivity?
Tip of the Week: Realizing Lean Savings (Bill Ritsch)
Have you ever reduced waste in your process and not seen savings flow to the bottom line? Your metrics may show increased productivity, but unless you are able to reduce overtime, your costs are most likely static. In essence, you have created capacity with some resource. Putting these resources to work on additional value-adding activities via increased demand will ultimately lower your unit cost, ie, you'll do more value adding work with the same amount of resources, thus increasing margins. Don't be discouraged if the demand doesn't hit home right away, keep in mind that reducing waste will improve your service levels as well. At some point, you'll have to pull in the sales department to figure out how to benefit from this increased capacity. Once you have reduced a good bit of waste, it will be time to use Innovation Techniques to capitalize on these gains. Finally, when waste is reduced, chaos in the organization will decrease as well. I've had one client recognize this as the freeing up of "Brain Space" Instead of putting out fires, they now have the ability to be more forward thinking.
Do you have any examples of how your organization has been able to grow the business as a result of reduced waste in your process?
Tip of the Week: Process Automation (Mark Heflin)
Are you considering automating a particular portion of your process? By doing so, you can reduce labor or repetitive motion injuries or increase the speed of your operations. Before you begin, the most important step is to capture or locate the product or part, which often involves part orientation or alignment. The benefit of doing so at the beginning is that you will only have to perform this task one time. If not, you could end up capturing, releasing, and recapturing the part at successive stages of the process, in turn tying up resources, time, and money.
What are your experiences or tips that you’ve found useful when it comes to process automation?