Groundhog Day – Why Are Meetings So Bad

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In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) finds himself caught in a special kind of hell as he wakes up each morning to find it is Groundhog Day all over again. Many of us have to attend the same horrible meeting, week after week, trapped in our own version of Groundhog Day hell. What is a “Groundhog Day Meeting”? We intuitively know because at various times we have all attended really bad meetings. Such meetings have the following characteristics: The decision makers were absent. Wrong people were in the room. Everyone came unprepared.…
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Getting Lean to Maximize Factory Resources

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Part 2 – Make to Order In this article, Part 2 of 2 parts, we will show you how to use Lean methods to produce more bottom line results with another carefully selected single change. If you missed it, please read part 1 first. Lean manufacturing is all about continuous improvement. In Part 1, we implemented a single change (reduction in transfer batch size) which yielded a $0.5 million reduction in WIP, along with a reduction in plant floor area. Now the astute Plant Manager and CFO are asking: “Are there any other potential savings?” In fact, the big savings…
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Getting Lean to Maximize Factory Resources

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Part 1 – Small Quantities More Often In this article, Part 1 of 2 parts, we will show you how to use Lean methods to produce bottom line results with a carefully selected single change. In manufacturing, batch size affects everything including: manufacturing lead time, cash flow, plant floor space needs, inventory costs, amount of working capital and capital investment. By focusing [see article called: Maximizing Plant Management Success] on reducing batch size and balancing flow (aka Getting Lean), a company can improve productivity, improve cash flow, reduce plant floor space, and free up cash that is tied up in…
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Keep Your Customers with Good Service

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Two years ago, I pulled the plug on one of my telecom providers. Having no other options, I did business with them for 5 years, and hated every minute of every one of our interactions. Two years ago, a tree trimming company did a poor job pruning my ornamental pear tree, and now it is diseased and suffering. Needless to say, I did not call them back this year, when my tree needed additional care. Last year, I needed a new server and an upgraded network. The IT company I’d used for 2 years failed to serve me. They told…
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Observe, with a Stopwatch

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Observation using a stopwatch and clipboard is an unnatural act, never the first tool selected to support improvement projects. In this article, we will make a case for time centric observation, covering the why, when, what, how, who and uses. Observation for the purpose of gathering facts is the basis for all Lean improvement initiatives. The practice of Gemba (actual place) and Genchi Genbutsu (go see, actual place and actual thing) is at the heart of lean. Many organizations gain a competitive advantage by implementing a continuous improvement culture based on facts from observation, rather than assumptions and hearsay. Why…
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Point Kaizen vs. Systemic Change

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Ultimately, the goal of a lean initiative is to produce more output at a higher quality with shorter lead time using fewer resources. Not all lean initiatives accomplish these goals. A common reason for disappointment is management’s lack of clear goals, combined with a failure to understand the difference between point kaizen and systemic change. Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. Point Kaizen refers to an intensive transformation event where a single workcell is overhauled and “made lean” in the span of a few days. Many folks believe that Lean is Point Kaizen, but really it is only…
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Prepare for Recovery

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If you are reading this, you and your company have likely done, at the least, the bare minimum to survive the recession, and you are now looking forward to a brighter future. If you are thinking about how to prepare for recovery, you are probably ahead of many of your competitors. In this issue of our quarterly e-mail, the ACA group weighs in, providing some over-arching goals and concepts that will help you launch your initiatives. Preparation for recovery has several common themes, including: customer service, efficiency, efficient scalable processes, a lower break-even cost, and good communications. All of these…
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Who Pays for Waste

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What is waste? Waste (or Muda) is anything (activity or material) that does not produce value for the customer. There are two kinds of Muda. Type 2 Muda is waste we can see and quickly eliminate using point kaizen. Type 1 Muda is waste that is systemic, hidden in plain sight, and is very difficult to eliminate without a concerted, sustained and systemic effort. We will talk about that in the next issue. How wasteful is the average “non-lean” manufacturing company? In my practice, I have found that it is possible to double the production in the same space without…
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Workcell Empowerment

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Lean, which is adapted from the Toyota Production System (TPS), embodies much of the Toyota cultural and operational philosophies. One of the overriding philosophies of TPS is “worker empowerment”. Lean creates an environment that empowers workers, especially at the workcell, level, to act in favor of quality and productivity. This concept is in sharp contrast with the traditional western management philosophy, which believes those decisions are better left to the supervisor. To illustrate this how empowerment works, the author tells the true story of Fred (not his real name) who identified and helped stem a serious quality problem without any…
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