Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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September 26, 2012

Six Sigma Projects: Always room for improvement

Filed under: Six Sigma — Tags: , , , , — Alec @ 6:13 pm

One of my favorite Six Sigma projects ended up actually being two projects. The first Cellular Manufacturing (1 piece flow) project was so successful on this product that a year later we did a second round of improvement.

Why was the project one of my favorites?  It was all about the attitude. The team’s behavior completely transformed from very negative to enthusiastically driving the whole process. The team really ran with the second Six Sigma event.  Members creatively developed new processes to overcome impossible obstacles. It was a favorite because it showed that you can improve and redo a process 2 or 3 times to reduce waste and variation even more!

The project goal was to reduce lead times by 25% AND reduce costs by 25% on the manufacturing of a complex medical cutting instrument. The original process involved:

  • Takt* time of 2 minutes
  • 26 operations
  • 3 small cells
  • 22 operators (not counting setup)
  • 15 inventory racks
  • spacing between operations was 1752 feet
  • 17-day Lead Time

The capacity exceeded the Takt time on most operations, and the in-process inventory was reflected in the 15 in-process inventory racks. Keep in mind that almost all of these 22 operators were single operation, very fast – often less than a minute ­– very tedious, and mostly manual.

So, we got started. This project involved observing each process, collecting production, scrap, changeover times, doing Value Stream Maps and elemental breakdowns on each process, identifying obstacles, involving all operators for retraining, and a lot of dreaming about “What if”.

After Round One, the process now looked more like this:

  • Takt* time of 2 minutes (or exceeded)
  • 13 operations
  • 8 larger cells
  • 5 free standing operations
  • 13 operators
  • 11 inventory racks
  • 11-day Lead Time

These changes reflected a total capacity reduction by 10%. The lead times were reduced by 25%+, the inventory by 30%, with an investment of less than $10,000.

The most significant actions were the implementation of the new cells that had 2 to 4 operations in each cell operated by one person. Doing an elemental breakdown of all operations, it was observed that most of the operators had idle time within the cycles, and that the cycle time was much faster than the needed Takt time.

Another huge change required moving all the machines in the same area and reducing the steps between operations by more than 50%. Plus, by slowing down some operations and utilizing the idle time, 6 additional small cells were accomplished.

There were some technical difficulties of course. We had to adapt a few machines auto start and stop, add some quick change fixture designs to speed up changeover, implement some operator training so they knew how to run all of the 2 to 4 machines in their cell. The conclusion of Round One was very successful and the operators mostly enjoyed the new variety.

The team was reenergized and excited to lead a Round Two of improvements. After Round Two, more of the once “impossible” technical difficulties were eliminated. They began working with the outside vendor for heat treat, which were then picked up and delivered to the cell. Two of the significant changes in the second round were the dedication of a small Cnc into 1 cell and continued redesign of the fixtures. Again, the investment again was less than $10,000. After Round Two the process changes looked like this:

  • 10 operations
  • 10 operators
  • 8 inventory racks
  • under 7 to 10-day Lead Time

To me, the even more exciting part is that there was room for MORE reductions! But the product design difficulties and investment could not be overcome. This excited team did identify a 4-day process if and when the technical problems could be resolved.

*Takt time is the beat of the customer usage ie. how many do they use a day divided by the number of hours a day you want to work.

September 20, 2012

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino (Part Two)

Filed under: Recommended Reading — Tags: , , , — Alec @ 2:54 pm

(Scrolls VI-X)

Scroll VI: Today I will be master of my emotions.
I am the master of my emotions. Weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions, strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts. These are tough statements. I definitely believe that emotions can interfere with our productivity AND it can definitely affect my interactions with customers. If I can understand and affect the my moods of my customers, I can be in control my working relationship with them (ie. MY destiny).

Scroll VII: I will laugh at the world
This is all about keeping perspective. I will laugh at the world! I will laugh at myself! I will not let petty happenings disturb me! This is the power of positive thinking at its best. If I frown, my customers may not want to buy my products or work with me.

Scroll VIII: Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.
I will multiply my value 100 times. How will I do this? Goal Setting: I will have goals by day, week, year and lifetime. I will set lofty goals and not do a disservice to myself by aiming too low.

Scroll IX: I will act now
I will act now, I will act now. I will act now… on my affirmations! Don’t be afraid to reassess and rewrite your affirmations and align them with Scroll VIII. This is the grown up story of the Little Engine That Could (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!)

Scroll X: I will pray for guidance.
This speaks for itself.

Other notable messages from this book:

  • Hafid gave half his profits to the poor, something we could all consider.
  • Have faith. Sometimes the guidance we seek comes to us, and sometimes it doesn’t. Both scenarios are an answer.


September 12, 2012

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino

Filed under: Recommended Reading — Tags: , , — Alec @ 2:38 pm

I have started a new blog category called Recommended Reading. So many great books to motivate, inspire and help us along the path to success and so little time to read them all!

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino was first published in 1968. It acts as a philosophical guide of salesmanship and achieving success. Mandino tells the story of a poor camel boy, Hafid, who finds the path to a life of abundance. The book is comprised of Ten ScrolIs and I have summarized the first 5 below and how they apply to my day-to-day life. Check back for Scrolls 6-10.

Personally, I don’t know if he was the greatest salesman, but the book is certainly a fun, easy read with a great message. I consider this book a must read.

Scroll I: The Power of Good Habits
I love the way Mandino discusses failure as a tool; Failures teach me new habits!
Scroll II: Greet Each Day with Love in Your Heart
Mandino writes, “Never will I overindulge the requests of my flesh; rather I will cherish my body with cleanliness and moderation” I am on board with this concept (except dark chocolate)

Scroll III:
Persist Until You Succeed
This inspires me to remove the words and phrases from my vocabulary that do not support success; things like Quit, Cannot, Unable, Impossible, Out of the Question, Failure, Unworkable, Hopeless, Retreat. And this section inspires me to not let yesterday’s victory pull me into complacency. This lulling of complacency is my one of my greatest weaknesses. When I am really busy, it is hard to sell.

Scroll IV: You are Nature’s Greatest Miracle
All good things to remind ourselves of : I am nature’s greatest miracle! I will increase my knowledge of mankind, myself, my goods that I sell! I will practice and improve!

Scroll V: Live Each Day as if it Were Your Last
I do try to live each day as if it is my last and when I am not, I should at least be thankful. Mandino talks about avoiding procrastination and fear and doubt. Easier said than done. Procrastination is another of my big weaknesses. But most days I can find things to be thankful for!

Scrolls VI-X to be continued!

September 5, 2012

Be a Great Coach Today

Filed under: Motivation — Tags: , , — Alec @ 12:15 am

In honor of the NCAA Football Season starting last weekend, I decided that this week’s blog be dedicated to Coaches. Don’t worry, I won’t be getting into on-field strategy or trick plays that lead to a big win like MSU’s “Little Giants”. Instead, let’s talk business coaching or training.

We all have individual talents, skills, and strengths. They don’t normally come naturally. Often they require development and hard work in order to be great. Look at Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan (love or hate them) who were all born with natural ability but needed more than just talent to become legends. I am sure you have heard the story of Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team?

A good coach must be willing to both teach and learn. The measure of a true coach is to learn about and know each player’s capability and then be able to train/retrain until the player not only has the skills, but understands the “why” and “how” of his actions.

The same is true in business. When we are training or coaching, whether it is a project team or one employee, we must consider all three components. Taking into account their skill sets, the coach or trainer must then explain the “why” and “how” in multiple situations. And it should be done with A LOT of patience.

When you are the student, trainee or worker, you can only hope for a patient coach. Your biggest challenge as student or trainee, is being able to recognize what you need to improve on. Do you not have the skill to perform the task? Do you not understand “why” you need to do a part of the task? Is it not clear “how” the project works?

Questions are free, so don’t be afraid to ask!

We are all leaders, coaches and workers; it just depends on the time, the place and the task at hand to define which hat we are wearing today.

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