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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November 27, 2012

Follow the Process!

Filed under: Professional Development,Services,Six Sigma — Alec @ 4:29 pm

One of the early lessons I learned when doing a Six Sigma Process was “Follow the Process”. Four years ago Jerry Hogan, my mentor and coach, did a Six Sigma Kaizen Event for a U-bolt manufacturer. Since I had done 30+ projects on my own, I took the lead. The Kaizen event was a resounding success, all the goals were met, but it took Jerry to come in and save me.

Jerry, a seasoned facilitator, had to rescue me. Having done 30+ projects I did not follow the DMAIC model or the “Total Quality Institute (TQI) Cycle Time Reduction” process. I went straight to spaghetti diagram and Value Stream Map (VSM). Though the VSM immediately identified the problems, solutions and obstacles, the team was in mutiny. They were resistant to the idea of change, did not buy into the need for change, and saw me as the enemy (think of “The Bobs” from the movie Office Space).

I jumped in headfirst. I did not follow the process of Why, and had not Defined the Problem. Throughout the day, we had a few participants leave the Kaizen Event and never return. Jerry had us step back and spend a day talking about Why the company needed this process change and Defined the Problem. All was saved! The company reduced lead times by more than 50% and captured some additional market share.

And I learned a valuable lesson: “Follow the Process”.

Following the process can be tedious for me, and for other Green or Black belts in the room, because we see the need and value. But for a first time participant it is essential that you follow the DMAIC process. Even to the point of talking to the team about team building and their own professional growth. Now I always talk about the team growth steps; Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book…but it is so important to the success of the event.

The best part about the TQI model is that it will take you through these steps page by page. Don’t repeat my error, follow the DMAIC model and spend 25% + of your time on the steps to Define the Problem. Or better yet call me and learn about the TQI Cycle Time Reduction model.

November 21, 2012

The Pumpkin Pie Parable

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Motivation,Professional Development — Alec @ 2:31 pm

Picture the scene: It’s Friday. You are attending a 6pm Dinner/Auction Fundraiser for Cancer. The tables are all set for service by the conference center, but the caterer made a mistake and scheduled the meal for next Friday. A quick phone call and the caterer brings carrots, celery and coffee but no dinner.

There are exactly 101 people in attendance including Joe Kibitz and his wife. Joe is the president and owner of Kibitz Manufacturing which the largest, most profitable business in town. Joe has donated a new washing machine and dryer to the auction. And he usually buys about an equal dollar amount at the auction. He and his wife are considered the biggest contributors to the auction.

So the event is now underway and the live auction begins promptly at 8pm. Everyone is hungry and anxious to go home and get something to eat. The second auction item up for bidding is 12 Homemade Pumpkin Pies freshly baked by Debbie Delicious Bakery. Mouths are watering. Joe has been planning on buying them to give away the pies tomorrow at the company picnic as a reward to employees with perfect attendance. Joe bids and wins the first Pumpkin Pie for $55, and the auctioneer, mistakenly, asks, “How many do you want?”

Joe replies, “All of them!” And the auctioneer says, “Sold!”  Someone from the back of the room calls out, “Hey Joe, let’s eat them now! There is just enough for one piece each.” His wife yells, “Let’s take a vote.” They don’t know what Joe plans to do with the pies, they only know that they are hungry and he can’t possibly eat all those delicious pies. Joe goes along with it saying, “Ok, we can certainly vote. But I had plans for those pies.” Everyone in the room votes.

How many people do you think voted to eat the pies during the event?

The vote is counted. 70 people vote to eat the pies now and 31 people vote not to. Majority rules so, they eat the pies. And they are delicious! When the pies are all gone, the auction resumes. Joe and his wife left shortly after the pies were eaten and did purchase any other items. The auction comes in thousands under last year’s total.

What is the moral? It’s never wise to kill the golden goose, even if the majority wants goose for Thanksgiving. In business, you can’t overwork your best employees and let everyone else have time off with pay.

Let McPherson Lean Partners help you with Leadership Skills and Professional Development so your golden goose is always…golden!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 7, 2012

Six Sigma : The Biggest Savings & The Least Investment

Filed under: Six Sigma — Alec @ 3:41 am

Throughout my corporate career, I had probably done 30 to 35 Six Sigma projects before I retired in 2008. After retirement and starting MLP, the first project I did was very memorable for me. The biggest reason this project was so memorable is that it saved the most money for my customer and involved the least investment. Since then, I have probably told the story of these projects 50 times. But it still amazes me that it had the potential to save the plant and division $1 million dollars a year with zero investment – not counting customer approval paperwork.

When we have a weeklong Kaizen event we try to do two projects simultaneously. For this project, we focused on the same product but in two areas. The customer said that if they could reduce their cost by 35% they would double their volume. The initial charter was to [1] reduce cost by 35% and [2] reduce lead times by 50%. The second charter was to increase capacity by 100%. The product was a small titanium wrist bone plate in 7 sizes, for both left and right hand. This included a very complex process involving 4 CNC Horizontal and Vertical machining centers, in extremely tight tolerances and finishes.

The cross-section of the team of 8 was perfect; manager, manufacturing engineer, maintenance person, set-up person, supervisor, operator, lead person and a new employee. I mention the team membership because it is great to have a diverse mix of people and personalities. It was wonderful to have a new employee because they ask the best questions! After this project, we learned that starting all our Six Sigma sessions with Personality Profiles helps to insure a diverse blend of people: doers and analytical thinkers. You usually can get a nice make up of personalities if the group is large enough (8 to 10 minimum). But at this time, we were had not realized how important it was to have an assorted group – just by luck this team had the right synergy.

We started with the usual steps: Value Stream Map, Takt time, Elemental Breakdown, Speeds and Feeds, Spaghetti Diagram, etc. We investigated in-process queues, scrap, costs, etc. It was quickly noted that:

[1] the CNC operators were not balanced in cycle time

[2] There was a lot of wait time for operators

[3] A lot of the cost was in the finishing operations (tumble, grey wheel, deburr, inspection, etc.)

The team elected to try to set up a 2 or 3-man cell. The Manufacturing Engineer promptly came up with a program change that adjusted the stepover in an area that required extra polish. The Supervisor found us a draw down ventilation table. The Finishing Person located a small ultrasonic washer. And then…the cell was born!

There were a ton of obstacles. Some new tools needed to be utilized so that they could match the cycle times in the future. The process sequence was altered; 2 parts on a fixture was implemented on one CNC to help match cycle time, and the machines were rearranged into a horseshoe cell. We had achieved our capacity increase and most of our cost reduction, but not all of it. So, we started looking at the last steps of the process; final inspection, laser and passivate, and outside anodize.

This is where it gets fun! While we were investigating the finishing processes, the new employee kept asking – as she should – what is that? why do we do that? When it came to passivate and anodize, she asked the same questions. I had a memory epiphany (or maybe déjà vu?) from having run an aluminum anodize system at Bendix / Allied Signal in the 80’s. I suddenly recalled the process. With the new employee’s questions, I asked the Engineer:

 “Why do we passivate?”

He replied that it was on the print. I ask him to get a copy of the print and when we checked it said, “the part must be passive”. For all of my anodize experts, the first step in anodize is to dip the part in an acid, the same as Passivation. We called our anodize supplier and asked if they could provide a certificate of passiveness. The reply? Yes. For a nickel. We called our controller and asked about the cost of internal Passivation. Guess what? It was $0.95 per part. Poof, by having the supplier do it, we had saved $90,000 per year!! (Of course, we needed customer approval and that took forever to get.)

But the story does not end there. The company also made many, many more titanium parts that were all routed to be passivated and anodized. The other divisions were able to use this new process. The result is that this simple question – by a new employee – sparked the $1 million dollar savings (full formula). The net result was that the team was able to:

[1] Reduce cost by 35% to 40% full formula

[2] Increased capacity by more than 50%

[3] The best part? It came with very little investment from the client

The beauty of it all? This process was redone earlier this year – with even further savings. But that is another story!

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