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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January 28, 2013

Six Sigma: Get Back to the Basics

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Services,Six Sigma — Alec @ 12:39 pm

Time to get back to basics. Making money and streamlining processes are such important steps in becoming or staying profitable. So here’s a little Six Sigma story to help illustrate my point.

One of the easiest, I mean strangest Green Belt projects I worked on involved solving a 1/8″ diameter pin quality issue. We started by doing all the normal things in the DMAIC process: picked a cross discipline team, defined the problem and went to the floor to observe. I tend to be suspicious of the gauges being accurate, so when we found out they were 100% gauging parts and scrapping 25%, I suspected the gauge right away. My first question was, “Why are we 100% gauging?” And the answer was, “We have a 0.8 Cp (process capability).”

We ran a quick Reliability and Repeatability (R & R) test to assess the gauges. We gathered the 3 inspectors, 3 gauges and 20 parts at random from the last lot of 100 and ran our gauge R & R. While this was running we completed our Value Stream Map and investigated the upstream and downstream. We collected a lot of data and analysis of every step within the Swiss Screw Machine (lathe) that was running the parts including the tools that machined the dimension in question.

The results of the gauge R & R showed that our gauges were using more than 100% of the process. We quickly began to seek a better gauge. This was the fun step…the part was round and symmetrical. So when it was gauged, the inspector could measure either end or any cross section.

We rewrote the inspection procedure to be more specific. The new process included always measuring on the cutoff end and marking the area cross-section that was measured. We re-ran the gauge R & R and this time the gauge R & R with the same gauge dropped to 35%.

Having an accurate gauge as well as re-doing the gauge R & R we realized that the part had both taper and out-of-round condition. Our next step was to improve the process. While observing the process someone noticed that the cut-off tool was 1/2″ from the collet. This was necessary because we were using the standard left-hand cut-off tool holder and it was not cutting on center perfectly enough for this small diameter part.

We made a few process changes, at very little cost, to solve all the problems:

1. We moved the tool to be on center. This reduced tool forces and eliminated the cut-off nipple. The lower tool forces significantly reduced taper and run out.

2. We changed to a right-hand cut-off tool. This further reduced taper. Now we are making excellent quality parts, our Cpk (centered process) was over 1.7 (which eliminated the need for 100% inspection), and cutting on-center eliminated the secondary operation of removing the nipple.

Success! Good parts, no inspection required, eliminated the secondary process.

What is funny, or ironic about this all, is that from the beginning the part was designed and dimensioned wrong so it probably did not require all this effort. The part was pressed fit at assembly to hold 3 parts together and welded at both ends. The part in the middle was a clearance hole.

Conclusion? Always do a gauge R & R. Always go observe. Always look upstream and downstream of the process. This way you can ALWAYS improve.

January 16, 2013

The Swiss Cheese Theory

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Motivation,Six Sigma — Alec @ 12:03 pm

It seems sometimes that some things—even great ideas—take forever to implement. Have you noticed that? But if you give up, if you don’t have the persistence to continue to push and ask, it will never happen. Keep asking, keep collecting data, keep looking at the issue from other perspectives, minimize it, magnify it, and keep asking the big Why? Eventually, the light bulb on the porch will come on.

That is why I like Swiss cheese. With enough holes poked in a problem (in this example problems are the cheese), eventually the problem will be solved and the cheese gone. If you have a really big task, poke holes in it until it is an easy task. That is what makes  sense about Six Sigma. While collecting data, analysis of that data often lets the solution jump out at you. Sometimes you need to collect the data at several detail levels you never imagined (e.g., by machine, by fixture, by fixture location, by operator, by shift, by hour, etc.). Your cheese becomes Swiss as the data is analyzed!

So, if you have a problem that you can’t solve, work on it a little piece at a time. Collect the facts and the data and review all that you know. The solution will come.

January 9, 2013

Be Proud (and loud about it)

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Motivation — Alec @ 4:21 pm

Whatever company I am working for, I make sure I believe in it. I have told many people that “Company X” is the best company that I have ever worked for and I guess that means I have loved every company I have worked for. Of course, I live in my own little dream world. I choose to focus on the little reasons why it is the best company. I include things like the great people I get to work with, a great product that helps people, the fact that this is a growing and dynamic company, or that we are making a profit. I think it is important to tell others where we work and why we are proud of where we work, assuming that you like your company. I would like to think that employers work hard to improve our jobs and make companies a great environment to work. The key is not just saying it—but really believing it. We can’t just believe it—we must LIVE it. Be proud of what you do and where you work.

Being proud is a group effort. We must all work at making our company a better place to work. A great place to work is not good enough unless everyone agrees. We can’t just be proud, we must work together to make it so!

So, what does it take for us to be proud of where we work?

  1. TROOP: Total Respect Of Other People (refer to the 12 Tips to Troop on Facebook if you missed it). We need to respect our fellow employees.
  1. People, Customer, Products, and Community: If a company takes care of these four issues, employees are usually proud of their place of employment. Some examples include: opportunities, job enrichment, involvement, flexibility, fairness, clean and safe, fair pay, share in financial rewards with goal sharing, community service, a product that helps people live better lives, customer focus on quality and delivery, and customer value.

I think these are most of the basics that give us a warm feeling of pride in our jobs. Talk about it. Wear your company T-shirt and cap with pride. A company has to earn the pride, but the pride comes from the employees.

January 2, 2013

Finding Motivation and a Positive Attitude in the New Year

Since it’s a new year and most of us set new goals or resolutions, I am trying to get motivated by reading a book about business. This week I read another book by author OG Mandino The Greatest Salesman in the World, Part II : The end of the story. It inspired me and at the same time made me feel guilty about my lack of “GO” power.

This is a second book that I have read by Mr. Mandino, not as captivating as The Greatest Salesman in the World, but maybe a stronger message. It is still all about sales, how it all starts within yourself, keeping a positive attitude, and working hard at networking but some of the tools are more usable in day-to-day life.

Some concepts that stood out to me are listed below:

Page 9: All wealthy people salve (soothe) their conscience with gifts to the poor. This is an interesting idea, probably true, though I wonder what would happen if all the wealthy people stopped giving?

Page 44: Tell others of your hardships along the way. I think this is so true! Many people we meet have no idea where our roots are or what our background is and vice versa. A great example of this is that my wife, Karen, and I worked our way through college. We each had a small scholarship, but we worked 20+ hours a week. Some highlights of our glamorous early careers include the dorm cafeteria, local stores as cooks and as a janitor. Most summers I worked 2 full time jobs to save enough money so we could pay our living expenses for the rest of the school year. We borrowed lots, although maybe not as much as some students do these days. We owed thousands of dollars in a combination of student loans and money from family that we paid off after college. One winter we were so poor we ate for $1.10 a week for 6 weeks. We lived on Campbell’s Tomato Soup, saltine crackers and peanut butter. So, we definitely both know what it is like to be poor.

Page 79: 3 Classes of People

  • Those who learn from their own experience. They are considered wise.
  • Those who learn from the experiences of others. These people are happiest.
  • Those that learn neither from their own experience nor from the experiences of others. These are fools.

Page 92: Never again will I consider what I do to support my existence, labor. I have usually enjoyed my jobs in my career. This wisdom came from my mother. When I went off to my first job at Chevrolet in Flint she told me, “10% of people really hate their jobs, 80% just exist and then there are the 10% that REALLY love their jobs. Be one of the 10% that love their jobs.”

Page 98: My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end. In my opinion, I don’t whine much…although I am sure I have my moments!!

It isn’t easy to be a success, but it is possible! When you get off track, remind yourself of these 10 thoughts below. Here is a quick reference to OG Mandino’s 10 Vows of Success, with my own twist:

1. Never again will I pity or belittle myself.

2. Never again will I greet the dawn without a map; for today and the rest of my life. I recommend having a daily Things To Do (TTD) list and a 20-year Life Goal list.

3. Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm

4. Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul (oops, need to work on this one)

5. Always will I seek the seed of triumph in every adversity

6. Never again will I perform any task at less than my best. It only takes a few seconds longer to clean and put away a tool after you have used it. Although, I guess I could help Karen a little more in the kitchen with this philosophy…

7. Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand

8. Never again will I wait and hope for the opportunity to embrace me

9. Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day

  • Did I survive the day without pitying myself?
  • Did I greet the dawn with a map and a goal?
  • Was I pleasant and agreeable with all I met?
  • Did I attempt to go the extra mile?
  • Did I search for the good in every problem?
  • Did I smile in the faces of anger and hatred?
  • Did I concentrate my strength and purpose?

10. Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator. Pray at every stop light, or while you wait in line; say a little prayer of thanks for all you have will help you remember all your blessings.

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