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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December 9, 2014

Simple Steps To Help You Win Big

1. If you want to be a winner, you must try.

2. If you don’t try, the probability of success approaches zero.

3. If you add a goal, and try, are tenacious and persistent, the probability of success approaches 40%.

4. And if you add that you tell someone else your goal and they share the value of the idea, the probability of success approaches more than 50%.

5. If you use the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) model to accomplish your goal to all the above, the probability of success is 60% or greater.

6. If you use Value Stream Map (VSM) and Variation Reduction (VR) to select that goal, the results will fall to the bottom line.

You can’t be a winner just once and be successful. You must repeat this process every day on every significant problem and opportunity. So, if you are consistent and do steps 1-6 every day, the process will become a habit, and you will be a big winner.

November 25, 2014

Food For Thought 2: Kaizen and 6 Sigma – now available for purchase

MLP_FoodForThoughtBookTwo_FINALepubCoverMy second book is available for purchase!

The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen. But don’t worry, it’s not just a book about the technical side of Lean Manufacturing Engineering, there are still plenty of anecdotes, tips and observations about People, Leadership, and Motivation from my personal and professional life. I will touch on Sales, Listening and Time Management tips that I not only preach but also practice.Finding your passion is only part of the journey, the rest is how you get there!

Buy it in paperback here  or if you prefer an electronic version, get it on e-book here!

November 14, 2013

Six Sigma : Successful Cellular Projects

Filed under: Professional Development,Six Sigma — Alec @ 10:18 pm

I love the cellular projects because if you focus on the right product, or family of products, the cost savings is tremendous. In this instance, the problem statement was that the customer was unhappy with lead times and price. The customer said if lead times and price could be lowered, they would give them incremental business. The goal of the project was to reduce full formula, fully burdened cost by 20% and reduce lead times by 50%.

A team of four was formed to tackle the project and write the charter. The first steps include a detailed Value Stream Map of all machines and all processes within each machine. The Map also include each operator’s special quality requirements and surface finish specifications. Several iterations of the planned cell were simulated and the results were estimated to include cycle time, capacity and costs. The final proposal was developed after totally reprocessing the parts using new fixtures, different cutting tools, different finishing process, etc.

A two-piece flow was selected due to the CNC cycle time and the two-piece process in the tumble finisher. The goal was to run the cell with one employee, who would be responsible for the two CNC’s, the finisher, polish stand, and inspection bench. Many process maps during the evolution identified little pockets of waste in the process and within the machine. In order to balance all the machines cycle times and the operator load, unload, walk and inspect for all the machines, it was necessary to have a three position fixture. Special chuck jaws were designed and built to eliminate a dove tail operation.

A skilled CNC operator was used to run the cell and trained to run the polisher, washer and inspection operations.  A great deal of time was spent developing process sheets with pictures for each operator to use as a visual aid.

The newly established procedures were able to reduce direct process time from 70+ minutes to less than 35 minutes, which in turn reduced the full cost far beyond the original goal of a 20% reduction. Lead times were reduced from 30+ days for delivery to less than 5 days – including the out-vend for anodize. There was even a 55% reduction in walk time for the operator, meaning the operator worked less with the new process!

The key to cellular manufacturing is picking the right product or family of products. The reward is great – but there are often many small obstacles, including attitudes, that must be overcome.

October 28, 2013

Who’s to Blame?

Filed under: Leadership Skills,Professional Development,Six Sigma — Alec @ 8:05 pm

Maybe 10 years ago we were having a rash of big scrap issues. Percentage wise it was not terrible, but it seemed we would scrap the whole order of a production run. The root causes were always a little different, but unfortunately they were usually human error.

My 6 Sigma background would always push me to ask questions and look for the secondary cause. I rarely would accept “employee error” as a root cause. After about 3 occurrences in one month of having scrap issues that cost us a whole order, I began to dig deeper. At our weekly production meeting someone mentioned that the operator had typed in the wrong offset on the new tool and not done a first piece. The prior 2 scrap issues had a similar human error tone.

One of the Managers repeated what I had often said, “What is the real root cause? We can’t blame the operator. Was he trained properly?” I was fed up and said without thinking, “I have had enough of this no blame bull pucker!”. There was a big laugh and it eventually became a joke phrase in the future. But the thing is, I was half sincere. We must hold people accountable.

I don’t want to blame people for their errors. In fact, I want them to take calculated risks. In other words, the reward of success is significant and the consequence of failure is small. But, I want them to be accountable for what they say, do what they say they are going to do and do it when they said. Or just be honest and tell me they are not going to do it.

See the Rick Lochner article below titled: “This accountability crap is for the birds…” it brought back memories of my “No blame bull pucker” moment.

September 23, 2013

Looking for the Pattern

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Six Sigma — Alec @ 10:44 am

This specific Green Belt Project was completed at Pemco Die Cast company by Randy Ryder, the Engineering Manager. This project required of a lot of data collection in an unusual way.  It wasn’t just about reviewing the numbers on paper.

The project focused on a part with an average scrap rate of 20.1% and it was mostly poor fill and blisters – porosity. The location of the poor fill and the blisters appeared on this part for hundreds of pieces of scrap. After identifying this small detail, a pattern immediately developed. The location of the defect was the old Pareto rule and appeared in 2 or 3 major areas.

The majority of theses defects were fed by the center runner – or you could look at it that the center runner fed the highest concentration of defects. In order to fix this issue, the feed runner was adapted to a uniform depth (as opposed to a slight taper) to extend the heat and liquid phase of the top center gate hoping to improve fill and intensification.

The scrap rate dropped in HALF! And the scrap rate for blisters and poor fill dropped by 75%!

This project is s great example that sometimes collecting data is not about numbers, but about looking deeper and analyzing parts to see if a pattern emerges.

July 8, 2013

Bundling Your Black Belt Projects

We require all our Black Belt participants to pick a project to work on that will save the company at least $250,000 per year and includes a Design of Experiment (DOE). Saving $250,000 is a tough challenge. But so is the DOE or finding a project that requires one. One of my Black Belt participants was very creative (which I love) and bundled nine smaller projects, that individually saved about $3000 – $85,000 per year, with a resulting savings of $3,934,000! It is really exciting when projects save at this level.

I would say that the secret to this team’s success was creating smaller teams to individually focus on each smaller project. The projects included 5S, Quick Change, Tooling Costs, Quality, Fixtures and Inspection. The DOE focused on Tooling Cost and Tooling Life.

So, as always, teams were formed, charters were written, and a histogram was started to track variable costs.  Each team Brainstormed, Reviewed History, did an Affinity Diagram, and narrowed the Ideas to a vital few. Variable costs were tracked at a detail level to look for opportunities for savings.

The 5S and Quick Change probably kicked off the Lean Process but quickly the Quality Issues pushed the project into high performance. The Tool Life DOE was the final success. What was so beautiful about the DOE was that the results were not what everyone expected. The Cutting Tools Speeds that were most successful as measured in Tool Life, Capacity and Quality were different that conventional wisdom suggested. When new Cutting Speeds were combined with a new coolant, the 5S and Quick Change, as well as new Tooling geometry, the project was a total success.

But in my opinion, the biggest success was that everyone that participated and learned from using the Tools. Saving money was a definite bonus!

May 8, 2013

Walking the Walk

­­­There is an old quote that goes something like:

Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.

I have always loved that philosophy. When I was the Manufacturing Engineering Director – in the early 80’s at Bendix – we started a program for engineers to spend a day a month on the floor doing an hourly job in their department. My idea. So I obviously signed up.

One of my first assignments was Master Cylinder Assembly. From my recollection, I think we had 36+ assembly lines, 182 different master cylinders and shipped 28,000 a day from the combined 3 shifts. Thankfully, some of them were unassembled, but we still shipped 25,000 assemblies a day. That meant each line had to produce 38+ per hour to meet this quantity, or 1 about every 102 seconds.

I was terrible the first 1 – 2 hours. But I started to get the hang of it until I was moved to another line that was completely opposite of the first. So, my learning curve started over. And then… I was moved again! The problem was that of the 36 lines there was very little standardization. Not due to Master Cylinder design but due to the generation of the assembly line. By the end of the day I was all out of order and putting in shipping plugs prior to being tested (not right)!

To make matters worse the Master Cylinder department was losing money and quality was poor. The result? We formed a “Lean Manufacturing” team to look for cost savings. As a member of the team we did a crude process map and a crude income statement for the department. We found that indirect labor was 400% of direct labor when you included setup time, inspection, machine downtime, etc.

The focus in assembly was to standardize ALL the assembly lines so they were similar. Add many Poke Yokes and interlocks so that each step had to be done in sequence and operations could not be skipped. After watching many operators and set-up people in assembly as well as having them on the Lean Team, we decided to make all tables, assembly fixtures and test stands almost identical with interchangeable fixture details. We also made all the assembly lines counter-clockwise walking.

The result was a 10% increase in uptime as a result of shorter set-up times. But more importantly a 20% increase in pieces per hour. The new test stands improved the product integrity when used with the added tests. Big changes!

Because of this success we had a product that was better quality for lower costs and happier employees.

March 20, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

When Michigan State University Basketball’s head coach Tom Izzo was asked if he thought the players were starting to take on his personality, his response was, “I hope so. Not because I want them to be my personality, as much as I want basketball, I want games, I want playing good or playing bad to matter enough that a guy will fight, cry, care each and every day,” he said. “You’re damn right I’m looking for that. I really am looking for that. And this team is getting better.” He went on to comment, “We’ve had a couple games that weren’t as good as others. But we’ve been in every game with two minutes left, one way or the other. And that’s what’s gonna be important as we move on.”

Don’t you just love it?! Doesn’t it apply directly to almost everything in life that we want to be really good at? If you want to be good at anything you must practice, do it, do it often. Olympic players say they must do something 10,000 times. In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the factors that contribute to high levels of success and hits on the “10,000 Hour Rule”. I guess the old adage of practice makes perfect might actually ring true. If you want to be Hafid from OG Mandino’s Greatest Salesman in the World, you must have fire in your belly.

Let’s restate Izzo’s words as they relate to Green Belt Projects

Instead of Practice :: You must collect data and check progress every day. Don’t just keep your project on the daily Things to Do list, Schedule meetings. It’s not about the quality of work at first – if you’re good or bad, whether you are making progress or have a solution – it’s about doing something on the project every day. Now you are practicing!

Instead of Fight, Cry, Care :: Find the Passion! Get that fire in the belly to work hard, not give up, and care every day about your project. Collect the data and analyze it EVERY day. Just like players care more about the game, you will grow to care more about the customer. As you collect more data and work smarter, you will find yourself getting better at analyzing data. Players care when they win and lose. I want you to care when you find success and when you don’t. I want you to care so much you ask Why?

When you don’t identify the key variation factor, analyze and work smarter/harder tomorrow. Ask Why? Are you collecting data correctly; by hour, by shift, by machine, by day of the week, by operator? What questions did the team members ask, what questions did you ask? Is time of day a factor? Did you ask the charter question? Did you review the problem statement? Did you ask Anything Else? Were you proactive and set up a follow-up meeting?

The first step to finishing any project is the Start and the second step is to Do It Again tomorrow. While working on Green Belt Projects, I see some people get their projects done in 60 days. And I see others that never get done. When I ask myself why, I see a common theme. The people who complete their projects done are working on it a little bit every day. It is on their daily TTD list.

We are all busy, but find a way to work on your project 10 or 15 minutes every day. When it’s all said and done, you will be the winner.

You see, Mister Og, most of us build prisons for ourselves and after we occupy them for a period of time we become accustomed to their walls and accept the false premise that we are incarcerated for life.” Remember, we determine our own success by the limits we place on ourselves.

February 21, 2013

Listening with Your Eyes

Filed under: Six Sigma — Alec @ 5:00 pm

Nonverbal communication is probably the single most powerful form of communication and the least recognized. After leading numerous Kaizen events and People Leadership Seminars, I have realized that you hear just as much with your eyes as you do with your ears.

I am sure teachers have known this little fact for years. They can easily tell what students are listening, who wants to ask a question and even more so, who doesn’t want to be called on. Small observations will quickly tell you who is listening, who is bored and who is daydreaming. By taking notice of body language, facial expressions, hand gestures and eye movements you can see the thoughts of those around you almost as obviously as you can by the tone or volume of someone’s speech. Sometimes you even learn more!

As I facilitate classes and try to engage people in participation, I can tell who has a question or who does not understand, but would like to (most of the time). Not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of groups, let alone speaking their mind in mixed company at work. By utilizing subtle cues in body language and listening to each other, we can better communicate through issues in the workplace, find effective ways to complete projects and get everyone on the team to participate.

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.

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