Friday, August 26, 2005

It's the Process, not the Product that will get you.

"It's the process not the product that will get you." No kidding. When implementing any type of improvement it is important to be true to your process. When using Six Sigma DMAIC try to stick to the process or the results will be suspect, challenged or even erased. In fact the process should be written dmaiC.
C is for control and more often or not this is the one that will get you. In most improvement processes or initiatives there is always alot of energy up front. Teams are brought together. Experts fly-in! A plan is of action is developed. BINGO! The changes are made. When the dust settles, the experts go back in the planes. The teams are disbanded and the improvement will either survive or die on its own. Maybe it will live on for a while as long as Joe is still running that machine in department D. Yes, he was part of the team and remembers the important details to keep things on track. What if Joe retires, quits or gets hit by the proverbial Beer Truck. The improvement will die.
It will die unless of course you use Controls.
I'm not going to get into defining the type of controls. Let's just say they are necessary to maintain the gain and keep the improvement initiative alive.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Kaizen - Continuous Improvement!

Tonight, I have been doing some thinking about Kaizen. I've seen several definitions for the translation of the word Kaizen but the one that works best for me is "change excellent". In a number of ways Kaizen has become to mean continuous improvement. The folks embracing LEAN manufacturing use Kaizen events as a tool for improvement. Kaizen events are short term in length and focused on a specific problem or problem area needing improvement. A team will come together to work on the elimination of wastes or "Muda". There are 8 deadly wastes in the Kaizen world - DOWNTIME
  • D - Defects
  • O- Overproduction
  • W -Waiting
  • N - Not utilizing people
  • T - Transport
  • I - Inspection
  • M - Motion
  • E - Excess Processing

A Kaizen event is tyically focused on reduction of wastes. Kaizen methods from the House of Lean may be used. Some areas of focus might be as follows

  1. Work Flow Kaizen - improving workflow through KANBAN or even achieving single piece workflows
  2. Set Up reductions - Reducing machine setup time.
  3. Variability reductions - improve processing quality through six sigma tools.
  4. 5S - Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain
  5. TPM - improve equipment reliability through total productive maintenance.

Organizations using LEAN have shown that they can:

  • Meet Customer Demand consistently
  • Reduce environmental emissions and improve safety preformance
  • Increase output and production
  • Improve quality
  • Reduce changeover and setup times
  • Obtain more flexible manufacturing systems.

A Kaizen event can be used in almost any circumstance manufacturing or non manufactuirng. Focusing on specific goals these events are short term in nature usually 2-5 days at most. The events are well planned in advance and utilize a cross functional team of employees. Most importantly these events are focused on action and resolving problems quickly. Organizational knowledge is improved throught the use of Kaizen. During the event, employees will document the current state of operations, brainstorm and make recommendations on improvement, utilize the LEAN tools such as 5S and finally they will implement changes and measure the results. Together with management support the Kaizen event team will celebrate the successes.

Discovering Synergy!

Synergy - Would you like to make 2 + 4 = 10? I know how! Synergy is the interaction of two or more factors so that the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. Synergism occurs when process factors and variables work together. Synergisms exist in many processes. This is to say it does not have to be a manufacturing process, but might exist in a business process or work flow process as well.

It's typical for managers only think in one dimension, thinking only that a systems performance can be improved by changes in a single parameter. This is the thinking that traditionally drives one factor at a time (OFAT) experimentation. A typical method of improvement is to change one variable while holding everything else constant. Despite the fact that since grade school we have been taught to change one thing and hold all else constant, this should almost NEVER be done! It is not efficient. Knowledge and opportunity is lost!

A group of (4) process variables: Temperature (T), Recycle (R), Feed (F), Pressure (P)

Individually these can have an effect an a process where the sum of the whole equals the result

T + R + F + P => Output - The output might be yield or production quantity or other variable.

What is often ignored and misunderstood is that factors can work or interact with each other. The following is all the possible interactions that exist in a four variable system.

TR + TF + TP + RF + RP + FP (these are known as two factor interactions)
TRF + TRP + TFP + RFP (these are known as three factor interactions)
TRFP (this is a four factor interaction)

So the total possible sum of all the effects is:

T + R + F + P + TR + TF + TP + RF + RP + FP + TRF + TRP + TFP + RFP + TRFP => Output

Usually only a few interactions may be present in your processes. It is possible but very unlikely to find interactions using OFAT experimentation or studying historical data from your processes. Interactions may have a positive or a Synergistic effect or interactions may have a negative effect on a process.

In all practicality, three and four factor interactions are non-existent. So we ignore them. These cases are few and far between. Don't focus on them. This is explained by the "sparsity of effects principle" which states that most systems are dominated by some main effects and low order interactions. Most high order interactions are negligible. Therefore, synergy exists mostly in the main effects and two-factor interaction.

Typically a process may be defined, where only few main effects and interactions are relevant. For example using the system above we might have.

T + P + F + FP = output

To further illustrate the idea of the FP interaction:

A 1 unit change in F, feed alone may give increased output of 5 units
A 1 unit change in P, pressure, alone may also give an increased output of 2 units.

Both of these are positive effects! This in itself is good. But discovered separately may lead the engineer to conclude that the best course of action is only to increase F, Feed, because it gives the most positive result.

Synergy occurs when a change in feed of 1 unit and a change in pressure of 1 unit results in an output say of 10 units. The combined impact of the change in feed and pressure is synergistic and results in greater output than any of the single. In this case we would say that the FP interaction is synergistic resulting in greater output when these two variables work together!

Finding combination of synergistic interactions within a process is beneficial to increasing performance of a system!

The conclusion is that OFAT movements in a process are unlikely to discover interaction in a process between factors. DOE using planned fractional factorial designs, full factorials and central composite designs can be used to find synergies in your processes.

You can apply these DOE techniques in all fields. If you can vary factors or inputs to a process between two levels - hi and low, on or off then you can design an experiment to make improvement and identify synergy.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My Vision Statement

  • Be Successful, Profitable and Grow!

Those around me know that I am optimistic and choose to seek improvements in everything we do. I would like to see manufacturing flourish and grow in this country. We are active in seeking ways to help improve our competitive situation and develop economically. Despite increasing environmental, labor and energy costs, I believe we have the knowledge and technology for companies to be profitable and succeed here in the United States.

My Mission

  • Develop common sense solutions to enable acheivement of goals.
  • Provide education on Theory of Constraints, quality improvements and statistical applications. Optimize processes to improve due date performance, increase throughput and decrease inventories and operational expenses.
  • Be a good citizenship through support of Pilots for Patients

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

DOE - The Power Tool for Knowledge Discovery

Are you operating your equipment and processes as designed and obtaining the best possible performance. Most engineers, managers and owners will say absolutely yes. I usually differ with this and think there is always room for improvement. I have a good basis for it. From the testing I have conducted, I have always found improvements. If you have a process which is controlled by lets say (7) knobs which can be adjusted between HI and LO settings, do you realize there are 128 combinations of settings for this machine or process. How do you know you are in the right spot? Chances are you are not. Designed experiments or DOE is the power tool for knowledge discovery. I have experimented with environmental processes and found a reduction of 84% in emission problems due to better operating parameters. In another process yields were improved resulting on over $300K of EBIT. Significant knowledge about quality parameters is also possible. In one process we never knew what was the controlling factor for a particular quality parameter. DOE found the answer. If you aren't considering DOE as an option for process improvement, you should. I think you will find it to be of value. In most cases DOE does not have any significant capital expenditure associated with it. The gains made are essentially free!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Common Sense is no longer Common!

What ever happened to using common sense? In today's day and age we have been wrapped up in LEAN and Six Sigma which have replaced the days of Reengineering and TQM. Seems like these are the current management fad. Most improvements are simple and easy to execute using common sense approaches. Consider Six Sigma. You have to have this complicated organizational structure of Champions, Master Black Belts and Black Belts, Green Belts and even some companies now train Yellow Belts. With this type of structure Six Sigma is pretty much left to he big boys - GE, Motorola, Clorox, Honeywell, Kodak and NASA to name a few. Cost to train each Black Belt is estimated at $12-$50K. How many small to medium size companies can afford to do this? Where is the common sense? View the web pages and you will find consultants and experts all over the place selling you services in this arena. I do believe that these programs, Lean and/or Six Sigma, can be of great value. However, do you really need them? From my standpoint it doesn't matter what color belt you wear or how fat or lean you are. Improvements can be kept very simple. Follow a proven "process" for improvement. Here are (5) common sense approaches toward success.
  1. People are your number one resource! Be honest and open. Encourage teamwork and reward successes.
  2. Use "Fitness for Use" as your classic definition for quality. Use statistical methods on value added processes. Use LEAN concepts to eliminate waste or non-value added activity.
  3. Customers are your key to success. Guide your ship toward them. Deliver on-time and follow-up on all complaints.
  4. Use Theory of Constraints in your production or throughput planning. Identify the DRUMBEAT and pace all activities accordingly.
  5. Lastly promote a safe and healthy work environment. Follow regulations and treat the environment with respect. Be Green whenever possible!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What it takes!

Making genuine improvement is not easy. The opportunity lies in the "gap" between theoretical and actual peformance. Most systems do not perform as designed. Inherently there are inefficiencies and losses. Improvements are almost always possible. Before you can embark on the journey for improvement it is important to have clear and concise objectives. When framed in the proper context the objectives spell out what we want to accomplish, when we want to accomplish it and for whom. Now I could write about objectives all night, but the subject I really want to address is what does it take to make improvements. Meet the Bulldog! Yes, I use a Bulldog to illustrate the qualities and traits needed by an individual or organization to make improvements.
  • The bulldog has the Courage to face new challenges.
  • The bulldog has the Stamina to endure.
  • The bulldog has the Strength to overcome.
  • The bulldog has the Tenacity to persist with determination.

Some people and organizations may be unclear about what needs to be improved. Others lack the qualities necessary to face the challenges. If you do choose to improve, put the Bulldog on your team! Follow a process to improvement and start by defining clear and concise objectives.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

About my Values?

I have to attribute the following quote to Lou Holtz, the famous Notre Dame football coach - "Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated." From my standpoint, I try to live my life by these guiding thoughts. When I raised my children I have taught them the same. It is part of my core value system. It is how I conduct myself and my work activities.
Ethics and Integrity are embodied in Lou's - "Do Right!" Solving the right problems and improving the right processes are very important. What is it that needs to be improved and how can we go about making it better? I consider this a never ending quest. Quality is embodied in Lou's - "Do your Best!" I care about my work and the quality of my work. I have a genuine commitment for improvement. I am not afraid of long hours and the sweat necessary to produce results. I take pride in my work. "Treat others as you want to be treated." This is also known as the golden rule. There is no more important trait when dealing with co-workers, customers or employers. There are many good role models for us to look up to. I consider Lou Holtz to be one of the best. He has managed to motivate many teams through the years with this quotation. I think that I have learned from his message also. The bottomline here is that if you ever have the chance to work with me, I will do my best, I will do the right thing and I will treat others with respect! You can count on it.

What I do!

My passion is for statistics and designed experiments. I conduct experiments in mulitple variables that allow for the optimization and improvement of performance. The improvement process associated with designed experiments can be applied to many situations. In the book The World is Flat the author, Thomas Friedman, presents case after case of American jobs being outsoured to India or China. I believe America can still be successful in Manufacturing despite this increased competition from low cost labor abroad. Using "silent" innovations such as designed experiments is one way that we can succeed and improve our competitive position here in the United States. One thing I have learned since working in this arena is that most people expect 2+2 = 4. I know this is not true, in many cases 2+2 =6 or even 8. Synergistic combinations of factors exist to enhance performance in all areas. My mission is to find the synergy and improve performance.