Five Ways to Discover Hidden Problems

Ten years ago, I worked with a manufacturing department that was beginning their Lean Journey and it was standard practice for them to produce 10% over the customer order quantity in case there were problems in the downstream operations. In many cases, this extra 10% was still not enough to cover the order after defective product was removed from the lot. Another production run then had to be started to fulfill the customer order quantity. These additional runs not only caused delays to the shipment, but it ultimately increased the cost to the customer: There were additional equipment setups, lot-release inspections, scrap product, inventory management time, packaging time, certification paperwork, etc. Continue reading

A New Tool for your Product Family Matrix

The elimination of waste in a Lean Journey is often stagnated when manufacturing is organized in a “functional” layout.  By having equipment and operations organized into similar functions, improvement often plateaus.  The personnel working in a functional area are often isolated or at least disconnected from other up- and down-stream operations.  For this reason, they naturally focus their improvement efforts to their respective areas.  But this ultimately limits the significant improvements possible in a value stream. Continue reading

Teach, Coach, Mentor and Inspire

What is the essence of high quality leadership?  One of my previous mentors inspired in me a direction of leadership I find helpful in my role as an engineering manager.  In the midst of chaos with manufacturing leadership, it can be tough choosing between working “in the trenches” with your team, and retiring yourself to the sidelines in your new role as coach and leader.

Here is the direction for leadership I find most effective: Continue reading