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. (more…)

Here is a Magic Question for your Lean Journey

I love the quote by Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Being an engineer is less about knowing the right answers, and more about knowing the right questions. As I work in medical manufacturing, I find there are daily decisions to make about processes – be them around root cause, choices of priorities, project plans, acceptable product, etc. But whether you are an engineer or not, you and I both are employed to solve problems. And my question to you is, “Do you lead with answers or questions?” (more…)

Need to Reduce Costs? Look no Further…

This week I visited a manufacturing company who decided to do something admirable. They invited nearly all their suppliers to go to the gemba and see the production line first hand in order to understand how their components were used in the final assembly. This action was driven by the company’s desire to reduce costs of their final device. Because their costs are rising due to regulatory requirements they are facing, they have the need to “take $10 bills out of their assembly”. During the event, the company intimately showed all their suppliers the entire assembly process, and then allowed everyone to brainstorm what strategies might be feasible to remove cost out of their device. The next day, all the suppliers individually gave presentations describing their recommendations to remove cost from the device.

“How cool is that?” I thought. Here they were opening their doors and essentially saying, “Anything is on the table” – be that a design change, or a process or material change. But then I visited their line… (more…)