A Roundup of Especially Interesting News


Shoulda Seen This One Coming

Now AtFAB is one of the pioneers of a new model of making things known as “distributed manufacturing.” The idea is for these guys to design products, then digitally transfer the cut files from their CAD system to a CNC router at a pre-qualified manufacturer close to the customer who cuts the parts and ships them to the end customer.

Imagine, for example, the usual way that a chair from IKEA arrives in your home. First the materials are sourced from all over the world, then shipped to factories for refining and (partial) assembly, and finally they’re distributed to retail outlets. All that shipping has a huge cost in energy and, ultimately, dollars.”

All that shipping” is waste – adding nothing to the value a customer receives and is willing to pay for. Whether this supply chain model catches on or not, innovative ways of cutting this – and just about every other form of waste – are going to keep churning.

Yesterday’s News

The Wall Street Journal is trumpeting a Honeywell plant in Illinois: “The plant pumps out millions of devices a year, and its efficiency gains in recent years have been achieved with a workforce that has been cut in half over a decade—illustrating the shop-floor improvements that economists and academics have dubbed a U.S. manufacturing renaissance.

The gist of these “shop-floor improvements that economists and academics have dubbed a U.S. manufacturing renaissance”? Defects, over-production, transportation, waiting, inventory, motion, over-processing … the seven wastes Toyota told the world about some 40 years ago and that lean manufacturers the world over have been driving out of their factories for decades. Big news to economists and academics, however.

Great Manufacturing Story from Philly

Things at K’NEX and their injection molding partner, The Rodon Group, are booming: “Sales at K’NEX are up 25 percent. The Rodon Group, which advertises itself as “cheaper than China,” saw sales increase more than 60 percent in the last year. The workforce at the two companies has increased by about 25 percent, as well.”

They understand the value of speed and they are committed to their suppliers, employees and community. Manufacturing doesn’t get much better than this.

Location, location, location

Osamu Nagata, who goes by ‘Simon’, is the honcho in charge of manufacturing and engineering for North America at Toyota. He broke precedent and, rather than live near the flagship plant at Georgetown, he opted to live in Detroit to be closer to suppliers, designers and more customers … not to mention competitors.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Being close to the gemba – the plant floor – has its obvious advantages. Nagata, however, has a long track record of success – especially with supplier partnerships.

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