Process Improvement Blog


Looking for ways for your organization to increase productivity and trim budgets? You’ve come to the right place.

DocuPhase’s “Business Process Automation” blog will provide valuable insight into how your company can benefit from implementing document management and workflow automation into existing processes.

4 Ways Technology Can Help Manufacturers Improve Efficiency and Profits

April 21, 2015

It’s been called the next industrial revolution—Industry 4.0. What is it exactly? Industry 4.0 refers to the leap in manufacturing made possible by the digitization of data, encapsulating the entirety of an organization’s people and processes—from the conference room to the manufacturing floor. This enormous, digitally- accessed data source is the groundwork by which new technologies are...

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Playing to Win, or Playing to Tie

April 08, 2014

In one corner we have the Germans with their love of Technik. At the big show in Hanover robots and advanced automation were center stage – “machines take over factories,” the headlines proclaim; and the experts say, “where the technology has been implemented, increasing automization is leading to significant improvements.” Given Germany’s position as a manufacturing powerhouse and the fact that...

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You Can't Improve If You Think You Are Perfect

April 08, 2014

Let’s suppose I am a bit of an amateur mechanic and I like to take care of my own car repairs to the extent that I can. Now let’s suppose the water pump on my Buick goes out on a sunny Spring Saturday morning. (Yes, I own a GM product. As much as I admire the manufacturing and business models at Toyota, Honda and especially Subaru, and as much GM bashing as I do in the blog, I unapologetically...

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MBM Is Managing For Linearity

April 07, 2014

For as long as I have been advising manufacturing companies I have been telling them that the single most telling indicator of whether they are doing any good or not is their ability to set a plan for the next week and execute it – schedule attainment. Rarely, if ever, does a plant actually execute its schedule exactly. In most plants whatever happens is not even remotely close to the...

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180° Wrong Assumptions

April 03, 2014

It’s hard to understand how people can quite often look at a situation and come to a conclusion that is not just wrong but 180° wrong – the utter and complete opposite conclusion that straight logic would dictate. Yet is happens, and it happens so often that the inane, wrong conclusion very often becomes accepted as correct and assumed by others to be correct without question.

Case in point: “...

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3D Can't Turn Sow's Ear Into a Purse

February 28, 2014

I get a lot of questions from manufacturing leaders about 3D printing: Is it really a long term threat to their business? Should they be investing time, money and resources in it to get out near the head of the curve? Will it redefine manufacturing in general and their industry in particular? My answer: Have your R&D people keep an eye on it and perhaps it will some day be a cost effective...

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Turning Latent Defects into a Profit Center

February 14, 2014

The recent news that car reliability has regressed for the first time in years really brings into focus the problems having no real sense of value adding versus non-value adding (waste) creates. The rate and magnitude of silly, often destructive decisions that flow from not knowing the difference is turbo-charged when compounded by the absurd reliance on standard costs.

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Thai Excellence

January 23, 2014

Thailand is probably not the first place anyone would look for examples of high-powered lean companies from which we can learn – but that may be a big mistake. Thailand has lots of problems – no doubt about that – and far be it from me to give the impression that all Thai companies are any good … but a couple of them certainly are; and one of them is downright over the top.

That over the top...

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And around and around it goes

January 13, 2014

Not long ago I conducted an exercise with a client in which two teams of three people assembled a Lego product. One team of three folks from accounting was given the 500 or so pieces the way Lego presents them – kitted in bags of parts that align with the largely graphic instructions. Basically, all of the parts needed to make sub-assembly #3, for instance, are in a bag marked ‘3’, and the...

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Process Excellence Week 2014 - Look out for the Bear Traps!

January 10, 2014

Lately I have been somewhat bombarded with information about an event called PEX – Process Excellence Week going on the week after next in Florida. Seems like a high potential, but also high danger event to me. By way of full disclosure one of the reasons for my being subject to such bombardment is that the host of the blog – iDatix – is participating. That said, I have no involvement in it and...

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A Style of Life

December 26, 2013

I am a fan of Robert Barron, a Catholic priest who is a teacher and a master communicator as much as anything else. In reading his book, The Strangest Way I came across a passage that struck me as perhaps the best wordsmithed explanation of Lean I have ever read. Barron, of course, could care less about Lean; so to get there I had to take the liberty of taking his words and substituting ‘Lean’...

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Doin’ the Gemba Strut

December 18, 2013


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That Knotty Lean – Technology Issue Again

December 11, 2013

There is a pretty common perception that lean is anti-technology; that lean and technology are mutually exclusive; that some either/or relationship exists. No doubt there are many, many instances in which information technology subverts lean, and is used to automate waste when that waste should be eliminated. But there is nothing inherently anti-lean about technology. It is a lot like a gun –...

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He got the map upside down

December 03, 2013

If you are following a complicated list of directions to get somewhere, and you make a wrong turn late in the journey you can easily ask directions and get to your destination. However, if the first turn you make is wrong – you go the wrong way right out of your driveway, you are doomed. When you make the last turn you are so far from your destination no one can help you. That is the sad case...

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John Seddon - Where Ignorance and Arrogance Collide

December 02, 2013

Ignorance and arrogance always make for a disastrous combination, and that is precisely what we have in the form of a particularly clueless blowhard in the UK by the name of John Seddon. Better than ten years after John Shook and the boys wrote the seminal book about value stream mapping and its basis for the management and improvement of the business, and better than twenty years after I read...

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If You Can See It, It Isn't Lean

November 19, 2013

This is a highly effective Value Stream office at Aluminum Trailer. It would be a serious mistake for anyone to see it, then run back to their business and kick everyone out of their cubicles and offices and put them into an open space like this. In fact, according to this guy at The Guardian – quoting a Harvard study – it would most likely be” bad for concentration, motivation, stress – and...

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Giving Credit for Jidoka

November 11, 2013

Let’s do two things: Give credit where credit is due, and clear up the notion that lean manufacturing and automation are somehow incompatible.

The first is simple. While there is a lot to criticize about GE and its rather schizophrenic approach to manufacturing and accounting, there is a lot to admire about the way they are making aircraft engine components in Bromont Quebec.

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Offering a Discount to Create Waste

October 28, 2013

Volume discounts have been an assumed part of business for s long few people stop to think of them as the epitome of un-lean thinking they really are. It should be pretty obvious – telling customers we will charge less if you buy more than you need and keep it in inventory.

The boys writing for the Harvard Business Review blog are rarely relevant and even less often right … and when they are it...

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DFMA versus DFCL

October 25, 2013

There is a great article on CNBC about a guy named Doug Clark who runs a company called New England Footwear who is working on bringing shoe manufacturing back to the United States. Beyond the usual Made in the USA cheerleading, Clark makes a very, very good point. “Wow. We designed a lot of labor out there. And if you don’t need labor you don’t need China.”

He is dead on. The focus on cheap...

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[MLC Exclusive] What’s in it for Me?

October 20, 2013

An article in the Financial Post explains “Why ‘temp’ is no longer a four-letter word in the workforce.” While it offers all sorts of reasons why the employer shouldn’t view temps as comparable to four letter words, it acknowledges that “it can be more difficult to see an advantage for an employee or job seeker.”

“Difficult” is putting it mildly.

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Just Meet Customers Low Expectations

October 16, 2013

I arrived in Orlando for the 9th Lean Accounting Summit and it is impossible for a lean thinker to be in this town without being reminded by the folks at Disney World of the enormous power of Customer Experience Mapping. I contrast it with a company President who recently told me of the painful experience of calling his own company. Seems he forgot someone’s direct dial number so he called the...

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What A Wonderful World It Would Be

October 16, 2013

A cashier is better than self-checkout machine because, unlike the machine, “she isn't on hair-trigger alert for any sign that I might be trying to steal toilet paper.” That is but one of “Humans 1, Robots 0” in the Wall Street Journal – and from my experience it’s true. I still use the self-checkout fairly often, but not because it is easier or better, but because the line to use a real person...

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8 Deadly Sins

October 10, 2013

I came across this article titled “Top 5 Reasons Lean Projects Fail” and thought I would jot down my own list of 8 big reasons for lean failure:

1 Let’s start with his article – viewing lean as a collection of projects. Too many companies think lean is all about doing business as usual, but adding in a bunch of kaizen events. In that mode the events/projects rarely generate significant,...

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Settling for 'Good Enough'

October 07, 2013

As you head west from the Mississippi River across the United States the landscape becomes increasingly, spectacularly more beautiful until you finally reach California, home of the most beautiful places of all. There are plenty of great places along the way, to be sure, but California’s collection of fertile farm land, vast amounts of timber and, of course, gold, made it the truly promised land...

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Putting an End to Circle Games

October 02, 2013

The story about JML Optical and their lean efforts is a lot like the hundreds of others you can read. I don’t know if JML is really lean or not but I was struck by this part of the story: “Some culture changes have taken place at the company, too, including lean manufacturing training and creating ways for more communication among workers. On the manufacturing floor, for instance, the supervisors...

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