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.

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...

Read More

School of Lean

September 15, 2013

First a disclaimer: I have absolutely no relationship with the Gemba Academy. I know most of the guys there and get along pretty well with most of them, but I do not, have never, nor to anticipate ever having any sort of business relationship with them. In fact, I am something of a competitor but in a pretty remote way. Further, they did not ask me to write this – in fact they will know I am...

Read More

Making the Case for Gun Control

September 10, 2013

The quest for manufacturing excellence has followed a rather tortured path for the folks at Smith & Wesson. Back in 2006 they were explaining to Wall Street that their earnings were down due to the massive expenses related to their Lean Six Sigma strategy. They apparently thought it paid off, however. By the end of the year they were buying a gun outfit in Rochester, NH, confidently advising Wall...

Read More

'Horses', 'Chestnuts', 'Standard' and 'Work'

September 08, 2013

Work Standards are one thing. Standard Work is something different all together. In talking to a lot of folks pursuing lean, however, I can only think of the remark Lincoln made to Douglas in the first of their historic debates. He said one of Douglas’ allegations about him “is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse.” To...

Read More

SKU Reduction – Reverting to 1913 Thinking

September 06, 2013

‘The customer can have any color they want, so long as it is black – and white in the middle.’ That seems to be the latest mantra at a growing number of companies as they wrestle with the philosophies of lean and the lack of responsiveness in their unwieldy supply chains. The ‘black – and white in the middle’ part comes from Mondelēz International, the folks who make Oreo’s and Cadbury products....

Read More

Data Versus Common Sense

September 02, 2013

In the comments to my recent post, The Naysayer Personified, Michael Baudin and I traded thoughts on the notion of common sense. I agree with his latest comments entirely. Common sense, I would suggest, is the most asset a business leader can have. It is the basis for decisions when the data needed to make a decision is lacking or of dubious accuracy – which tends to be the case in just about...

Read More

Engagement Leads to Results

August 12, 2013

For the past few years the folks at Gallup – the poll people – have been measuring workforce engagement levels, and this year’s results represent no big change from recent years. No big surprise that companies with high levels of worker engagement get better results – profitability, defect rates, growth, productivity … every significant measure of results is higher when employee engagement scores...

Read More

The Mother of Invention

July 30, 2013

I had a chance to stop and visit an old client the other day – an specialized injection molder of consumer products - and was pleased to learn that their manufacturing cycle was 63% better than it had been when I first met them. By manufacturing cycle I mean the normal cycle it takes for them to mold some of everything …. Make product A – change the machine over and make product B – change over...

Read More

Gotta Pull Defects Out by the Roots

July 28, 2013

The current Boeing fiasco – rampant quality problems with the 787 – offer some great lessons on quality control. According to the Seattle Times, “mechanics had installed nonregulation fasteners on its 777 jets in 2008.” While Boeing stopped using the wrong fasteners, the FAA got to the very heart of things in criticizing Boeing because they “did not immediately address the quality-control issues...

Read More

Charging Extra for Waste

July 15, 2013

A consulting outfit helped the folks at the University of Virginia shorten the cycle time of the document editing process for such things as case studies and other teaching materials. The article in the Washington Post describing the improvement says they cut the time from about six months to one, and reduced the number of documents in process from 140 or so to about 26. (Note the correlation...

Read More

Real Lean versus Faux Lean

June 26, 2013

Just to make a couple of things clear …

Lean & Headcount

Read More

Temps - Usually a Well Rationalized Poor Practice

June 25, 2013

In the blog it is often useful to cite an extreme example to make a point. Such is the case when I use this article from PrintWeek take exception to the use of temps – especially using them in the name of being lean. Thankfully, few companies have taken the view of people as cannon fodder to be expended in the pursuit of the top line – all else be damned – as Precision Printing (the company cited...

Read More

People, Paper and a Whole New Ball Game

June 18, 2013

I sent something to my daughter on the west coast yesterday by overnight mail. Following my usual routine in such endeavors, I texted the tracking numbers from my copy of the receipt to her. It was a few hours later that it dawned on me that I could have just taken a picture of the receipt and messaged that to her – saving time, eliminating the possibility of error in typing in the numbers, an...

Read More

You Can't Ignore the Fundamentals

June 04, 2013

Several years ago I pull up to a KFC drive up window with my kids only to be told that they were out of chicken … but I could order anything else on the menu. I remember thinking ‘what’s the point of their even being open?’ If KFC doesn’t have chicken it really doesn’t matter what else is on the menu. It is the same with manufacturers striving to be lean, but largely ignoring the factory...

Read More

Turning Success into Mediocrity

May 22, 2013

A few years ago I was asked to visit with Microsoft’s manufacturing product folks to explain lean accounting to them. The impetus for the visit didn’t come from within Microsoft, but from a big mover and shaker in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership organization who knew the senior Microsoft manufacturing folks and repeatedly urged them to listen. So they had me in and I soon noticed the...

Read More

Quote of the Month

May 13, 2013

“Standard work followed on the front lines where the customers/end users hang around is like a Quality Fairy spreading magic pixie dust over the whole value stream.”

From the CEO of a very lean Indiana manufacturer in a recent email to me

Read More

OEE – Not Just for Machines Any More

May 13, 2013

OEE – Overall Equipment Effectiveness – is like SMED – Single Minute Exchange of Dies- suffers from being narrowly named by its originators. Just as SMED is a set of techniques and thought processes for changing production over from one product to another that applies to just about everything – not just exchanging dies – OEE applies to a lot more than equipment. It applies to any and all work...

Read More

The Ideal Manufacturing System and My Hypocracy

May 05, 2013

The post I put up last week slamming Big Data and ERP brought on spate of feedback that generally followed two lines of questions/criticism: (1) You constantly slam big systems but don’t offer an alternative; and (2) Isn’t it a bit hypocritical for you to slam information technology yet you jumped ship from Evolving Excellence and into bed with iDatix – an information technology company. Let me...

Read More

Big Data - The Antithesis of Lean Thinking

May 03, 2013

It’s too bad lean thinking is free. I suppose that’s not entirely true; a lean transformation actually costs a few bucks for the learning – consultants, books and training. But it is nothing like the cost of an ERP system, and it pales in comparison to ERP thinking on steroids – ‘Big Data’. Because the ERP and Big Data providers play in such a high dollar arena they can and do spend a lot on very...

Read More

A Sobering Reminder to be Careful Out There

April 20, 2013

The events in Boston have dominated the news cycle, but the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas is the greater American tragedy by any measure. It’s important that we don’t forget that fact.

In the coming days and weeks the cause and blame for the horrible disaster in the tiny town of West will be thoroughly aired. Of that we can be sure. Regardless of how it turns out, however, everyone involved...

Read More

A Reader Asks About Benchmarking, Headcount and Efficiency

April 16, 2013

Simioni from Brazil writes:

Read More

Leaving Japan Behind

April 11, 2013

Rahul Garga wrote a piece concerning the Japanese economy in Seeking Alpha the other day called “Why Japan Might Find it Hard To Ease Out of This One”.

Among his points were:

“Japan once held a major competitive advantage in the field of manufacturing, which it successfully used to dethrone major Western industrialized countries in many different areas. For example, in 1980, Japan held over 50%...

Read More

The Case for Value Streams

April 09, 2013

A piece in the HBR blog the other day serves as a great case for the value stream structure. To summarize it, the writer, George Stalk, describes a family owned construction business that was doing well, but was considering a more aggressive growth strategy. The strategy was fairly general, in nature – mostly a set of goals rather than a real strategy.

Stalk (who was a consultant to the business)...

Read More

They Will Never Know What Hit Them

March 26, 2013

I had an opportunity to spend some time with an Australian friend last week who was in the USA to begin the process of opening a manufacturing operation. He runs a small, very lean factory Down Under and was starting to export to the United States when the exchange rate went south on him and rendered it untenable.

Read More

Bringing Sales & Marketing to the Party

March 07, 2013

The folks in sales and marketing functions seem to be the last ones to want to change to become part of an integrated business approach. No big surprise really. While it is not unusual to see manufacturing and supply chain, or manufacturing and engineering merged into one silo it is almost a universal truth that sales and marketing stand alone in any organization.

Read More
No More Posts