Process Improvement Blog

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

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The Rise of Paperless Practice Adoption in Manufacturing

August 04, 2015

The work that goes into manufacturing even the simplest of products is a mystery to most people. The fact that a can opener is on the store shelf when they need it is good enough. But industry insiders know more.

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Electronic Work Instruction Can Improve Manufacturing Efficiency

May 26, 2015

The pace and complexity of today’s manufacturing processes makes Henry Ford’s automobile factory floor looks like child’s play. While today’s production metrics are measured in milliseconds, his assembly workers lined up and waited on a crude system of ropes and winches to pull the next Model-T across the line. Ford’s operation certainly wouldn’t win any awards for efficiency compared to...

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Learning to Recognize Waste for Lean Process Improvement

May 12, 2015

The Wall Street Journal called Discovery’s Science Channel series How it’s Made “TV’s quietest hit.” And it’s no wonder. For those who have never walked a manufacturing floor, a behind-the-scenes look at the production of everything from exotic cars and computer parts to baseball bats and chewing gum is both incredulous and intriguing.  If you’ve taken part in the manufacturing process, you...

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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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Productivity Problem Solved

April 27, 2014

The Toronto Globe and Mail covered the BCG report on global manufacturing competitiveness, bemoaning the fact that Canadian manufacturing is lagging, especially behind its North American neighbors. The big issue, they point out, is productivity. Canadian productivity measures are just as screwed up as American measurements with the economists not knowing the difference between productivity and...

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Working outside in rather than inside out

March 31, 2014

Perhaps one of the most inane – but very typical – aspects of the business process in manufacturers is the construction of the supply chain from the inside out. Three times in the last week – count ‘em – three for three – I visited a manufacturing company with (1) problems delivering in the time frame customers want; (2) lots of inventory but rarely the right inventory; and (3) a supply chain...

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One more post about value

March 12, 2014

So many manufacturing folks honestly believe their own silly rationalizations about being very, very different, rendering lessons to be learned from other manufacturers irrelevant to their situation, that any hope of learning from retailers like Safeway is a long shot, at best … but let’s give it a shot anyway.

BusinessWeek explains “Why Safeway Needs a Future With Fewer Groceries.” Grocery chain...

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A brief rant about the ABC's

February 26, 2014

Apparently the folks writing about stratifying inventory into A, B and C items and building calculations of such into ERP packages didn’t get the lean memo.

Wikipedia is typical of such thinkers when they describe the ABC thought process as:

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Marinating pigs in Chanel #5

January 19, 2014

A couple of years ago the folks at McKinsey published a report called “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”. You can find it online pretty easily. Among other things, they wrote:

Inventory management. With the additional detail offered by advanced analytics mining multiple datasets, big data can continue to improve retailers’ inventory management,...

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The Obvious Perils of Ignorance

January 09, 2014

Hey, here’s a good idea: Let’s just stop carrying all of this inventory. We’ll make out suppliers deliver just in time and get rid of all of our work in process and finished goods inventory. That will make us a lean manufacturer just like Toyota.

Apparently there are quite a few people with impressive enough jobs and big enough paychecks to know better, who think the concept of lean and those who...

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More Like Red Friday

November 29, 2013

As the day dawns millions of Americans are stampeding the stores scooping up bargains on what is the Black Friday debacle. It exists as a monument to bad management – a day on which businesses that compete on price, and price alone, demonstrate just how weak their business model is.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune: “Big chains such as Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us said they should...

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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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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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Speed is Free

August 20, 2013

A BusinessWeek article suggests that FedEx and UPS have a dilemma – sometimes the box doesn’t have to be there overnight. I think they have a bigger problem – the box should never take a week.

I really have no major criticism of either FedEx or UPS. FedEx revolutionized the small package delivery business, and UPS has pushed them hard. Between them they are a critical link in the inevitable,...

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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...

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You Can Make Book On It

July 11, 2013

One of the many great lines in Charlie Wilson’s War came when Julia Roberts’ character, Joanne Herring asked, “Why is Congress always saying one thing and doing nothing?”, to which Charlie Wilson replied, “Well, tradition mostly.” That explanation for inane behavior in Congress applies to the book industry, as well.

In the last week we have seen two events that show just how far off the mark...

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Real Lean versus Faux Lean

June 26, 2013

Just to make a couple of things clear …

Lean & Headcount

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Live by the Forecast – Die by the Forecast

May 29, 2013

Bloomberg has been the source of stories about Walmart’s inability to keep stock on the shelves lately. The most recent is about a pretty goofy process of external audits, green dots, and flipping back and forth about whether to include store management in the audit process, or to keep them in the dark. Previously Bloomberg offered up anecdotal employee originated stories attributing the problem...

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The Transformation of Fast Fashion From Genius to Abomination

May 27, 2013

More Americans died in the Civil War than is all wars we have fought in – combined. While the majority of the Civil War deaths were due to disease, the actual battle mortality was carnage an a scale that dwarfs anything else we have experienced. The primary reason was the combination of new weapons and old tactics. Military thinking was based on muskets with an effective range of a few hundred...

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Eco-Self Deception

May 15, 2013

This is the Massive McMuffin – bacon and sausage, egg, cheese … the works. Start the day off with one of these and you’re better than halfway to your daily fat intake before you even get out of the starting gate in the morning. You have to go to New Zealand to get one. Imagine someone who eats these every day, but brags ad nauseum about their healthy lifestyle because they wash it down with a...

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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...

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Engineering Flow

May 01, 2013

A CEO who was perennially frustrated with excessive inventories and lack of success with annual pushes to improve turns plotted the data over the last twenty years on a time line and marked when they had installed a massive ERP system, when they initially pursued lean, and when they went to great lengths to kanban everything.

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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%...

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The World is A'Changin'

April 01, 2013

There is a very good article in the New York Times (good because it echoes something I have been saying for some time) about cutting out the middlemen.

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Supply Chain Segmentation? Bureaucracy Heavy Value Streams

March 21, 2013

The latest supply chain buzzword seems to be “segmentation”. The basic idea is directly aligned with lean thinking – “…different customers associated with different channels and different products are served through different supply chain processes, policies, and operational modes. The goal is to find the best supply chain processes and policies to serve each customer and each product at a given...

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