Many organizations adopt the “Safety First!” mantra, but what does it mean? The answer, of course, differs from one organization, person, or situation to another. If an organization’s leaders truly live the mantra, its meaning will be consistent across time, situations, and parties involved. It will also be well-documented, widely and regularly communicated, and supported by action.
In short, the “Safety First!” mantra implies that an organization has developed a safety culture. However, many fall far short of this ideal; often it is because leaders believe that adopting the mantra will spur the development of safety culture. In fact, the reverse is required; only in a culture of safety can the “Safety First!” mantra convey a coherent message or be meaningful to members of the organization.
Choosing effective strategies for waging war against error in manufacturing and service operations requires an understanding of “the enemy.” The types of error to be combatted, the sources of these errors, and the amount of error that will be tolerated are important components of a functional definition (see Vol. I for an introduction).
The traditional view is that the amount of error to be accepted is defined by the specification limits of each characteristic of interest. Exceeding the specified tolerance of any characteristic immediately transforms the process output from “good” to “bad.” This is a very restrictive and misleading point of view. Much greater insight is provided regarding product performance and customer satisfaction by loss functions.
Myriad tools have been developed to aid collaboration of team members that are geographically separated. Temporally separated teams receive much less attention, despite this type of collaboration being paramount for success in many operations.
To achieve performance continuity in multi-shift operations, an effective pass-down process is required. Software is available to facilitate pass-down, but is not required for an effective process. The lowest-tech tools are often the best choices. A structured approach is the key to success – one that encourages participation, organization, and consistent execution.
A person’s first interaction with a business is often his/her experience in its parking lot. Unless an imposing edifice dominates the landscape, to be seen from afar, a person’s first impression of what it will be like to interface with a business is likely formed upon entering the parking lot. It is during this introduction to the facility and company that many expectations are formed. “It” starts in the parking lot. “It” is customer satisfaction.
There is a “universal sequence for quality improvement,” according to the illustrious Joseph M. Juran, that defines the actions to be taken by any team to effect change. This includes teams pursuing error- and defect-reduction initiatives, variation reduction, or quality improvement by any other description.
Two of the seven steps of the universal sequence are “journeys” that the team must take to complete its problem-solving mission. The “diagnostic journey” and the “remedial journey” comprise the core of the problem-solving process and, thus, warrant particular attention.
Of the “eight wastes of lean,” the impacts of defects may be the easiest to understand. Most find the need to rework or replace a defective part or repeat a faulty service, and the subsequent costs, to be intuitive. The consequences of excess inventory, motion, or transportation, however, may require a deeper understanding of operations management to fully appreciate.
Conceptually, poka yoke (poh-kah yoh-keh) is one of the simplest lean tools; at least it was at its inception. Over time, use of the term has morphed and expanded, increasing misuse and confusion. The desire to appear enlightened and lean has led many to misappropriate the term, applying it to any mechanism used, or attempt made, to reduce defects. Poka yoke is often conflated with other process control mechanisms, including engineering controls and management controls.
To effectively reduce the occurrence of errors and resultant defects, it is imperative that process managers differentiate between poka yoke devices, engineering controls, and management controls. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each allows appropriate actions to be taken to optimize the performance of any process.
Every organization wants error to be kept at a minimum. The dedication to fulfilling this desire, however, often varies according to the severity of consequences that are likely to result. Manufacturers miss delivery dates or ship faulty product; service providers fail to satisfy customers or damage their property; militaries lose battles or cause civilian casualties; all increase the cost of operations.
You probably have some sensitivity to the effects errors have on your organization and its partners. This series explores strategies, tools, and related concepts to help you effectively combat error and its effects. This is your induction; welcome to The War on Error.
Uses of augmented reality (AR) in various industries has been described in previous installments of “Augmented Reality” (Part 1, Part 2). In this installment, we will explore AR applications aimed at improving customer experiences in service operations. Whether creating new service options or improving delivery of existing services, AR has the potential to transform our interactions with service providers.
Front-office operations are mostly transparent due to customer participation. Customer presence is a key characteristic that differentiates services from the production of goods. Thus, technologies employed in service industries are often highly visible. This can be a blessing or a curse.
Some of the augmented reality (AR) applications most likely to attract popular attention were presented in “Part 1: An Introduction to the Technology.” When employed by manufacturing companies, AR is less likely to be experienced directly by the masses, but may have a greater impact on their lives. There may be a shift, however, as AR applications pervade product development and end-user activities.
In this installment, we look at AR applications in manufacturing industries that improve operations, including product development, quality control, and maintenance. Some are involved directly in the transformation of materials to end products, while others fill supporting roles. The potential impact on customer satisfaction that AR use provides will also be explored.
The use of digital technologies in commercial applications is continually expanding. Improvements in virtual reality (VR) systems have increased the practical range of opportunities for their use across varied industries.
As discussed with respect to other technologies experiencing accelerated development and expansion, several definitions of “virtual reality” may be encountered. Researchers and practitioners may disagree on which applications qualify for use of the term. For our purposes, we will use a simple description of virtual reality:
“Virtual reality” is an experience created, using a digital twin or other model, where
Digital Twin technology existed long before this term came into common use. Over time, existing technology has advanced, new applications and research initiatives have surfaced, and related technologies have been developed. This lack of centralized “ownership” of the term or technology has led to the proliferation of differing definitions of “digital twin.”
Some definitions focus on a specific application or technology – that developed by those offering the definition – presumably to coopt the term for their own purposes. Arguably, the most useful definition, however, is the broadest – one that encompasses the range of relevant technologies and applications, capturing their corresponding value to the field. To this end, I offer the following definition of digital twin:
An electronic representation of a physical entity – product, machine, process, system, or facility – that aids understanding of the entity’s design, operation, capabilities, or condition.
Troubleshooting a system can be guided by instructions created by its developer or someone with extensive experience operating and maintaining similar systems. Without a specific context, however, a troubleshooting process can be very difficult to describe. There is an enormous number of variables that could potentially warrant consideration. The type of system (mechanical, power transmission, fluid power, electrical, motion control, etc.), operating environment (indoor, outdoor, arid, tropical, arctic, etc.), and severity of duty are only the beginning.
The vast array of systems and situations that could be encountered requires that troubleshooting be learned as a generalized skill. What tool set could be more general, more universally applicable, than our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and the most powerful of all, common sense?
The origin of the spaghetti diagram – when and where it was first used or who first recognized its resemblance to a plate of pasta – is not well known. What is clear is that this simple tool can be a very powerful representation of waste in various processes. An easily-understood visual presentation often provides the impetus needed for an organization to advance its improvement efforts.
While flow charts (see Vol. II) depict logical progressions through a process, spaghetti diagrams illustrate physical progressions. The movements tracked may be made by people, materials, paperwork, or other entities. As is the case with other maps, spaghetti diagrams can be created in very simple form, with information added as improvement efforts advance.
Facility Layout or Floor Plan
Of all business maps, the facility layout, or floor plan, is one of the most universal. If an organization has a physical presence – office, storefront, factory, etc. – it should have a documented layout that is updated as changes are made.
Documented layouts are most commonly prepared for manufacturing facilities because of their large footprints and large numbers of machines housed within them. Every type of organization, however, can benefit from a properly maintained layout drawing. Readily-available CAD software and trained users makes this a relatively simple task to complete.
“Beware the Metrics System – Part 1” presented potential advantages of implementing a metrics system, metric classifications, and warnings of potential pitfalls. This installment will provide examples from diverse industries and recommendations for development and management of metrics systems.
Every business uses metrics to assess various aspects of its performance. Some – usually the smallest and least diversified – may focus exclusively on the most basic financial measures. Others may be found at the opposite end of the spectrum, tracking a multitude of metrics across the entire organization – finance, operations, sales & marketing, human resources, research & development, and so on. The more extensively metricated organization is not necessarily more efficiently operated or more effectively managed, however. The administration of a metrics system incurs costs that must be balanced with its utility for it to be valuable to an organization.
An efficacious metrics system can greatly facilitate an organization’s management and improvement; a misguided one can be detrimental, in numerous ways, to individuals, teams, and the entire organization. The structure of a well-designed metrics system is influenced by the nature of the organization to be monitored – product vs. service, for-profit vs. nonprofit, public vs. private, large vs. small, start-up vs. mature, etc. Organizations often choose to present their metrics systems according to popular templates – Management by Objectives (MBO), Key Performance Indicators (KPI), Objectives and Key Results (OKR), or Balanced Scorecard – but may choose to create a unique system or a hybrid. No matter what form it takes, or what name it is given, the purpose of a metrics system remains constant: to monitor and control – that is, to manage – the organization’s performance according to criteria its leaders deem relevant.
Modern gurus of self-help have changed the narrative from “improve your weaknesses” to “play to your strengths.” However, the –abilities that drive performance in manufacturing and service operations require both approaches. A successful strategy includes extracting maximum value from well-developed –abilities and continually improving the weaker ones. The –abilities that drive performance include stability, reliability, profitability, and others. Some are more critical in a specific context; some have multiple interpretations; all deserve attention.
The –abilities that drive performance are straightforward concepts. The problem is that many managers and entrepreneurs lose sight of the basics while pursuing higher-level objectives. Let this post be a warning against this and a reminder of how solid fundamentals create a path to success.
In Part 1, the D•I•P•O•D Process Model and template were presented and explained. In this installment, an example deployment will be illustrated to demonstrate the variety of factors to be considered in an analysis. Practitioners are warned against developing a false sense of security or accomplishment in a special note on troubleshooting. Then, a number of common errors will be shared to help practitioners avoid them.
Well-designed models can be invaluable aids to development and analysis. 3D CAD models assist the detection of physical interferences in an assembly and the rapid calculation of stresses within its components. Mold-flow analysis helps injection molders predict processing problems. Various forms of simulation help us evaluate potential performance and identify risks before any products are manufactured, tooling built, routes established, or services performed.
Successful process planning, troubleshooting, and continuous improvement begins with applying fundamentals. Therefore, a model need not be as sophisticated as mold-flow or finite-element analysis requires to be useful, nor does it require high-performance computers with extensive computational capability. For many purposes, a simple diagram can provide the guidance needed for users to achieve breakout performance by focusing attention on what is relevant to the achievement of objectives, while clearing the clutter of distractions. The D•I•P•O•D Process Model is a great example of effective simplicity when used for process planning, development, or troubleshooting.
For a coherent discussion of culture to take place, it is important to define the term in its intended context. Social psychologist Goodwin Watson referred to ‘culture’ as “the total way of life characteristic of a somewhat homogeneous society of human beings,” differentiating its use in social science from the vernacular “refinement of taste in intellectual and aesthetic realms.”
Watson also quotes anthropologist Ralph Linton’s definition of ‘culture’ as “the configuration of learned behavior whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society.”
Key components of each definition will help us translate the concept of culture from a discussion of at-large society to one of a corporate environment.
Many manufacturing and service companies succumb to competitive pressure by embarking on misguided cost-reduction efforts, failing to take a holistic approach. To be clear, lean is the way to be; lean is not the same as cost reduction. Successful cost-reduction efforts consider the entire enterprise, the entire product life cycle, and, most importantly, the effects that changes will make on customers.
To avoid confusion, I will begin with a clarification. The full name of the document to which we refer generally as a FMEA (“fee-mah”) is Potential Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. This is not the ‘P’ to which I refer, however.
The title, “P” is for “Process,” is intended, first, to differentiate between a PFMEA (Process FMEA) and a DFMEA (Design FMEA). This differentiation refers specifically to product design and manufacture, as the distinction between them blurs when discussing service delivery systems.
Second, and the focal point of this post, is to differentiate between process and product. Many manufacturing organizations develop product FMEAs, mistakenly identifying them as process FMEAs.
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