Saturday, February 18, 2012

2 Min Idiots Guide To Continuous Improvement

This is my simple introduction to Continuous Improvement for those with no exposure.  Hopefully it gets you thinking about how CI can be used by anyone.  And please bear with me as I am an engineer attempting to be creative...

This is not a how too, just a quick video to help demystify and bring CI to a level everyone can understand.  Without all the buzzwords!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is Quality?

This is a question we struggle with regularly.  How do we measure color?  What is too much variation?

It helps to quantify, but you have a real problem when the definition of what makes a quality part (or service) is a moving target.

We have been producing and validating products for a customer using a "Form, Fit, Function" approach.  This has been the approach since we took on the business over two years ago.  Now we are validating design changes requested by the customer, the parts meet our historical standards.  We sent samples, which were approved.  Now we have gone to production and our production runs are being rejected.  The customer is now inspecting these parts, not just to whether they fit their assemblies, but to the engineering drawings.  The target has shifted.  Our definition of quality is no longer the same as theirs.

Our problem stems from a lack of communication between our engineering group and the customer.  We are  not defining our customer requirements or expectations at the outset.  We are relying on our historical knowledge of the parts to set our standards.  Sometimes it is working, other times it is not.

We recognize the gap and are redefining our validation process.  We have a series of meetings scheduled with the customer to discuss the process and the help we will need from them in defining what will constitute a quality product for them in the future.  After all this whole endeavor comes back to what the customer wants.  Hopefully the meetings will go well and we won't lose the business.

This improvement will be painful for us.  We are going to scrap thousands of dollars in product.  We are going to admit we had flaws in our process.  But we are going to fix them.  We are going to improve.  We will institute these changes, we will review them for more problems, and we will act to fix those problems.  Continuous improvement is the feedback loop for our processes, our products, and our lives.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Internal or External Candidates

I get to hire 3 additional quality technicians to deal with increased business and the future growth our new building will allow.  How do I make sure I hire the right people? 

A big question is how to weigh the internal candidates against the external applicants.

We have a handful of production operators that have applied.  They bring knowledge of our product and of many of the functions that they would be performing on the floor.  They also bring loyalty to their friends on the plant floor creating a difficult situation when products and processes are nonconforming.

The external candidates bring their own ideas, and new perspectives to our team.  They typically require a longer training period.  It can also be more difficult to gauge whether an external candidate will mesh well with the team.

It looks like we will split the openings using two to promote internal candidates and one for an external candidate.  We view the chance to reward high performing internal as an excellent tool to show our hourly employees there are upward moving paths for them, something we have historically been bad at.

I'm looking forward to the challenge of adding 60% to my team over the next 2 months.  I'll be reporting back how the new team members are performing and  how well we are able to stick to the training plan.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

It is an exciting time at work:

We are planning for a move to a new building.  All in all business is growing and business is good.

How we manage this change will have huge impacts on our future success.  Starting with the new building.  Were spending $8M on the purchase and renovation before we move.  We've had countless layout/process flow/how can we make this more lean meetings.  The hard wiring of where equipment (20,000lb machines) will sit starts next week.  It feels well planned.


Now, we are all highly educated with lots of experience, but I doubt any one of us can remember the last time we were running material from receiving dock to shipping dock and all stops in between.  I hope we've done a good job with our planning...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pushing Boundaries - Which Zone Are You In?

I used to be a camp counselor.  At camp we talked about the "3 Zones" you could be in at any time: Comfort, Learning and Panic.  At camp we tried to avoid the Panic Zone, rescuing a kid from the top of a rock wall  is no fun for anyone. 

It is easy for us in our work and our personal lives to stagnate in our Comfort Zone.  Perform the same tasks the same way day after day.  Do the same dinner and a movie each Friday.  This is easy to do, but nothing gets better.

From a CI point of view we need to get beyond our Comfort Zone, and into the Learning Zone at least daily.  If it doesn't make you a bit nervous or uncertain you probably aren't truly out of your comfort zone. 

Currently I am having to delegate more work to my subordinates, and I  worry if the tasks will be performed correctly.  However this is an improvement within my group as it frees my time for larger more meaningful projects. 
Outside of work this blog and my new twitter account @P_R_McC are definitely "Learning Zone" activities for me.  I've avoided the Panic Zone, but sharing my thoughts in a public forum has yanked me from my Comfort Zone.  Look forward to sharing more with you as the journey continues.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Improvement Tip for the Day:  Set metrics.  Record results.

I sound like my boss.  I hate it, but unless you know where you are, you'll never see improvement.  This goes back to basic goal setting, be SMART with your CI.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Personal Continuous Improvement

5 min Taking the Kaizen concept to your personal life. 

You can get in contact with the speaker HERE

Monday, January 23, 2012

Buy In To The WHY

It is an interesting time at my work.  We are working to break a culture of "good enough."  From a role in the quality department this is exciting as we are leading many of the changes.  The counter to that is each change we implement must be sold to the entire team and both my team and I regularly run into stiff resistance to change.

Selling the change seems to be key as we move to improve.  Communicating the "why" and getting buy in from your key team members will help ease the transition.  Many times I see the resistance come from a feeling of management dictating what we will be doing moving forward.

As a manager or change agent you know who your key players are on the floor, get to them.  Explain the "why," for the company, and for them.  This communication is key, if they know why, they will explain it and sell it to their peers better than you ever could.  Buy in at this level, followed by effective training on the change, leads to successful implementation.