A speech from a PhD to fellow PhDs

The annual Doctoral Degree Awards Ceremony has just been ceremoniously arranged at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), in Trondheim. I got the great honor of giving the Fellow Speech to the 370 new Doctors of Philosophy (PhDs). This post is an excerpt of this speech. It is a call for PhDs—in any field—to use their hard-won knowledge to contribute to a better society.

NTNU Doctoral Degree Award Cermony 2014

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Beer and Bullwhip: What happens as you drink?

Do you know the far-reaching implications of you ordering a non-regular beer in a bar? I mean, in addition to all the personal pleasures (and problems) that may follow? If you have ever played the Beer Game* you know what I’m talking about: The Bullwhip Effect. When you create small variations in customer demand you start a chain-reaction of amplifying variations upstream the supply chain**. Follow me to the bar. Continue reading

A gold standard lean production system: the Madshus Business System

It is Winter Olympics in Sochi. The world’s best winter sport athletes use world-class winter sport equipment to fight for honor and gold. Just like the athletes use exercise regimens to become stronger and quicker, equipment manufacturers can deploy lean production programs to better their production. This post highlights a gold standard lean production system developed by a leading sports equipment manufacturer.

Lean sports

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The Concept Epicenters of Lean, TQM, Six Sigma & co

When it comes to improving production, a standard question is this one: What are the differences between Lean, Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, Agile, Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM), and all the other prescribed improvement programs? Underlying the question is a rational need to find a way to navigate through the jungle of “solutions”, and select the one(s) that fit exactly your firm. In this blog post, I suggest that considering “Concept Epicenters” might be helpful in making the right strategic choices.

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How to defend your PhD dissertation

So, I made it. Yiihaa! Four years culminating into one day. My first post as a fresh Doctor in Operations Management will be my reflections on giving the defense. I hope the thoughts will be somewhat helpful or comforting for all those shivering PhD candidates yet to come. One thing’s for sure; I’ve got respect for the process. A PhD defense is – and should be – a serious ceremony. Yet, it can be one of the best days in life. These tips and tricks on how to defend your PhD dissertation are not just my own; many thanks to all the professors at NTNU who shared their advice with me. I’ll pay it forward.

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Chess mate! What does chess have to do with operations strategy?

What’s the most usual image for strategy? Google Pictures leaves no doubt: Chess! These days, the FIDE World Chess Championship is held in Chennai, India. The reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand is playing on home ground against the Norwegian chess wonder Magnus Carlsen. In this regard, one of the readers of my blog asked me to explore the question: What does chess have to do with operation strategy?

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Go Lean, get Green?

Good news*: your operations can reach excellence in both Lean and Green. But to hope for success you need to treat Lean and Green as interconnected strategies—not isolated projects. That tip is a key take away from the SMARTLOG seminar “Lean & Green? Yes please both” that we arranged at SINTEF in Trondheim this week. Leading academics and corporations** in Scandinavia were invited to share their latest experiences on the topic. Do Lean and Green go well together?

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Factory Beauty: Does looks impact performance?

Factories are like people; they come in all shapes and looks—some more attractive than others. There is no doubt that a good looking factory is nice for workers and visitors, but does it also have a significant impact on the plant’s operational and financial performances? How much should management care about factory beauty?

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Factory Fitness: What managers can learn from Athletics

This week, the 2013 IAAF World Championships in athletics is held in Moscow, Russia. If plant managers watch carefully, they might pick up a few ideas for improving their factories. A specific concept that comes to mind is the notion of Factory Fitness – proposed by Kasra Ferdows (Georgetown University) and Fritz Thurnheer (Hydro ASA) in 2011. The key take away is the following: Whereas becoming lean is right for many, becoming fit is right for all. How to become world champion depends on the event.

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Why you should run your production as a rope team…or maybe not

Climbing the highest mountain in Northern Europe, a few thoughts on the Theory of Constraints came to my mind. To get to Galdhøpiggen, 2469 meters above sea level, the most common route takes you over a glacier where rope teams are used for safety reasons. In his must-read book “the Goal”, Eli Goldratt (1984) uses rope teams to illustrate an efficient production system. Let’s discuss why you should run your production as a rope team… and why not.

In rope team towards Galdhøpiggen, Norway, 21-7-2013

In rope team towards Galdhøpiggen, Norway, 21-7-2013

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This is lean!

A book review of This is lean!

‘If lean is everything that is good, and everything good is lean, what is then the alternative?’ Niklas Modig and Pär Åhlström ask this timely question  in their book This is lean. The authors go on to suggest what lean is, and what it is not. But, at Amazon.com there are more than 7000 books on lean, why should you read this one?

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The World Class Manufacturing programme at Chrysler, Fiat & Co.

The company-specific production system (XPS) of Chrysler is the World Class Manufacturing (WCM) concept, developed by the Fiat Group in 2006. But, what exactly is the WCM? And, what does Chrysler see as keys to success in WCM?

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Colouring the country of black and white: Wadja Inc. in Saudi Arabia

I have just returned from an excellent visit to Saudi Arabia, researching the implementation of ‘lean production‘ in a successful multinational company that produces the world’s highest quality of paints and paint systems. Going there, I heard that Saudi Arabia would be totally different than anything I’ve visited before. It was, and it was not. This post is about how foreign companies contribute to Saudi’s wealth and development, and slowly improves women’s rights through cultural exchange and mutual understanding. These companies and their expats colour the ‘country of black and white’.

Country of black and white

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Three fishes for Uganda: why Africa struggles to industrialise

‘The pearl of Africa’, as Sir Churchill once called Uganda, has yet to enjoy a rapid economic growth. That’s a challenge that Uganda shares with the majority of African countries. Multiple reasons for the African growth inertia have been suggested; unstable political environments, low education levels and insufficient infrastructure are usual suspects. The main reason for the slow industrialisation of Uganda, however, is neither political nor economical, it is cultural. This week in Kampala, Dr. Peter Lating at Makerere University, explained me the Ugandan mindset with a brilliant—and reportedly true—story.  The story deserves to be shared, and it goes like this:

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Company-wide Quality Management: XPS of the 80s

When it comes to quality management, there are surprising similarities between what was suggested in the 80s and what we barely have seen the start of in industry today. In this post, I discuss how Juran’s CWQM-concept from the mid-1980s is both valid and useful for companies rolling out global production improvement programs today.

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Kudos to the quality gurus

What do the quality gurus of the 80s think when they read the modern literature on lean & co? Have we moved beyond their original ideas? Or do we just say the same things using fancy, new words? While preparing a paper for the TQM Journal, I recently re-discovered the wisdom of the 80s. And what a wisdom! This is far too important knowledge to discard as blasts from the past; the ideas of Juran, Taguchi, Garvin, Crosby, Shingo, Deming, Feigenbaum and Ishikawa remain fundamental for competitiveness. In this post, I briefly explain the key contributions of each of the top-eight quality gurus. Kudos to the gurus!

Quality gurus books

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Moods of Norway towards global transparency and happier people

This week I drove through one of the most beautiful corners of this world; Nordfjord in the Norwegian west coast. There—in the rich and peaceful countryside—problems in China’s and India’s factories seem far, far away. But they really aren’t. Nordfjord is home to several successful apparel companies: Ricco Vero, Skogstad and Frislid are famous in Norway and beyond. Best known of all, however, is the iconic Moods of Norway. After repeated pressure from consumers and a Norwegian NGO, Moods of Norway has finally gone public with list of their worldwide suppliers [1-3]. That’s a good start, but not enough! It is admirable that they want to make “happy clothes for happy people”—but do they want to make people happy?

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Why my mother drives a Toyota: The Toyota Production System

My mother just got her new car. After driving a problematic Renault for many years, she decided to go for a Toyota Yaris. That’s an excellent choice for her needs. Despite Toyota’s recent recalls, it continues to deliver the best quality at the best price. The choice of the Toyota  also gives me a good opportunity to eventually write about an essential core of my research: The Toyota Production System—the mother of all XPSs.

toyota yaris

My mother’s new Toyota Yaris

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Extreme quality for extreme conditions: The Kongsberg Group likes NTNU

Why do 9 corporate presidents and 20 other high-ranked employees from one company hand out buns and coffee at my university today? Surely they made my morning more pleasant, but that doesn’t deliver the shareholder’s return on investment. Or will it… in the long run? This company believes students are more important than one day of business-as-usual. This is the story of why quality starts at the university for a world-leading Norwegian firm: The Kongsberg Group.

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Waving the Swedish flag in the Manufacturing World Cup

The winter sport season has barely started as Norway’s victorious skier, Petter Northug, kicks off his mockery season of our neighbor to the east: Sweden. A few days ago, in the Cross Country World Cup in Gällivare, Sweden, Northug passed the finishing line first—before Sweden—and with a Swedish flag. As the anchorman in the Norwegian cross-country relay team, he made sure that Norway won over Sweden at their home ground once again—and took great care that they knew… At the same time, I spent my third week in Sweden this year. As a student of business, I know that Sweden is a world champion in a “sport” that isn’t publicly celebrated but matters thousand times more than cross-country skiing: Manufacturing!

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Making veggies flow in Macedonia: Better layout with Closeness Rating Analysis

This autumn, a brand new  food factory opened in the small town Gevgelija in Southern Macedonia. The successful entrepreneur Viktor Petkov has since 1992 built a viable company that employs over 100 persons during peak season. His company, Vipro, produces organic food from fruits and vegetables. In September, Vipro ceremoniously opened their new facilities. My colleague Lars Skjelstad and I were invited to join as “guests of honour” because we have assisted Vipro in planning the new factory layout. In this post I tell how a simple excel based tool helps plan a flow-oriented layout.

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Applying Program Management Theory to XPS

This post is an excerpt of my newly published paper ”Managing strategic improvement programs: the XPS program management framework”, published in the peer-reviewed and open-access Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management (Vol. 3, No. 1). The complete paper is available for download at my publications pages.

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Can ERP support the implementation of lean production?

Yesterday, my colleague Daryl Powell successfully defended his PhD thesis titled “Investigating ERP Support for Lean Production” at the Department of Production and Quality Engineering at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Over the last three years, Powell’s research has received much interest from the international Operations Management research community and from industrial companies struggling with the mismatch between lean production and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning systems). Is lean production and ERP solutions for pull production mutually exclusive?

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Nissan Production Way: A better alternative to TPS?

I have visited three former Nissan Diesel factories in Japan this week (today owned by a foreign multinational). The plants operate according to the Nissan Diesel Production System—a bi-product of the famous Nissan Production Way (NPW). I believe that too many lean-lovers focus too heavily on the Toyota Production System (TPS), and know too little about alternative approaches to world-class production. The core idea of an XPS is exactly that the X should be tailored to the company, and not be a TPS-blueprint. In fact, the NPW might provide a better benchmark for many Western manufacturers than the TPS…

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The bus driver from Bangalore: Making chaos flow

Respect for the Bangalorian bus driver—who probably has the world’s toughest job.  While I visit Volvo factories in Bangalore this week, I feel the pulse of a thriving city that literally bursts into the streets with all its energy. The traffic in India’s third largest city is straightforward d r e a d f u l. Continuous honking seems to be the most important trick to come ahead and stay alive. In this total chaos of noise, pollution, people and vehicles, I am surprised to find the traffic flowing surprisingly swiftly. How do the Bangalorians create flow of mere chaos?

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Academy of Management safari in Boston (@AOM Annual Meeting 2012)

In the book Strategy Safari, management guru Henry Mintzberg said that no single perspective or theory can sufficiently cover strategy (or management) as a field; the field is an elephant that requires many eyes and minds to properly understand [1]. Mintzberg is one of the speakers at the Academy of Management (AOM) annual meeting in Boston this weekend. But he’s not alone: more than 11.000 people (!) choose to spend the best time of the year in clammy conference rooms to present and discuss their incomplete opinions on management. (This is the point where I would make a funny remark about that, but the joke would literally be on me). At this mammoth conference, the elephant of management is—for the 72nd time—under attack.

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