Is 3D printing revolutionizing supply chains?

Countless newspaper articles, tech blogs, and proclaimed experts argue that 3D printing is about to turn manufacturing supply chains on the head. There is little doubt that additive manufacturing (the more precise term for 3D printing) will have its impact, but it will be limited to niches for many years to come. The more interesting question is to identify and transform the 3D print-ready niches.

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The Routledge Companion to Lean Management wins the Shingo Research Award

Terrific news! It is a great honor to receive the prestigious Shingo Research Award for the Routledge Companion to Lean Management, co-edited with Dr. Daryl Powell and published with Routledge earlier this year.

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Five rules of productivity improvement

If I should explain my research in two words, I would say “improving productivity”. That was also the title of my inaugural lecture at ETH Zurich today. In the lecture, I presented five rules of productivity improvement, which I summarize in this post. The full inaugural lecture is available here (lecture starts at 7 min 30 sec):

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The 3 Ls of lean management

The Routledge Companion to Lean Management has hit the book shelves. Here is a summary of its main conclusions. The key message? Any lean transformation—regardless of the sector and application area—is dependent on the three essential Ls of lean: Leadership for Long-term Learning.

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Augmented Reality: Ready for manufacturing industries?

In a series of posts, I will put the spotlight on technologies that eventually will change how we manufacture and deliver products and services. My objective is to demystify the “fourth industrial revolution”— Industry 4.0 — by looking at the specific technologies it concerns. First out is Augmented Reality.

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Manufacturing Cost Deployment: How to select the right projects

How do firms prioritize and select improvement projects? Unfortunately, the usual method is a combination of guess and chance. Few companies are able to compute the real return on investment from proposed projects, and select the better ones through a rigorous decision process. This is not a trivial problem, but an important one: Many firms spend much money on useless improvements — fixing issues that are non-critical or have low or no effect on factory performance. In these firms, middle managers battle for the attention and investments of senior management by writing up speculative “business cases” for their proposed improvement projects. Few of these firms have heard about Manufacturing Cost Deployment — a structured method for selecting the right improvement project.

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Organizing academic conferences: Behind the scenes of EurOMA 2016

We have just finished organizing the 23rd EurOMA 2016 conference at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. The European Operations Management Association (EurOMA) is the premier European association for academics in the fields of production management, operations management, and supply chain management. The EurOMA conference is hosted by a European university late June every year and draws around 500 participants from all over the world. Two years ago, NTNU won the bid for the 2016 conference – and we set an ambitious goal of organizing a flawless and unforgettable experience for all attendants. Although EurOMA offers an appropriate manual for organizing these events, someone still has to do the job… Here are some key learning points from our side.

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Lean implementation tactics

Managers encounter a number of tactical questions in their lean journeys that call for decisions and actions. For example, should we have a “lean team”? Should we track lean implementation using bottom-up structures or top-down audit schemes? Should we offer financial and non-financial rewards for lean implementation to employees? These questions were recently answered in the research paper “Implementing corporate lean programs: The effect of management control practices,” by J. Schloetzer, K. Ferdows and myself, published in the Journal of Operations Management. This post* gives a summary.

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Academic life explained by WuMO

Oh, you’re an “academic”… but what exactly are you doing? Among my favorite cartoonists are Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler, who together write WuMO. Here are eight handpicked WuMo cartoons that explain the essence of academic life. Enjoy!


WuMo ©WulffMorgenthaler. Reprinted with permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

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Five critical success factors for implementing lean programs

Two out of three lean programs fail to achieve their initial objectives. My latest research asked 432 practitioners from 83 factories in two multinational corporations what they see as critical factors for succeeding with lean implementation. The research summarized five critical success factors for implementing lean programs that managers must get right. Is your organization on track?

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5S done right

5S. Five short Japanese words, each beginning with an “S”. The majority of employees in the industrial sector, and increasingly in the public sector, have heard about the “5Ss”. The problem? The vast majority of companies trying to “implement” 5S fails, and does so repeatedly. Many mistakes it as a concept for cleaning and tidying up—boring but necessary activities for any professional business. This post* takes a closer look at each of the five S-words, and finds that many of us might have missed the point.

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Lean in the primary school?

Do concepts from the assembly line at Toyota apply to the learning environment of children from six to twelve years? One pioneering school in Rogaland, Norway, shows how some elements of lean thinking can be successfully adapted to create better conditions for teaching and learning.

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Poor performance? The problem is you! (A review of Lead with respect)

“The problem is you”, is the honest response of a senior manager when a supplier’s CEO asks more time to solve a quality issue. He continues: “I don’t mean you as in the company. I mean you personally. You’re the senior manager here”…. This is the intriguing start of a business novel on lean leadership. Here is my brief review of Lead with Respect: a Novel of Lean Practice by Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé.

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Lean broadcasting: Lean in the BBC

A service you probably consume every single day is broadcasting. Can lean principles help the broadcasting industry produce better value for the audience – and do so more efficiently and more effectively than today? Admittedly, I had never thought about broadcasting as a new application area for lean, but clearly it is coming. This post looks at lean broadcasting, where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a first mover.

Lean broadcasting_BBC Spark_

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Liker on Lean Leadership

Why do most firms fail in their lean transformations? Because they have not understood the power of lean leadership, says Professor Jeffrey Liker. I spent the last two days together with the Norwegian aluminum producer Hydro ASA, listening to and learning from Liker. Here is a brief reflection on the essentials of lean leadership.

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The top-ten Dilbert cartoons on lean

Is your organization struggling to implement lean or any similar process improvement program? This post presents the 10 best Dilbert cartoons on lean management.* Scott Adams’ brilliant and popular cartoons provide a reality check for any change agent involved in process improvement. Next time, ask yourself: What would Dilbert do?

#10 Develop a long-term corporate lean program
Dilbert lean TQM Six Sigma 10

DILBERT © 2006 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.

Restarting a new improvement program every quarter or year? The only ones wagging their tails are the consultants. Instead, develop a lasting corporate lean program—and stick with it for a long time.

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10 benefits of lean games

How can we boost the learning experience when teaching lean production? Admittedly, presentations and monologues from the front of the classroom are rarely something people remember for a long time. Learning can be greatly improved by using games and simulations, which provides the learner first-hand experience in lean and its benefits.

The Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

My own Volvo Trucks Lego Lean Game played at a MBA course in Norway

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A Letter of Tribute to Fred Kavli

On this day, exactly one year ago, one great Norwegian passed: Fred Kavli (1927-2013) was an engineer, entrepreneur, leader and—most importantly—a philanthropist. On my way to work, whether it is here in Cambridge or home in Trondheim, I pass one of his many living legacies. In Trondheim, it would be the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience  at NTNU (with fresh Nobel Prize winners in Medicine). In Cambridge it is the Kavli Institute for Cosmology. Both these examples are beneficiaries of Kavli’s passion for science, and both perform high-risk, world-class research in their respective areas. Mr. Kavli certainly deserves a letter of tribute.

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Factory response to a corporate lean program: The 4A model

How do factories respond when the headquarters of a multinational firm rolls out a “new” corporate lean program? In a paper in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management*, Professor Arild Aspelund and I propose that factories can respond in four generic ways; explained by the “4A model”.

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Making operations fly – what business can learn from pilots

I am still smiling. On my flight from Oslo to Rome this weekend, I was asked to sit in the cockpit. I gladly accepted. My seat ticket read C01 – Cockpit 1. In a fully seated Boeing 737-800, the captain and copilot of SK4713 showed me how to get 194 passengers safely and timely from far north to the south of Europe in about three hours. I could not possibly get a better start on my travel to the annual conference of the European Operations Management Association, this time in Palermo, Sicily. For a scholar of operations, it was truly inspiring to get a first-hand view of how the aviation industry operates. What can other industries learn from aviation? A lot, for sure. Here are five quick reflections from my flight over Europe.

SAS cockpit operations

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Implementing the Volvo Production System in a truck plant

To follow up my previous post about the effect of implementing lean in the global Volvo Group, here’s one short story of the implementation of the Volvo Production System (VPS) in the truck assembly plant in New River Valley, Virginia, USA.

Mr. Ebly Sanchez presents the Volvo Production System, POMS Atlanta May 2014

Mr. Ebly Sanchez presents the Volvo Production System at POMS Atlanta May 2014 (Photo: author).

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Do Lean Programs Pay Off?

Multinational companies roll out lean programs or XPSs. The objective is to improve the operational performance of all the factories in the global network. The party killer? It is documented that about 70 % of all general change programs fail [1], and similar figures has been suggested for lean [2]. So, do lean programs really pay off?

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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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