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.
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.
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.
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.
Are certain national cultures better suited to implement lean thinking? In this post, I reflect on the role of national cultures in the roll-out of a corporate lean program.
Where do the next battles stand for multinational manufacturing firms? The annual Cambridge International Manufacturing Symposium provides some answers.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
A report from POMS 2013 in Denver
Are Lean and Six Sigma relevant for the 21st Century Manufacturing? An answer to this—and thousand other questions—is being suggested at the annual POMS Conference in Denver, Colorado, this week.
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.
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!
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?
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.
Visiting more than 40 factories all over the world this year, I have seen both good and not-so-good practices for hosting factory visits. In this post, I share some learning points: here are ten best practices for factory tours.
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!
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 Closeness Rating Analysis (CRA) helps plan a flow-oriented layout.
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.