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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 Closeness Rating Analysis (CRA) helps plan a flow-oriented layout.

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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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Lean in Harley-Davidson: Launching the Harley-Davidson Operating System

Harley-Davidson! …no need for more introduction. This week, I toured the assembly plant in York—the biggest of four H-D manufacturing plants in the US. Together with H-D tattooed bikers with close-fit leather vests, I had the great opportunity of seeing the factory from inside. Harley is well-known for the feelings it evokes in its customer base, and the H-D culture is an unavoidable teaching case in any marketing course. Few other products better symbolize the American dream. Therefore, my question when visiting the York plant was naturally: is it an American dream factory?

Harley-Davidson Factory in York, PA

Harley-Davidson Factory in York, PA, offers free tours (Photo: better-operations.com)

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The Honeywell Operating System (HOS) reports flourishing success

In a recent article, The Economist explains how the electronic giant Honeywell International transformed “from bitter to sweet” over the last eight years following an XPS strategy. In my research I search for evidence for how and why corporate production systems (XPS) succeed and/or fail. The Honeywell article paints a picture of how the Honeywell Operating System (HOS) literally saved the company from bankruptcy and turned it into a multi-billion profit machine. Although the evidence is anecdotal, the managers interviewed in the article provide convincing statements of XPS success:

By working smarter, an XPS can reward you with a well of honey.

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ZipCar: Car sharing for the future

I have two Volvo S40, two BMW 328xi, a Toyota Tacoma Pickup, a Cooper Mini, a Mazda 3, a KIA Soul, and a Ford Escape in my garage. Best of all; I pay less that $20 a year to get access all of them as much as I want. They get washed and cleaned, and I never bother about repairs or maintenance. I pay for use and don’t even worry about gas prices or toll stations. I’m a Zipster by ZipCar. You can be one too!

ZipCar Volvo

My car this weekend – Volvo S40 from ZipCar (c)tnetland

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Copper Fox Distillery: Yummy micro-brewed American whiskey

Yes, I gladly admit; I enjoy a good whiskey. That’s also why it was such a great pleasure to get a first-hand insight into whiskey production at the small family-driven Copper Fox Distillary in Sperryville, Virginia, yesterday. This distillary is the result of a man following his dream and capitalising on its hometowns strength in quality apple trees. His small-batch, hand-made whiskey differs from others as the first applewood chip-aged whiskey in the world. I’ve been to large distillaries and breweires earlier, but for us who know whiskey largely as end-consumers, a micro distillery offer the opportunity to study and learn the processes far better than the giants.

How pleasant to breathe in the angle’s share of Copper Fox Distillery…

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Starbucks: Shoot for the stars, earn a lot of bucks

Starbucks Coffee Company: A success story unprecedented. Out of Seattle, WA, grew the largest coffee shop chain the world has ever seen. Today it has more than 12.500 coffee shops in  the US. The  international expansion started with a shop in Tokyo in 1996.  In 2012 it has more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries. That’s 5000 more shops than Burger King and half of McDonald’s number; this is even more impressive knowing that most Starbucks shops are owned by it and not franchised (!). In these days, Norway gets its first Starbucks shop as it opens at Gardermoen Oslo Airport [1] (though, Starbucks coffee could have been bought in Norwegian retail markets since February 2011). These people sell coffee. Coffee! What kind of operational principles can turn such an every-day product into a billion dollar company?

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Ben & Jerry’s: Top 14 ice creams from a peculiar company

OK, I gladly admit; this post is more a fun post than a discipline post in operations management… Just like the products from Ben & Jerry’s are much more fun than many other manufactured products. Here’s my list of 14 favorites (yes, they are all favorites). Which are yours?

Photo: Ben & Jerry’s pints of fun: No. 9, No. 11 and No. 5 of 14 tested flavors

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Walmart: Delivers

Walmart – the world’s biggest private employer – gives jobs to 2.1 miilion people worldwide. That is close to the complete Norwegian workforce (2.5 mill in 2011, SSB)… Walmart is now and then subject to critique and their products are usually mocked as low quality. I’m testing this out. My hypothesis will be that Walmart gives relatively more value for the bucks than most other retailers out there. How else could they become so hugely successful?

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