Creativity

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2013 by manufacturingtraining

We’ve been doing a lot of work in the engineering creativity area lately, and we’ve been published repeatedly in Design News and Product Design magazines.   When you have a chance, take a peek at these articles…

http://www.pddnet.com/blogs/2013/04/unleashing-engineering-creativity-concept-fans

http://www.pddnet.com/articles/2013/03/unleashing-engineering-creativity

http://www.pddnet.com/articles/2013/04/unleashing-engineering-creativity-nine-screens

http://www.pddnet.com/blogs/2013/03/unleashing-engineering-creativity-kano-model

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1365&doc_id=262284&page_number=2

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1365&doc_id=260565

It’s all interesting material, and it’s all related to finding innovative solutions to product and process creativity challenges.

Enjoy!

 

Unleashing Engineering Creativity

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , on January 12, 2013 by manufacturingtraining

That’s the title of our newest book (available here from Amazon.com).  We also offer focused creativity training available exclusively through www.Eogogics.com/create.

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In this latest book we explore the best techniques for stimulating creative thinking, creating new products, improving existing products, and solving design challenges.  Surprisingly, even those of us who are paid to be creative often need help.  Most of us lose much of our natural creativity by the time we finish high school, but we can regain it through the techniques included in Unleashing Engineering Creativity.  This is exciting and fun material, and Unleashing Engineering Creativity presents it in an interesting and engaging manner.

Many organizations and engineers rely on brainstorming as their primary creative and inventive tool, but this simplistic approach often fails to stimulate creativity in a meaningful way.  Unleashing Engineering Creativity goes far beyond brainstorming.  This book explores powerful new creativity stimulation approaches and provides recommendations for overcoming self-imposed obstacles.   The title says it all.  If you want to unleash your engineering creativity, this book will help you and your organization attain significant creativity improvements.

A Couple of Great Books

Posted in Manufacturing Improvement with tags , , , on August 25, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

I’ve recently read a couple of great books that I think should be required reading for anyone working in the manufacturing or engineering world.   One of these is Car Guys versus Bean Counters by Bob Lutz, a book I featured a few weeks ago in the California Scooter blog (it’s a blog I write for CSC Motorcycles, one of my clients).  With your permission, I’ll repeat part of that blog entry here.  The other book is The Gun, by C.J. Chivers.   I’ll get to that one a few paragraphs down.

I bought the Lutz book a few months ago when I saw it in an airport while I was on my way to Thailand to present a Manufacturing Leadership course.  Bob Lutz is a certifiable gearhead with the credentials and experience to back it up…he’s held very senior positions with Ford, BMW, Chrysler, and General Motors.  The book is mostly about GM, a company that rehired Lutz to help the company find its way again…which is another way of saying that Lutz’s new job was to conceive, develop, and make GM cars people would want.

A bit of history on this first…in the 1950s and 1960s, GM was ahead of the world in producing exciting cars.  Think 1955 Chevys, the Pontiac GTO, the Corvette, the Olds Toronado and Cadillac El Dorado, the 1959 Coupe de Ville, the SS 396 Chevelle, the El Camino, the Camaro, the Buick Riviera, and, well, you get the idea. It was the golden age for American automobiles and GM was at the top of the heap. Then the company lost its way, and the cars GM cranked out in the mid-70s and beyond were just awful.

Lutz explains that the reason GM fell from glory was not just the financial folks (the “bean counters” of the book’s title), but its pre-occupation with committee-based design efforts that bred a culture of mediocrity.  He makes a strong case for strong-willed leaders who design cars based on their instincts and a connection with the product, not what cost reduction, producibility, and all of the other “ilities” committees will approve.

The good news is that GM is on the way back, and I think you can see that in their new cars. I especially like what’s being offered by Cadillac and Chevy.   I drive a Z-06 and in my opinion there’s nothing more exciting.  It’s American made and it has the right style and sound.

The next book that I have even stronger feelings about is The Gun, by C.J. Chivers.  I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this book before when I read a review in the New York Times.   The New York Times is about as left-leaning a rag as ever existed and it had high praise for The Gun.   I reasoned that if the leftist Bloomberg lackies liked it, there had to be something there, so I went to Amazon and bought a copy.

The Times was right, but for the wrong reasons.

My impression is that the Times guys did little more than read the press release for The Gun, as all they really mentioned in their review was that the book told the story of the AK-47’s proliferation after the Soviet empire disintegrated.  The AK-47, of course, is the Kalashnikov-designed assault rifle that has become an iconic communist/terrorist/insurgency weapon.  The Gun makes the point that after the Soviet empire fell all eyes were on securing the Soviet nuclear arsenal, yet no Soviet nuclear weapon had ever killed anyone.  AK-47 rifles, however, were all over the world, and they had killed many people.   The production quantities were such that the Soviets could have issued 700 AK-47s to each of their soldiers.  They didn’t do that for obvious reasons…instead, the rifles proliferated and wound up in the hands of terrorists and other low-lifes all over the world.

While the above is interesting, it’s not what The Gun is all about.   The book should perhaps have been titled The Guns, because what it focuses on are the differences between the AK-47 and the US weapon designed in response to it…the M-16.   That, folks, is a fascinating story, and Chivers’ telling of it is masterful.   The producibility, reliability, and engineering tradeoffs made by Colt and Kalashnikov for each of these weapons are fascinating.  Colt focused on accuracy and precision, which made the early M-16s unreliable and less battle-worthy.   The AK-47 focused on reliability, low cost, easy producibility, and just enough accuracy to make the weapon deadly.   In the early Vietnam War days, there’s no question that the AK-47 was a superior rifle.   Chivers’ explanations and comparisons of these two rifles make for great reading, and we use The Gun in our failure analysis, cost reductionmanufacturing leadership, and engineering creativity courses for just that reason.

Manufacturing Delivery Performance Improvement

Posted in Manufacturing Improvement with tags , , , on July 5, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

Our newest book, Manufacturing Delivery Performance Improvement, is now available from Amazon.com!

If your company has ever struggled with shipping products on schedule, this book cuts through all the theory and software mysticism the MRP and ERP companies push…it’s what you need to know if you want to eliminate your delinquencies and stay on schedule.  It’s also the book we’ll be using in the University of Kansas online Manufacturing Performance course series, and you can learn more about the KU program right here.

Leaving money on the table…

Posted in Manufacturing Improvement with tags , , , on April 10, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

On the subject of drawing tolerances, many organizations leave a lot of money on the table.   This is an important area from both cost reduction and quality perspectives.  Here’s a question for  you:  How does your organization assign tolerances?

Common approaches for tolerance selection include the following:

  • In some organizations, tolerances are based on the nominal dimension.  Dimensions up to 1 inch might get a tolerance of ± 0.001 inch, dimensions up to 5 inches might get a tolerance of ± 0.01 inch, and everything above 5 inches might get a tolerance of ± 0.05 inch.  This makes the designer’s work easy, but it is a poor practice.
  • In some organizations, tolerances are based on decimal places.  If the designer specifies a nominal dimension of, say, 1.000 inch (3 decimal places), the tolerance for might be ± .001 inch (all 3-decimal-place dimensions are assigned a ± .001 inch tolerance).  If the designer specifies a nominal dimension of 1.00 inch (2 decimal places), the tolerance is ± .01 inch.  The tolerances are restricted to fixed steps, and it’s not likely the steps correspond to fit, function, or process capabilities.
  • In some cases, designers assign tight tolerances to parts in an effort to improve quality.  This practice is misguided and builds unnecessary cost into the product.
  • In some cases, the designers assess how the parts fit together, what the parts have to do, and how the parts will be manufactured, and base the tolerances on these factors.

That last approach is the best approach.  Based on our observations of many organizations, though, it’s not what usually happens.

Cost Reduction Opportunities

The best point for reducing cost is during the design process.   A good approach is to include the manufacturing folks in the design process, assess the production approach as designs emerge, and identify processes and process capabilities for each part.  It’s the engineering organization’s responsibility to select dimensions and assign tolerances that will assure fit and function; it’s the manufacturing organization’s responsibility to raise a red flag where tight tolerances mandate expensive processes or a high likelihood of nonconformances.

If you didn’t do the above during the design process any you have tightly-toleranced parts in production, you can still reduce cost by targeting unnecessarily-tight tolerances.  Here’s a recommended approach:

  • Talk to your QA and manufacturing people.   They’ll be able to identify parts and dimensions that cause frequent rejections.   Where this situation exists, evaluate relaxing the tolerances.
  • Look for “use as is” dispositions on nonconforming parts (trust me on this…your manufacturing people will know where this is occurring).  If a “use as is” disposition is the acceptable, it’s likely the tolerance on the nonconforming dimension can be relaxed.
  • Talk to your purchasing folks.   They can reach out to the supplier community and ask the same kinds of questions.   This is a particularly important area to explore, because in most manufacturing organizations approximately 70% of the cost of goods sold flows through the purchasing organization.  You may not know without asking how many parts your suppliers are rejecting; all you’ll see are the costs buried in what you have to pay for the parts.   The best way to ask the question is the most direct:   What are we doing that’s driving your costs?  The suppliers know, and they’re usually eager to answer the question.

All of the above is associated with cost reduction, but that’s not the only place where inappropriately-toleranced parts create problems.  In many cases, dimensioning and tolerancing practices can induce system-level failures.    That’s another fascinating area, and we’ll address it in a future blog entry.

Would you like to know more about cost reduction opportunities you act on right now?  Consider our cost reduction training programs, or take a look at our most recent book, Cost Reduction and Optimization for Manufacturing and Industrial Companies!

Posted in Manufacturing Improvement with tags , , on April 1, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

If you work in manufacturing, I know you have been inundated with cute titles for quality and productivity improvement programs for decades:

  • Zero defects (that one made a few guys in Winter Haven wealthy)
  • TQM (does anyone use that term any more?)
  • 6σ (we are fascinated by Greek letters and martial arts belts)
  • 5 Whys (hey, why not?)
  • 5S (in both English and Japanese, no less!)
  • Lean (perhaps picking up on our anti-obesity predilection?)

And many, many more. You get the idea.

Over the last three or four decades I’ve watched all of the above with some detachment and great amusement.  Much of what’s included in these programs is the same; the titles are simply new wrappings around old ideas.  But the old ideas still make sense.  Process improvement.  Scrap reduction. Clean workplaces.  Reduced setup times.  Straight-line manufacturing.  The list goes on.  My challenge to you is this: Find something in any of the above programs that didn’t originate in basic manufacturing/industrial management concepts…concepts that go all the way back to the Industrial Revolution and Frederick Taylor.  I’d be interested in hearing your comments.

The above notwithstanding, I’d like to weigh in with a program of my own.  I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s got to be simple.  It needs a Greek letter to lend an air of the esoteric and perhaps make it sound needlessly scientific (although I promise you, it won’t be either).  It needs to offer a catchy way to package Mr. Taylor’s key concepts.  It needs to be marketable.  And it needs to be focused on improving manufacturing, quality, and profitability.

Here we go:  7 Pi.

Yep. I originally started out with 6P, but then I realized I was leaving out an important P, and P didn’t sound as cool as Pi, or ππ, as you know, is the Greek letter for P.

About now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what this is all about.  The focus here is delivery performance improvement, or getting and staying on schedule as a manufacturer.  If you’ve ever run a plant that was behind schedule, you know how tough life can be.  And if your plant is on schedule, you know that quality and profitability are going to be okay (trust me on this, I’ve seen it happen in the plants I’ve run and in the ones I’ve advised).  Staying on schedule is critical.  If you can do that, everything else falls into place.  And if you do everything you need to do to be on schedule, everything is in place.

So, here we go…the 7 Pi’s for delivery performance improvement:

  • People
  • Product
  • Process
  • Procurement
  • Productivity
  • Production Control
  • caPacity

I know, I fudged it a little on that last one, but that’s the only bit of artistic license I’ll take here.  Watch the ManufacturingTraining blog, folks, because we’re going to explore each of our 7π’s in the coming weeks!

Precision…

Posted in Manufacturing Improvement with tags , on March 22, 2012 by manufacturingtraining

One of my clients, knowing my interests in high-quality watches and precision production operations, sent this very cool Tag-Heuer video to me…

Enjoy; I know I sure did!