Archive for December, 2019

Manual Manufacturing Work

Posted on: December 8th, 2019 by admin No Comments

Manual Manufacturing and Assembly

We take time to ensure the product is able to be built consistently.  We do our best to make the manual work as infrequent as possible and where we are unable to eliminate manual work, we design the product in ways to ensure a repeatable and reliable outcome from the work.   For example, we need an LED to have a certain defined distance from the printed circuit board to allow the LED to protrude just right through the enclosure lid.  To get that defined stand off, we use…a……standoff.  The problem comes when that effort does not produce the results we wish.

Error in Manufacturing

In this case the first production run produces the product with this installed spacer in the desired way that meets the fit needs. The problem comes when the next batch is run on the manufacturing line. The errors that came from the first batch production run, were not found in the first iteration.  However, in this batch, what once worked, does not, resulting in the a product that left without correction, would sound like a maraca.  The LED was supposed to be pushed down, the electrical connections going through the board until the bottom of the LED, fits snug against the top of the spacer. This guarantees the lid of the product attaches to the box, while allowing the LED to protrude through the enclosure to provide the user with feedback (LED has green and red elements).

Sort of makes you think “how well was the explanation of the reason for the standoff, and training as to how to assemble the product.  The customer was wondering about whether they should just correct the problem, but make known to the supplier that the problem occurred.  Another option, is to send the product back to the supplier for them to see the failure and come up with corrective actions to eliminate this failure from future shipments.


This is an opportunity for the manufacturing organization to learn, and simply telling the supplying manufacturer is not really much of an opportunity for learning.  Sending the parts back, allows the supplier to explore the part, and the way the part went through the manufacturing line, with special attention to the area wherein the defect was introduced, the manual work area. This is not about punishment, it is about learning from the error, understanding the importance of  this seemingly trivial attribute of the product.


Manchester TQM for Project Management

Posted on: December 2nd, 2019 by admin No Comments

TQM for Project Management- and the PMO

I recently had a phone call from the acquisition editor at Taylor and Francis, John Wyzalek.  He informed me that a book we wrote a couple of years back (Total Quality Management for Project Management), is being used at Manchester Metropolitan University, and gave me the contact information of the lady creating and teaching the class, Maria.  I have had a few calls with Maria Kapsali since then that have been very interesting.

We discussed how the Total Quality Management tools can help us avoid deluding ourselves.  However, at least equally important if not more so, is having a team come to some common understanding of what is being witnessed.  The discussion pointed us to how to evoke ideas of the source of some of the issues being witnessed.  For example, we explored starting with the brainstorming tool often associated with Total Quality Management, the Ishikawa Diagram or fishbone diagram.  The students had a project associated with the coursework, and the Ishikawa exercise is to be directed at that project would allow the students to discover areas of potential concerns within the project.

I had ruminated with Tom Cagley on how to encourage cross exploration of the students, and we ended up discussing Planning Poker.  Those of you that have been around us long know we have frequent discussions with Tom Cagley for his SPAMCast and the thought of kicking ideas around with him would be productive, and it was.    I wanted to find a way to use these cards to demonstrate what cannot be readily seen by each of the students, those unvoiced assumptions and unknown mental models.   I have used planning poker quite a few times in team interactions and in classes as an estimating technique, but more than that, a technique for uncovering underlying thoughts and assumptions, or perhaps as Peter Senge referred to it as mental models.  Left unexposed, there is no way to challenged or critiqued, or otherwise assess veracity.  We do not know what others truly think, or how they arrive at the conclusions they do unless we get the thinking out in the open.  The discussion with Tom was very productive, and we thought exploration of the severity or probability of those items uncovered via the Ishikawa exploration.  In this way, the students will not only learn how to use the tools, but also learn the importance of those things that cannot be easily seen or measured, our team mates thinking and why.

As important as measurements and the Total Quality Management tools are, it is even more important to understand why we, all of our team members, think they way they do, how did the arrive at their perspective, and is it an accurate view. With a diversity perspective, we learn that a square is in fact a box or a circle is a sphere.  This is the benefit of diversity of thought, but we benefit from this only when we encourage and take time to understand and explore this diversity.

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