Brainstorming

Brainstorming and Cost Improvement

The brainstorming technique is attributed to Alex Faickney Osborne as explained in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination. The technique arose from frustration with the inability of employees to develop creative solutions for problems. Personal experience suggests this is a valuable tool when deployed appropriately and the guidelines are followed. If we populate the team with diverse backgrounds we can see ideas build on other ideas very rapidly.

To really find the areas for cost improvement we must let go of our mental impediments to uncovering these opportunities. It is very probable that there are plenty of cost improvement possibilities. However, in our daily work execution we may not find the time to free our minds to consider these possibilities. A brainstorming exercise can go far to fuel the imagination, to open a “space” to think laterally at what may be possible. We have successfully employed this technique to:

Reduce costs Generate intellectual property Reduce weight for … Continue reading

Reducing Cost – Homegrown Way.

To really find the areas for cost improvement we must let go of our mental impediments to uncovering these opportunities. It is very probable that there are plenty of cost improvement possibilities. However, in our daily work execution we may not find the time to free our minds to consider these possibilities. A brainstorming exercise can go far to fuel the imagination, to open a “space” to think laterally at what may be possible. We have successfully employed this technique to: Continue reading

WBS and Project Budgets

Recently, I was in a conversation with a project manager whose organization had just made a radical alteration to their manner of handling work breakdown structure. There is a connection between the work breakdown structure and the financial tracking for the project. Ideally, there is an immediate connection between the WBS and the expenditures for the individual WBS element.

We have written about the WBS and demonstrated the use of tools such as WBS Planner in past blog posts. We demonstrated how the WBS is the breakdown of the activities for a portion and ultimately for the entire project – at least by the phase in the life cycle.

However, that is not end of the usefulness of the WBS.  Besides being able to assign specific individuals for specific activities as the WBS identifies, this breakdown facilitates estimating activities as well.  Having the person responsible for the work to be involved in the estimating process helps with … Continue reading

Product Life-Cycle – The Development Phase

In the development phase of the product development life cycle, we are generating ideas for the product. We see opportunities in the market place and wish to explore if we can capitalize (not a vulgar word) upon these opportunities.  Perhaps a new technology has become available to us.  Our organization will want to investigate the application of that technology toward existing businesses. Maybe it is a new market. Perhaps the organization is looking from an entirely new application perspective. At any rate this phase starts off by idea generation and rigorous critique of those ideas to guide the development to the product (or eliminate the idea of the product).

This critique is facilitated via prototyping and reviews of designs. Concurrently with the development of the product we will develop our manufacturing capabilities and critique that development work as well.  All of which, will guide our design or final product instantiation and manufacturing processes.

We will also need to get some … Continue reading

Manufacturing Quality Assurance Activities

Manufacturing plays a BIG Role in Product Quality

We have spent some energy on the development of the product design, discussing the sorts of activities we will undertake to assure the product quality.  A quality design without the ability to produce the desired quality product is one-half of the solution.  Therefore, just like our design specific activities we have actions we take to mature the manufacturing line, assess the capability, and continue to grow the line capability.

Manufacturing Quality Activities

A few examples of the types of activities that happen during the manufacturing are[1]:

Packaging Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis Floor Plan Layout Process Flow Chart Work Station Instructions Poke Yoke Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility Run at Rate Trial Production Runs Measurement System Analysis Process (Production) Verification Control Charts Manufacturing Activity and Quality and Risk

Each of these activities has a particular objective or risk mitigating benefit.  Packaging ensures we can deliver the product from the point … Continue reading

Design Quality Assurance Activities

In our last blog post, we referred to the APQP  (Advanced Product Quality Planning) activity of DFMEA.  The post was about the attempt to perform late in a project.  The point to the DFMEA in that instance was lost; at best, if we found a serious problem, would be to abort the launch.  The post was mostly about asking the stakeholder for more money and time when that effort would largely be wasted.

More Quality Activities

The DFMEA is not the only activity prescribed by APQP for the design and development effort.  That was but one example of the actions we take to secure the product quality. The entire list of quality assurance actions may look more like[1]:

Design Failure Mode Effects Analysis Design for Manufacturability and Assembly Design Verification Other design reviews such as code reviews Prototype parts (iterations and control plan) Engineering and Material Specifications Demonstrated change control and control over engineering drawings … Continue reading

Asking for More Late in the Project

Asking for more…

Recently, I overheard a project manager discussing the use of a quality tool for their project. The project is well underway. Can you guess the tool under discussion?  It was the DFMEA or Design Failure Mode Effects Analysis.  There are a couple of things wrong with starting the discussion at this point, but let’s start with the FMEA itself.

Project and FMEA

The DFMEA (also has a cousin for manufacturing processes called the PFMEA) are a couple of the tools from the APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning) suite. The FMEA provides a structured review or critique of the proposed product design or in the event of the of the PFMEA the manufacturing processes. I will not go into details on the structure of the FMEA, if you are interested give us a call. We can coach your team. It is sufficient to know that this is a well structured and planned activity.  We draw upon … Continue reading

Dependencies and Rate of Accomplishment

Review of Rate of Accomplishment

From our earlier blog post, we discussed task dependencies and how understanding these connections improve our probability of project success as it pertains to schedule. Additional information on dependencies can be found in our book Project Management of Complex and Embedded Systems.

Monitoring  Rate of Accomplishment means Measuring

So what does it look like to monitor progress?  We can start by sufficiently decomposing our project task via the WBS and provided description information in the WBS dictionary to the smallest level. This smallest level would make answering the question, are you finished with the task either a yes or a no. This is a binary (yes, no – 1, 0) easily understandable assessment of the state of completion.

 

 

Accomplishment, Team Behavior – Saving Face

If you are a project manager or a project team member with any significant experience, you will not doubt have witnessed instances where our … Continue reading

Industrial Disease and Parkinson’s Law

It was a beautiful weekend for working in the yard. Specifically, mowing the leaves as a way to mulch them and return nutrients back to the soil.  I was fortunate that I had an interesting  song playing in my head. Not one of those annoying ones that often can get stuck in your head and you cannot stop the recurring replay in your mind of a song that you could just barely stand to hear once.  In this case, I had a Dire Straits song, Industrial Disease off of the Love over Gold album playing in my head, a band and a song that I have always enjoyed.

I fancied myself a bassist when I was younger (still plunk around with my 70’s Fender P Bass). I listen to this song for the technical content, the complexity, the timing and even the lyrics to some lesser extent. I liked how the words fit together.  As a kid or … Continue reading

Saving the Business with Assorted Cost Improvement Methods

We see some company responses to economic downturn are to eliminate staff as if that were the only way to become a viable company once again. We wonder if these companies have some cost improvement methodology behind them that would give their management other options than summarily removal of personnel. Continue reading

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