Gemba Walk

Go to the place where the work is performed, that is the Gemba walk.  This does not apply just to manufacturing, but also line managers and their respective departments as well as to project management. You want to know what is going on, what could be better, go unto the work space and watch and talk with the people doing the work.

Where the work is performed, depends upon the work.  For example, if you are the manager of a product testing department, the place where the work is performed is likely the lab,  Go where the Hardware In the Loop (HIL) rigs and see how things are going, go to the test rooms where the environmental (hot and cold) and other stimuli (vibration) are administered to the product.  Learn how this work is actually being done. Ask questions about how the work is going.  What sort of things are difficult and why? What can we do to make the … Continue reading

5S

If you have spent any time in the automotive industry you have probably spent time working within a system called the 5S. Continue reading

Patent

How do new ideas occur to us? What is the secret mixture that enables this spark that creates something new?  I have long wondered this, including when watching my son build things that I found interesting, and with no clear sign of what of the source of that idea that became reality.  I saw him build things with Lego blocks, and I watched him build things at an online game called Roblox.  In both instances it made me think, what is the source?

The same is true for my own life, especially my work life.  I have been part of groups that have produced 7 US patents and other intellectual property.  Each time was so different it is difficult to discern an underlying theme that made this creation possible or at least facilitated.  What can be said in each instance to varying degrees, is there was a perceived difficulty or problem, some desired end state that was presently … Continue reading

Mura (unevenness)

The unevenness or mura of the work wreak havoc on our work. Project demands fluctuate and working on multiple projects likewise creates or exacerbates the unevenness. In product development work can get heavy around gate reviews as the project must accomplish certain expectations and milestones are reviewed in the gate activities.  One functional department may not be at capacity, but anther may be running beyond capacity.  The arrival of the work from one department stacks up as input to the next department.  This then creates muda as we have waste in the form of over production.  All of this unevenness has impact on schedule and the people performing the work, and sometimes specialized equipment as the demand fluctuates wildly.

Material that our development team will use may also be subjected to this unevenness, think prototype parts, upon which we will test and learn about the product for the next iteration of the development loop.  When lead times are long, we may … Continue reading

Muri – Overburden

Muri is waste associated with pushing people, processes and equipment beyond the limits or overburdening. An organization may be enamored of working large numbers of overtime hours, but any benefit for such some at a cost, and this is an example of overburdening.

I once worked at a place in which the employees averaged being at the organization for between 10 – 20 years, and had vacation time commensurate with being within the organization per the company benefits manual. The people that had been with the company that long had more than 4 weeks of vacation, which is 160 hours off of the 2000 hours or total work hours approximates 1840.  On top of this time off, the company also offered special days that it gave off to everybody – think Thanksgiving and Christmas for example.  Yet when it came to calculate the work the organization could undertake, the organization used 1980 per person to estimate the total amount of … Continue reading

Starting a Fire

Do you know how to start a fire?  I am not talking about charcoal briquettes, or the use of combustion material such as  lighter fluid, gasoline, or those special wax products that can be used in your fireplace, no propane or gas used either.

I’m talking about the fires we make in the woods when we go camping. It is okay if you do not know how, in fact my life as had quite a few times when my boy scout experiences have been a benefit to more than my family or those with whom I am camping.  My son and I have made many campfires for cooking out or roasting marsh mellows. Before this, I had camped out without a tent and used the fire for warmth (and to keep away the vermin while we slept).  We have started fires when the material may be damp, but that is not to suggest that it is easy to start a fire … Continue reading

Tools and Teams

I recently saw a post on Twitter from the Great John Cutler on allow the team to pick the tools that they use to do the work.  Generally, this is not a bad idea, but not necessarily a great idea either.  It sort of depends.

 

 

My experience in companies that also have hardware parts associated with the software, each group selecting their tools comes at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding the various work products as it moves through the organization.  It is not possible for one team to see what the other team has done, when the tools are not connected, or each group selects what that individual group needs without consideration of the departments that are depending or associated with the work.  In these cases, a product life cycle management tool that connects the various work departments and work packages can help tie all of these together. Consider a vehicle manufacturer that … Continue reading

Evolution of the Horseless Carriage

In preparation for our trip to Eindhoven University of Technology to lecture on Configuration Management, we provide a brief excerpt on the evolution of the horseless cariage.

Traditionally new market segments open due to the need to solve a problem. Such problems may be real as in the case of the environmental crisis solved by the automobile or the need may be concocted. New markets and products are rarely developed through the inspiration of a single individual. The automotive market came about through a synergy of the existing body of knowledge and other environmental conditions both in the marketplace and in the nature.

One topic of discussion at the world’s first international urban planning conference in 1898 was the growing health concerns due to horse excretions and the creatures that accompanied them. As the primary means of locomotion for wagons and other forms of transport, horse populations exceeded human population in cities.*

Manufacturers of “horseless carriages” using steam, … Continue reading

My Career Part 1

My Career

I have been very fortunate in my career, and that really means very lucky.  Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I had two job offers after sending my resume to more than 100 companies.  That is not a very good yield, but it would be good enough.  I selected the smaller company, but I selected that company because they created new things.  The company I started at developed embedded industrial control systems.  It also turns out the people with which I would be fortunate enough to work, were very friendly, and as I would say, were a hoot to be around.  Some of my other blog posts describes shenanigans.  To this day we still have secret words, that mean something to us but nothing to anybody else (R4).

What drives me

My interest or objective has never been one thing when it comes to product development.  In the beginning, I was interested … Continue reading

Project Organization Structure

If you have been a project manager for any time at all, you probably have experienced competing demands from the sponsors for the project.  The sponsor is the person(s) who drive the scope of the project in conventional projects.  In some instances, the project manager may find that there are in fact multiple sponsors and the respective priorities of those sponsors may be at odds.  This is not the only difficulty to which the project manager must respond.

From the CHAOS study by the Standish Group, on project failures and success factors, we find the results below. This study analyzed 23,000 projects in 1998[i], of the factors that enable project success and failure.

Success Factor Influence User involvement 20 Executive support 15 Clear business objectives 15 Experienced project manager 15 Small milestones 10

 

A list of the top 5 factors from this study, demonstrate that importance of the interface between the project, the executives that are supporting … Continue reading

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