A reader recently sent me an email lamenting some of the big business-big labor tensions that had been peppering IMPOmag.com’s news section. Paul’s point was about compromise, and how give and take was the necessary component to everything — whether it be tense negotiations in the workplace, or even a discussion with your family about how to spend your Saturday.
Those of you working with a desktop, take a moment and look at the fans on the back of your PC. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Not a pretty sight, I imagine. If you are like most people - even those working in an air conditioned office - you are seeing a nice patina of dust covering your blades. And if you are in manufacturing, you are likely seeing something much uglier: the genesis of a huge suck of time, money and resources.
Politicians love promoting "made in America" during an election season but tend to forget about it once the dust settles. And so, for all the praise of American manufacturing in the last campaign – by Democrats and Republicans alike – very little has actually been done. So what happened to a real competitiveness – and – jobs agenda?
If you had a chance to “drive” to work tomorrow without having to touch the steering wheel or press down a pedal, would you do it? Think of the amount of time commuters everywhere could gain back – without having to actually think about driving, commuters can now safely take a phone call, catch up on the news, or maybe even nap (if you’re the type to put complete trust into driverless technology).
A topic that doesn’t seem to come up, at least via outlets that are 3D-printer friendly (which are in a powerful majority at this point), is the proliferation of piracy thanks to the quickly emerging 3D-printer market. Much like Napster brought a slapped major record labels across the face, 3D printing is poised to make major manufacturers shake in their boots… maybe.
Each of us has a nemesis process; that process that we engage regularly and that drives us crazy because of its inefficiency, its guarantee to waste our time, and some variety of reasons that prevent it from being reasonably improved. Some of us have more than one.
Is manufacturing coming back to the U.S.? Some may be returning, but the single best answer is “No”. No, there is not a mass movement to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. No, we are not moving away from global supply chains. No, the U.S. does not have a large workforce waiting to take low paying jobs.
Why is it that the most important, most powerful, most effective methods, tools, or practices are also the most difficult? Answering that question might be a challenge to keep the philosophy professors busy for a good, long time. For now, accept your grandfather’s axiom that what is worth doing, is worth taking our time to do.
Since Detroit pleaded bankruptcy, we have been hearing all kinds of things about what killed Detroit. For one thing, high labor rates in Detroit have been touted. Volkswagon is opening a plant in Tennessee. But there are other theories. One is that engineers killed Detroit.
Throughout my manufacturing career, I’ve spent many hours in customer waiting rooms, where I would always read the company mission statement if it were mounted on the wall. I must admit that I have never been comfortable with the idea of mission/vision statements because I always thought them to be statements on what the company would like to do — not what they are really capable of doing.
As the rise in temporary workers continues to affect our industry, it’s important that plant managers have a strategy for managing this new crop of personnel. Many plant-wide initiatives, like a strong safety culture, for example, are grassroots efforts that come from the ground up. They succeed through repetition and camaraderie; through consistent training and knowledge of and respect for the equipment in use.
Few organizations achieve truly continuous improvement in spite of extensive training programs, language and cultural changes, and setting expectations of improvement results. Why is that? It seems especially puzzling considering that each of the continuous improvement methodologies I have studied insists that true success comes not from organized events, but from everyone exercising the improvement methodology every day.
No, the aforementioned Hyperloop isn’t some kind of science fiction-esque teleportation device. Sorry to disappoint. Although with Elon Musk’s background in companies that push the boundaries of what’s possible in the private sector, it wouldn’t have been completely out of the blue. Instead, Hyperloop is what Musk calls the “fifth mode” of transportation, as an alternative to cars, planes, trains and boats.
The tolerance assignment approach used by most organizations offers opportunities to reduce cost and improve quality through tolerance relaxation. While quality improvement based on relaxed tolerances seems counterintuitive, a quick look at how tolerances are assigned and the consequences of overly-stringent tolerances reveal why this is so.
The city of Detroit's bankruptcy is an American tragedy and an entirely preventable one. The downward spiral began decades ago when deindustrialization led to depopulation, crime and declining public revenues. Corruption and mismanagement may have exacerbated the problem, but they weren't the root cause.
Rumor has it Twinkies are space age products made from such resilient ingredients that they last for decades. The shelf life of Twinkies is the stuff of legend, but beyond the myth and behind the silliness is a kernel of truth; If Twinkies can indeed achieve a fabled longevity, it will have more to do with savvy business practices and innovation than secret, Frankenstein recipe formulations.
Manufacturers around the country have found themselves struggling to find the qualified workforce needed to meet demand. This problem is compounded by the ever present threat of economic downturn, making it difficult for employers to maintain their workforce and ensure that employees remain available for work as needed, despite layoffs and other challenges.
There is a continuous barrage of editorials, TV commentators, and published stories that denounce the current educational system as declining and inferior to other countries. In general, the blame is directed at students, teachers, school administrators, and their curriculums. Everyone seems to be searching for the magic key that will unlock the performance of kids and knock down the barriers to a good education.
Much like improving your health is a series of small steps, improving the health of your organization can be similar. This year’s series on energy efficiency kicks off with the same survey we’ve sent out to our readers for the past four years. In this survey, we ask them what they’ve been up to. Have they been investing in new equipment? If so, what kinds — and how much was the decision based on the energy efficiency of this product?
As drones, bipedal robots, and algorithm technologies continue to improve, the world of autonomous everything is looming. Beyond the iPad, synchronized quad-copters, and even 3D printers, one of the world’s most powerful forms of emerging technology is the ability to make more machines and devices autonomous.