What The Data Says

February 17, 2010
Lessons from  the Japanese:  Monozukuri, Quality, Cost Cutting, and the Risk of Recall.

In this case, up is "Not good."

Graphic credit.

Recalls on products sold in Japan (excluding cars, food and drugs) are up more than 80% from three years earlier, according to a Wall Street Journal report credited above.

It’s not just Toyota.

It’s not just Cars.

Is it the relentless pursuit of cost cutting?

Is it the reduction in part count (sku reduction)? As a component is used across many products, increasing scale and  so reducing price per piece,  this also  increases the scope and scale of a recall if the design or manufacture is defective.

It’s not just Japan.

Ford recalls 2007-2010: 15.505  million vehicles according to my analysis of the data here. See our post from October 21 2009 here.

Where was Congress when Ford announced these huge recalls?

GM recalled 1.5 million of its vehicles last year.

Did Congress weigh in? (I mean, besides bailing them out with lots of our tax dollars.)

Why is Congress suddenly calling for hearings?

I think that OEM manufacturers and businessmen  EVERYWHERE, not just in JAPAN, have taken their eyes off the ball of continuous improvement in their manufacturing processes.  They have been distracted by the fleeting flash of lower prices.

Continuous reduction in ‘costs’ is not the same as paying  continuous attention to Quality. And when you take your eye off the Quality ball, it  really shows up when you have a near perfect record.

Cultural footnote: This summer, I spoke with managers at Japanese auto companies who told me that MONOZUKURI is about ‘the existential joys of making things.’  Of ‘implementing a process that realizes a design to product.’  This was a really big deal. It was their long and storied tradition. It’s their national heritage, and they are “sharing it with the world.”

 I’m starting to  think that MONOZUKURI is really more about mercantilist economics and economic nationalism

 And maybe 安価.  Or 失敗.



3 Reasons You Know Your Process Better Than Your Auditor!

August 11, 2009

Submitted by Monte C. Guitar, PMPA Director of Technology.

Don’t wait for an outside auditor to provide the assistance to “make you better.”  The best opportunities for improving precision machining operations will not be provided by your outside auditor. Here are our 3 reasons that precision machining companies are the ‘real experts’ on their processes and business:

Reason #1-  Process Expertise. Who knows your processes better than you? You’ve been doing this stuff for many years prior to ISO being a condition of business. You bring in the auditor to assess your quality systems, not to consult on your business.

Reason #2- Limited expertise by auditor in your processes. To be truly expert requires depth of experience in both auditing and your processes. Unless the auditor worked specifically in your field, they lack expertise in your process. What  they bring is quality systems expertise to evaluate your implementation.

Reason # 3- Standard is basis for the audit, not the auditor’s vision. If the requirement is not in the standard, then implementation becomes a business choice. It is easy for an auditor to describe the wonders of “one place I’ve seen” to a company that is looking for their own version of utopia. It is another thing to implement. Calibrate the good ideas  the auditor brings to your firm’s  available time and manpower constraints.

Top management should be concerned if they determine in a closing meeting that the best improvement opportunities for the company via the quality area were identified after an eight hour visit from someone who is not even fully educated to your process.

Great auditors recognize their role in helping precision machining companies improve their systems. Great precision machining companies recognize their responsibility to improve their implementation.

Denise Robitaille wrote an interesting piece in Quality Digest that might be of interest to you. Audits are an integral part of your business:

What do you think the auditor’s role should be?


2 Rules For Effective Benchmarking

August 6, 2009

Benchmarking is not a comparison of numbers or indicators. Benchmarking is an ACTIVITY or PROCESS to determine Best Practice, and your relationship to that Best Practice.

Benchmarking is an activity that employs a systematic and continuous effort to identify important measureables (benchmarks). It  employs a defined process to compare your organization’s status to that of a best-in-class company or companies. Benchmarking is a tool that helps you identify, improve and implement the practices or methods that will enable you to become the new ‘best-in-class.’

Two rules for effective Benchmarking are:

  1. If Benchmarking does not lead to a specific action, it is a waste of your company’s resources;
  2. If you aren’t Benchmarking to the best, your Benchmarking will be under effective.

Competitive analysis can tell you what the differences are between you and another company, but it does not give you any insight into how that difference exists. Benchmarking focuses on best practices and methods, resulting in process changes and improvements that will achieve improved customer satisfaction.

Site visits in my experience result in some limited information sharing and collection of novel ideas, but  after the visit, these are recognized to be a smorgasbord of unfocused facts. While these facts may be interesting, they may or may not be applicable to your firm or what you are trying to accomplish. This is especially true if the facility that you are visiting is not a best in class peer.

PMPA members have a Benchmarking ‘tool they can use’ to measure their company’s performance against their peers in manufacturing.

PMPA's iLumen Benchmarking Service is secure and easy to use.

PMPA's iLumen Benchmarking Service is secure and easy to use.

Called PMPA iLumen Benchmarking Service, this safe, secure online tool allows participating members to compare their company’s financial and operating performance against that of their peers or other manufacturing companies. Seeing the difference between their firm’s and other firms’ performance in key areas  gives the PMPA members a focus for their company’s improvement activities.

In the April Issue of PMPA’s Business Trends Report,  almost half of the companies  that reported double digit sales increases over the prior month were PMPA iLumen Benchmark participants.These companies have used the intelligence of the PMPA iLumen Benchmarking data to show them where to address improvements in their organization.

Participation in PMPA iLumen Benchmarking is no extra charge for PMPA members- it is a member benefit.

Numbers may be the language of Benchmarking, but they are merely raw material that drives the real activity- continuous improvement and transformation of your people, processes, and systems. These improvements will result in higher quality, lower costs, and ultimately, improvement of your company’s products and services. PMPA’s iLumen Benchmarking Service can provide you too, with “tools you can use” to drive improvements in your companies processes and performance.


Medical Manufacturer Challenges- 3 Keys To Keep You In The Game

August 5, 2009

The medical industry will continue to develop new products, require new capabilities from their suppliers, and maintain their drive for continuous improvement in technology, costs, and quality.

Production of precision parts for medical applications is constantly changing. More challenging materials, geometries, and ways to assure  conformance / performance are what’s ahead in this market.

What  are the keys to meeting these challenges if this is your market?

Key #1- Technology

Technology is certainly a key part of a sustainable commercial strategy. With tolerances, finishes, and geometries standard that were unheard of in other markets years ago, modern equipment is a must- capable, productive, precisely controlled equipment.

Key #2- Zero Defects not just Zero PPM.

Zero PPM tells us about your process.  Or Processes. Zero Defects is a condition of your products. In the surgery, they don’t  have the ability to analyze your ppm. They need defect free. Zero Defects. And that means anticipating and preventing latent defects… so close communication with design is a must, as well as process control and understanding.

Key #3- Knowledge and Training

Knowledge and Training not just for operators.  Engineering, Programming, Toolmakers, Quality Assurance  as well as Operators all need upgraded skills to successfully manufacture  complex geometries from  materials such as Titanium and Stainless  Steels  such as 316L. Simple form tooling is no longer adequate for the complex forms now being generated by whirling or interpolation of milling cutters. This requires higher skills and process knowledge.

Which of these is most important?

If any of these is missing, it would be a showstopper for your medical market business. They are all important. But if one had to be ranked most important, I would say that it would be knowledge and training. With a knowledgeable and well trained crew, you could find the technology and reinvent the mistake proof processes needed to succeed in the business.

Without knowledge and skills, all you would really have is a technology showroom or museum.

What do you think? Is knowledge and training first among equals? Or is it silly to rank any of these as more important?