June 29, 2011

Connecting with fellow members is always at the top of the list when we survey our members about why they belong to PMPA.

But our connections aren’t exactly Pitcher – Batter adversarial relationships.

Yes, we need to connect with what our customers are pitching us but...

Our members like to connect because they are on the same team- the “Lets keep good paying, high quality of life, advanced manufacturing jobs here in North America” team.

We sell to many different customers, and while we might be competitors  at one or another, the chances are pretty slim that any two shops directly compete.

We all want our industry to succeed– so when a member needs an assist – to borrow a gage that’s 6 weeks out, or trying to figure out why a reamer is cutting oversize, many people respond with offers to help or advice.

We all want to improve our knowledge and execution of our craft– thats why we connect at PMPA’s National Technical Conference and local meetings.

We all want to know what are the issues that can affect our business decisions– market, supply, customer, regulatory. PMPA members call this “Business Intelligence” and connect at our Management Update, Local meetings and on our online listserves.

As an industry, we have some of the sharpest and experienced minds in our field, all connected through various means. So we welcome connection. We share. We collaboratively problem solve. We work together on trying to resolve regulatory issues.

We connectOur business is better for it. Our employees are better for it. Our quality is better for it.

Our world is better place because we collaborate, identify and share best practices, and  come to the aid of our team mates to help keep jobs here in North America.

Planes fly. Cars stop safely. Utilities are delivered. Food packages assure no contamination. Medical Devices make a difference in thousands of lives every day.

Because we’re all on the same team. The quality team. The best for our craft team. The mentor our up and coming talent team.

We don’t call it “Team PMPA.”

But that’s how we connect.

Are you connected?


Lessons for Industry Courtesy of the Gulf Oil Spill

May 4, 2010

Satellite image of oil spill in Gulf. (NASA)

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when your company becomes involved in a crisis.

  1. Communicate. At the very least, make a fact sheet of basic company information and your products.  Answers to”Who, What, When, Where?” is a great template for a fact sheet.
  2. Use your website to keep insiders and outsiders informed. Your website is on 24/7 worldwide. Why not use it to help you provide facts and minimize rumors.
  3. Don’t oversell quality. Zero defects has an almost magical ring to it. But the fact is that in complex systems  even redundant backups don’t always work. Statistically, outlying events can and will occur.
  4. Do demonstrate your sincerity, and discuss the steps that your company is taking to identify the problem, get the problem contained, and the immediate and long term corrective actions that your team is working on.
  5. Don’t speculate on “Cause” nor “Blame.”

As of noon May 3, 2010, Cameron International’s Website has nary a mention of the fact that their company’s Blow Out Preventers may be involved at the BP- Deepwater Horizon spill ongoing in the Gulf of Mexico.

No news. No Comment.

The first quarter earnings release conference call seems to be the only “newsworthy” item on Cameron’s webpage.

No mention of any work or involvement by the Cameron Team to get the situation in the Gulf fixed.

No “Who, what, when, where?” information. No spokesperson.

The Washington Examiner meanwhile reports that Cameron has been named among other companies in “lawsuits seeking damages.”

The AP reports Cameron is the manufacturer of the “fail safe device on the well that is spewing crude into the Gulf” and that Cameron has “$500 million in liability insurance for legal claims.”

That would have probably been good info to have on their own site…

The website provides a company with a powerful means to get the facts out. To show their customers, their employees, other people who may be affected what efforts are being taken to get things under control and restore normalcy.

Guess what BP is talking about on their website?

The best bargain in education is when you learn from other people’s mistakes.

Watch how this one works out.

Meanwhile, how about sitting down with your team  and asking “What if this happened to us?


Isn’t It Time You Blogged About Lean Six Sigma?

February 18, 2010


I’m really more focused on Quality.

On draining the swamp, not swamp beautification.

Quality Assurance.

Organizational Improvement. (People and Processes.)

Lean is just another way of saying eliminate waste.

Six Sigma uses statistical jargon, but how many people in top management can even get close to describing the area under the normal curve at +/- 3 sigma? Or know that a sigma is a standard deviation? And what that means?

Let alone recognize non-normal data?

(“Six Sigma” is just another term for “Magic ” to the guys wearing ties at the OEM’s…)

I’m not into cute names for serious tools. We were using  powerful  statistical techniques before they got new cute  names and became safe  Okay fashionable  to say up in the carpeted front office.

Draining the swamp doesn't need tools with cute names.

However, if you are serious about Quality. Quality Assurance. Organizational Improvement. And Tools You Can Use to drain the swamp, instead of reading crap of unknown provenance from the web,  here’s your reading list:

1) Competing Against Time by Stalk and Hout
2) Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker.Frankly, if you haven’t already read

3) The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt, (get this one first it will give you key insight into how to think about manufacturing.)

4) The Machine That Changed The World by Womack is also worth your time.

Take these tools, and love it.

Excavator photo credit.

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.


Precision Contract Manufacturers-Why Do People Buy From You?

July 30, 2009

Unless they are family, or are under encouragement from someone on the Sopranos, people have three reasons to buy from you.

The lowest price.

The best quality.

The best delivery.

Which do you think it is?

I'll hum the Jeopardy theme while you think.

I'll hum the Jeopardy theme while you think.

Time’s up.

When I was the newly minted quality manager at a little steel operation in Medina, Ohio, I was confident that the reason people bought from us was because of our quality (that’s  the second answer  shown above). I’m betting that many of you believe that too- your brochures and websites always have a big section and color photo about your quality.

My vice president at the time was convinced that customers bought solely on price. “The Sales Department  is always coming in here trying to get me to lower my price.”

And that was true- it was always the outside salesmen who were trying to wheedle down the price another fifty cents or a buck, it seemed. So my VP was convinced that it was  the very first answer given above.

The Wisdom of Inside Sales.

It took a veteran inside salesperson to straighten this out for me.

It’s not your Quality,” he said to me, saying quality with a capital “Q”.

“If your Quality isn’t adequate, he’ll never call back again. You won’t get any orders. Quality is a given.”

That took the new quality manager down a peg or two…

“And it’s not price. The material will sell for the market price- what the market says its worth.”

He let me stand there and think for a moment.

“Hmm, I’m wrong, the VP is wrong, and the outside sales guys are wrong?” I asked.

“I take orders from customers all day long. That’s what I do. None call me and say, ‘I’d like some of your  quality XYZ today.’ Every customer that  calls me asks me this question: “Do you have any XYZ in stock?”

“Do you have it in stock?”

That’s why people buy from us! ‘If it’s in stock, we have it.’ It better meet the standard for quality, or they won’t call again. They won’t pay one penny more than what it would cost if they could get it someplace else- if someplace else has it in stock.”

“People buy from us because of our delivery.”

For those of you keeping track, that is  the third answer.

The best delivery.

And that’s my final answer.

What is your final answer? How does the answer in your head match up with your company’s sales materials? Web site? Inventory policy?