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Through this entire process, we should build a better understanding of and appreciation for the principles of Integrated Resource Management.

Just-in-Time and Total Quality Management philosophies, concepts and techniques can and should be applied to developing an organization which will evolve toward con­tinuous improvement of the whole organization. While change may be painful for those who cling to the past (old paradigms) progress comes from challenging the status quo and embracing innovation.

A development progression for manufacturing is presented by Wheelwright and Hayes [7] that shows the importance of the "4 I's." Stage 4, the most advanced stage, depicts a manufacturing company that, first, anticipates the poten­tial of new manufacturing practices and technologies, acquire expertise long before their implications are fully apparent [innovates]; second, encourages the development of all business functions so that they interact effectively; third, strongly supports systems and approaches that integrate all its functions into an effective whole; and fourth, places great emphasis on improvement processes for long-term gain.

Goldratt and Fox [5] note that, although one key to success with an ongoing improvement process is getting individu­als to take ownership of the process, the unified efforts of an organized group are required to make the process truly effective. This requires the group to reach consensus on the subject, so that they are really integrated in their effort. To reach consensus you must have good interaction within the group: good, open communication, mutual sharing and understanding.

Numerous factory floor examples referenced by Kiyoshi Suzaki [6] verify that people do make things happen that seemed impossible before getting the employees truly involved. It is almost futile to pursue excellence if people involvement is not given a high priority in the improvement process. Any revolutionary change requires great amounts of energy and commitment from the people.

Businesses that neglect formal strategic planning fre­quently find themselves in turmoil in making basic busi­ness decisions according to Gregoire and Delaney [15]. Individual managers push in different directions unless integrated with the business function and the overall strategy of the business. A vision statement, a strategic plan, integrated tactical plans, a profit plan, a realistic growth plan, a technology plan, and a good performance monitoring process are all required, and must be inte­grated through functional tactical plans if the company is to be viable and successful.

Kobu and Greenwood [11] are convinced that a company's survival hinges on embracing continuous product innova­tion and quality improvement. This requires new ways to train and motivate employees and adoption of enlightened policies governing relationships with employees and also with suppliers and customers. A company's cultural legacy can be a real impediment to this process.

One of the major responsibilities of management is a strong commitment to continuous improvement in manufacturing and office processes. Constant betterment of processes depends on employee attitudes. Their level of contribution depends on how well they are managed (i.e., good manage­ment earns good employee involvement, which yields con­tinuous improvement). The overall quality of any process depends on the effectiveness of the interactions between the different individuals and functions involved.

David Ross [13] states that the business functions in a manufacturing company traditionally possessed their own cultures, structures and information flows, with little continuity or connectivity between them.

Often their needs and resources were in misalignment or even opposition. To survive today, companies must em­brace a culture promoting excellence; must provide for well-defined, closely integrated information flows that support continuous improvement in planning and decision-making; must be able to face the challenge of significant changes technology brings so rapidly; and they must be committed to training, educating and motivating people so that they will interact cooperatively and effectively.

The need to integrate our suppliers into our m anufacturing system and eliminate the wastes that typically accumulate between company boundaries is emphasized by Suzaki [6]

Ongoing improvement activities should take place through good interaction—communication, cooperation and shar­ing of ideas between the two trading partners. The same kind of advantages can be obtained with our customers. We need to see the broader picture of the value-added chain, from raw materials to use by the ultimate consumer, so that we can eliminate waste throughout the chain.

Product design [innovation] is a strategic activity accord­ing to William Wassweiler [14]. It influences sales strate­gies, quality, manufacturing efficiencies, and product cost. He further says that multi-functional "concurrent engi-

neering" teams [interaction] are the most effective way to cut through parochial barriers to good design. Cross-training of the team provides the opportunity to learn all or most of the tasks required, and leads to output and quality improvement. A final note is that integration of vendors into the design team leads to valuable improve­ments in product quality and cost. It is a natural progres­sion then to JIT, since JIT principles entail the integration and interaction of people, technology, product innovation, process, suppliers, and total quality improvements.

Conclusions-The Journey into Excellence

The quest for Excellence, built upon a process of continuous improvement, is a never-ending journey. We can always be better than we are, can and should always work to find and take another step toward perfection—never reaching it but always striving to do so. Improvements are like inventions, requiring creative innovation and involving visionary and intuitive thinking in addition to the logical processes.

In order to put our innovative improvements into full effect, we must be able to interact effectively with many others in different departments of our own company as well as our customers and our suppliers. This level of communication and cooperation is built on mutual understanding, listen­ing, and mutual respect.

To provide the right framework for our improvement process, we must integrate the many diverse elements of our organization, using information systems, education, enlightened leadership and management, and the em­ployee involvement principles. We should also strive to integrate our systems and processes with our suppliers and customers for greater overall synergy.

Put it all together, and the "Four I s" breed Excellence*.

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