All companies need to be mindful of costs & for those producing products this is best done at the Design stage. Here are some suggestions:-
- Before beginning the design a Product Specification is essential, this needs to have been agreed at Senior Management level.
- The product design needs to meet the spec and no more.
- The material choice is critical, why make it out of gold if steel will do.
- Use minimum thickness, as long as the design meets the spec.
- Reduce the number of components as much as possible.
- Re-use existing design components wherever possible – this gives Purchasing negotiating strength over suppliers and reduces inventory.
- Consider Manufacturing by minimizing the number of process steps in manufacture.
- Hold regular Design reviews & involve other parts of the Organization.
- Build a prototype to test the design.
- If possible test the Design using Computer Aided Modelling.
If you need help minimizing cost at the Design stage feel free to get in touch.
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In their iconic book “Lean Thinking” Womack & Jones identified 5 Lean principles of fundamental importance.
1) Specify Value from the End Customers perspective. What does the End Customer actually want from the product or service. The only way to ascertain this is through the Voice Of Customer. We will expand on this in later posts.
2) Identify the Value Stream. This is the sequence of processes from raw material to the end customer which comprises Value Adding and Non Value Adding steps.
3) Make value Flow. The process should be continuous, avoiding batch production and queues, or at least minimizing them. Aim never to delay a value adding step with a non value adding step. If NVA steps are unavoidable they should be done in parallel with VA steps.
4) Operate via Pull not Push. The system should be driven by the customers demand avoiding unnecessary over production.
5) Strive for Perfection. Minimize defects and aim for Total Customer Satisfaction.
Adopting these 5 Lean principles leads to a Kaizen journey of Continuous Improvement.
Students at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently learned that the ‘Teacher’s Assistant’ they had been reacting with all Semester was actually a robot !
‘Jill’ powered by IBM’s Watson analytics system helped undergraduate students with an online artificial intelligence course.
‘I thought I was talking to a real person’ confessed one student whilst another was ‘gobsmacked’
This raises a number of ethical issues around the use of A.I – should we be informed whether we are talking to a ‘robot or a human being.
This also begs the question whether A.I systems could be said to have passed the ‘Turing Test’ and essentially be indestinguishable from a Human Being.
A.I Technology is progressing at breakneck speed & has profound implications for all kinds of services such as banking, insurance, customer service etc etc – indeed any industry which relies on person to person communication will be revolutionised by the pace of Artificial Intelligence.
This will inevitably lead to massive job losses in these industries but will also create many alternative careers in Engineering & Technology Development.
There is little doubt, though, that those highly skilled & highly paid roles will not be populated by the same staff who used to work in the call centre leaving another dilemma for Society.
There has been much wringing of hands & gnashing of teeth over the impending closure of the Port Talbot steel works by Tata Steel. Politicians of left and right have dug out their Road Atlases & rushed over to be photographed consoling the poor sods who work there demanding they ‘Save our Steel’. The Government will promise a lot & deliver nothing. Labour will urge the re-nationalisation of the failing plant which is reportedly losing £1 million per day. So who would pay for that £365 million per year to save 13,500 jobs – The British taxpayer – the same taxpayer who would be moaning about the loss of their local library or maternity ward.
What the workers desperately need is some brutal honesty:-
- British Steel is no longer economically viable in the global market place.
- The total volume of world steel production produced in the U.K is less than 0.1%
- There are lots of British companies benefiting form cheap Chinese steel.
- No one is going to buy Port Talbot & run it in its current format.
- The Government will do NOTHING to save the plant.
So what should be done:-
- The Unions should focus on obtaining maximum redundancy pay.
- If any of the ‘higher value’ operations can be salvaged this is where the emphasis should be.
- The Government needs to do more to encourage alternate employers to the area by the extension & creation of enterprise zones.
- Employees need re-training & re-skilling.
Football Fans are beginning to wonder whether Manchester United Manager Lois Van Gaal has ‘lost the dressing room’ in much the same as Jose Mourinho did a few short weeks ago at Chelsea.
This Management phenomenon is not confined to the World of Sport – it is surprisingly common in the fields of Business & industry, so what are the symptoms:-
- Directions which once went unchallenged are now contested, sometimes vigorously.
- Staff turnover, once steady & low, increases, sometimes dramatically.
- There is a definite lack of motivation.
- Deadlines are missed & increasingly challenged.
- Tasks become ‘bogged down’ & remain uncompleted.
- Tempers are increasingly frayed.
So what are the causes of this sad state of affairs.
- Poor communication & direction from Senior Management.
- Unrealistic demands to meet unrealistic timescales.
- Workers overloaded with bureaucracy.
- Too many new systems.
- Middle Managers pointing the finger of blame at subordinates.
If you find yourself in this unenviable position of ‘losing your dressing room’ getting the Team back onside is never easy but try this:-
- Be open & honest, not only to the Team but to your Senior Management. This may be painful in the short term but is key to success.
- Stop pointing that finger.
- LISTEN as well as you talk.
- Eat a small portion of ‘humble pie’ even if it sticks in your throat.
David Bowie was undoubtedly one of the greatest & most influential musicians & artists of the 20th Century – so what did he teach us about Innovation.
- He never rested on his laurels. Despite phenomenal success with any one of his characters he ripped it up & started again. If he had owned Apple he would never be developing the iPhone 7.
- He never followed the trend – he led from the front regardless of popular opinion, when he went off to Berlin to experiment with electronic music it was a form which was right on the edge.
- He made the rules – in all aspects of his life – regardless of societies norms.
- He was a perfectionist – not a control freak.
- He selected the best to work with & gave them free reign.
- He wasn’t perfect – like all of us he made mistakes, but learned from them.
- He may have grown old physically but his soul was forever young.
Farewell to a great Artist & a magnificent Innovator.
The News last week that the Government is to invest £235 million in a new Henry Royce Institute in Manchester to support research in to new Applied Materials is great in a number of ways:-
- It demonstrates a real and welcome major Investment in our great Northern Cities with satellite hubs in Leeds, Sheffield & elsewhere it is hugely welcome & better late than never.
- It is a major investment in Science & Technology which will help create higher value added jobs & help to re-balance the economy by creating more advanced manufacturing industries & small businesses and to help them develop & thrive.
- It demonstrates that there is more to UK PLC than London & the financial services industry.
Manchester has a proud tradition of Scientific & Industrial development & this type of Investment will ensure that continues beyond the 21st Century.
Lets have more.
Thursday 18th September 2014 will go down in history as a momentous one for The United Kingdom & Scotland regardless of the result.
The fact that so many Scots have been completely dissillusioned with Westminster politics that they are willing to smash the Union & embark on a new journey as an Independent nation without even knowing what currency will be used is a terrible vindictment of how people have been alienated by successive Tory & Labour governments.
Perhaps the Palace of Westminster has been insulated from the real world for far too long.
No matter whether the Scots win or lose they will gain more power either by gaining full independence or from the consolation prize of ‘Devo Max’ – this will cause inevitable resentment in England where there are already calls for Regional Devolution, particularly in the long neglected North.
The 18th September will herald a new dawn in Scottish & UK politics.
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Does it drive you crazy when you hear people say ” It’s funny how stuff just happens” ?
I’ve got news for those people – nothing “just happens”………..well maybe evolution is an exception, and that takes millions of years to make noticeable change, so if we want to make stuff happen quickly how do we go about doing it. Here are some simple tips:-
- Break a large task into smaller more manageable ‘chunks’
- Arrange those ‘chunks’ into chronological order & do some in parallel.
- Create a tracker.
- Before asking people to do things make sure they’re resource is allocated.
- Don’t just rely on email – talk.
- If people won’t complete their allocated tasks on time – escalate.
- Make sure they understand the importance of the task.
- Most importantly – be persistent.
If you have some more tips on making stuff happen we’d like to hear them.
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Dads Army – Don’t Panic
Have you ever felt a sense of panic at work when you feel overwhelmed by conflicting priorities and the need to complete a number of competing tasks. Most people find themselves in this position at one time or another and there is one overwhelming truth – no task is performed better in a state of panic than it would be otherwise.
Panic is due to excess stress which excites our primordial instincts of fight or flight. When we can’t respond in this way we are conflicted and the stress hormones exhibit themselves physiologically by making us edgy, short tempered, irrational and emotional.
So how do we manage stress & minimise these unpleasant symptoms.
- Take time out to prioritise your work – if necessary ask your boss to help you determine the top priotities.
- Plan your day ahead before you leave work the previous evening.
- Decline meetings which can be avoided.
- If you have to visit different locations to complete tasks arrange to do them all at one location on the same day.
- Learn to say ‘No’ – but always explain why.
- Write an Action list in priority order.
- Keep a notebook to aid memory.
- Use Spreadsheets – they’re great for recording complex sets of information.
- Take time out. Instead of having lunch at your desk go for a brisk walk.
- Maintain physical fitness whch is essential to psychological health.
- Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol – they are never the answer to you problems.
- If you can – start work half an hour early – don’t worry about getting paid for it, that extra 30 minutes getting your act together will be well worth it.
- Remember – unless you really are a Doctor or an Airline pilot, nobody is going to die if you don’t complete that task before 5pm.
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