Category Archives: Uncategorized

Highly automated plant in Spain

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Posted by on June 24, 2009 in Uncategorized


The QualliPedia definition of DMAIC

Define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC), developed by W. Edwards Deming in the 1950s, is a statistical and analytical method used to reduce defects by finding the root causes of defects, eliminating them, and sustaining that improvement level.

The roots of DMAIC are from the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, a method for learning and improvement, also referred to as the “Shewhart Cycle,” developed by Walter Shewhart, the statistician who developed statistical process control (SPC) while employed at Bell Laboratories during the 1930s.

Deming successfully applied the concept of PDCA to the management system processes of industrialized organizations during the 1950s and PDCA became known as the “Deming Wheel.” Deming developed DMAIC to guide quality projects of existing business processes in a continuous effort to reduce defects.

Read more about DMAIC in QulityDigest

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Posted by on June 24, 2009 in Uncategorized


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The Toyota Way is more than Tools and Techniques

So you set up your kanban system (Kanban is the Japanese word for “card”, “ticket”, or “sign” and is a tool for managing the flow and production of materials in a Toyota-style “pull” production system.) You put in the andon, which is a visual control device in a production area that alerts workers to defects, equipment abnormalities, or other problems using signals such as lights, audible alarms, etc. Finally with these devices your workplace looks like a Toyota plant. Yet, over time your workspace reverts to operating like it did before. You call in a Toyota Production System (TPS) expert who shakes her head disapprovingly. What is wrong

The real work of implementing Lean has just begun. Your workers do not understand the culture behind TPS. They are not contributing to the continuous improvement of the system or improving themselves. In the Toyota Way, it is the people who bring the system to life: working, communicating, resolving issues and growing together. From the first look at excellent companies in Japan practicing lean manufacturing, it was clear that the workers were active in making improvement suggestions. But the Toyota Way goes well beyond this; it encourages, supports and in fact demands employee involvement

The more I have studied TPS and the Toyota Way, the more I understand that it is a system designed to provide the tools for people, not less. It is a culture, even more than a set of efficiency and improvement techniques. You depend upon the workers to reduce inventory, identify hidden problems, and fix them. The workers have a sense of urgency, purpose and teamwork because if they don’t fix it there will be an inventory outage. On a daily basis, engineers, skilled workers, quality specialists, vendors, team leaders, and -most importantly- operators are involved in continuous problem solving and improvement, which over time trains everyone to become better problem solvers

One lean tool that facilitates this teamwork is called 5S (sort, stabilize, shine, standardize and sustain), which is a series of activities for eliminating wastes that contribute to errors, defects and injuries. In this improvement method, the fifth S, sustain, is arguably the hardest. It’s the one that keeps the first for S’s going by emphasizing the necessary education, training, and continuously improve operating procedures and the workplace environment. This effort requires a combination of committed management, proper training, and a culture that makes sustaining improvement a habitual behavior for the shop floor to management.

This chapter provides a synopsis of the 14 principles that constitute the Toyota Way. The principles are organized in four broad categories: 1) Long-Term Philosophy. 2) The Right Process Will Produce the Right Results. 3) Add Value to the Organization by Developing Your People, and 4) Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning.

Summary of the 14 Toyota Way Principles

  1. Section I: Long-Term Philosophy.

    1. Principle 1: Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  2. Section II: The Right Process Will Produce the Right Results.
    1. Principle 2: Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
    2. Principle 3: Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction.
    3. Principle 4: Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare).
    4. Principle 5: Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.
    5. Principle 6: Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.
    6. Principle 7:Use visual control so no problems are hidden.
    7. Principle 8: Use only reliable, throughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.
  3. Section III: Add value to the Organization by Developing Your People and Partners
    1. Principle 9: Grow leaders who throughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.
    2. Principle 10: Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.
    3. Principle 11: Respect your extend network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
  4. Section IV: Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning
    1. Principle 12: Go and see for yourself to throughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu).
    2. Principle 13: Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options implement decisions rapidly.
    3. Principle 14: Become a learning organization thorough relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).

“How does TPS apply to my business? We do not make high volume cars; we make low-volume, specialized products” or “We are a professional service organization, so TPS does not apply to us”. This line of thinking tells they are missing the point. Lean is not about imitating the tools used by Toyota in a particular manufacturing process. Lean is about developing principles that are right for your organization and diligently practicing them to achieve high performance that continues to add value to customers and society. This, of course, means being competitive and profitable. Toyota’s principles are a great starting point. And Toyota practices these principles far beyond its high-volume assembly lines.

This text has been extracted from Jeffrey K. Liker (2004) The Toyota Way; 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer.  Ed. Mc Graw-Hill  2004 Find it on Amazon

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Posted by on June 6, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Principle 7: Use visual control so no problems are hidden

I have visited many premises where cleanliness was taken really seriously. After each shift, workplaces were clean out, broomed and tools left in their asigned places.  Procedures were set  for maitaining a minimum level of order in a smaller number of factories, but were even less the number of companies where management got involved in these disciplines. It is only by encouraging labour and with a ‘do as you say’ attitudes that waste created around product flow can be reduced.  And it is then when we obtain visual control over a wider range of processes being able to identify problems.

Visual control is not only important in a manufacturing environment, where circuit boards or cranksafts are to be produced. But also in project management. Keeping information simple, available to all the involved parts and up to date is something necessary for process improvement in any service company.  A good way to start with is by collecting the most important documents around the project. Let’s use just a ring folder and paper sheets

Gantt charts and Critical Path Method analysis give an apropiate overview of the project timelines with just a glance.  A list of specifications, and deliverables can be drafted. Budgets, tool and equipment purchases can be listed by hand. When tasks are identified, listed and distributed they can be followed with a log book.  When we list tasks and procedures, internal and external cutomers are appear. It is easy to keep track of the project by reading  and updating hand written annotations. Of course delays and set backs will appear, and those must be added in the form of notes. All the generated documentation can be kept in the folder with a4 sheet written just in one side, so no problem is hidden. Probably as the project problems will appear for meeting deadlines, key suppliers, investments, and modifications in the project specifications but is not until we list them and are able to review that we can outline them. At the end of the project, the team can spend a sesion going through the whole project and helping with stablishing solutions to avoid the sam set backs once again. Therefore, continuous improvement starts to be a fact, and not a theory.

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Posted by on April 27, 2009 in Uncategorized


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AQSENSE enhances 3D again with SAL3D 8.4

Sticking to their slogan and target of enhancing 3D. The Girona based company has released the new version of SAL3D, the core package of a series of tools aimed to make of quality inspection a reality.

What is more important, with this new release, AQSENSE confirms it presence in the international market for vision systems, making sure that SAL3D is up to date for the new customer requirements and fulfill the expectatives that 21st century manufacturing companies have placed in vision systems.

SAL3D is the new software architecture from AQSENSE for range map and point cloud processing, fully oriented to 3D machine vision applications, mainly for 100% parts inspection and production automation.

SAL3D offer speed, accuracy, and reliability that comes only from extensive experience in the field of 3D. SAL3D is perfect for OEM’s, system integrators, and volume end users that demand maximum flexibility and customization capabilities in a 3D machine vision system.

SAL3D 3D shape analysis library 8.4

SAL3D 3D shape analysis library 8.4

SAL3D allows both existing and new 3D vision algorithms to be incorporated in this library. Tools can be integrated as DLL’s that allow developers access to third party components usable side by side with Arinna’s tools resulting in rapid development of highly complex processing tasks.

Some of library’s features are:

    • Easy to use C++ components usable on most commercially available C++ compilers.

    • Hardware acquisition independence through the use of frame grabber drivers.

    • Open architecture able to extend Arinna’s algorithms with custom and third party components.

    • Simple examples to help the developer speed up in using SAL3D’s tools.

    • Extensive on-line documentation of all libraries.

SAL3D is a 3D vision library of easy to use tools that helps the development of powerful industrial applications for quality control based on the processing and analysis of organized 3D data.

    This release includes four tools:

    • Peak Detector tool

    • Match 3D tool

    • Merger tool

    • Metric Calibration tool

Evaluation trial available in the Downloads section from AQSENSE web page.

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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in Uncategorized


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What quality means for business

Not The Quality Manager surveyed the people seated on the black leather chairs round the table. “If quality means business, then perhaps the next question must be something along the lines of, ‘What does business mean?’”

The R&D Manager smiled easily and pointed at the side flipchart which contained their original suggestions. “We have the answer to that already.”

NTQM looked thoughtfully at the flipchart. ”Yes, there may be some useful things there that we could come back to, but if we are to create a consistent picture of what we mean by quality, perhaps we should start from the most important things in our business. Can I ask you this: What do we mean by ‘business’?”

The Finance Manager looked irritated. ”What do you mean?”

“Please bear me.” NTQM looked evenly back. “To build a coherent and actionable description of what we mean by quality, we must break down what we mean by ‘business’ into its component parts”

The Finance Manager’s eyes narrowed.

“Let me put it this way,” said NTQM. ”What do we do?”

“We build excellent products.” Said the Production Manager.

“Why?” asked NTQM.

“To sell to our customers.” Said the Marketing Manager.

“Why?” asked again NTQM.

“To buy more materials to make more products?” ventured the R&D Manager.

“Why? What’s it all for?” asked NTQM, looking innocently around the room.

“It’s all for our shareholders,” interjected the General Manager. “They own the business, and while we are here, let’s face it, they own us. If it weren’t for their investment, we wouldn’t have jobs here! Our basic aim must be to meet their needs.”

“Which means profit,” said the Finance Manager, firmly. “We need profit to pay shareholders, to pay our debts and to stay in business.”

“OK, we seem to have reached the end of this line. Shall I add ‘profit’ as the next point in our definition of business quality?” asked NTQM.

“Definitely. It’s the fundamental objective of our business,” confirmed the General Manager. “Quality means business means profit.”

“What are the primary components of profit?” asked NTQM. “If we add these, it might help to identify the next level of detail.”

“Before our esteemed Finance Manager gets into detail, could we keep profit as equal to revenue less costs,” asked the R&D Manager, grinning wryly across the table.

“Hmm. Very well,” said the Finance Manager, hesitantly. “That is broadly true, if we include things like bad debt and taxes under ‘cost’. I guess it’s clear and correct enough to use in this definition.”

“What about everyone else? Do you agree? Is profit the fundamental thing we need from our business?”

As everyone thought about this and showed their agreement, NTQM wrote on the main flipchart, under the word ‘Business’


“Is this all that the shareholders need?” asked the Human Resource Manager. ”What about their dividends? And why is this more important than our people?”

“Well, with the risk involved, I’d guess they want at least as good return as putting their money in the bank,” commented the Service Manager.

“Our shareholders have not invested their money in the company for fun,” replied the Finance Manager. “They do, of course, want good dividends, although, I must add, not at any price. The company is their baby and their golden goose. If it died, they would be both upset and out of pocket.”

“Its also worth noting that not all of them are driven solely by money,” added the General Manager. “Some are interested in the finer things, like preserving the environment and serving the local community, although this, too, I suppose, must be paid for out of the profit we make.”

“Hmmmmm.” The Human Resource Manager looked thoughtful. “Perhaps company needs could be compared with human needs. Our fundamental business need must the same as that for any organism: survival. Only when such basic needs have been satisfied do we look to higher things.”

The Production Manager frowned. “This is still all common-sense stuff. Profit is all right, but it doesn’t relate too well to what my people do.”

NTQM nodded. “Yes, it is common sense, and much of what is called quality is nothing more, yet do we actually use that sense? Let’s consider the activities in this company. If we take the short-term fire-fighting on the one hand, and activities with a longer-term pay-back on the other, what is the real balance?”

“Well, I suppose we do spend a fair amount of time in dynamic situation,” said the Production Manager, “but that’s just the way things are. I know you quality people would have us spend half of our time trying to improve what we already do, but we have a business to run.”

It was NTQM’s turn to frown now. “Thank you. You’ve highlighted a very common problem: managers are continually trapped by urgent problems, while the quality people are pressing them to look to the longer term. It’s no wonder that they don’t see eye to eye. Both views are valid, and the key must be to find the right balance. We must both chop down tress and sharpen the axe. Failure to do either will, sooner or later, cause worse problems. Do you agree with this?”

The R&D Manager leaned forward. “Of course! We must invest for the future. By focusing too much on today’s problems we lose sight of tomorrow.”

“It does seem reasonable, but finding the right balance is not so easy,” commented the Human Resource Manager.

“You’re right,” said the General Manager. “It’s a question of balance. It’s too easy to be trapped by today’s problems and I include myself in this. We must give more thought to balancing the apparently urgent need for short-term survival with consideration for longer term growth.”

As he was talking, NTQM wrote on the side flipchart:


Short term survival vs. Long term growth

She tore off the page and taped it to the wall. Afterwards, she turned to scan the faces of the people round the table. Good, she thought, we’re all still in agreement. They care a lot about this company which means we have a good chance of getting there together.

Straker, D. (1998 ) The Quality Conspiracy. Ed Gower. Aldershot, UK.

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Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Uncategorized


The origin of fool-proof systems or Poka-Yoke

” In 1961 I visited Company X. There, the plant manager tols me the following story.

“One of the operations we do involvs the asembly of an extremely simple push-button device that we deliver to our parent company. The device is composed of two buttons, an on button and an off button, under each of which we have to enclose a small spring. Sometimes, though, one of our workers forgets to put in a spring. When our parent company discovers a swicth without a spring, we have to send an inspector all the way to there to check every switch that was delivered”

“This is a real pain in the neck, so whenever it happens, we tell workers to be particularly careful and for a while things improve a bit…”

I inmediately went into the plant to observe the assembly of the switchtes.

The operation was an extremely simple one. A worker would insert two small springs and then install the buttons. As I watched, however, a worker neglected to put in a spring before installing the button. The head of the manufacturing department saw this, too. In a panic, he scolded the worker for forgetting the spring and then ahd the switch reassembled.

I thought about what I had seen for a moment, and then turned to Mr. Y, the manufacturing department chief.

“What,” I asked him, “does it mean for a human being to ‘forget’ something?”

Mr. Y looked puzzled and replie,”To’forget’ means… well… it just means to forget, doesn’t it?”

When I asked him to explain, he was unable to answer and finally fell silent. After a brief pause, I suggested to him that there were really two kinds of forgetting. The first involves simply forgetting something. Since people are not perfect, they will, on rare occasions, inadvertently forget things. It is not that they forget things intentionally; they just happen, inadvertently, to forget now and then.

“Haven’t you ever, in your whole life, forgotten anything?” I asked Mr. Y.

“Sure I have,” he replied. “I forget things now and then. My wife always chews me out about it.”

I observed that, being the case, he was probably in a poor position to complain to his wife that his workers were forgetting things.

The other type of forgetting, I told him, involves forgetting that one has forgotten. We are all familiar with this kind of forgetting. It is the reason, for example, that we make checklists for ourselves.

If people had the omnipotene of gods, they would be able to remember everything and they would not need checklists.

“The same thing applies to this operation. Rather than thinking that workers ought to assemble the switches perfectly every time, you should recognize that, being human, they will, on rare occasions, forget things. To guard against that,” I suggested, “Why not take the idea of a checklist and incorporate it into the operation?”

The next question was how this could be done, so I had them put the following suggestions into effect:

  • A small dish was brought and, at the very beginning of the operation, two springs were taken out of a parts box containing hundreds of springs and placed on the dish.
  • Switch assembly took place next; then springs were inserted and buttons installed.
  • If any spring remained on the dish after assembly, the worker realized that that spring had been left out, and the assembly was then corrected.

This change in the operation completely eliminated the problem of missing springs and the parent company made no more claims on the subject.

Since springs in the earlier operation had been taken out of a parts box containing hundreds of other springs, there had been no way of knowing whether a spring had been removed or not. The new operation made it possible to know that a part had been forgotten and so eliminated the problem of missing springs.

Whenever I hear supervisors warning workers to pay more attention or to be sure not to forget anything, I cannot help thinking that the workers are being asked to carry out operations as if they possessed divine infallibility. Rather than that approach, we should recognize that people are, after all, only human and as such, they will, on rare occasions, inadvertently forget things. It is more effective to incorporate a checklist-i.e.m a poka-yoke– into the operation so that if a worker forgets something, the device will signal that fact, thereby preventing defects from occurring. This, I think, is the quickest road leading to attainment of zero defects.

In terms of management functions, this sort of poka-yoke device fulfills a control function that supplements the execution function.

This poka-yoke concept is actually based on the same idea as “foolproofing”, an approach devised mainly for preserving the safety of operations. In the early days I used the term “foolproofing” (in Japanese, bakayoke).

…. It was clear to me that “foolproofing” was a poorly chosen term. But what name would ibe suitable? After some thought, I gave the name poka-yoke (mistake-proofing) to these devices because they serve to prevent (or ‘proof;’ in Japanese, yoke) the sort of inadvertent mistakes (poka in Japanese) that anyone can make”

Shigeo Shingo (1986). Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-yoke System. Productivity Press, Pp 43-45


Posted by on May 27, 2008 in Uncategorized


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