The machine that changed the world…… 20 years ago!!

“ So far we’ve talked about innovations that involve the introduction in production vehicles of ideas already fairly well understood on the technical level. We’ve listed a number of advances of this type in the 1980s, and many more will be available in the 1990s -in particular, the application of electronics to mechanical vehicle systems such as vehicle suspension and the availability of mobile communications at lower cost in a much wider variety of vehicles. But what about epochal innovations– really big leaps in technological know-how such as would be entailed in workable fuel-cell power units or all-plastic body structures or sophisticated navigation and congestion-avoidance systems? As we will see, the 1990s may prove a time for such innovations. Can lean producers respond to these much more daunting challenges?

In fact, the world auto industry has lived during its first century in a benign environment -demand for its products has increased continually, even in the most developed countries; space has been available in most areas to expand road networks greatly; and the earth’s atmosphere has been able to tolerate ever-growing use of motor vehicles, with minor technical fixes in the 1970s and 1980s designed to solve smog problems in congested urban areas. Shortly, the environment for operating motor vehicles may become much more demanding.

Demand for cars is now close so saturation in North America, Japan, and the western half of Europe. A small amount of incremental growth will be possible in the 1990s, but by the end of the century producers in these markets will need to provide consumers with something new if they want to increase theirs sales volume (measured in dollars or marks or yen rather than units). Moreover, the growth of vehicle use and increasing resistance to road building have made the road systems of these regions steadily more congested, gradually stripping motor-vehicle use of its pleasure…” Pp135-137

Lexus Hybrid Drive Car

The Luxury Hybrid machine from Toyota

“ …Our goal is to specify the ideal enterprise in much the way buyers of such a craft-built cars as the Aston Martin used to specify the car of their dreams. Unfortunately, no such dream machine currently exists, so we will create it: Multiregional Motors (MRM).

The management challenge, we believe, is simple in concept: to devise a form of enterprise that functions smoothly on a multiregional basis and gains the advantage of close contact with local markets and the presence as an insider in each of the major regios. At the same time, it must benefit from access to systems for global production, supply, product development, technology acquisition, finance, and distribution…

…The key features of what we call Multiregional Motors are as follows:

An integrated, global personnel system that promotes personnel from any country in the company as if nationality did not exist. Achieving this goal obviously will require great attention to learning languages and socialization and a willingness on the part of younger personnel to work for much of their career outside their home country. However, we already see evidence that younger managers find career paths of this type attractive….

A set of mechanisms for continuous, horizontal information flow among manufacturing, supply systems, product development, technology acquisition, and distribution. The best way to put these mechanisms in place is to develop strong shusa-led teams for product development, which brings these skills together with a clear objective…

Teams would stay together for the life of the product, and team members would then be rotated to other product-development teams, quite possibly in other regions and even in different specialties (for example, product planning, supplier coordination, marketing). In this way the key mechanism of information flow would be employees themselves as they travel among technical specialties and across the regions of the company. Everyone would stay fresh and a broad network of horizontal information channels would develop across the company…

A mechanism for coordinating the development of new products in each region and facilitating their sale as niche products in other regions -without producing lowest-common denominator products. The logical way to accomplish this goal is to authorize each region to develop a full set of products for its regional market. Other regions may order these products for cross shipment as niche products wherever demand warrants…” Pp 223 – 227

Womack P. James,  T. Jones Daniel &  Roos Daniel (1990) The machine that changed the world. How Lean Production revolutionized the Global Car Wars. Ed. Simon & Schuster UK, Ltd. UK.


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My favourites from the IAA

Lexus Hybrid Drive; The best hybrid power train

Lexus Hybrid Drive; The best hybrid power train

Lexus LF-Ch: Alternativer Anspruch

Lexus LF-Ch: Alternativer Anspruch

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Posted by on September 22, 2009 in Uncategorized


Some pictures from the IAA 2009 in Frankfurt

As the book ‘ Springtime for Germany: or How I learned to Love lederhosen’  discusses, I decided to spend my holidays in Germany. After hiring a car in Düsseldorf, we drove 1800 km around Deutschland, including Hambur, Celler, Braunsweig, Melzungen, and visiting the 2009 edition of the IAA in Frankfurt.

I have been present in the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles between nearly all the main automobile manufacturers and I would like to share the images that have shocked me more. I hope you enjoy them aswell, you have still time to visit the Messe until next weekend.

BMW Efficient Dynamics? Nice for the fair, but difficult to produce I guess

BMW's concept car

BMW bet for Mini's Electric engine

BMW bet for Mini's Electric engine

HAMANN Customization of Mercedes SLR. Good example of craft manufacturing

HAMANN Customization of Mercedes SLR

Zonda Roadster from Pagani Automobili. Can you die-press that shape from a metal sheet? Let me know

Zonda Roadster from Pagani Automobili

Very nice piece of Mechatronics

Very nice piece of Mechatronics

Melkus, what a baroque car, but no cash in my pocket for buying it in site


Hyunday Electri System is not bigger than a suitcase. Believe me

Hyunday Electri System is not bigger than a briefcase

The concept car from Hyunday

Hyunday's concept car

Opel Ampera? I can not remember this one

Opel Ampera

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Posted by on September 21, 2009 in Uncategorized


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The juice of electric cars

In spite of the deep crisis in the automotive industry, several large carmakers are taking a gamble on a technology that has not yet proved it can win over consumers – electric cars.

hybrid-thumb.jpgNational and local governments globally, including the US, the UK, Japan and Australia, are abetting this drive into the unknown with generous subsidies and tax breaks for zero- and low-emission vehicles due to launch over the coming three years.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the RenaultNissan alliance, which has the biggest plans for battery-powered cars, this month unveiled in Yokohama the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Mr Ghosn dismissed the notion – voiced by many analysts and some competing carmakers – that the limited driving range of electric cars, their higher price and need to recharge regularly will limit them to niche markets. “We see this as a mass market car,” he said. Nissan wants to sell 200,000 Leafs globally by 2012.

In keeping with Mr Ghosn’s bullish view, Renault will next month unveil in Frankfurt a range of several all-electric cars aimed at “different kinds of uses and consumers”, according to the company.

Rival Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi last month began taking orders for the i-MiEV, a car that can drive 160km (100 miles) on a single electric charge. This is enough for most commutes, and the same range Nissan and Renault are promising for their vehicles. It will go on sale to commercial buyers from this year and consumers from next April.

Daimler this year will begin production of a second-generation electric version of its Smart Fortwo minicar. The model will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries supplied by Tesla, the private California-based electric car company in which Daimler bought just under a 10 per cent stake for €50m ($70.7m) in May.

Tesla itself began selling electric roadsters in the US last year and in June opened the first of four planned European dealerships in London.

Mr Ghosn said at the launch of the Leaf that he thought pure electric vehicles could account for 10 per cent of all new car purchases by 2020. PwC, in a recent report, estimated that the market could account for 2-5 per cent of total output of light vehicles by that year. However, many analysts are sceptical that the optimistic forecasts will pan out, given the limited driving ranges and high initial price.

“The technology isn’t there yet with the batteries to do more than 100 miles reliably and if you turn on the air conditioning or heating, it’s less than that,” says Al Bedwell, an automotive technology analyst with JD Power. “It’s a limited market.

Toyota, Nissan’s local rival and the global industry’s biggest producer, has said that electric cars are best suited for short distance urban commuting and delivery vehicles. In January the company unveiled the FT-EV, a small electric car it wants to mass-produce by about 2012.

However, Toyota spends more time speaking about its hybrids, including a plug-in car due to launch this year that can top up its battery via an electric outlet, but still have recourse to a petrol engine.

Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of research and development, recently acknowledged that large-scale zero-emission driving at affordable prices “won’t become a reality overnight”. The company plans to produce about 1,000 of its electric Smart cars this year.

Nissan's new electronic vehicle, the Leaf

Mitsubishi, the first volume carmaker to launch an electric model, says that it would sell only about 1,400 to fleet customers this year – mainly corporations and local authorities – but hopes to sell 30,000 annually by 2013.

If hybrid cars are any indication, many consumers will baulk at electric cars’ high initial price.

Global sales of hybrid cars are rising, but still account for less than 1 per cent of light vehicle sales, in part because of the premium they command over comparable conventional cars – up to $5,000 in the case of the Toyota Prius.

In the US, the biggest market for hybrids, their sales have dropped further than the industry average during the downturn.

Meanwhile, PWC estimates that all-electric cars will cost $7,000-$20,000 more than comparable conventional cars.

To defray some of the cost to early adopters, Britain is one of several governments that will offer their buyers tax breaks, worth up to £5,000 ($8,225) from 2011. US buyers of plug-in cars – such as General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt, launching next year – will benefit from a tax break worth $7,500.

Toyota Prius

In Japan, Mitsubishi’s tiny i-MiEV will have a list price of more than $48,000, or about three times the price of its petrol version. However, the company points out that national and regional subsidies will defray the cost of the car there and in Europe.

Nissan and Renault plan to reduce the cost to consumers further by decoupling the cost of the battery from the car under a leasing scheme, allowing them to sell the vehicles at a price comparable to similar conventional cars. In marketing electric cars, the companies also plan to tout lower running costs.

In Israel, the two carmakers are joining forces with Better Place, a US company building a nationwide recharging network for electric cars, including battery-swap stations where motorists can exchange their depleted batteries. The project has the blessing of Israel’s government, which has enacted generous tax incentives for electric cars.

Mr Ghosn’s decision to position Nissan as a frontrunner in electric cars has landed the company much-needed government financing, too. Britain and Portugal are giving the company loans and grants of undisclosed size to build new plants to make lithium-ion batteries for cars announced in July.

Honda Insight

Britain, which is trying to position itself as a hub for low-carbon technologies, is also expected to provide financial sweeteners to lure Nissan to make electric cars at its plant in Sunderland, north-east England.

In the US, Nissan recently became the first non-US carmaker to qualify for a Department of Energy grant for clean-car technology. It will use the $1.6bn low-interest loan to retool its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, to make electric cars from 2012.

The missing – and still incalculable – piece of the equation now is the number of customers that will buy its cars.

Extracted from The Financial Times Limited 2009.

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Posted by on August 20, 2009 in Uncategorized


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63rd IAA Cars: experience automobiles outdoors, too – with all your senses

“A Moving Experience.” The slogan of the 63rd International Motor Show (IAA) Cars stands not only for numerous new technological developments and vehicle premieres, but also for the many attractions and activities that are moving – in the truest sense of the word – on the IAA’s open-air site. Here visitors can join in instead of just looking, no matter whether they are interested in the smaller vehicles on the go-cart track and model racing track, or the larger ones on the off-road circuit and the streets of Frankfurt.

iaa 2009

iaa 2009

Visitors to the IAA can get tips and help from experienced driving instructors at the economical driving training (, learning how they can reduce their fuel consumption and emissions by up to 20% by observing some basic rules and making the best use of modern vehicle technology. The valuable tips can be put into practice right away on the way home or during a test drive in one of the IAA’s many innovations. The starting point for the 14-kilometer route is Hall 10 on the IAA trade fair grounds.

This year again, visitors to the IAA can not only admire numerous new models at the exhibition stands, but they can also test them themselves directly at the show. Manufacturers from both Germany and abroad are making their particularly efficient and economical models available for free test drives ( on Frankfurt’s roads. An expert will join the test drivers as a passenger and provide information about the car’s technical details.

The now traditional IAA outdoor go-kart track ( gives visitors a Formula-1 feeling and lots of fun on the racetrack. This high-speed highlight on the open-air site to the south of Hall 10 gives the drivers a real thrill on the spectacular 600-meter racetrack. With up to 12 karts all running at once, there’s a real racing atmosphere.

The model racetrack specialist Carrera invites visitors to go in for motor racing on a smaller scale. They will drive remote-controlled cars on a digital racetrack covering more than 230 sq m (, competing for victory each day and hoping to qualify for the grand finale at the Carrera Challenge Tour 2009 in Essen in November, and also for the showdown at the Carrera European Championship 2010. Carrera is presenting the Championship on the Agora, the open-air site in front of Frankfurt’s Festhalle. If you want to join in, download a “driver’s license” from and hand it in to the race manager, or simply apply directly at the racetrack.

Fun on a larger scale can be had once again this year on the off-road circuit ( to the south of Hall 10. The most advanced off-road vehicles will take visitors over lumps and bumps, potholes, extreme slopes, gravel tracks, a see-saw and bridge constructions up to seven meters high with an 80 per cent gradient. The professionals at the wheel take the vehicles through the most demanding, 5,000 sq m off-road circuit and show just what technical capabilities there really are in modern off-road vehicles and SUVs.

Visitors can experience these events and activities, and many more besides, at the 63rd IAA Cars in Frankfurt am Main from 17 to 27 September 2009. All the information about the trade show, e.g. the special shows, opening times and advance ticket sales, is available on the Internet from the official IAA web site

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Posted by on August 14, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Is a Lean cup of coffee what you are looking for in Starbuks?

Can Starbucks employ lean manufacturing techniques used by fast-food rivals without becoming a fast-food joint itself?

That question was raised by a Wall Street Journal story highlighting how Starbucks is trying to deploy “lean thinking.” In a nutshell, Starbucks has a lean team that times baristas and teaches them aspects of Toyota’s production system. There are even Mr. Potato Head assembly drills.

The conundrum: Lean techniques are great for manufacturing, but not non-repeatable human tasks. What business is Starbucks in? You’d have to argue both. Starbucks workers manufacture coffee and tea drinks, but really sell a vibe. Needless to say, this movement, which could ruffle a few old school baristas, has its risks. It has helped the bottom line though.

Starbucks reported a solid third quarter. On the company’s earnings conference call, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said:

The majority of cost reductions we’ve achieved come from a new way of operating and serving our customers. Over the quarter, we began to roll out our better way initiatives, a series of process improvements in our stores using lean principals.

We’ve been seeing encouraging results over the past couple of quarters, not just improving efficiency and reducing costs but most importantly we are improving customer engagement.

Even as we make considerable progress in improving our bottom line, we remain as focused as ever on initiatives that will remind our customers what sets Starbucks apart. We are doing this through immediate traffic driving strategies and enhanced customer experience, and longer term brand-building.

Indeed, the Journal story focuses on how Starbucks has moved ingredients around to save an extra few seconds here and there. Rivals such as Dunkin Donuts already deploy such techniques. Manufacturing and Business Technology highlighted Starbucks’ lean manufacturing experiments in March.

If Starbucks can become more productive and free folks up to chat with customers then the idea is smart. If Starbucks just becomes another fast food joint perhaps it isn’t such a bright idea. Overall, Starbucks has to adapt and lean manufacturing can help. Thus far, the company’s menu, manufacturing and service tweaks appear to be on the right path.

Extracted from SmartPlanet


Posted by on August 11, 2009 in Lean Manufacturing


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Takt Time: The time it takes to finish a product.

Takt is a German word for the baton used by maestros. Just like the musicians must be synchronized with the conductor, the rate of production within an organization must be synchronized with the rate of its delivery. In a nutshell, takt time is a theoretical figure that indicates how much time is needed to finish one product. The goal is to precisely define takt time to meet customer demand, and then run the production line to meet that takt time. Once takt time is defined, the processes of the entire organization should be adjusted to keep up with it. If any process exceeds the takt time, there will be shortage of product, if it is faster than takt time, there will be product surplus. A simple way to find takt time is to divide the total production time by the number of units required by the customer. This can be expressed in seconds, minutes, or hours per produced item, depending on production speed. To achieve the ideal takt time, it is important to take into account all the irregularities that are part of each step of a process.


Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Low-Cost Approach to Management, by Masaaki Imai (McGraw-Hill, 1997) Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times, by Rajan Suri (Productivity Press, 1998) A Lean Guide to Transforming Healthcare: How to Implement Lean in Principles in Hospitals, Medical Offices, Clinics and Other Healthcare Organizations, by Tom Zidel (ASQ Quality Press, 2007)

Extracted from; Qualipedia


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Did Quality Programs kill GM?

Are Quality Methodologies All Smoke and Mirrors? Part One

Can we blame quality programs for GM’s demise?

World War III has begun. This time it’s not a war of battleships, bullets and bombs—this is an economic war. The weapons are televisions, steel, cars, and clothes. This is a war where we have no allies. Every nation is out to capture more of its share of the U.S. and world’s market. We are being attacked with tires from Brazil, cars from Japan, radios from Taiwan, clothes from China, cosmetics from France, shoes from Italy, and beef from Argentina and Australia.

Businesses in the United States entered the 1980s with a deep-seated resolution to stop the flood of import products and as a result, a group of “new admirals and generals” took over to reestablish our industrial leadership. These were people such as John Akers of IBM, F. James McDonald of General Motors Corp. (GM), Jim Olson of AT&T, and John Young of Hewlett-Packard. Industrial leaders like these laid out strategies to thrust the United States back to the prominence it once had. But it takes years to reestablish a reputation once it has been destroyed or at least tarnished.

General Motors—one of the most powerful and respected organizations—is now in bankruptcy. Why did this happen? What did they try to do that didn’t work? To help understand this, I will report on an interview I had in 1988 with GM’s corporate president, F. James McDonald, which was documented in my book, The Quality/Profit Connection (American Society for Quality Control, 1989).

General Motors celebrated its 100th anniversary on September 16, 2008. It was on this date in 1909 that William C. Durant founded. General Motors Co, predecessor of the current GM. The first motor company acquired by Durant was the Buick Motor Co.

In 1988, GM had 151 facilities operating throughout the United States, in 26 states and 90 cities; in Canada, there were 13 GM plants. It had assembly, manufacturing, distribution, sales, or warehousing operations in 37 other countries. GM also had equity interest in associated companies, which conducted assembly, manufacturing, or distribution in several countries. The average worldwide employment totaled approximately 748,000 men and women in 1984.

Following is an excerpt from my interview with F. James McDonald, president of GM from 1981 to 1987.

H. James Harrington: What were the circumstances leading to the current focus of GM on quality improvement?

F. James McDonald: Efficient, small, high-quality vehicles from Japan, and the availability of these vehicles at just the right time in history were watershed events in the U.S. auto industry. Their perceived quality became the benchmark for all cars—in effect, customer standards changed dramatically. And that change swept through the entire line of products.

HJH: Do you have an official quality policy?

McDonald: Actually, the new quality consciousness at GM began with the development of a quality ethic for all GM units and operations. The essence of this ethic boils down to this: Quality is the number one operating priority at GM today.

HJH: To what sections of the business is it being applied?

McDonald: Quality improvement is being applied to all areas of our business. Specific quality objectives and strategies must be included within each unit’s five-year business plan. All departments within a business, and of course, each employee, contribute to meeting those quality objectives.

On new product programs, resources are allocated very early when our ability to influence the outcome is greatest. This includes the front-loading of people from all disciplines including marketing, product engineering, manufacturing, assembly, quality assurance, financial, and materials management. This includes early sourcing decisions so our suppliers can work with product development teams on potential problems and improvement.

HJH: What activities were undertaken to start the quality improvement process and when did it start?

McDonald: At GM today, we have this kind of strategic vision, and that vision is simply to offer world-class quality in every market segment. By world-class, we mean parity with, or superiority to, the best in the field—product for product.

To assist the operating units in this effort, the corporation has issued four key success factors for quality, which help focus the GM quality ethic and its six mandates. Research has shown that these key success factors must be addressed in business planning and implementation strategies if meaningful quality improvement is to occur.

Let’s take a look at what the key success factors and the associated objectives are.

  • Management commitment. Managers at all levels must be committed to continuous quality improvement and demonstrate their commitment by word or action.
  • People development process. Every employee, regardless of function or level, must have the encouragement, support, and opportunity to be a contributing member of the quality improvement effort.
  • Quality performance processes. Each task and activity must have processes and tools to ensure conformance to specifications and to provide for continuous quality improvement.
  • Customer satisfaction. General Motors must be the world leader in quality, reliability, durability, performance, service, and value, as confirmed by customer-defined measures and marketplace response.

We have also identified the major steps to carry out improvements on any given project and have found that they work quite well.

HJH: What is the role of top management in the improvement process?
McDonald: Achieving true quality maturity is totally the responsibility of top management in our company. Others may carry it out to one degree or another, but those at the top must be willing to go the whole route.

We believe that the whole top management team must be aboard. Even the most inspiring leader can’t hope to reach the organization without total commitment from everyone at the top.

What is the role of the employees and the union in the improvement process?

We are absolutely convinced that eventual success depends heavily on the employees. As we discussed, one of our key success factors for quality improvement concerns people-development processes.

For instance, we’ve trained more than 30,000 GM workers in statistical process control techniques. And I must say, to see these tools put to work right on the line is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at GM. So, I think we’re on the right track on the employee side—even though we still have a ways to go.

HJH:What problems did you have in implementing the improvement process?
McDonald: Prevention within manufacturing can take you only so far along the journey. Greater success must come from moving the focus upstream, to design and engineering, for example, by combining the talents of design engineering, processing, and manufacturing, and having them work together as a team instead of individually. That’s the place to start if you’re serious about doing everything right the first time. Our product development teams on new products that we have previously mentioned are addressing this in a fine manner. We are also initiating this concept in our daily operations.

General Motor’s reorganization of its North American passenger cars and its worldwide truck and bus operations addressed changes necessary to ensure quality improvement, accountability for results, and effective allocation of resources. The reorganization was quality-driven from the beginning.

On reviewing McDonald’s comments, I see he was saying all the right things and doing all the right things, but the results have been disastrous for GM investors, employees, suppliers, and the United States.

H. James Harrington; Quality Digest; Are Quality Methodologies All Smoke and Mirrors? Part One

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Posted by on August 4, 2009 in Total Quality Management


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Karlsruhe tram-train trials Ni-Cd battery

Karlsruhe tram-train trials Ni-Cd battery

The pioneering Stadtbahn Karlsruhe tram-train network in Germany has completed an extended field trial with a Saft MATRICS MRX battery system to demonstrate the potential reliability, performance and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) advantages offered by using specialised rechargeable nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries in a light rail application.

The trial has now entered a second phase with the installation of two further test batteries.

The city of Karlsruhe was the first in Germany to link its street tramway and the main-line railway by running urban trams on both networks. The main line remains open at all times to all types of train – including local trains, heavy freight and high-speed express trains – and this model has led to the creation of tram-trains featuring dual equipment to suit the needs of both tram and train networks, such as support for multiple voltages.

In order to change the power supply from 750 V DC on the tram tracks to the 15 kV AC used by the main-line trains (or vice-versa) the tram-train has to pass a cut-off section of 50 to 250 metres where no external power is available. This requires the onboard battery system (with a nominal voltage of 24 V), to provide a minimum of 20 V for a cut-off period of between 20 to 25 seconds to support all the electrical loads, so battery reliability is a vital factor in ensuring that the Stadtbahn Karlsruhe services run on-time.

Currently, the majority of the Karlsruhe tram-trains are fitted with flooded lead-acid batteries that can give rise to a number of reliability, maintenance and service-life issues. For example, ideally the battery should have a capacity of at least 300 Ah. But in practice this is limited to 230 Ah due to the need to fit within the space available within the under floor battery box. This means that the tram-train often runs out of power, stopping before it can complete its passage across the cut-off section. In addition, these lead-acid batteries can not withstand deep discharges without irreversible capacity loss. There have been a number of cases where a tram-train has been parked overnight on the main-line track, where the external power has been turned off for track maintenance but the onboard loads, such as lights, have been inadvertently left on. The current drain can cause a massive voltage drop to 16-18 V, resulting in a reduced battery lifespan or even instant failure.

Further battery problems are experienced during the winter months, when low temperatures cause a substantial decrease in battery performance. At least one battery has also experienced ‘sudden death’ – in which the open circuit failure of one or more cells has caused the whole battery to fail, and their overall service-life is limited to only two to three years.

Ni-Cd batteries offer a number of advantages for tram-train applications because they can provide: a larger capacity within the same installation footprint; resistance to deep discharges; high performance at high and low temperatures; long predictable service-life of at least 15 years with no risk of sudden death; low maintenance costs due to simple maintenance requirements and extended service intervals.

Saft worked with Stadtbahn Karlsruhe to carry out a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis to confirm that Ni-Cd could be a cost-effective alternative to lead-acid batteries. This showed that, although the initial cost of acquisition of the Ni-Cd battery system would be higher than lead-acid, when operation, maintenance and replacement costs over a 12-year period were considered then an Ni-Cd battery would actually cost less.

However, while the cost of the battery is important to the operator, it is reliability that is crucial.

As poor reliability is not only damaging to the reputation of the tram-train service it also incurs considerable extra costs in towing vehicles, replacing failed batteries in the field and so on, also especially as a stranded vehicle might be up to 130 km from the service depot.

After proving the case for Ni-Cd batteries in principle, Stadtbahn Karlsruhe decided to carry out a practical evaluation over all the seasons of the year and asked Saft to provide a trial battery system that comprises 19 MATRICS MRX 200 batteries which fit within the existing battery box, with a nominal capacity of 200 Ah.

The battery’s current performance is the crucial factor in supporting the passage of the tram-train through the cut-off section. In general, lead-acid batteries, at the same rated capacity, are not capable of delivering such high currents as an Ni-Cd battery. This means that, even though the Saft Ni-Cd battery might appear to have a lower rated capacity than the 230 Ah lead-acid battery it has replaced, in practice it delivers superior performance. Furthermore, the low temperature performance of lead-acid batteries is poorer than Ni-Cd. So the gap in performance between the lead-acid battery and the Saft battery is even greater in cold weather.

“Saft’s Ni-Cd battery performed very well during the field test, with no problems or outages, which is more important than anything else, including cost, since fewer outages mean more passenger availability” said Herr Rainer Supper, deputy workshop manager responsible for electrics who is now in his 46th year with Stadtbahn Karlsruhe.“We didn’t need to touch the Saft battery for a whole year and it only needed topping up with three litres of water. And, thanks to the centralised water filling system incorporated in the MRX design, topping up only took 15 minutes. With our lead-acid batteries each cell has to be opened individually for refilling and this has to be done three times. With three major maintenance sessions during the year at least one hour of time could be saved per tram-train”.

The success of the first field test prompted Stadtbahn Karlsruhe to order two further test Ni-Cd test batteries, and the first of these was installed in December 2008.

Saft MATRICS MRX batteries have been purpose-designed to deliver maximum performance, reliability and low TCO in rail applications. The batteries provide the low maintenance and long service life benefits of sintered/PBE technology within a slim, light-weight block battery package that shows a major size and volume advantage compared with conventional batteries.

The MATRICS MRX design is reliable, even in temperatures ranging from -30 to +70 degrees C.

The MATRICS MRX also includes an integrated water filling system. The simple to use feature fills all the cells from one central point – without any moving parts – and reduces the battery maintenance requirements by enabling cells to be topped-up quickly, safely and accurately, maximizing the battery’s useful life.

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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in Uncategorized


Was Henry Ford a true Lean thinker?

Do not forget that Today and Tomorrow was written in the 1920s, over a half century ago when Ford’s career was at its peak.  Shortly, he would face his first failure and discouragement even though the Ford Motor Company ultimately survived.

As I said earlier, I have long doubted that the mass-production system practiced in America and around the world today even in Japan, was Ford’s true intention. For this reason, I have constantly sought the origin of his ideas. For example, take a look at the American social environment of the 1920s when Ford was prospering

“But are we moving too fast – not only merely in the making of automobiles, but in life generally? One hears a [great] deal about the worker being ground down by hard labour, of what is called progress being made at the expense of something or other, and that efficiency is wrecking all the finer things of life.

It is quite true that life is out of balance – and always has been. Until lately, most people have had no leisure to use and, of course, they do not know how to use it. One of our large problems is to find some balance between work and play, between sleep and food, and eventually to discover why men grow old and die. Of this more later.

Certainly we are moving faster than before. Or, more correctly, we are being moved faster. But is 20 minutes in a motor car easier or harder than four hours solid trudging down a dirt road? Which mode of travel leaves the pilgrim fresher at the end? Which leaves him more time and more mental energy? And soon we shall be making an hour by air what were days journeys by motor. Shall we all then be nervous wrecks?

But does this state of nervous wreckage to which we are all said to be coming exist in life – or in books? One hears of the workers nervous exhaustion in books, but does one hears it from workers?…

The very word “efficiency” is hated because so much that is not efficiency has masqueraded as such. Efficiency is merely the doing of work in the best way you know rather than in the worst way. It is the training of the worker and the giving to him of power so that he may earn more and have more and live more comfortably. The Chinese coolie working through long hours for a few cents a day is not happier than the American worker with his own home and automobile. The one is a slave; the other is a free man.”

There have been many changes in the last half century. Circumstances in China have changed drastically, for instance. Recently, between September 1977 and September 1978, I visited many Chinese industries trying hard to promote modern industrialization.

From the Ford’s time to the present, through our postwar period when we began work on the Toyota production system, and within the industrialization that China is trying to achieve, there is one universal element – and Ford called it a “true efficiency”. Ford said efficiency is simply a matter of doing work using the best methods known, not the worst.

The Toyota production system works with the same idea. Efficiency is never a function of quantity and speed. Ford raised the question: “Are we moving too fast?” In connection with the automobile industry, it is undeniable that we have been pursuing efficiency and regarding quantity and speed as its two major factors. The Toyota production system, on the other hand, has always suppressed overproduction, producing in response to the needs of the marketplace

In the high-growth period, market needs were great and losses caused by overproduction did not appear on the surface. During slow growth, however, excess inventory shows up wether we like it or not. This kind of waste is definitely the result of pursuing quantity and speed.

When describing the characteristics of the Toyota production system, we explained the concept of small lot sizes and quick setup. Actually, at the heart of this is our intention to reform the existing and deeply rooted concept of “faster and more” by generating a continuous work flow.

To be truthful, even at Toyota, it is very difficult to get the die pressing, resin modelling, casting, and forging processes into a total production flow as streamlined as the flows in assembly or machine processing. For example, with training, setup of a large press can be accomplished in three to five minutes. This is shorter than that of other companies by a surprisingly large margin. In the future, as work flow is perfected, we could slow down and still keep it under 10 minutes.

This explains why the Toyota production system is the opposite of America’s system of mass production and quantity sales – the latter system generates unnecessary losses in pursuit of quantity and speed.

Ohno, Taiichi. 1988. Toyota Production System. Beyond large-scale production. Pp 107-109. Productivity Press. New York.


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