"It is impossible for ideas to
compete in the marketplace if no forum for
their presentation is provided or available."
Thomas Mann, 1896
The Business Forum
THE ART OF
is the first of a monthly series of articles pertaining to manufacturing; what
it is, what the state-of-the-art is, examples of it, and some explanations of
where it stands today versus pastimes.
first article will be a purely subjective look at manufacturing, from my point
of view. Being such, I expect
that some will have various opinions about the points made here.
I will ask for inputs on your thoughts later in the article and give
you information on how to communicate them.
begin. The story starts when I
was very young, probably 6-8 years old. In
one of the few vivid memories I have of that time of my life, I received a toy
Gasoline Filling Station from Santa at Christmas time.
This little station was amazing! It
looked real, with brightly painted emblems of gasoline and oil companies,
stacks of automobile tires, two bays for automotive repair, and four gasoline
pumps. Even more amazing was that
the four pumps actually did pump - water, that is, from a plastic reservoir
that I could fill. I did not understand it at the time, but the construction of
the toy station was sheet metal, bolts, and metal tabs placed into holes and
then bent to secure them. The
reservoir and connecting hoses were plastic and rubber respectively; with the
four pump hoses all connected to a plastic manifold.
Each pump had a valve to turn on the water flow, that flow coming from
a small hand pump, similar to a hand pump for a bicycle tire.
Truly fascinated by this mechanism, I did not know exactly how it
worked, but really enjoyed playing with it.
does that have to do with manufacturing?
Okay, here it is. After a
time, even though I loved playing with this station, my curiosity got the
better of me, and I just had to find out what this contraption was all about.
So, using my fathers screwdriver and pliers and crescent wrench, I
set to taking the station apart. It
took me several days to do it, because I wanted to be careful not to damage
it. In the end, I was successful
in my endeavor, and the station was now in about 15 or 20 pieces.
None of them was damaged, but I had no clue as to how to put all of it
back together again in the proper order to make it operate as before.
After several attempts with not-very-good results, I asked my father,
who was truly upset when he saw my dilemma, to help me reassemble it.
He finally did and we were successful.
lasting effect of this story was that it began my fascination with things that
get built. There, my friends is
the manufacturing connection. My
simple definition of manufacturing is the
art of building things.
This fascination was why I got my engineering degree and why I have
always worked for companies that are highly technical and that build
interesting and complex things.
that you know how manufacturing became the focus of my adult working life,
lets talk about one of my favorite subjects - manufacturing in the USA.
is the United States of America the greatest nation on earth?
People may have several answers to this question, but I am convinced
that it is our ability to manufacture things better than others.
Using this hypothesis, why do Americans manufacture things better?
It is because of the American people!!
Why American people as opposed to British, French, Italians, etc.?
My opinion - because Americans are the result of the mixture of many
different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, brought together in an environment
that is the right mix of determination, talent, need, and availability of raw
resources. Sort of a comparison
to the supposed big bang theory, which hypothetically was the right mix
of stuff to form the universe and eventually, mankind.
A happen chance, if you will, which just worked right. Like winning the Revolutionary War, when we had no right to,
or like getting Alaska, with its tremendous resources, for a very, very, very
low price. Things have just
worked right for Americans. Not
without some struggles, you understand, but in the end, fate and all the other
stuff came together and here we are!
do I think that manufacturing is the key to American success?
There are reams of data that show manufacturing is the center of our
economy, even as software and intellectual property have become more and more
a part of the mix. Each manufacturing job creates a group of other jobs,
primarily service-oriented, for support.
This ratio is significant, as much as 5-7 to 1.
This is a proven fact based on several studies done by academicians and
business statisticians. What does
this mean? It means manufacturing
is the engine that drives many other components of the economy.
Manufacturing supplies food, medicines, autos, electronics,
oil/gasoline, aircraft, computers, and on and on.
I think we can all agree that as manufacturing goes, so goes our basic
economy, and certainly a large portion of the U.S. technology base.
the macro view of manufacturing, lets travel down one level and look at a
composite view of manufacturing companies - what are the common
characteristics of these entities, what makes them successful, or not?
are the key to the success of manufacturing companies!
Surprised? No, you probably are not surprised to hear this emphatic
statement. Well trained and
motivated personnel, supplied with the proper systems and tools to effectively
communicate, buy, manage, participate, assemble, test, and ship products are
the key to success. As mentioned
above, America, with its great diversity and resources has taken maximum
advantage of its workforce.
Once we agree that people are the
key, what are the components of manufacturing success generated by a good
workforce? These are summarized
lets define each of the components for success listed above.
With involvement from all
personnel, list the relevant goals and objectives to track this is
pretty much the accepted formula for good project management.
Take inputs from as many persons in the organization as possible to
assure buy in. Know what and
how much and when, and track these metrics to know if a plan is working,
or if course corrections are needed.
Provide the proper tools needed to
achieve goals and objectives once people are well trained and
motivated, they need the proper tools.
Computer hardware/software systems, well documented and business
efficient procedures (ISO 9000 certified procedures are a great example),
adequate facilities and equipment that are well maintained, properly laid
out work areas, etc.
Support and encourage a team
environment that works to meet goals and objectives every organization
can use some superstars and champions, but in the long run, mixing these
few into a team environment is absolutely essential to an organizations
long term, consistently good performance.
We have all seen many examples of teams that had no, or very few
superstars, overcome other teams dominated by superstars with excellent
teamwork. The more naturally
a workforce adopts a teamwork environment, the more successful it will be.
Promote a customer environment,
whether the customers are internal or external all of us have a
customer and the better this is recognized along with the needs of our
customer, the easier it is to satisfy those needs. Ultimately, this leads
to our external customers satisfaction, but before that occurs we must
meet each internal customers needs.
Emphasize the number one goal of
the organization is customer satisfaction as just stated above,
satisfaction of each internal and external customer must be the main
objective of the organization. If
an organization achieves customer satisfaction, all other goals follow.
nine components listed above are not just pulled from the air.
I have attended several Best Plants Conferences sponsored
by IndustryWeek magazine. At
these conferences, I have discussed with key members of the different Best
Plants teams, what it is that makes them Best
Plants? The answers
summarized are the nine components listed above.
Below is the process used by IndustryWeek to identify Americas Best
began accepting nominations for the 1999 America's Best Plants awards in
October of 1999. More than 400 plants were nominated and were sent copies of
the entry form and guidelines. A panel of IW editors reviewed the completed
15-page questionnaires, which ask detailed performance questions about
quality, customer and supplier relations, employee involvement, use of
technology, cost reductions, on-time delivery rates, inventory management,
environmental and safety programs, productivity, new-product development, and
overall market results.
Entries of the 25 plants chosen as finalists were further reviewed by a team
of outside experts: Sherrie Ford, principal, Change Partners LLC; Robert Hall
of the Assn. for Manufacturing Excellence; John Mariotti, president of the
Enterprise Group; Peter Ward, associate professor, Fisher College of Business
at Ohio State University; and Rick Purcell, Larry Robertson, and Jack Tamargo
of the Best Manufacturing Practices Center of Excellence. Their evaluations,
along with additional information provided by the finalists, were considered
in the final stage of judging. The selections did not become final until site
visits by IW editors validated the winning entries.
Below is listed the median
performance achievements by the Ten Best Plants:
54.5% five-year cycle-time reduction (the time from start of
production to completion of product).
55% five-year productivity increase (value-added per employee).
0.17% scrap/rework costs as a percentage of sales.
288-ppm customer reject rate on shipped products.
98.6% first-pass yield for all products.
20.5% five-year reduction in manufacturing costs, excluding
88.5 annual work-in-process (WIP) turns.
30.9% return on net assets (profitability divided by average net
remarkable! Using these key
components all of us can better our manufacturing operations by getting our
people involved. We are already
the best in the world, but continued improvement should always be our goal.
ends my first article for the Business Forum Journal on the state of
Manufacturing. In the future we
will discuss some specific examples of Southern California manufacturing in
action. Recommendations are
appreciated for topics to be discussed.
Ron Chase is a Fellow of The
Business Forum Association and before he recently retired was Vice President of Operations for
Ducommun Technologies, Inc. (DTI), a division of Ducommun Incorporated, a Long
Beach based corporation. DTI
designs and manufactures lighted and microwave switches, motors, and resolvers
for various commercial, aerospace, and space applications. Ron has a BSME from the
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Masters Degree in Management from
Georgia College, earned while on assignment with the United States Air Force
in Warner Robins AFB, Georgia. Ron
flew several different aircraft in the USAF, including a stint as an
Instructor in the T-38 Talon and the T-43 Navigator trainer aircraft (Boeing
737 modified for USAF use). As
part of a USAF engineering assignment, Ron also flew in both the F-4 Phantom
and F-15 Eagle aircraft while evaluating sidewinder missile performance. Rons career contains both
engineering and operations assignments in defense, aerospace, and commercial
manufacturing companies, and one significant tour as head of Consulting
Operations for the California Manufacturing Technology Center (CMTC),
headquartered in Southern California.
is a non-profit state and federally subsidized company, which provides
manufacturing consulting to small and medium sized companies in California.
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