Auburn Works

Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

January 2011 Blog Posts (30)

Two Ways to Make a Process More Capable

A lot of times we wring our hands in hopes that we can make a poor process more capable.  More often than not the outcome that we are concerned about is an outcome that is hard to control directly.  In other words, we can’t simply turn a dial and make it better.  Usually the outcome of a process is the result of a number of different inputs.  Sometimes these inputs interact with each other to cause a different response on the outcome.  When this is the case, our ability to improve the…


Added by Mark M. Clark on January 31, 2011 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Where are we going- Practical Leadership Tips

As we begin our work with a client, they often ask for an action plan. They want us to tell them what steps to take in their lean implementations.

What do you think? Is an action plan what you would want from a consultant?

One of our greatest challenges is to get the client to understand that Lean is not a magic pill that you can get from someone else. You can’t have someone come in and tell you what to do and expect to have long-term success.

I’m reminded of… Continue

Added by David Hicks on January 31, 2011 at 7:00am — No Comments

Pay for What? Oh, Performance.

The phrase "Pay for Performance" has been around a long time, but the tough economic times of the last few years have encouraged a number of HR professionals to begin to re-emphasize this concept, and maybe even retool their performance management systems to do a better job at managing it. 


I love the concept of pay for performance, but it does beg a couple of questions. First, what IS performance? For many, performance is synonymous with task completion at a some specified…


Added by Brian Flynn on January 31, 2011 at 4:00am — No Comments

Why would you want to use Lean to solve problems in Healthcare?

There is no roadmap or cookbook to follow in the Lean pursuit.  Certain key elements are necessary, including problems to be solved, reduction in waste in all processes, executive leadership and willingness of the front line employees and managers to make improvements to their own processes.  A good way to start is to pick a model process and demonstrate the potential of Lean to the rest of the organization.  Focusing on the management system and sustaining improvements are essential for…


Added by John David Hayes on January 28, 2011 at 11:53am — No Comments

Specifying training as a corrective action

From time to time the question arises in third-party audits as to whether training should be identified or prescribed as a corrective action. I recently heard a third-party auditor state that their technical committee is very reluctant to accept training as a corrective action. She explained that the committee, being presented with a large number of nonconformity reports each month that specify training as a corrective action, has taken the position that organizations are not looking for…


Added by Chuck McPherson on January 28, 2011 at 10:57am — No Comments

Begin to Control Health Care Costs In Your Corner of the World

The big picture may seem daunting.  Everywhere you turn in healthcare the topic is costs.  So, how do you begin with such an enormous task with all the uncontrollable factors to consider?  Start simple, begin to ask where the problems are and how to begin the process.  The old addage "A complaint is a gift" could be the starting point.   Healthcare can be improved with the right strategy.  Consider options right here.  During the Lean Healthcare 101 class, participants can learn how to improve… Continue

Added by Wendy Carlson on January 28, 2011 at 9:46am — No Comments

Alabama Manufacturer of the Year Award Criteria Released

Are you one of the most competitive, efficient, and innovative manufacturers in Alabama?  If so, applying for the Alabama Manufacturer of the Year Award is something you will want to strongly consider.  The award recognizes manufacturing excellence in three categories, based on the number of…


Added by David Mixson on January 26, 2011 at 12:27pm — No Comments

PDCA for Lean Marketing, Knowledge Creation

Professor Ikujiro Nonaka in the book, The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation proposed that organizational knowledge is created through a cycle of continuous social interaction of tacit and explicit knowledge involving four modes of knowledge conversion: Socialization,… Continue

Added by Joseph T. Dager on January 26, 2011 at 12:00am — No Comments

What I Think My Students Need To Know

Well it is the beginning of a new semester and I find myself going through the same routine as I did last semester.  I teach a senior level class in Quality Management, and it is basically a six sigma green belt course condensed into 16 week program where we meet about 3 hours per week.  Of course by the time the students get to this course they have already had a course in statistics, so the shock of quantitative analysis is worn off and this course becomes more of an applied stats…


Added by Mark M. Clark on January 24, 2011 at 1:32pm — No Comments

Changing Horses in Mid-Stream- a lesson about changing a suggestion system

I recently revisited a company that has a track record for successful lean implementation. I’m fortunate to see the plant several times each year as I escort educational tours with local industries.

One of the highlights has always been their suggestion system. They began the program by offering a small reward ($3.50) for each suggestion submitted as a way to encourage participation. The number of suggestions per department was one of their leading metrics, with about eight…


Added by David Hicks on January 24, 2011 at 8:34am — No Comments

Transformation Gaps (Part 1)


Over a year ago I wrote a blog ( on 3 key elements to focus on when transforming an organization.  The 3 key elements…


Added by Rick Battye on January 22, 2011 at 11:00am — No Comments

Can you share your experiences about the impact of kaizen in your organization?

I recently ran across someone's research paper (aka a scholarly work) on the effect of kaizen on employee motivation in U.S. manufacturing. In short, the paper notes that kaizen -- what we call "rapid improvement events" among our lean pros here at the Auburn Technical Assistance Center -- is credited and is directly responsible for…


Added by Mitch Emmons on January 21, 2011 at 2:20pm — No Comments

The Perfect Process

What should be the process goal for all manufacturing and service oriented organizations?  The “Perfect Process”


Why do we want the “Perfect Process”?  The result of a prefect process is perfect products and perfect services.


How do we achieve the “Perfect Process”?  Great products and services don’t come from average processes!  Before we can answer this question, we need to talk organizational foundation that must be in place before the “Perfect Process” can…


Added by John David Hayes on January 21, 2011 at 11:41am — No Comments

Eureka Jump Start Helps Oil Spill Impacted Businesses Grow through Diversification

If you're not familiar with the Eureka Ranch, they are a leading innovation and growth consulting firm located outside Cincinnati Ohio.  The Ranch helps businesses, including such industry leaders such as Nike, American Express, and Disney, create new growth opportunities through a systematic innovation process.


The Eureka Ranch's latest innovation offering is called Eureka! Jump Start.  It is a one-day program that…


Added by David Mixson on January 20, 2011 at 2:53pm — No Comments

Lean Production System – Develop People, Develop Problem Solvers

A lean production system is about developing a problem solving culture. Culture implies that we must achieve this through people. As we utilize the PDCA cycle to develop our team of problem solvers, we start with grasping the current condition or CA – check and adjust.

As an example, I will use one of the companies our ATAC Team worked with over the past couple of years. We first spent our efforts focused with the Senior Management Team on:

1. understanding what the tools of a lean… Continue

Added by Hank Czarnecki on January 19, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments

Leading from the Middle- Proactive Leadership Techniques

In our assistance to industry, ATAC specialists see different approaches to lean implementations. The most common approach is through middle managers.

A recent Financial Times article (see link below) includes a discussion by Dr. Steven Spear on the changing role of middle management. Traditional middle managers acted as a conduit between the executive levels and operational levels. Success in these positions typically became the path to promotion to the executive…


Added by David Hicks on January 18, 2011 at 7:30am — No Comments

Getting Skilled Tradespeople: A New Challenge

When I was growing up, I used to go stay with my grandfather and grandmother for a few days at a time. My grandfather lacked formal education, but was a skilled self-taught carpenter. Every now and again he would buy a mildly dilapidated home and spend some money and time fixing it up, then sell it, making a handsome profit in the process. I admired how he just seemed to know what to do and how to do it to make an otherwise run-down property desirable to others. 


Later, while…


Added by Brian Flynn on January 17, 2011 at 5:00am — No Comments

What's your learning curve to Kaizen?

Is your learning curve perpendicular when it comes to kaizen?  Why should continuously improving be such a challenge?  Is it due to the fact we are all so accustomed to throwing technology and innovation at the problem?  Innovation is dramatic, a real attention getter for some.  On the other hand, kaizen is often very subtle.  Do you want a one time shot approach?  Or would beginning a process based on common sense, low cost methods work for your organization?  As 2011 begins, if you focus on… Continue

Added by Wendy Carlson on January 14, 2011 at 12:39pm — No Comments

8 Wastes applied to Lean Leadership

How the 8 Wastes – DOWNTIME – may apply to Lean Leadership – a few thoughts…

DefectsQuality and Rework - Is the leader making “good” decisions following the PDCA process – If the current situation is not understood, assumptions may be made, incorrect cause may be addressed, thus leading to “rework” Are standards in place to know what should be happening?

Overproduction –… Continue

Added by Hank Czarnecki on January 12, 2011 at 8:00am — 1 Comment

Mutual Benefits- Proactive Leadership Techniques

Why is it that so many folks criticize lean? Workers, managers, suppliers, shareholders, and even cartoonists characterize lean as mean-spirited or ineffective.

When people complain about lean not working, we need to discover exactly what they define as “lean.”

Too often, we hear about headcount reductions, massive housekeeping efforts labeled as 5S, or how just-in-time caused parts shortages. In other words, companies are using bits and pieces of lean tools and calling…


Added by David Hicks on January 12, 2011 at 7:30am — No Comments

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