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Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

February 2011 Blog Posts (36)

Why do you pick a tool?- Practical Leadership Tips

We recently heard from one of our clients who wished to add Six Sigma to their Lean program. In spite of considerable financial strain, they are scheduling four individuals to attend the eight weeks of training required for the Black Belt designation.

I spoke to our contact this morning asking “What problem do you have that requires you to use Six Sigma as the tool for a solution?” Her disheartening reply was, “We don’t really have any specific problem in mind yet. The CEO would like…


Added by David Hicks on February 28, 2011 at 7:00am — 1 Comment

Swear it Ain't So: Profanity in the Workplace

On the first day of classes, as I review my syllabus with the students, I point out several issues of conduct I expect them to honor in my class. One of these is no swearing/cursing/profanity in my class. For a variety of reasons, such as I basically find it offensive and a form of immature expression, I don't use profanity. But I am aware that pop culture is continuously more tolerant of swearing, and I'm sure a number of my students probably consider me a prude for banning it in my…


Added by Brian Flynn on February 28, 2011 at 5:00am — No Comments

Are you guessing what your Quality level will be this month?

If you don’t know your quality level, I would like to go through the steps needed to understand your process so that you can feel confident when bidding on contracts or when you are trying to improve your process.  You must know the cost to produce your product to have the confidence you need.


Is your process in statistical control?  What tests are needed to determine if the process is in statistical control?


Step 1:  We must determine if the data from your…


Added by John David Hayes on February 25, 2011 at 11:34am — No Comments

Appealing to Generation Y Workers

What if young workers thought of manufacturing for what is truly is:

  • Producing products that will be solutions to major challenges in our world;
  • Producing products that Generation Y will relate to (such as automobiles and energy drinks);
  • Producing products that require high-tech skills and
  • Offering premium jobs.

What if young workers thought about their careers in terms of occupations, skills and learning opportunities rather than…


Added by Walker Jackson on February 25, 2011 at 11:31am — No Comments

Operational Transparency

Transparency in the past may have been described as more of a practice for third party analysis of a company's finances and practices, but to remain competitive many are beginning to use this as a tool for building trust within the entity. Operational transparency can address both daily management issues and also become an internal source for increased communication.  A constant challenge facing today's managers is having to address daily issues while planning for the future. …


Added by Wendy Carlson on February 25, 2011 at 9:45am — 1 Comment

What is your process capability?

You need to know your process capability to bid on product for your customer.  This will allow you to bid with predictable outcomes of profit.


What do you need to be able to calculate your process capability?  You need product/process data of your product in production over at least a month and it is preferred to have more data (such at least 3 months).  The quality aspect of interest must be recorded during this production period to determine how this item of interest…


Added by John David Hayes on February 23, 2011 at 10:21am — No Comments

Disciplined People – Disciplined Thought – Disciplined Action

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.  ~Vince Lombardi

Jim Collins, Good To Great states: “Sustained great results depend upon building a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action, fanatically consistent with... the Hedgehog Concept.  (This hedgehog concept reminds me of Deming’s “constancy of purpose” principle. The great companies discriminate…


Added by Hank Czarnecki on February 22, 2011 at 7:00am — 2 Comments

Aperture & Shutter Speed- Practical Leadership Tips

Photographers will recognize the reference to aperture and shutter speed as the keys to taking a technically correct photograph. Getting the correct balance between aperture (the amount of light coming into the camera) and shutter speed (how long we expose the image) is critical.

The same principles apply to how we collect data in our organizations. Too large an aperture and too slow a shutter speed will cause a blurry photo because of the excessive amount of light entering the…


Added by David Hicks on February 22, 2011 at 6:00am — 2 Comments


ATAC Lean Specialists are about to begin guiding and training three healthcare organizations in Pike and Dale counties in Alabama in the implementation of Lean Continuous Improvement.

Troy Regional Medical Center, Troy Health & Rehabilitation Center of Troy, Ala., and Dale Medical Center of Ozark, Ala. are associated in the initiative that involves training and process improvement implementation assistance over the next 12 months. Training will involve a total of some 48 employees…


Added by Mitch Emmons on February 21, 2011 at 5:01pm — No Comments

Transformation Gaps (Part 3)

This is the 3rd part of a 3 part blog on 3 key elements to focus on when transforming an organization from a traditional management organization to a lean management organization. 

As a review, the 3 key elements are: 


1.  Strategy - A predominately outward focus on your organizations future


Link to review…


Added by Rick Battye on February 21, 2011 at 10:00am — 1 Comment

Background Checks: To do or not to do; that is the question

In my early days as a supervisor for a customer service firm, I was contacted directly by another company representative interested in hiring one of our former employees. They asked me a few questions about the former employee, particularly why he no longer worked there. In my ignorance, I responded to the questions as honestly as I could and the representative thanked me and ended the call. I didn't think much about it until word somehow reached my HR manager of what had occurred and I was…


Added by Brian Flynn on February 21, 2011 at 5:30am — No Comments

Trust is the Key

The phrase above was coined by Eiji Toyoda and is one of the basic principles of Lean in the eyes of the Toyota Corporation.  It is believed that the development of people requires the handing down of values and perspectives, thus the source of their competitiveness.  Respect for people & teamwork are key values within the organization.  Their basic thinking on the development of human resources include some of the following:

          * It is necessary to develop good people in…


Added by Wendy Carlson on February 18, 2011 at 5:19pm — 1 Comment

The Live Oaks are Dying and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself

With all due respect to the late great Lewis Grizzard who is the author of "Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself", I need to borrow his line of thinking one more time.  This book is about his observations of life and how the world is changing.  Most of what Lewis talks about in this book are the things that make him sick.  I remember that he talks about the popularity of Boy George, and how he is puzzled over this weird-looking person.  Well the news this week about the live oaks at…


Added by Mark M. Clark on February 18, 2011 at 3:00pm — 3 Comments

Challenge and Learning- Practical Leadership Tips

In our last post, we discussed the five questions that Toyota leaders use to highlight the need for Abnormality Management. These five questions came from a Lean Enterprise Institute article by Liker & Rother (2011), called Why Lean Programs Fail.

Toward the end of the article, they discuss how challenge demands learning. For easy tasks (with clear pathways to the goal), results-based management can work. A simple milestone chart ensures the project is on track, without the…


Added by David Hicks on February 18, 2011 at 7:00am — No Comments

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism Office Plans Growth After Oil Crisis

A recent study by the Alabama Tourism Department revealed that Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches saw 3.6 million visitors in 2010.  This is one million fewer visitors in 2010 than compared to 2009.  The area saw a corresponding reduction in tax revenues over the year until several late fall concerts helped improve the situation.


Taking matters into their own hands, the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT) office decided to look for growth opportunities using a systematic…


Added by David Mixson on February 16, 2011 at 1:36pm — No Comments

Practical Problem Solving Form

Download:  Practical%20Problem%20Solving%20Form.xls 

Just thought I would share the form we use for Practical Problem Solving Lean Training -- Hank



Added by Hank Czarnecki on February 15, 2011 at 5:00pm — No Comments

Abnormality Management Questions- Practical Leadership Tips

We looked at the need for Abnormality Management in our last post, based on a presentation by a Toyota executive on the topic of Lean Culture & Passion. Toward the end of the presentation, he focused on creating standards and using them for Abnormality Management.

Standards must be:

  • Well thought out and designed
  • Understood
  • Documented
  • Used
  • Visible

Key is Abnormality Management:

  • Use visible indicators to…

Added by David Hicks on February 15, 2011 at 8:30am — No Comments

Mechanics of Getting There- Practical Leadership Tips


In our last post, we discussed how leaders act as mentors for problem solving through the use of strategic questions. The questions are based on the cues provided from the visual management system.

What are the mechanics of this problem solving system?

The first task is to know where we are going using Strategy Deployment. The vision is flowed throughout the organization, with each level developing plans for their own contribution to the overall goals.



Added by David Hicks on February 15, 2011 at 8:00am — No Comments

Using Assessments in Pre- and Post-Hire Situations

A few weeks ago, I was asked by some colleagues to provide some guidance on how a specific company might be able to reduce their turnover rates. This company experienced most of the turnover in the first 90 day, with the next biggest amount in the 6-month range, with the rest leaving within one year. Turnover among line workers (entry-level) was the highest. As we discussed some of the things they might be able to do, one of the suggestions I made was better use of assessments in the hiring…


Added by Brian Flynn on February 14, 2011 at 5:30am — 1 Comment

Develop and Retain Current and Future Talent

Despite the economic downturn and a perceived lack of jobs, survey data of manufacturers indicates that skills shortages still exist – especially for the most profitable companies and for skilled production workers, scientist and engineers.  The survey also identified that having a highly skilled, flexible workforce remains critical to business success and that new product innovation is now seen as the most important driver of business success, which also requires a highly…


Added by Walker Jackson on February 11, 2011 at 4:10pm — 1 Comment

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