It has been my pleasure to work with the folks at the Vanamatic Company since the late 1980’s as a  steel supplier technical representative, as a PMPA staffer, and as a friend.

A passion for improvement is what drives the folks Vanamatic.
A passion for improvement is what drives the folks Vanamatic.

I can say that over a big chunk of those 60 years, there were a few things that remained constant- fair dealings, honest communications, and an unrelenting focus on continuous improvement.
I was not at all surprised  when I got a call from Jeff saying that they were going to have something to announce and could I help them with it.
Of course there is something new at Vanamatic.
They are always working on ideas for improvement.
I was surprised when they told me it was a brand new website for the company’s 60th anniversary.
60 years was quite a surprise.
It has not been an easy time for manufacturing these last 60 years.
Frankly the last 8 years were pretty tough.
The Rise of China at the beginning of the new century wiped out a lot of the companies that were not very serious about their business.
Congratulations to Vanamatic for 60 years of leadership through continuous improvement. Improvement of people, process, and culture.
Oh, and improvement to the their online presence through their new website.

“Setups are going a little smoother (mostly);  there is much less wasted time searching for
needed tools; and everyone is showing a little more pride and professionalism
in their tidy new professional  work area.”

Avoiding unneeded tools is just as important as having the ones you need.
Avoiding unneeded tools is just as important as having the ones you need.

PMPA Vice President Tom Bernstein  of Torin Products, a CNC Swiss shop in Columbus Nebraska just shared his experience with Shadow Boards in  the December issue of Production Machining Magazine.
Its an easy read, and it tells as good a story about how to manage as it does about how to create Shadow Boards.
“The benefits are not just financial and measured in saved time. My team is now confident that in this area they exemplify Best Practice.”
File this one under continuous improvement! Read the full story here
In what areas does your team and shop exemplify Best Practice?

Lockheed Martin was just recognized with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

To encourage performance excellence within the manufacturing industry, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is sharing its 7 Principles for Excellence in ManufacturingLockheed Martin principles_infographic_lrg

Congratulations to the Team at Lockheed Martin for their recognition and leadership.

Lockheed Martin Malcolm Baldrige

Reviewing the photos in his photostream, my Executive Director found this serenedipitously cropped action shot of an exhibitor and a customer coming to agreement.

PMTS is where people get things done.
PMTS is where people get things done.

I just love the cropping on the sign in the foreground.

But more importantly I am pleased with the satisfaction shown as suppliers and customers find mutual solutions to the manufacturing challenges that we all face.

PMTS Happy- It’s what happens when great suppliers and great precision machining companies come together to continuously improve their processes.

Welcome to PMTS.

May you be PMTS Happy, too.

When I started in manufacturing, “The Gals” were in the office- not the shop.

122  women who make a difference in Manufacturing today
122 women who make a difference in Manufacturing today

The inaugural group of 122 STEP honorees recognized by the Manufacturing Institute on February 5th in Washington D.C.  showed me that the times have changed and that there are many, many ways  that women can and do meaningfully contribute to manufacturing at their companies as

  • Plant and Production Managers,
  • Operations,
  • Engineers,
  • Technologists,
  • Process Control,
  • Regulatory Affairs,
  • Certified Welders,
  • CNC Machine Operators,
  • Weld Process Specialists,
  • Quality Control,
  • Health,
  • Environment,
  • Process Safety,
  • Chief Financial Officer,
  • Designers and Design Engineers,
  • Compliance Officers,
  • Chief Scientists,
  • Safety,
  • Quality,
  • Black Belts,
  • Training and Apprenticeship Instructors,
  • Manufacturing Lead,
  • Product Development,
  • Sales and Marketing,
  • Information Technology,
  • Lead Analyst,
  • Business Development,
  • Continuous Improvement,
  • Planning and Shipping,
  • Designer,s and Design Engineers
  • Information Security,
  • Assembly,
  • Legal and Corporate Affairs,
  • Systems Development,
  • President,
  • CEO
  • Owners

I am certain that I missed a few…

PMPA is proud to recognize our member and Vice President Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries in Burnsville MN as one of this inaugural group of honorees.

Darlene Miller Nak“Darlene’s leadership  reaches far beyond PERMAC. As a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness she recognized the need for trained high skill workers and led the creation of Right Skills Now training program and helped support the 10,000 Engineers nationwide engineering student retention program. She was named small business person of the year in 2008 by the U.S. Chamber, and serves as an officer and board member at PMPA as well as a number of other nonprofits.”

Congratulations to Darlene and all the women recognized for their vital role in manufacturing today. And thanks to the Manufacturing Institute for helping raise the awareness of the vital need for the talents that these and all women bring to our shops.

Yes, I would like to see my daughter get into manufacturing. Wouldn’t you?

Without a process for reviewing a job after completion, our shops are doomed to make the same mistakes the next time…

Does your shop have a regular interdepartmental post job review meeting to eliminate issues and drive continuous improvement?

One of the best aspects of social media- blogging and LinkedIn- is the follow up and connections  in response to what is posted.

I continue to be impressed by the quality of the comments and conversations on LinkedIn as a result of my posts.

My recent post regarding quoting- Two Most Important Aspects of Quoting elicited this  comment from Michael Unmann  in the Wire-Net LinkedIn group:

“And how about closing the loop? You need to have a post job review with the estimating dept to make sure the quote was accurate and if it wasn’t why wasn’t it and what will you do next quote so it doesn’t happen again.”

Thank you Michael, we couldn’t agree more.

Does YOUR SHOP have an interdepartmental  post job review process to address issues with the process and improve it going forward?

Is it real or just proforma?

What are the best lessons you have learned from your post job review debriefing?

Thanks again to Michael Unmann for taking the conversation to the next level.

Thanks to Potomac Testing for the photo of an interdepartmental meeting.

Either you can execute, or you can't...

Don’t You Agree?
It’s not about ability to promise.
Heck, that’s pretty easy.
It’s not about ability to plan.
I’ve seen (and made) some pretty nice plans in my day.
But plans that aren’t executed are- well,  not much more than recorded dreams.
I think that it’s all about execution. That is, meeting and exceeding our customer’s expectations every day.
Every day! Every Customer! Every transaction! Every touch!
What is the secret of execution?
There are a couple. But the most important is your company’s commitment to continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement is what helps you keep your service and processes leading and sustainable.
The minute you stop improving, you reduce your chance of successful execution.
We execute. But the reason we produce this conference is so that our member companies can drive continuous improvement of their key people.  The people who make a difference- in their shop, in their culture, and to their customers.
I am looking forward to meeting the industry’s executioners in Pittsburgh at PMPA’s NTC.
Because it’s all about execution. Isn’t it?
Execution is the key. PMPA’s National Technical Conference drives execution by giving attendees tools they can use for continuous improvement.

Lessons from  the Japanese:  Monozukuri, Quality, Cost Cutting, and the Risk of Recall.

In this case, up is "Not good."

Graphic credit.
Recalls on products sold in Japan (excluding cars, food and drugs) are up more than 80% from three years earlier, according to a Wall Street Journal report credited above.
It’s not just Toyota.
It’s not just Cars.
Is it the relentless pursuit of cost cutting?
Is it the reduction in part count (sku reduction)? As a component is used across many products, increasing scale and  so reducing price per piece,  this also  increases the scope and scale of a recall if the design or manufacture is defective.
It’s not just Japan.
Ford recalls 2007-2010: 15.505  million vehicles according to my analysis of the data here. See our post from October 21 2009 here.
Where was Congress when Ford announced these huge recalls?
GM recalled 1.5 million of its vehicles last year.
Did Congress weigh in? (I mean, besides bailing them out with lots of our tax dollars.)
Why is Congress suddenly calling for hearings?
I think that OEM manufacturers and businessmen  EVERYWHERE, not just in JAPAN, have taken their eyes off the ball of continuous improvement in their manufacturing processes.  They have been distracted by the fleeting flash of lower prices.
Continuous reduction in ‘costs’ is not the same as paying  continuous attention to Quality. And when you take your eye off the Quality ball, it  really shows up when you have a near perfect record.
Cultural footnote: This summer, I spoke with managers at Japanese auto companies who told me that MONOZUKURI is about ‘the existential joys of making things.’  Of ‘implementing a process that realizes a design to product.’  This was a really big deal. It was their long and storied tradition. It’s their national heritage, and they are “sharing it with the world.”
 I’m starting to  think that MONOZUKURI is really more about mercantilist economics and economic nationalism
 And maybe 安価.  Or 失敗.

Submitted by Monte C. Guitar, PMPA Director of Technology.
Don’t wait for an outside auditor to provide the assistance to “make you better.”  The best opportunities for improving precision machining operations will not be provided by your outside auditor. Here are our 3 reasons that precision machining companies are the ‘real experts’ on their processes and business:
Reason #1-  Process Expertise. Who knows your processes better than you? You’ve been doing this stuff for many years prior to ISO being a condition of business. You bring in the auditor to assess your quality systems, not to consult on your business.
Reason #2- Limited expertise by auditor in your processes. To be truly expert requires depth of experience in both auditing and your processes. Unless the auditor worked specifically in your field, they lack expertise in your process. What  they bring is quality systems expertise to evaluate your implementation.
Reason # 3- Standard is basis for the audit, not the auditor’s vision. If the requirement is not in the standard, then implementation becomes a business choice. It is easy for an auditor to describe the wonders of “one place I’ve seen” to a company that is looking for their own version of utopia. It is another thing to implement. Calibrate the good ideas  the auditor brings to your firm’s  available time and manpower constraints.
Top management should be concerned if they determine in a closing meeting that the best improvement opportunities for the company via the quality area were identified after an eight hour visit from someone who is not even fully educated to your process.
Great auditors recognize their role in helping precision machining companies improve their systems. Great precision machining companies recognize their responsibility to improve their implementation.
Denise Robitaille wrote an interesting piece in Quality Digest that might be of interest to you. Audits are an integral part of your business:
What do you think the auditor’s role should be?

Benchmarking is not a comparison of numbers or indicators. Benchmarking is an ACTIVITY or PROCESS to determine Best Practice, and your relationship to that Best Practice.
Benchmarking is an activity that employs a systematic and continuous effort to identify important measureables (benchmarks). It  employs a defined process to compare your organization’s status to that of a best-in-class company or companies. Benchmarking is a tool that helps you identify, improve and implement the practices or methods that will enable you to become the new ‘best-in-class.’
Two rules for effective Benchmarking are:

  1. If Benchmarking does not lead to a specific action, it is a waste of your company’s resources;
  2. If you aren’t Benchmarking to the best, your Benchmarking will be under effective.

Competitive analysis can tell you what the differences are between you and another company, but it does not give you any insight into how that difference exists. Benchmarking focuses on best practices and methods, resulting in process changes and improvements that will achieve improved customer satisfaction.
Site visits in my experience result in some limited information sharing and collection of novel ideas, but  after the visit, these are recognized to be a smorgasbord of unfocused facts. While these facts may be interesting, they may or may not be applicable to your firm or what you are trying to accomplish. This is especially true if the facility that you are visiting is not a best in class peer.
PMPA members have a Benchmarking ‘tool they can use’ to measure their company’s performance against their peers in manufacturing.

PMPA's iLumen Benchmarking Service is secure and easy to use.
PMPA's iLumen Benchmarking Service is secure and easy to use.

Called PMPA iLumen Benchmarking Service, this safe, secure online tool allows participating members to compare their company’s financial and operating performance against that of their peers or other manufacturing companies. Seeing the difference between their firm’s and other firms’ performance in key areas  gives the PMPA members a focus for their company’s improvement activities.
In the April Issue of PMPA’s Business Trends Report,  almost half of the companies  that reported double digit sales increases over the prior month were PMPA iLumen Benchmark participants.These companies have used the intelligence of the PMPA iLumen Benchmarking data to show them where to address improvements in their organization.
Participation in PMPA iLumen Benchmarking is no extra charge for PMPA members- it is a member benefit.
Numbers may be the language of Benchmarking, but they are merely raw material that drives the real activity- continuous improvement and transformation of your people, processes, and systems. These improvements will result in higher quality, lower costs, and ultimately, improvement of your company’s products and services. PMPA’s iLumen Benchmarking Service can provide you too, with “tools you can use” to drive improvements in your companies processes and performance.