The NRC concluded mandatory hearings on the request for licenses at the Vogtle site  26 miles southeast of Augusta Georgia. The NRC has approved issuance of combined operating licenses to the Southern Nuclear Operating Company.

Having witnessed all the argument, debate and climategate regarding CO2 emissions and climate change,  as well as the EPA’s recent stand down on the boiler rule, we couldn’t help but think that the environmentalists would be opening sodas and singing Kum By Ya over these new non- fossil fuel, non CO2 emitting, sources of energy.

Maybe its a bit early for the singing...

However, something tells me that it may be a bit early for Kum By Ya- Here are a couple of stickers that we think tells what the environmentalist are thinking:

At least they are polite...
Fukushima is everywhere,.. turn them off now!

We are pleased to see that the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the draft  of the Staff’s Final Safety Evaluation Report.

We are even more pleased that the reactor design includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without need for electricity or human intervention.

But until our nation has a serious discussion about how to intelligently manage ALL RISKS- and develops a policy to intelligently manage them, we will be subjected to more fear mongering and pseudo-science from all sides.

How do we properly evaluate the risks (and costs) of our continued burn of fossil fuels versus those associated with Nuclear energy?

I’d like your answer to this, what is the proper lens to evaluate the risk rewards of these decisions?


Hidden variation is what increases your costs. Permanently eliminating the causes of variation is the only way to truly reduce your costs.

Been there? Done that? Get the T-Shirt!

The goal of management is to achieve certain objectives. The way of smart managers is to intelligently manage risk. The means of intelligently managing risk is through reduction in variation in the processes in your control.

Variation increases your costs. Think about a chucker with a worker loading and unloading it. The greater the variation of time of the worker, the fewer parts will be produced at the end of the shift. The closer that the worker’s ‘cycle time’ matches that of the machine, the greater number of parts at the end of the shift.

Variation affects more than just direct costs. Variation in yield can affect order patterns and thus scheduling. Variation in scheduling affects lead times, thus causing order quantities and frequencies to vary. Variability in quality, yield, scheduling and releases all cause more variability which causes risk to all parties to increase. Eliminating variability is the key to reducing risk and reducing the complexity of all the issues that we have to manage in our businesses. Here are 4  tips for reducing variability in your operations:

  • Standardize materials and sourcing,
  • Standardize work,
  • Standardize gaging,
  • Do not be seduced by ‘Low cost’ or ‘Magic Solutions,’
Standardize materials and sourcing was the first lesson that I documented as a Quality Manager in the steel industry. Our VP of Purchasing was convinced that he could chase low prices  to get profitability. However those low prices brought us non conforming material, huge in process rejections, and suspicion about the status of material that passed inspection. Not to mention short or late deliveries, or heroics to expedite replacement material, which increased costs. Failure to standardize sourcing exposes your processes to the full range of global variation. Lock in on a supplier and reduce your variation, risk, and costs.
Standardize work to reduce in process variation. I was involved in an investigation at an automotive supplier who blamed the steel for ‘poor machinability.’ This was truckload, round the clock, running on multiple machines business. And the fact that our steel ran above rate on five of the machines was conveniently ignored by the customer, who was fixated on the four  machines that were running below plan.  A quick look at control charts, tool replacement records and drill grinds on the four underperforming machines vs. the ones achieving plan showed major differences- variations that cost the customer  a production shortfall on four machines times three shifts. It wasn’t the Steel!
Standardize gaging. Actually this is a subset of standardize work. Let’s go back to that chucker job. If there are multiple ways to gage the part on the bench- say an assortment of mikes and calipers- the decision over which to use could cost the operator a second or two with each part to be gaged. That means fewer parts per shift. Increasing cost per part.
Do not be seduced by ‘Low cost’ or ‘Magic Solutions.’ Remember consistency is the goal. How does throwing more variation into your operations improve consistency? Alternative materials, tools , or methods should be proven by testing before being adopted in the shop. Failure to control the self inflicted variability of ‘New,’ ‘Cheaper,’ or ‘Magic’ improvements have increased shops costs far more than the routine normal variability of your existing source. Careful experiments can be an important way to discover better processes, but reckless adoption of unproven inputs will assure increased variation, increased costs, and missed deliveries.
Variation is a synonym for risk, increased cost, missed deliveries, and  loss of customer confidence.  Variation can require you or your customer to  increase order quantities, increase order frequencies, only to dramatically cause orders to be cancelled.
How do you intelligently manage risk? By intelligently reducing variation.
P.S. You can buy the T-Shirt at Zazzle (Photo credit)

Time for that hiring interview. Congratulations. Whether you are speaking with a Recruiter, an Human Resources pro tasked with hiring, or directly with the Manager that you could be working for, here are 10 Tips To Speak ‘Successful Interview. ‘ 
1)  Be meticulously truthful and absolutely do not exaggerate; Putting in tool offsets is not “programming.” 

You need to be more than just another blurry face...

2)  Quantify whenever possible.  Only in Washington D.C. do numbers not have any legitimate meaning. ‘Hold operations to 0.0005″  on machine ABC,’ at least lets them know you have some idea about tolerances and what you have achieved on one machine. 
3)  Give examples with specifics that clarify, not obfuscate. “Operated  automatic multi spindle machine” is vague – it could be a state of the art Tornos Deco  or Index Machine, or you could mean an older cam-type Acme or New Britain automatic. The recruiter may chomp at the bit to find a guy who he thinks knows cam machines, only to have employer annoyed that he found another CNC kind of guy. Be specific, not vague. 
4)  Tell your story. Why you like to make things. How you are proud to know that people are safer, more comfortable, or shooting tighter groups because you held the precision needed on some critical part. 
5)  Be prepared to honestly explain your expected career trajectory. The reality is, every body has to serve their “time” whether its called ‘apprenticeship’ or  something else. Unless the hiring manager changed your diapers at an early age, its unlikely you’ll get to be a VP of Operations in two years. So figure this out before the decisionmaker discovers it when you spill it  on yourself in their office. 
6)  Be candid, tell them what you haven’t done. Knowing that upfront allows the recruiter and the hiring manager to intelligently manage risk, not just do damage control. 
7)  Be yourself. Nobody can fake sincerity, although if you last name is Madoff, you might do better than most. Don’t tell them what you think they might want to hear, tell them what you think. It always comes out anyways. Why be fake? 
8).  Be positive. Noone is going to hire Eeyore. 
9)  Back to that career trajectory- have at least an outline of a plan. “Once I am fully capable on set up and programming, I think I’d like to take some courses on _____ ” is  much better than a  blank stare like a deer before the truck hits. You will be asked, so work on it now. 
10)  Under promise and over deliver. This is the sustainable way to make a life, not just a living.
Final thought, look at the risk in the hiring process. In the case of a bad hire:

  •  The candidate emerges from a bad placement with some pay and another employer of record on their resume and some learning at someone elses expense.  
  • The recruiter looks like he can’t figure out the difference between a frog and a prince, and might lose the account. 
  • The employer loses the most- Time spent to train and get new employee working, fees to agency, and any damages that may occurr if the person doesn’t work out- including lost business or quality reputation damaged at customer etc.

Given these realities, it is in everyone’s best interest if you provide truthful information that helps all of you intelligently manage the  risk of this important decision.
 Photo credit.