Monday, December 9, 2019

Water Towers

Seth Godin's blog likes to hate on factories and physical spaces, but he still uses analogies from manufacturing and infrastructure. I enjoyed this one.

The text:

Water towers

On the top of many apartment buildings (and on a hill in many towns) you’ll find a water tower, a large wooden or metal container holding tons of water.
Why bother?
It turns out that a pump that slowly and consistently pumps water uphill is way more efficient than the high-powered, high-capacity pump you’d need to meet spikes in demand. By using gravity to assist during times of heavy load, the consistent and more efficient pump gets the job done by planning ahead.
We all need a water tower somewhere in our work

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Lean vs Waste

Lean Manufacturing, Lean Ops, Lean Whatever....many people haven't heard of it, have heard of it but don't know anything about it, have heard of it but only know a little about it...and so on.

"Reducing waste" - almost everyone understands what this means, right away, without further explanation for context about what certifications the person holds to help reduce waste or why reducing waste might be a good thing.

Why don't we speak more plainly about Lean and about what we do?

Let's reduce waste. In manufacturing, in service, in everyday lives. We can call out waste, in whatever form and location we find it, and work to reduce it.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Benchmarking a hemisphere away

I'm currently traveling in Phnom Penh, Cambodia doing multiple things, but one of them is always keeping an eye out for lateral benchmarks. 

Cambodia has a large manufacturing industry, with garment production being a large part of that. I'll be visiting several factories this week. 

Benchmarking can be done close to home or far away. I hope to have some good best practices to share from factories and operations here that can travel back with me to Chicago.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Right side Red

Sailors use red to mark the starboard side of the boat and guide into port with the red lights on that side.

"red to the right" is easy to remember and makes it simple when deciding how to mark a set of cables or other connectors. Here is a piece of equipment with two sides, that's likely going to be taken apart several times.

I've added a small piece of red marking tape to the right side, so whenever I pull the pieces apart in a hurry, I don't need to worry about remembering which side is which.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Ode to a Siphon Pump

Siphon pumps! What a wonderful tool. They:

-are inexpensive
-work without electricity
-take up very little space

They are a great way to move liquids around without needing to lift a heavy container. Here are some ways we use them:

1. transferring water between full 5-gallon buckets for cleaning up, rather than needing to lift one full bucket
2. emergency backup pump for any container size. We use lovely, convenient, electrical gas-station-style pumps for our 55-gallon containers, but the motors can wear out or the pumps can get clogged. Rather than stare at the full 55-gallon drums wishing we could get the liquid out, we've got a few extra siphon pumps around: a few-dollar insurance policy to give us a manual option until a new pump can arrive and get us back to normal.
3. Final emptying of containers that are an odd size for our standard electrical pumps.
4. Regular use for any liquid ingredients when we only need a little at a time, as an inexpensive start before getting a higher-flow rate electrical pump.

Here are some options:
5 gallon siphon pump on Amazon
55 gallon siphon pump on Amazon

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Are You Messy?

Keeping things in order comes naturally to many people. For the rest of us, this is baffling. I'm naturally an extremely messy person. Here is my desk at the end of a long week of work:

But here is part of our production floor, taken at the same time. Note the production area is organized, but my desk area in the background is....not.

How do you keep your studio clean when you personally are fighting towards entropy? One way most of the studio stays clean is that I have a limited amount of space I allow myself to work. The Red Tag area, (aka my Zone of Disarray) is the formal spot that items go when they aren't needed in their particular space. My own desk is not quite so straightforward to organize since my normal rule of "will you use this item in the next month?" means I would answer YES to everything that's sitting on my desk. Keeping all these items in some kind of order is a challenge for a naturally messy person. That's one reason 5S and other Lean Manufacturing tools are all about continuous improvement, not immediate perfection.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What's your inventory style? JIT vs Doomsday Prepper

Lean Manufacturing consultants talk about "Just in Time" inventory but never define what that is. If you push for a definition they will say "all inventory is bad". I like to call this Abstinence-Only inventory education.

Doomsday Preppers have enough items on hand so they can start a new life without any input from others. This might mean food stores, or equipment to rebuild a whole society.

Which of these suits you more closely? The best answer is probably somewhere in the middle.