efficiency

Writing a Nonconformance (NCR)

NCR can find broken processes and really help with profit improvement "A problem well stated is a problem half solved." - Charles F. Kettering, American Inventor & Social Philosopher

The first step in solving a problem is to ensure you fully understand what the problem actually is. I regularly see horrible examples of this in practice inside some of the companies I work with. One classic example was in Atlanta, GA a few years ago. Here is the scenario...

Operations Manager: "What the h@!! is going on? Logistics has dropped the ball again! Our #1 line is down because they can't get their heads out of their a$$e$ and keep up with ordering the resin we need. This is our biggest customer!"

The scenario, at least in the mind of the Operations Manager, was that the Jack-Wagons working over in the Logistics Department simply couldn't count. I didn't buy it. In this case, as in most cases where suppositions seem a bit unlikely, I decided to do something I typically do during an audit - walk the audit trail by following the process upstream. This seems like such an obvious move... 1. There's a problem. 2. Walk the trail to find out the source. 3. Ask questions and "show me, show me, show me". HOWEVER, in many organizations, the minute an employee crosses the line into another department he/she is outside of their home turf. A defensive culture will likely breed a departmental approach (staying in your own neighborhood) versus a process approach. If you are not familiar with the process approach, you can learn more about this methodology here from a March 2011 post.

After walking the trail and crossing the territorial boundaries of Production into Scheduling and on to Logistics, I was able to trace back the material in the ERP system with the status "On Hand" and location "Op 120" -  which was the Molding Operations where I had started my hunt. After circling back around to the Operations Manager and hearing another string of Logistics bashing, I started to do some real snooping in the surrounding areas.

Standing at what I'd like to call the base camp of "Mount Unknown Product", I rolled up my sleeves like a eager bidder on Storage Wars and sifted through stacks of components, raw materials and residual miscellaneous. No luck there, although I noted the lack of control and visited that area later in the audit. After asking several questions of several Molding Operators, one of the ladies jumped in with "Oh yeah, that's probably that skid over there in the corner." Sure enough, the skid we were looking for was off in the corner with a simple 2"x2" yellow sticky label on it marked "BAD PRODUCT".

After pointing out to the Operations Manager that the source of the problem was likely one of his team members as opposed to those fools in Logistics, I asked him to consider a better solution. I then pointed out how I would be writing a Nonconformance Report for this finding, and how my nonconformance statement would clearly define the problem at hand. I jokingly stated, "If you want, I can write this NCR in a similar way as that sticky note? I can simply write 'Bad Process' and let you try to remember what I actually meant." He didn't think it was funny.

There were several missing links to the materials and inventory control process I observed during this audit; none that included someone coming to work deliberately trying to screw things up. Links that were obviously broken were the identification of product, controlling suspect or known nonconforming product, use of approved documentation and recording the instance of a nonconformity. An important transactional control was also missing, which was the signal used to notify Logistics that the parts were now unavailable. That signal should have been an ERP move from "Op 120" to "Op 120 Hold". That move to Op 120 Hold would have signaled the Logistics group to order another batch of components in order to keep the customer's order moving forward.

At the end of the day, the use of a simple 1-page Nonconformance Report (NCR) that forces the Originator to follow a simple process checklist (i.e. Yes/No - Did you move product out of IN PROCESS into a PRODUCT HOLD Operations?) may have prevented a late shipment. By the way, the company's poorest performing KPI (key process indicator) was "% On Time Delivery". This KPI was also tied to their variable compensation profit sharing process.

Nonconformance Report (NCR)

Here is an example of a simple NCR Form that may be useful in improving YOUR bonus payout. Click on the image to launch the product and view the PDF or download the native version. Who would have thought a simple form could make your customer and your wallet happier?

Cheers,

Jim Blog Signature

ASQ Lowcountry Quality Conference 2013 & Management System Architect

The 12-Piece Blueprint This past week was a very successful week indeed - full of signs of spring and new opportunities. A major catalyst of our excitement to bring Concentric's story to the Charleston community was the ASQ Lowcountry Quality Conference organized by our local ASQ Section 1122 volunteers. This 2-day conference featured an amazing array of speakers and Quality Professionals who gave attendees their foresight into the future commercial needs of the region. In addition to the great line-up of speakers from various industries across the spectrum, nearly half of the participants were treated to an extended tour of the new Boeing South Carolina campus. It is rare to hear a planning committee genuinely pumped up after the conference ended saying , "Count me in for planning this thing in 2014!" This statement, above all other metrics, was the most impressive indicator of a successful conference with a bright future in 2014.

Concentric was well represented during the conference. It was jokingly stated at various points throughout the conference that "Concentric has provided 7 speakers - 2 actual guest speakers, 1 on standby as a contingency plan and 4 audio speakers. (We donated our A/V equipment.) Robert Jenkins spoke about the leap that is required for an organization to jump from ISO 9001 certification to AS9100C - the latest aerospace quality management system international standards - while I spoke about a new concept I refer to as "The Management System Architect".

The Management System Architect uses stories and real life examples to introduce change agents to simple tools for the purpose of visualizing activities that take place within an organization. Like a traditional architect, the Management System Architect must put together components that ultimately satisfy the needs and expectations of the customer. Unlike a traditional architect, the Management System Architect is challenged with managing elements of an organization that can not be seen by the naked eye. Rather than physical components such as lumber, hardware and fasteners, the Management System Architect must use simple documents such as flowcharts, maps and other visual representations of action to illustrate how activities within an organization fit together.

The Management System Architect

Throughout the next several months, I encourage you to stay tuned to the progress of my first attempt at authoring a real book. The end product will be a book and a workbook. The book will be an in-depth roadmap for management system implementers and process owners on how to use twelve tools over the course of twelve months. These tools will guide "architects" as they build the fundamental framework of organizational flow and interactions. The accompanying workbook will be a supplement of dozens of downloadable tools and templates allowing you to customize the tools to fit the functions and branding of your specific operations.

We are all extremely busy. Writing a book has been on my bucket list since my mid 20's. Although I failed to make that goal by 30, there is still time to write a book by the time I'm 40. (Dr. Leah Jackman-Wheitner reminded me that just because I missed the 30-year mark, that doesn't give me an easy way out. "There's still plenty of time to write your dang book!") Like any good engineer, having deadlines, metrics and a good plan is what will drive my behavior. By adding accountability to the formula, there is nowhere to hide. I'm asking for your participation. I'd like you to help me by being my accountability partner.

Here are the major milestones: May 17th, 2013 - Management System Architect Toolbox featuring 55+ tools & templates (eWorkbook) May 31st, 2013 - Management System Architect Toolbox (Hardcopy Workbook) June 28th, 2013 - Free Chapter available for download to our blog subscribers November 30th, 2013 - Completion of First Edition of The Management System Architect (eBook) December 21st, 2013 - The Management System Architect Bundle (Hardcopy Book & Workbook with download code for eBook & eWorkbook)

As our gift to you as a subscriber, here is a link my ASQ Conference slideshow: Http://www.acommoncenter.com/architect

Do you know someone else that may be interested in following my progress? Simply forward this blog post and ask them to subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/f0Swn

7 Steps to Having the Best Year Ever

7 Steps to Having the Best Year Ever

Around this time every year, I take a few hours to begin my month-long+ process of reflecting on happenings and results that went right and wrong during the current calendar year.  Do I have the things I wanted to have?  Did I do the things I wanted to do?  Did I become or remain the person that I aimed to be?

The best way for me to evaluate this at the highest level is to review the top priorities I set for myself for the year.  Every year, I come up with a "theme" that is easy for me to write down and, more importantly, easy for me to recall on a regular basis.  In 2009, the theme was "The Year of the G" - girls (my wife and daughters), guitar and golf.  In 2012, the theme as been "Steep Trajectory" - quick improvements in my health, spiritual leadership in my family, personal finances and business development.

Step #1 - Creating a theme or strategy for the year is the starting point of defining and realizing your dreams.  Visualize yourself at the end of 2013 and try to capture as many details in this visualization as possible.  One great example and short exercise that is quick, simple and a lot of fun is to answer the following questions about how December 2013 looks in your dreams:

  • What do you look like in a year from now?  Are you better dressed, thinner, have that mole removed?
  • What daily habits - good and bad - will be different?  More days at at the gym that year?  Less time behind a computer?
  • Is your life more balanced than it is currently?
  • How much time and energy have you spent in helping others?
  • How active have you been in your child's life as a parent, volunteer, mentor and role model?

This morning, as I begin my visualization and commitments to 2013, I have started Step 1 by printing off an annual calendar with a monthly view.  Success in realizing your dreams is to break the dream down into actionable steps that can be taken daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.  I often refer to this as a "Goal Converter".  See examples of how this can be applied to your organization in the Goal Converter blog from June 23, 2011 - http://cmsicharleston.com/2011/06/23/goal-converter from June 23, 2011.

Step #2 - Once you've defined the top 3-5 high level goals for 2013, print out this 2013 Calendar - Monthly View and write in the tactical steps needed to realize your goals.  Start with the simple stuff in order to gain momentum.  Here are some examples:

  • January 15th and July 15th - Schedule dentist appointments
  • Monthly budget review (pick the day that works best for you)
  • Schedule "Dude's Weekend" camping trip for the weekend after Labor Day
  • Document key birthdays, anniversaries and other events
  • Vacation planning - especially MANY MINI vacations throughout the year such as short hikes, camping, festivals, etc.

Step #3 - The next step is to keep this paper copy of the year's plan in front of you as an evergreen rough draft.  Pin it to the board near your desk or carry it in your laptop bag.  Once plans and specific dates are a bit more locked into place, enter these key events and tasks into your favorite electronic program.  I would personally recommend Google Apps in order to manage your calendar, task list, share invitations, organize email, etc.

Step #4 - Take 10-15 minutes every Friday afternoon and again on Sunday evenings to visualize the week ahead.  If you have not already, ensure you have moved all unfinished tasks to the following week.  Add new tasks to the list for the upcoming week.  By visualizing the week ahead and having a method to capture the never-ending number of to-do's, you will minimize the anxiety that can often be associated with the Sunday evening panic.

Step #5 - Take 10-15 minutes every morning to visualize your day.  I call this TWS or "Thoughts While Shaving".  Once you get into the office, or as you sit down for your money cup of coffee, ensure your daily tasks are captured and prioritized.  Make sure you include tasks outside of work such as picking up the kids, hitting the gym, picking up your dry cleaning or calling a friend.  NOTE:  Whatever you do, avoid starting your day off by checking email.  Sure, email is important.  But by starting you day with email, you allow the demands of others or irrelevant distractions to control your day.  Lock in your daily plan, begin working on critical tasks, then check emails.

Step #6 - Reward yourself for closure of individual tasks.  What works well for me is to create an empty box by each task.  Once that task is complete, I check it off.  I then go onto my Google Calendar and mark the electronic task box with a check.  I absolutely LOVE to check the box!

Step #7 - Take the time each week/month/year to go back and review all of the boxes that were checked - signifying the individual steps you took to realize your goals.  Too often (and I'm extremely bad about this), we focus on what we did NOT get done.  We do not take the time to appreciate what WAS done.  Imagine your parents doing this to you.  Don't do it to yourself.  Take the time to celebrate, study, learn and improve.

Thank you for reading this blog.  As a reward, here is a free download:  2013 Calendar - Monthly View (Editable Version)

All the best in the New Year!
-JRT

"Of all our human resources, the most precious is the desire to improve." - My latest fortune cookie

Turtle Diagrams (via Concentric Management Systems, Inc.)

After reviewing statistics from our website dashboard this morning, we were surprised to see that the #1 driver to our website is a search for the words "Turtle Diagrams". Special thanks to our friend - the turtle! For years now we have heard a handful of our customers fight with the concept of using a turtle diagram. Recently, I was in a heated discussion with an Engineering Manager who felt very strong about his position that "...turtle diagrams are a waste of time because they are only used during audits... to help an auditor be more efficient in his audit of us".

Well... yeah. I mean, PERFECTLY said (and thanks for making the argument easier for me Mr. Resister!). Turtle Diagrams at this organization were often only used by the auditors. But that doesn't mean that they were intended for the auditors. They were INTENDED for processes owners; a 1-page diagram that should be used to keep them on track with the expected outputs of the process they are responsible for. (Note: I said "process" they are responsible for and not "department" they are responsible for.)

Now, to address the portion of his statement: "...to help an auditor be more efficient in his audit of us". What's wrong with being efficient as an auditor? Furthermore, what's wrong with being efficient and organized as a process owner? The more focused you remain on the key deliverables, and the key resources needed to achieve these deliverables, the better chance you have at meeting the needs of your boss (your BOSS boss and your Customer).

Think of a turtle diagram as a point on the global when you go to Google Earth. Before you start navigating north, east, south or west, you first need to make sure you are on the right continent. From there, you can fine-tune and make adjustments. Start your process definition as a very high level. Gather all of the key resources, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses on the turtle and fine-tune from there.

For those of you who prefer a more mathematical explanation, work instructions are to assembly operators as turtle diagrams are to top managers responsible for the performance of a certain business process. Without identifying key outputs - critical to internal and customer satisfaction - it becomes difficult to align all of your tactical resources (man, machine, method, metrics, measurement systems, etc.) in order to achieve your strategic-level goals.

I encourage each organization that uses or considers using turtle diagrams to step back and evaluate the intent of this tool. Like any tool, turtle diagrams are only valuable if used as intended.

Turtle Diagram - Baking Process Example

Turtle Diagram - Baking Process Example

Instructions for Creating a Turtle Diagram A "Turtle Diagram" is a quality tool used to visually display process characteristics such as inputs, outputs (expectations), criteria (metrics) and other high-level information to assist in the effective execution and improvement of key business processes. While there is no requirement per ISO 9001 or TS 16949 to create or manage turtle diagrams, I have worked with organizations who use turtle diagrams … Read More

via Concentric Management Systems, Inc.