Earlier this week, I had the most amazing cup of coffee. The flavor was perfect with hints of chocolate and caramel and it was very smooth with no bitterness. I took my first sip and immediately stopped and savored the flavor. As I enjoyed this cup of coffee, I felt my mood lighten up and my energy level soar. What a perfect way to start the day.
But, as I finished my coffee, I started to feel sad. Sad because the cup was almost empty, and I had no way to recreate this cup of coffee. As you non-coffee drinkers might not know, a perfect cup of coffee is a combination of optimally roasted coffee beans, the correct ratio of beans to water and water at the ideal brewing temperature.
I roasted these beans a few days earlier, and I was fairly certain that the beans were from Timor (I really should mark my containers better).
Since I was traveling this week, I didn’t have my scale, so I wasn’t sure exactly how much coffee I had put into my pour-over and I was using an electric kettle and I wasn’t sure what the temperature of the water was (but I know it was below boiling). The only thing I knew for sure was the beans were roasted until just past second crack, which is my standard process when I roast my beans.
Without these vital data points, I am forced to work hard to try to recreate this perfect cup of coffee. And I still haven’t been able to do it.
As I considered my predicament this morning while enjoying my now sub-par cup of coffee, I started thinking about my clients and how often they find themselves in this situation. Business was humming right along and then suddenly they find themselves in a situation where productivity is low, quality is lagging, or profitability is down.
That is usually the time when my clients reach out to me to get the business back on track, whether that means enhancing productivity, developing strategic plans or coaching the management team.
But, what if we took a more proactive approach and characterized the company during periods of prosperity? By identifying those key performance indicators (KPIs) that are contributing to the success of your organization and tracking those KPIs, action could be taken when shifts are seen. This could positively impact profitability, employee engagement and productivity – it would be like everyone in your organization just enjoyed the perfect cup of coffee – energized, excited and ready to take on the challenges of day.
Ready to enhance profitability in your business? Email Julie today to get it buzzing tomorrow.
Tools to Streamline Your Processes
Resulting In Enhanced Productivity and Improved Profitability
Tool of the Week: Value Stream Mapping
What it is: Value Stream Maps (VSM) are process maps with data.This is a more complicated tool than a process flow chart as it includes data to help identify and quantify waste in the process.
Benefits of Using the Tool: This is a valuable tool if the goal is to speed up the process or reduce and/or eliminate non-value added steps. This tool can be used to identify an opportunity for improvement or to create an “as-is” version of the proces and then document improvement in a future version.
How to Use It: Begin at the end of the process with the final product and then work upstream. Identify the main steps of the process and place them in sequence. Incorporate all steps including subprocesses, inspection steps, and any testing required during the process.
Include the flow of information between the steps and how communication occurs between the different processes and the customer. Is the communication via email, on the router, in person or electronic? When it comes time to collect the data, gather the following pieces of information:
– Set-up time
– Takt time (the rate which the product or service must be produced in order to satisfy customer demand within a given period of time)
– Processing Time
– Lead Time
– Percent defective and/or scrap rate
– Number of people
– WIP – upstream and downstream
– Batch size
– Any other data pertinent to your process
Once the data is compiled, classify each step as valuable to the customer, valuable to the business or not valuable. From this data, you have a roadmap on which steps to optimize and which to eliminate in order to reduce process lead time, increase capacity and improve overall equipment efficiency.
Real Life Example: Value Stream Mapping is a great tool for identifying where the variability is coming from in a process. I had a client who was struggling with long processing times for a particular part.
By completing a VSM, they identified steps in the process which had large sources of variation, In addition, they found communication between departments to be inadequate or in some cases, non-existent. From this data, they were able to identify which steps needed to be removed from the process and which steps needed to be optimized to reduce variation. This work resulted in a quantifiable improvement in processing times.
If your slurry control charts look more like shark teeth than an Iowa cornfield, perhaps you have some opportunity to control your process better. If you don’t have slurry control charts, do you know what is happening in your slurry over time? Charting your key parameters provides a visual indication of variability in your process. The easiest way to reduce variability is to control what is being added to the slurry.
By spending some time reviewing slurry additions, you can minimize variability of key parameters during the shell building process. Here are a few tips to consider:
- SiO2 will climb over time so, have your target SiO2 for your make-up slurry about 1 to 2 percentage points below the center point of the dip tank range.
- Viscosity will also climb, so, target the make-up tank to be about 2 seconds below the dip tank.
- If pre-wet is being used, target a higher viscosity for the make-up tank. Do some experimentation to determine the optimal viscosity range of the make-up slurry to maintain the dip tank viscosity through slurry additions. The goal is to avoid making flour additions directly into the dip tank.
- Make sure that the pre-wet is being monitored and controlled for key metrics including SiO2, % polymer and bacteria.
- Educate your operators on when they should use water, binder or a binder-polymer “cocktail” when adjusting viscosity of both the make-up slurry and the dip tank.
- Monitor and control the make-up slurry as closely as the dip tank. Optimize the make-up slurry formulation so adjustments to the dip tank are minimal.
Steven Covey might not be an expert on precision investment casting, but he was correct when he said, “Begin with the End in Mind. ” Following these few simple steps will go a long way towards minimizing process variability while saving time and money.