Friday, October 28, 2016

Small & Medium Sized Manufacturers: Take Advantage of Process Improvement Programs

For small businesses in today’s global and technologically advanced market, it is crucial to maintain competitiveness and stay aligned with larger organizations. Generally speaking, small and medium sized manufacturers, those categorized with less than 250 employees, are as much in need of process improvement programs to enhance and develop their business as those of larger firms.

In general, smaller organizations lose much more compared to larger firms when practices and operations are not constantly improved on. Many small manufacturers believe they do not have the time or money to implement new programs. Unfortunately, the biggest cost is the day-to-day dollars lost from wasted resources. Time is of the essence and smaller manufacturing firms must take advantage of all opportunities available to strengthen their daily organizational operations.

Below are the top three process improvement programs sweeping the manufacturing industry.

Energy Management Programs: Energy costs are perhaps the most significant expense of any manufacturing firm. Conserving energy directly translates into increased profitability. Manufacturing processes require huge amounts of energy from lighting, cooling, heating, equipment and the production line itself. Manufacturers now have tremendous opportunities to save energy, which in turn will help them reduce costs, grow more profitable and scale larger.

Lean Manufacturing: The adoption of lean manufacturing programs eliminates and reduces wastes in all levels of an organization. These wastes include time, money, inventory, and production motion. By reducing wastes, production becomes more efficient. Efficiency lessens the need for excess inventory, reduces costs and increases profitability.

Quality Management Systems (QMS): A process-based QMS allows manufacturers to identify, measure, control and enhance multiple core business processes which will ultimately lead to improved business performance. The most recognized quality management system is ISO 9001. There are currently over 29,000 organizations in the United States and 1.1M organizations across 178 economies who are ISO 9001 certified.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is committed to finding the perfect organizational management solution for your business. To learn more about operational excellence services, click here or call 888.414.6682. 

About the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) is an organization dedicated to supporting Michigan manufacturers to work smarter, to compete and to prosper. The Center offers personalized consulting services to meet the needs of clients in virtually every aspect of their businesses. The Center is affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP Program). The Center also is closely affiliated with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) with the shared goal of making Michigan businesses vibrant, driving GDP growth, and creating new and lasting jobs. To learn more, visit

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Center Debuts New Facility & Celebrates 25 Years

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to compete and grow. On Friday, Oct. 21, The Center hosted an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate a quarter century of working with Michigan manufacturers, the opening of their new facility and the unveiling of their new brand.

The new state-of-the-art headquarters, located at 45501 Helm St. in Plymouth, features meeting
spaces, classrooms, a Real Factory simulation and more, all designed to help Michigan manufacturers learn, collaborate and build organizational success.

“The new facility is Michael Coast (left) receives a tribute from State Senator Patrick Colbeck, State Representative Kurt Heise (right).in line with The Center’s spirit and innovative nature,” said Michael Coast, President. “We are so pleased to share it with our clients and partners, setting the stage for the next 25 years.”

On hand for the celebration were U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Congressman Dave Trott, State Senator Patrick Colbeck, State Representative Kurt Heise and other public officials along with clients, partners and those passionate about manufacturing in Michigan.

“The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is a critical part of our state’s efforts to continue strengthening Michigan’s high-tech advanced manufacturing industry,” said Senator Gary Peters. “I’m honored to help celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Center and to help launch their next chapter. This new facility will offer more space and more opportunities to drive innovation and collaboration among Michigan’s small manufacturers, create good-paying jobs and boost our economic competitiveness around the world for the next 25 years and beyond.”

Along with the move, The Center has developed a dynamic new brand that better represents their organizational reality. “Our new look and feel exemplifies where we’re headed. We are dedicated to bringing expertise to manufacturers to help them compete and prosper,” Coast said. “Our people are our driving force, and their passion to transform companies is unparalleled. Our new brand represents that spirit.”

About the National Institute of Standards and Technology and MEP
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program.  The MEP Program contains centers in every state of the United States to serve the manufacturing community.  Quarterly surveys ensure full accountability and a performance scorecard of certified value for our customers.

The MEP Program is an outgrowth of the U.S. Government’s policy to develop and deploy technology, management and technical expertise for improving the competitiveness of manufacturing for small and medium-sized companies.  These companies are critical to Michigan, representing 90% of job growth for high paying jobs having a 3-5 job multiplier effect in the economy.  This means for every new manufacturing job created or retained, there are 3-5 supporting jobs.

For more information about the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, visit or call 888.414.6682. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Case of Lean Six Sigma and the Small/Medium Sized Company

We all agree on the benefits of embracing a Six Sigma Culture. It is after all a management
methodology which allows companies to use data to eliminate defects and reduce variability in any process, manufacturing and business alike.

Yet, it is also important to know that in Six Sigma there are two main methodologies both inspired by Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycles, and each is composed of five phases:

  1. DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) brings improvement to existing processes, services, and systems, and it is more universally used and accepted, whereas
  2. DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) is used by organizations that are involved in continuous development, mostly done from scratch, and design/re-design as well as innovate new products and services 

Basically, the Design phase is the only difference between DMAIC and DMADV.

Design for Six Sigma
We also hear a lot about the DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) methodology that some companies embrace. So you may ask, what is the difference between DMAIC and DFSS?

DFSS aims at designing new defect-free products or services to meet CTQ (Critical to Quality) factors that will lead to customer satisfaction; this approach is all about preventing problems. DMAIC, on the other hand, focuses on detecting and solving problems with existing products and services. Furthermore, DMADV and DFFSS are so similar, that we can view DMADV as the vehicle to implement DFSS.

After all, it was Motorola that started it all in 1986! But it was Jack Welch at GE who in 1995 glamorized Six Sigma and advanced it to a household name status by making it central to the company’s business strategy. Honeywell and Ford soon followed. By the late 1990s, almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies had begun Six Sigma initiatives in their efforts to reduce costs and improve quality. Companies attributed billions of dollars in savings and process improvements to their Six Sigma Initiatives. It seemed that Greatness was achieved!

But… Wait! Where Does Lean fit In? 
Practicing Lean adds value to an organization, process, or system by reducing non-value added activities and standardizing work. Lean implementation focuses on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change. It makes work simple to understand, easy and manageable.

Today, Lean management has permeated any and all areas of an organization. It has gone beyond just manufacturing and is viewed as an approach of running an organization that supports the concept of continuous improvement as a long-term approach to systematically achieve small, incremental changes in processes for improving efficiency and quality.

Integrating and Implementing Lean and Six Sigma
Although Lean and Six Sigma are two different paradigms, they share similar methodologies and tools. Six Sigma, for one, reduces process variation and eliminates defects by using statistical data analysis, hypothesis testing, and in some cases - when appropriate DOEs (Design of Experiment). Lean, on the other hand, drives out waste and promotes work standardization, but utilizes less technical tools such as Kaizen, workplace organization, and visual controls.

The most successful implementations starts with the Lean approach of making the workplace as efficient and effective as possible. Once Lean implementation has been completed and process problems still remain, the more technical Six Sigma statistical tools may be applied. It makes perfect sense to do that because one thing they both have in common is that strong support from leadership is required in order to make them the standard way of doing business. You can’t have one without the other!

Eventually, when Six Sigma methodology married the Lean philosophy, their offspring was Operational Excellence! GE, Verizon, IBM, just to name a few, have successfully and profitably used Lean Six Sigma to transform their enterprises, promote innovation throughout their organizations, and achieve lucrative growth.

But what about me? I am a small or at best a medium sized company! What can it do for me?
Although the approach of implementation may be slightly different given the size of a company, the needs and drivers that make organizations want to adapt the Lean Six Sigma dogma are the same regardless of size.

Let’s analyze some of the most common reasons organizations give for not adopting Lean Six Sigma into organization:

  1. We can’t afford the cost. Lean Six Sigma is indeed an investment. If the methodology is followed as it’s designed, the return of the investment of training even a couple of people in the organization will more than pay for itself right away. Start small, and build as needed. With the right projects, a couple of green belts should yield savings that by far exceed the cost of training them!
  2. We don’t have the time and are too busy putting out fires. It is a fact that time is any organization's most valuable commodity. When you waste it you are throwing away an irreplaceable resource. Putting out fires is an on-going vicious circle of being perpetually reactive to perennial problems instead of being reactive and fixing them once and for all. You owe it to yourself and your business to invest some time in understanding how Lean Six Sigma can help you. 
  3. We are too small. Lean Six Sigma is for large companies. This is one of the most common reasons small and medium-sized companies provide for not implementing it in their organizations. Just think that there have been two person start-ups using it with excellent results. Did they do a full Lean Six Sigma transformational deployment? Of course not! But, by consistently using key principles such as the Voice-of-the-Customer, they were able to help translate customer needs into their specific service offerings. 
  4. We are not a manufacturer. Well, neither is Coca-Cola Company, Bank of America, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart just to name a few.  Although Lean Six Sigma originated in manufacturing, the principles apply equally to transactional and service environments. In fact, the service industry actually has more waste than manufacturing does because so much of the work and deliverables are "invisible" and not in the form of tangible widgets as in manufacturing. 
  5. Lean Six Sigma involves a lot of statistics and advanced mathematics. Most of our employees are front-line operators and not engineers The great majority of small and medium organizations do not require statistics and advanced mathematics to enjoy the benefits of Lean Six Sigma. Most of the principles and tools can be quickly and easily used by anyone if the training is done properly.  
  6. Lean is a better fit for our business. We're going to start with Lean and then move into Six Sigma. Believing this cheats your customers, your employees, your business and yourself. Lean and Six Sigma are not mutually exclusive nor do they have to be applied in a linear fashion. They complement each other. By combining efficiency and effectiveness you get dramatic results. By only doing Lean you sacrifice the benefits of quality. Likewise, when you only implement Six Sigma you miss out on driving efficiencies.
  7. We tried Lean Six Sigma years ago and did not achieve good results. The first thing to ask yourself is ‘Why didn’t you achieve good results’. How was "success" defined? Was the result of lackluster outcome related to people, processes, or technology?

Regardless of the reasons, you owe it to your customers, your employees, your business, and yourself to try again. Maybe this time you need to take more time on the front end to clearly articulate the vision of your organization moving forward. Define the problems you are trying to solve with a program like Lean Six Sigma. Engage the front line and your customers to be part of the process. Remember, a methodology like Lean Six Sigma is only as good as the people managing it and the processes they use to manage it.

The Center
If you’re a manufacturer who is looking to become more efficient, productive and globally competitive, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center can assist you. Click here for a list of our services or contact us at 888.414.6682 or via email at

About Us
Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at on the web at

Friday, October 7, 2016

Enhancing Business Development Through ISO 9001 Certification

Enhancing Business Development Through ISO 9001 Certification
Manufacturers across the United States are always searching for new ways to enhance the growth and development of their organizations, commonly focusing on the optimization of key areas, such as profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction. The challenge most manufacturers face however, is optimizing these key areas simultaneously. For many, an approach to conquering this challenge has been recognized through the adoption of ISO 9001 certification. But for some, the importance of becoming ISO certified is still in question.  

As most are aware, the ISO series is the most globally recognized set of Quality Management System (QMS) standards. ISO 9001 is based on numerous quality management principles which involve the contribution and motivation of upper management, the practice of continuous improvement, and a strong customer focus. Becoming ISO certified not only aids manufacturers in bolstering compliance efforts, but also helps them to recognize the other countless benefits that enhance the development of their business:

Enhancement of Organizational Communication
Raising quality awareness among employees and involving them with quality management systems will improve the communication within a company. In turn, this will help middle and top management define key solutions in addressing and solving internal issues that are a hindrance to the organization’s productivity and success. In addition to improving processes, obtaining certification boosts effective teamwork practices across all functional levels of an organization and encourages interdepartmental cohesiveness.


Increased Sales
Manufacturers who are ISO certified offer superior products and services to customers. As a result, many prefer to purchase products from manufacturers with this certification. ISO 9001 increases sales by showcasing the company’s process, which will increase repetitive business and maintain/obtain orders from customers who require ISO 9001. By increasing value, companies are also able to increase profit margins.

Fewer Quality Audits
The tools necessary to develop superior quality management systems are included in ISO certifications. As a result, fewer customer complaints and quality audits will occur. Manufacturers will be able to focus on the central aspects of their business which are more important and will be able to use resources more efficiently, rather than having to make adjustments and change directions.

By obtaining ISO 9001 certification, manufacturers both large and small have reported other numerous benefits, such as it:
    • Creates marketing opportunities
    • Demonstrates ability to meet expectations
    • Ensures safety/quality of goods and services
    • Expands clientele
    • Highlights deficiencies
    • Improves company perception
    • Increases demand for products/services and market share
    • Provides an efficient/effective management process
    • Provides continuous assessment and improvement 
                By obtaining ISO 9001 certification, manufacturers are forced to examine every process and every service and/or product they produce. They are able to achieve primary objectives while sustaining operational excellence within their organization and customer satisfaction. ISO 9001 certification provides the foundation to achieving organizational goals of profitability, optimal productivity and quality of goods and services. Most importantly, as more and more larger corporations are requiring ISO 9001, manufacturers who do not adopt the certification will limit the business they can do and eventually fall behind in the marketplace.

                Note: ISO is administered and granted externally. The International Organization for Standardization develops international standards, but does not grant certifications. Third-party certification bodies provide independent confirmation for organizations who meet the requirements of ISO 9001.

                If your manufacturing company is ISO 9001 certified or considering achieving this credential, let the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center help. Our experienced facilitators can guide you through the process of earning and maintaining your ISO 9001 certification.

                To learn more, click here.