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Operations

Even in the time of Big Data, is it important to ask “why”

By Sundeep Sanghavi

The “Five Whys” is an iterative concept for problem solving that was developed almost two centuries ago. Once used to find solutions in a previous era, the technique is as relevant as it has ever been as Big Data marches on in its supremacy.

For those who don’t already know, the Five Whys are an interrogation technique designed to explore cause-and-effect relationships as related to specific problems. It was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota car company and hero of the Japanese industrial revolution.

The number of whys (five, obviously), is taken from the anecdotal observation that - more often than not - five iterations of “why” were needed to find the root cause of any given problem. The idea behind this is that asking “why” of a situation five times would be sufficient to find a way to solve problems with machinery and processes.

Metrics

Learning to Survive in an Unpredictable World

By Michael Mantzke

The global market was changing rapidly before President Trump took office in January 2017, but continued change is expected to occur at an unprecedented rate. What does that mean for U.S. manufacturers? The answer: more than ever before, manufacturers need to access vital metrics to help run their operations. But the situation calls for a great deal more than just gathering data. For manufacturing companies that want to know what’s coming and what to do about it, the time has come to get systematic. This requires setting up a process for collecting the numbers, reviewing the data, and acting on the results.

Changes in the global manufacturing market

What kind of change is occurring in the global manufacturing market to warrant an investment in metrics? The simpler question is, “What kind of change isn’t taking place?” For starters, the industry’s role is changing. Not long ago, manufacturing and services were seen as two distinctly separate industries. By contrast, now a great deal of manufacturing’s active role centers around service inputs, for example with customer service or logistics. Also, consider that half of the people working in manufacturing perform service roles, such as support staff. Add the typical influence that industry uncertainty breeds to the picture, and it’s easy to see why words like change, volatility, and technology are in everything written about manufacturing. Other changes manufacturers are tackling include newly introduced regulatory risks, an alarming deficiency of vastly skilled employees, and the reality of unstable resource prices. Add to that:

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Midwest

Another organization is getting involved in the Manufacturing Institute’s to attract more young people into manufacturing. 

The Manufacturing Institute and Spring Manufacturers Institute (SMI) are partnering to bring more young people into the manufacturing industry. SMI is one of just two industry associations that have joined the Institute's Dream It. Do It. program, which raises awareness of careers in manufacturing.

Through this partnership, SMI and its members will have access to market-tested materials targeting young people, parents and teachers about a career in modern manufacturing. The Dream It. Do It. program will be a key element in SMI's ongoing strategy to reach youth. The strategy includes organizing plant tours and school visits on Manufacturing Day in October 2017, as well as growing a network of industry "champions" to lead youth activities in regions across the country.

Washington

Looking at how the Clean Water Rule will be Reworked

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Waters of the United States has been a “fluid” concept for years. It defines the jurisdictional limits of the authority of the United States under the Clean Water Act (CWA). President Trump’s Feb. 28, 2017, Executive Order (EO) directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to rescind and replace the Clean Water Rule (CWR) is the latest development to resolve the question of which surface waters and wetlands may be federally regulated and subjected to CWA permitting. Many U.S. businesses objected to the rule, so this is one action that is less controversial than others the Trump Administration has taken. This article discusses its significance.

Background

In the decade since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in 2006 in Rapanos v. United States, EPA and the Corps have made three attempts to interpret Rapanos and “clarify” the definition of waters of the United States, often referred to as “WOTUS.” Trump’s EO includes specific instruction to EPA and the Corps to consider interpreting “navigable waters” in a manner consistent with the late Justice Scalia’s opinion authored on behalf of the plurality in Rapanos.

International

Ford is expanding its use of sustainable materials with one of nature’s strongest substances. 

Just in my home, I have bamboo floors, bamboo bowls and bamboo bedding. But the fast-growing perennial of the grass family may soon also be found in the garage, because Ford believes cars could be next to benefit from bamboo, which is one of the world’s strongest natural materials.

While investment in research has led to breakthroughs in new materials like super-strong carbon fiber and lightweight aluminum, nature’s wonder material may have been growing all along and as much as three feet in a day. Soon, some surfaces inside vehicles could be made from a combination of bamboo and plastic to create a super hard material.

“Bamboo is amazing,” says Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre in China. “It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia.”

South

Toyota believes the future is now with a major investment in Kentucky toward its Toyota New Global Architecture. 

Toyota is laying claim to automotive dominance in the South. The company’s $1.33 billion investment - the highest of any automaker in Kentucky and the second-largest in state history - will make Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. (TMMK) the first plant in North America to begin producing vehicles using Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA).

Named the "Most American Made" car by Cars.com and the No. 1 selling car in America for the past 15 years, the Camry, from the 2018 model year, will become the first Toyota vehicle made in the United States to fully incorporate the new vehicle development and production technology. 

"This $1.33 billion investment is part of Toyota's plan to invest $10 billion dollars in the United States over the next five years, on top of the nearly $22 billion Toyota has invested in the U.S. over the past 60 years," says Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America. "Toyota New Global Architecture is about exciting, ever-better vehicles for our customers as it will improve performance of all models, including increased fuel efficiency, more responsive handling and a more stable, comfortable feel while driving."

West

The Greenbriar Companies has built more than half of all intermodal double-stack railcars in operation today, and it’s recent achievement underscores that dominance. 

The Greenbrier Companies Inc. hit a major milestone recently when it produced its 100,000th intermodal double-stack unit. This milestone achievement began more than 32 years ago at Greenbrier's flagship production and design facility, Gunderson LLC, based in Portland, Ore.

"Gunderson has been a pioneer in railcar design since Greenbrier's 1985 acquisition of this legendary manufacturing facility in operation since 1919,” says William A. Furman, chairman and CEO. “Building 100,000 intermodal double-stack units is a significant achievement for Greenbrier. It is the result of years of hard work and dedication provided by our American workforce at Gunderson, which includes many employees who have worked in this facility in Portland for multiple decades. Greenbrier's manufacturing history began with the intermodal double-stack railcar at Gunderson in 1985. Greenbrier is proud to build intermodal double-stack railcars in America – work that supports more than 1,000 highly-skilled jobs in Portland."  

Greenbrier spearheaded the design of double-stack railcars, which were introduced in North America in the mid-1980s to haul intermodal containers. Double-stack technology revolutionized long-distance freight transportation by railroads. Using double-stack technology, a freight train of a given length can carry roughly twice as many containers, sharply reducing costs per container. These cars are used for nearly 70 percent of all U.S. intermodal shipments.

"This is a rewarding milestone for Greenbrier and the hard-working team here at Gunderson," says Mark Eitzen, senior vice president and general manager at Gunderson. "I am proud of all our team members and appreciate the continued support of our suppliers and customers. We are also pleased to regularly receive quality awards for our intermodal railcars from our leading customer, TTX Company, a top provider of railcars to the North American rail industry. Our success is linked to the railroad industry's goal to realize substantial financial and environmental savings – our 100,000 intermodal double stack railcars save 15.5 billion truck miles each year resulting in lower emissions and reduced road traffic."

Greenbrier produces nearly twice the number of intermodal double stack railcars than its closest competitor and has built approximately 50 percent of all intermodal double-stack railcars operating globally. Greenbrier has evolved and innovated from a railcar builder with a single product offering to a global manufacturer that now provides numerous railcar products and aftermarket solutions to support the transportation needs of thousands of customers, today on four continents.

 "We are fortunate to have employers like Gunderson in our City," says Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler . "I congratulate all at Gunderson and Greenbrier on the production of their 100,000th intermodal double stack unit and I look forward to their continued success."

Northeast

New Hampshire is attracting manufacturers with all it has to offer in terms of a quality business climate, strong workforce and geographic excellence. By Staci Davidson

New Hampshire may be primarily known for its beautiful scenery and being first chair during the presidential primary races, but it’s quite the hot spot for manufacturing, as well. Some of the country’s first textile mills were established along the Merrimac River in New Hampshire, and manufacturing continues to be the backbone of the state’s economy, employing 70,000 people or 13 percent of the private sector workforce, according to Jeff Rose, commissioner of the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

“It’s a unique state and a fantastic state for manufacturing,” Rose says. “New Hampshire always has had a rich tradition in manufacturing and it’s adapted in a fluid fashion to reflect modern manufacturing. The old skeletons of the state’s old mill buildings are now home to the most high-tech companies and universities.”

Rose explains New Hampshire has three distinct advantages for manufacturers:

* The Granite State’s world-class workforce and talent, as the result of its high high-school graduation rate and high attainment rates of education after high school.

* The business-friendly environment that stems from the low costs of doing business and easy access to decision makers.

* The first-rate quality of life.

“People who live here stay here,” Rose says. “New Hampshire has amazing diversity in close proximity. We are close to Boston and the ocean’s coastline, but we also have a great lakes region, amazing rivers and the White Mountains. All of the best things about New England are here.”

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