Posted by: productivityinc | January 15, 2016

A Maintenance Miracle

Once again we are offering our highly successful Maintenance Miracle Kaizen event from March 29th through April 1st. For those of you not familiar with these autonomous maintenance events and how they might help you in your company, we thought we would give you some insight from a past event we held at Acushnet’s Ball Plant III.

During the 4-day Maintenance Miracle Kaizen event, cross-functional teams comprised of Acushnet employees and those from outside companies learned about then applied the 7 steps of Autonomous Maintenance using a hands-on, team based approach. It was a great week of bonding, learning, and implementing. The event highlighted the importance of teamwork as participants, plant management, and maintenance all worked seamlessly together to make improvements. Jimmy Lowe of Barber Foods said it best, “It really makes you understand the importance of involving all from top management to shop floor operators.”

The morning sessions were spent in the classroom where the principles of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and AM were taught. Afternoons the teams worked to immediately apply what was learned out on the shop floor. Throughout the 3 application days, teams implemented the various elements of AM, including running TPM Scans, cleaning and inspecting ‘their’ equipment to detect abnormalities and writing up TPM Tags to identify abnormalities and improvement ideas. Once the abnormalities had been detected and tags created, teams consulted with Acushnet’s maintenance crew to come up with solutions (many at low to no cost) to address the problems. The structure of the event made it possible for the principles to move from the textbook to the real-world (shop floor) in just a few hours. Lori Crovello of Acushnet commented that “This is an absolutely “makes sense” program – or should I say “process”!

On Friday morning, the event concluded with each team giving a report-out of their findings and experience during the week’s activities. Report-outs were reflected on Activity Boards which included before and after photos, results achieved, etc. (See photos of team reports below)

A sampling of the results achieved by the teams includes:

  • 200 abnormalities detected – 48% corrected• 29 improvements identified – 14 improvement tags written
    • TPM scans improved by 30% per team during course of the week
    • 14 ‘show stoppers’ identified (show stoppers: an abnormality that had digressed to the point that it would have caused a safety, quality and/or unplanned down time issue within 30 days had it not been addressed by the team.)

MM Team Report PhotoAttendees were surprised with what they were able to accomplish in just 4 days’ time, but Ellis New, program facilitator for Productivity wasn’t. “This happens all the time when you have a great host plant and a group of dedicated people looking closely at the process. I get the biggest kick watching a group of people that were strangers on Tuesday, bond and become a team. By Friday you would think they’d known and liked each other their whole lives.”!

MM Team Report Gator Photo

Perhaps it is best summed up by two attendees, Ken Alverson of Del Monte who commented “…the benefit of this process is clear” and Brian Watson of USSynthetic Corporation who noted “the host plant was EXCELLENT!”

We couldn’t agree more.

Posted by: productivityinc | April 30, 2015

Tag That Attitude!

tag-crop_150We were recently contacted by one of our clients to convey how their TPM efforts were progressing… Can you pick out the most important thing?

“Here in our shop introducing TPM, performing work on a 5 year old lathe. Took 2 days to clean/inspect and identify needed improvements. On day 3 the operators came in and found some leaks because they can now be seen. So we’re doing more cleaning to isolate source.

Our maintenance folks were outstanding, working with us both days all day and fixing things on the go. They had already made some hidden things visible by adding plexiglass and have added more to allow visibility of gauges, etc.

Initial TPM Scan score 73%. Post-Scan score is 86% with items identified that will put us in the 90’s when complete. 40 yellow tags thus far.”

Did you find the most important thing? In a word “ATTITUDE”. That’s right, viewing the process as finding positive opportunities for beneficial change. We’ve had clients recoil at the thought of having their machines “look like a Christmas tree”, with tags hanging off them, because they don’t see the tags as the opportunities they represent to produce an optimum state/condition; rather, they see the tags as indications of failures. NOT SO! Tags show present state limitations which is the first step to the future state of optimum performance. Tag proudly and think of it in the positive light it deserves.

Need to order some tags for your efforts? Click here.

Posted by: productivityinc | October 23, 2014


blog post 10-23Like innovation, sustainability—a focus on creating economic, social, and environmental value—is rising on corporate agendas. According to a recent global executive survey, CEOs are now “twice as likely as they were in 2012 to say sustainability is their top priority,” and more other execs now see it as one of the top three items on their CEO’s agenda. Almost half of the executives surveyed say their company is aiming to align sustainability with overall business goals rather than with cost-cutting strategies.¹

It’s natural to think innovation would drive new solutions for sustainability. But the opposite is also true: a focus on sustainability can drive innovation and growth. Hannah Jones, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and VP of the Innovation Accelerator, says it in six words in a recent interview: “Sustainability is just innovation spelled differently.”

The similarities and synergies of innovation and sustainability span strategy, growth, process, and culture:

  • Strategy: Both sustainability and innovation should start at the top and be woven into business strategy.
  • Growth: Sustainability and innovation work in tandem to foster the disruptive ideas that can charge growth.
  • Process: Sustainability and innovation utilize similar process elements.
  • Culture: Sustainability and innovation both require similar mindsets and cultures.

To read the complete article “The Sustainability – Innovation Connection” visit our Strategic Innovation Newsletter



1 McKinsey & Co. “Sustainability’s Strategic Worth: McKinsey Global Survey Results.”

Posted by: productivityinc | October 2, 2014

OEE – Learn How to Use It Right

blog photo 10-2Recently, our own Ellis New had an article on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) published in Industry Week’s on-line newsletter. The article looks at the use and misuse of this often misunderstood metric. Below is an excerpt from that article, to read the entire piece, click on the word MORE below.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness is the measure most closely associated with Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), but OEE is not equivalent to TPM. At its heart, TPM is not about complex metrics; it’s about developing the capabilities of people. Everyone is involved in pursuing the dual goals of zero breakdowns and zero defects. Production, maintenance, and engineering form an efficient partnership, and operators share “ownership” in equipment. The new attitudes and behaviors result in a cultural shift that improves morale, drives continuous improvement, targets total asset reliability, and supports lean initiatives.

Total Productive Maintenance is fundamental to achieving lean flow, because flow can’t happen without reliable equipment and processes. In turn, a good understanding of Overall Equipment Effectiveness fosters an effective TPM effort.

Because OEE packs a lot of information into one number, it’s powerful. But that can also make it difficult to calculate and confusing to interpret. People commonly get into trouble when they try to:

  • Use OEE primarily as a high-level KPI (key performance indicator)
  • View OEE as an external measure that has meaning to customers
  • Multiply OEE across several machines in a department or plant
  • Calculate OEE on every piece of equipment
  • Gauge themselves against a “world-class” OEE measure
  • Focus on the number for its own sake instead of the improvement context
  • Use OEE as a club rather than a yardstick

Let’s take a look at four key ways that OEE can be used effectively to really help you…MORE


If you would like to talk more about OEE or TPM, Ellis would be happy to hear from you.  You can reach him at

We are looking for a few good men…and women…to present at our 2015 TPM Experience event in New Orleans.  If you have a TPM story to share, send us an outline.  You can get more information and submit your outline by clicking here.

Posted by: productivityinc | September 4, 2014

Engaging your Workforce

gembawalk1Operational excellence, continuous improvement, lean management—no matter what you call your pursuit of perfection, in order to sustain it employees have to be “engaged.” You hear it all the time—“we need to get everyone engaged in problem solving … to make them accountable for improving … to motivate them to work together.”

But aren’t people naturally motivated? As organizational psychologist David Mann¹ said in a recent issue of the Operational Excellence newsletter, “most people come to work wanting to do a good job.” (See “Servant Leadership in a Lean Organization” Operational Excellence, Issue 2014-2, p. 4.) Why, then, is true companywide “engagement” elusive? The problem is that organizations often impede the natural motivation of individuals. “It’s an organization’s responsibility,” as Mann said, “to remove the barriers it has imposed—almost always unintentionally—to people’s ability to express their motivation and to do a better job.”

gembawalk2There’s no recipe for engagement; cultivating it takes evolving practice. But a few principles we can glean from Richard Sennett² and Taiichi Ohno³ provide some guidance:

  • Believe in the natural motivation of people, even if current evidence points to the contrary in your company. As Ohno said, when humans have “a problem to solve or a target to reach, the larger or more difficult it is, the harder they try. The human imagination is a strange thing.”  (p. 21)
  • Make every effort not to separate “hands and heads”; that connection is vital to engagement. People need to be able to see their work in context and have the ability to affect it.
  • For people to take “ownership” of their work and of changing processes, allow time to digest and internalize new methods as tacit knowledge. And encourage frank conversations about what people see, with the focus on outward-facing goals and processes (not on finger-pointing).
  • Make finding and solving problems an integral part of daily work, not a task relegated only to organized kaizen or other improvement “projects.”
  • Think of standard work as a way of capturing and disseminating what’s become tacit knowledge; it’s also the basis for the improvement “dialogue” of explicit analysis and critique.
  • Recognize the true value of leader standard work and going to the gemba as an inherent part of the system, and practice it to internalize how it integrates with a process focus.
¹David Mann is an organization psychologist and lean consultant.  He developed and applied the concepts 
of the Lean Management System while on staff with Steelcase, Inc. He is the author of the Shingo Prize 
winning book Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions (Productivity Press, 2005, 2010)
²Richard Sennett is the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and 
University Professor of the Humanities at New York University.  He is the author of several books 
including The Craftsman (Yale University Press, 2008) 
³Taiichi Ohno was a Japanese businessman. He is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production 
System, which became Lean Manufacturing in the U.S.  He is the author of several books including 
Just-In-Time for Today and Tomorrow (Productivity Press, 1988)
Posted by: productivityinc | August 19, 2014

Developing TPM


Developing a strategy to establish TPM – and integrate it as part of a lean transformation – begins with analyzing and understanding the key areas that need to be improved throughout your operations.  That involves establishing revenue goals, performing value stream analysis, creating key initiatives, identifying and sharing responsibilities for action items, and laying down milestones and rollout plans.

You may want to begin by asking yourself these fundamental business questions:

  • How does your organization make money?
  • How does it spend money?
  • What drives profits, revenues, and margins?
  • Where is the improvement focus?
  • How do I get all my employees more actively involved?

The last item may be the most critical.  Lean and TPM will have a profound and lasting effect on a company’s culture by emphasizing the role of employees in virtually every step of the production and maintenance process.

Successful TPM requires a mindset of commitment, an enterprise-wide strategy, recognition of what’s at stake, and an end goal of “World Class Status” for your organization.  The initial steps you should consider taking include:

  • Committing top management to full support of TPM;
  • Generating a detailed implementation plan and roadmap;
  • Putting in place Autonomous Maintenance;
  • Adopting a data-driven philosophy;
  • Creating a partnership between production, maintenance, and engineering;
  • Instituting a ‘no-blame’ environment focused on root causes of problems.

The following five key points capture the high-level view of TPM, what makes it tick, and it’s importance for our organization.

1.  Total Productive Maintenance impacts your organization’s total operational process.

2. It is designed to build and strengthen the capabilities of your people, your processes, and our equipment in order to maximize asset reliability and, ultimately company profits.

3. TPM cuts deeper than preventive and predictive maintenance routines, works hand-in-hand with our lean strategy, and is fundamental to achieving true flow.

4. Without the proactive commitment and everyday involvement of your workforce, TPM (like lean) is unsustainable.

5. TPM transformations yield dramatic improvements in how employees perform their jobs, in the relationship between employees and management, and in their ability to work in teams and react positively to change.

If you’d like to talk more or have a question about TPM please reach out.    
Ellis New, TPM Practice Leader –



Posted by: productivityinc | July 23, 2014

The Hackathon – an Open Innovation Kaizen Event

Blog Image OIKHackathons started as intensive days during which programmers, designers, project managers, and others get together for all-out collaboration on a software project. The hackathon concept has recently been spreading to other settings and applications, as an event designed to solve problems through intensive collaboration by a diverse group of stakeholders in a short period of time. It’s a kind of focused open innovation session, and it can be an effective process to use in the context of a systemic approach to innovation.

Read more on the subject in the latest issue of our Strategic Innovation newsletter.


Posted by: productivityinc | July 10, 2014

Linking Lean and Top-Line Growth

thumb_improvementAny company that has experienced success with lean knows its power as a key force in systematic, long-term, organization-wide operational improvement. But understanding that lean approaches can support and facilitate systemic innovation requires a mindset change for many executives. Most have encountered lean in the context of the manufacturing shop floor, where eliminating wait time, excess inventory, and other wastes draws the spotlight. Waste-elimination is at the heart of lean, but lean practices can also enhance innovative, game-changing strategies and the creation of new value in at least five important ways:

  1. By implementing standardized work in processes across an enterprise, senior leadership and associates can stop firefighting and gain time and resources needed for developing and implementing next-generation strategies.
  2. Through lean practices, more collaborative and creative relationships emerge with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders throughout the value chain. These relationships can lay the groundwork for developing a deeper understanding of customers’ “jobs to be done” and lead to breakthrough concepts.
  3. When lean methodologies are applied in new product and process development, cross-functional initiatives, and external partnerships, the resulting performance improvements support profitable top-line growth.
  4. As empowered associates gain experience and confidence in their continuous improvement capabilities, innovative solutions and suggestions surface throughout the organization. When these are managed effectively, the company gains value creation momentum and competitive traction.
  5. The “beginner’s mind” of learning from experience—including mistakes—trumps traditional approaches, opening the door to incremental and breakthrough innovation while fueling market leadership.

To read more about the subject, download our white paper Linking Lean with Top-Line Growth

Posted by: productivityinc | June 17, 2014

Tips on OEE, and the metrics of TPM

blog imageThere has been much debate over the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) metric…how, when and where to use it most effectively. We are currently working on a white paper on the subject that will be published shortly.  In the meantime, here are a few tips:

  1. “OEE is a way to assign numerical value to opportunity,” Ellis New, senior consultant at Productivity Inc. says. Think of it as an improvement metric.
  2. OEE provides an ideal structure for teaching about the nature of losses, and changing mindsets.
  3. Use OEE to analyze problems and opportunities at specific constraints in your process, not as an aggregate key performance indicator (KPI) for a value stream or plant.
  4. Use simpler metrics (such as build to schedule), to track how production is going. Build to schedule won’t reveal much about losses or improvement opportunities, but it’s easier to calculate and understand as a gauge of production status.
  5. Always remember that it’s not about the absolute number, it’s about the improvement. Use OEE conscientiously and in context, as a “yardstick” for improvement (not as a stick with which to punish people).

If you’d like to receive a copy of the OEE white paper, click here to submit a request.


Posted by: productivityinc | June 2, 2014

The Lean Laboratory

lean_labs_140The quality control (QC) laboratory plays a critical role in pharmaceutical production, for both in-process and finished product testing.  Labs not only monitor and control the quality of incoming APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients), and other supplies used in the manufacturing process; they are also instrumental in the batch release process.

As a result, steady pressure is on to improve operations in pharmaceutical QC labs.  In general, the challenge boils down to this:  finding a way to improve capacity and utilization of resources, reduce lead times while increasing reliability, and speed up the authorizations necessary for both production and batch release.

In our recently published white paper The Lean Laboratory we see how one pharmaceutical lab is putting lean techniques in place to tackle these issues and finding success.  Download a copy by clicking here.

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