Archive for February, 2009

Project Management: The Balance of Time and Money

February 24, 2009 by Bob

Managing a project consists of many tasks that need to be scheduled, delegated to the members of the team, completed, and followed up on by the project manager in order for the project to be successful.

One of the main tasks of the project manager is to track the overall progress and profitability of the project by the total hours and cost of goods charged to the project compared to what the bid has allotted.  At Setpoint we have an open book policy for all projects.  Anyone can go to the team board and see exactly what the progress is of any project at any time.  This board shows the project revenue, the bid cost of good sold (COGS), actual COGS, project gross profit (GP), earned GP, percent complete, the week’s hours, the week’s GP, the week’s GP per hour, and the GP per hour to date for each project.

Reporting these numbers can sometimes be a tightrope walk for the project manager who reports the progress of each of his projects to management and the team of assemblers and programmers working on them.  The management team wants answers to why the progress of the project is behind the forecast numbers he gave them at the beginning of the month.  The assembly and programming team members working on the project are wondering why the hourly rate is so low or they are expecting the percent complete to be much higher.  There are usually good answers for both teams.

As a project manager, I take the conservative approach.  Sometimes a projects progress is well ahead of the hours that were in the bid, and sometimes the cost of goods is less than what is in the bid.  This doesn’t often happen, but when it does I don’t like to take all the “good news” on the progress report until I am sure that all the parts have been accounted for in accounts payable and the majority of the debugging has been done on the machine.  Some people might call this “sandbagging,” I call it proper project management.  Can you be too conservative?  Sure you can.  But I ask you this; would you rather take all the “good news” at the point of discovery and find out later that one of the key, and very costly, components was not accounted for or was overlooked in the procurement state?  Maybe you find out the scope of the project was not communicated to the programmer correctly and you now have two more weeks of programming to do.  This is usually not the norm, but it happens.  You now have costs or time you need to “give back” on the next progress report, or several reports, making it look like you have made no progress when the team is still working hard on the project.

Yes, in reality the end result should be the same; but let’s say your team can earn bonuses for completing projects ahead of schedule and below cost.  I for one do not want to get the team excited about their efficiency and the prospect of getting a bonus for their efforts one week just to have it taken back the next.  It doesn’t help the morale of the team.  There is a “happy medium” for claiming the ‘good news” that differs from project to project.  This is one of the hardest tasks to conquer for a project manager.

So call me a “sandbagger,” I’m ok with that.

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Starting Up a New Machine

February 19, 2009 by Chad

First of all, be safe.  There may be a lot of different people working on the same project, so you might finish wiring the panels and pneumatics on the machine that someone else started.  After the machine is complete and before you power up the whole machine, start your check out by pulling all the fuses, circuit breakers and such one at a time.  This way you can check different parts of the machine at different times, which can save you from running into bigger problems.  If you just power up the machine without doing this step and there’s something wired wrong, you could create a problem throughout the entire machine.

When you power up the machine, check the voltage one step at a time by plugging in the fuses and circuit breakers for the area you are checking one by one.  Check each component for their power, check the D/C (direct current) power the same as the A/C (alternating current).  If it doesn’t smoke you did a Good Job!

If it does smoke, look for what smoked.  Look for blown fuses or circuit breakers and such.  Look for incorrect wiring or voltage.  If the problem is found, fix the problem.  If no problem is found it could be a defective part.

Troubleshooting is just that, looking for the problem and going step by step to find out what is causing the problem.  Each machine is unique and different, sizes and ranges of voltage can differ as well as components.

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Lean Systems and Waste Elimination

February 12, 2009 by Tanya

Waste elimination is one of the most effective ways to increase the profitability of any business.  Processes either add value or they add waste to the production of a good or service.

To eliminate waste it is important to understand exactly what waste is and where it exists.  While products significantly differ between factories, the typical wastes found in environments are quite similar.  Anything that is unproductive, or doesn’t add value that a customer will pay for is considered muda or waste.  For each waste there is a strategy to reduce or eliminate its affect on a company, thereby improving the overall performance of the company.

Inventory is a waste that you see in many companies.  Inventory is the amount of materials or work-in-process (WIP) within the system.  Materials or work-in-process that hasn’t been sold to a customer represents unrecognized value.  Accelerating the process of converting raw materials into a product or service helps increase cash flow.  Reducing inventory or work-in-process reduces lead times and the amount of labor and capital.  There are many reasons why companies have excessive amounts of inventory, but in a lean system the reasons need to add value.

Examples of inventory waste could include some or all of the following:

  • Parts not needed (over-orders or not figured out yet)
  • Material ordered too soon
  • Material and tools on hand but not being used (spares)
  • Material and tools not needed (extra)
  • Material and tools over-purchased
  • Material and tools purchased for “just in case”
  • Material and tools lost, or not returned
  • Not returning excess for return credit back to a vendor
  • Not completing paperwork associated with returns to vendor (RMA)
  • Over-purchasing of supplies, forms, envelopes, marketing material, etc.
  • Storage and movement of over-supply
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Lean Automation vs. Not Lean

February 9, 2009 by Kara

In today’s economy lean automation provides a better solution to manufacturing than its non lean counterparts.  In our newest YouTube Setpoint talks about SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) and has a great video clip from a recent machine of the tooling change out.  We also talk about Poka-Yokes and making sure that the pieces you add to the machine can only be fitted in one way.  Making a machine portable with easy access for maintenance is also another important lean feature.  One of the biggest differences lean can make is the size of the footprint.  We have a picture of a functioning machine produced in Europe and an overlay of the lean system Setpoint designed and built that does the same thing.

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