Headine from Manufacturing Executive: Caterpillar Reshores Japanese Production Back Home: Part Of A Trend?

December 27, 2011

Caterpillar said, “It was moving the production lines from Japan to reduce logistics costs, improve delivery times, and be able to respond faster to the customers who now use most of these products in the Americas and Europe.”

Welcome news indeed. It seems that the reshoring initiatives are picking up steam. I recently heard of other manufacturers that are bringing their jobs back to the USA. Apparently they all realize that it wasn’t all that good for them. Not too long ago one manufacturer’s rep and I discussed his company’s offshoring by telling me how the labor costs here were too high and the company that he represented had to produce in Asia where the labor costs were lower. This company is a B to C company and sells retail here in the U.S. Now that they have moved back here, their retail prices have actually LOWERED!

If this is indeed a trend, being the optimist that I am, I think that we will start seeing more companies returning to the U.S. I know the logistics of a return are difficult (a building has to be set up for production, machine tools have to be considered, etc.) but they are not insurmountable.

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Challenges

November 21, 2011

Because an Industrial Engineer works on a number of different type of projects: plant layouts, CAD, work measurement, and the like, people will ask me what is my favorite type of project and which one do I like the least. That is a difficult question to answer. While it is true that some projects are more interesting than others, I find that the challenge involved in any particular project is the part to be savored and enjoyed. The old stand-bye’s like work measurement are challenging enough in and of itself. Plant layouts and anything that uses CAD are challenging because of the thought that goes into the layout and translating that thought into CAD. The most challenging, however, is anything new. Social Media management can be the most challenging, right now, because of the unknown paths that I can follow. Every turn can be something new by itself. That leads to great fun!


Why I Can’t Say NO!….

November 14, 2011

Some of the new techniques that I learned because “I Just Can’t Say No” are:

Data base programming.  I’ve written some applications for clients to help them in their day-to-day operations. Some keep track of their sales force and the commissions earned, scheduled machines, and absences. I even programmed some spreadsheets.

Social Media Management. Everyone uses Facebook and Twitter, but there are some techniques to using them effectively. Also there are other places on the internet to get one noticed.

CAD. While I have been using CAD to create plant layouts and piece part drawings, I had to learn some 3D techniques.

Different techniques. There is always something new to learn to keep the old ways fresh. While some things will always stay the same, there will always be new and better ways to achieve them

Whatever the client needs to get their job done. New and improved ways of doing the old techniques are always coming along. If I don’t learn or do them, someone else will. Once learned, I have used these techniques for different clients.


I Just Can’t Say NO!…….

November 7, 2011

As a consultant, I am continually asked to do projects that require me to learn something new. Consequently, if I want the business I have to say yes to almost any project that comes my way. Therefore, I have said yes to some projects that I don’t know how to do at that time. After I leave the client, I have to figure out how to do what it is that they want me to do. Through the years I have learned how to do multiple new things. I have learned how to write data base programs, I have learned how to use spreadsheets to better advantage and some CAD drawings that I wouldn’t have otherwise known how to do. When it comes time to billing the customer, however, I will not bill them for the time that it took to learn the new project. However I will have gained the knowledge how to do it for another time and it has come in handy for some later projects. Have you found this to be true for anything that you’ve done?


Work Measurement – Again . . . . . .

August 10, 2010

When I first started out as a young Industrial Engineer, there were really only two ways of measuring work content. There was pre-determined time systems (Work Factor and MTM) and the stopwatch. I had to learn Work Factor and use a stopwatch. Work Factor became ingrained in my head. I haven’t used it in 30 years but I think I could use it today as I still have my original “chart.” The timing device became the measuring tool of choice. The original stopwatch hands flew around the dial at breakneck speed, but I had to note the location of the hand on the dial and record the element. Talk about inaccuracies! After a while, a new device entered the market, a digital stopwatch. Wow! What an improvement. That remained the device of choice for a long time. Now comes the PDA. This represents a dramatic improvement in accuracy. Not only is it accurate in and of itself, there are apps that are written specifically for work measurement. This is a long way from the analog stopwatch. What will be next?


Work Measurement . . . . .

July 5, 2010

One of the building blocks for Industrial Engineering is the time study. Almost everything in manufacturing is derived from this humble beginning. So the question is how do you do a time study? What is the best method to use, both in choice of timing device to use and in work place arrangement.

The first timing device was the somewhat reliable stop watch. One had to look at the watch while one of the hands was flying across the face of the watch and try to read the time and then turn their attention to the paper on which the times were recorded. A lot of missed motions, but the best that was available at the time. One could also use a predetermined time system. Every motion was recorded in sequence and a specific time value for each little finger squiggle was applied. Tedious, but effective. Fast forward now to the 21st century. The stop watch has been replaced by the PDA. That means that with the press of the “enter” button the time value for a sequential element can be automatically entered and the total time can be calculated with more accuracy than the original stop watch. Much easier to use, I might add.


Has This Happened To You?

May 9, 2009

As a new Industrial Engineer I was assigned an area in the factory and had to perform time studies. It was a learning experience. One morning I was assigned the job of timing the packing operation for a new product. I mentally chose the operators that I was going to observe and time. I timed the first operator with no problems. The second operator, however, had other ideas. She decided that she had to go to the washroom and not come out until I left. She was in there a while when the foreman came by and asked me where she went. I told him. He told one of the other operators to get her to come out, if she still wanted to be gainfully employed. She came back to work, but wasn’t happy. I stayed with her a little longer than necessary. I was still too new to know how to handle this.


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