Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Bittercube

bittercube-productsIn this blog series, I’m showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

A cocktail renaissance has swept across the country, inspiring a new fascination with the ingredients, techniques, and traditions that make the American cocktail so special. The use of bitters, liquor that is flavored with the pungent taste of plant extracts, has been gaining popularity over the past decade. Originally developed for medicinal and digestive purposes, bitters now serve mainly as cocktail flavorings. The alcohol functions as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative.

Milwaukee has contributed to this cocktail renaissance with the help of Bittercube. Founded by Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz in 2009, Bittercube handcrafts eight varieties of artisanal bitters, using only naturally sourced ingredients. By happenstance, the operations are run from the location that Foamation once occupied. Milwaukee was perceived as an untapped market with room to grow. Also, the low cost of operating expenses allow for maximum revenue generation.

Henry Ford created the first all-inclusive manufacturing strategy. However, it was Eiji Toyoda, a Japanese engineer, who after analyzing Ford’s methods, improved upon them by keeping an eye out for waste. Waste (or muda in Japanese) refers to any kind of wasted motion, effort or materials in the manufacturing process. Toyoda popularized the concept of Reducing Waste, which has become a basic tenet of Lean Manufacturing and falls under the principle of Pursuit of Perfection.

The objective of Lean is that every step must add value and be waste-free. A non-value added, or wasteful activity is one that neither adds value to the customer nor provides a competitive advantage to the organization.  Some non-value added activities include waiting and inappropriate processing. Waste can also take a tangible form, such as idle raw material or defects. Although transportation is an important aspect of the manufacturing process, it is a non-value added activity, as it adds to cost but not to value. It should be noted that some non-value adding activities like accounting and regulations are important and cannot be avoided.

Lean-manufacturing-bwThe continuous Pursuit of Perfection encompasses the idea that one must always strive to eliminate waste in the organization, while constantly making improvements, even if those improvements are small and incremental.  Improving processes results in reducing or eliminating variation, and improving the process flow or speed. Learning and consistent measures for improvement should be part of all processes if an organization intends on growing.

Bittercube has reduced waste by improving on their processes. In the past, they used a generic, high-density plastic container to process the bitters. There was no way to remove the botanical material after the batch was processed, other than to climb into the container and physically remove it by hand. Although this left the person who cleaned the container smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, it wasted time and did not add value to the process. They have since updated to a custom-built processing/cooking tank with a bottom compartment where botanical material can easily be removed and cleaned.

Bittercube previously used generic boxes that weren’t cost efficient to ship. They have since opted for custom-made boxes with dimensions that maximize the number of bottles in each box, thus reducing wasted space and shipping costs.

Lean supports the notion that nothing should be wasted and a use must be found for everything. Bittercube has also reduced tangible/physical waste by reusing and recycling the processed materials. Instead of discarding the used botanicals, Bittercute has begun composting these materials. The finer botanical sediment will be reused in other products, such as an ingredient for Purple Door Ice Cream.

Autumn is upon us! Try this seasonal Maple Old Fashioned recipe!

2 oz. Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon, Fat .25oz. Maple Syrup, a dash of Jamaican #2 Bitters, a dash of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters, Garnish: Fat orange peel

To view other recipes and product offerings, visit Bittercube.

To read more about bitters, visit The History of Bitters

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Lean Waste Stream by Marc Jensen, Lean Enterprise: A Synergistic Approach to Minimizing Waste by William A. Levinson and Raymond A. Rerick, and Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook

Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Foamation

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In this blog series I will be showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

When you tell someone that you’re from Wisconsin, it’s almost certain that you’ll be associated will be the iconic Cheesehead® hat, worn by devoted Green Bay Packer fans. In the mid-1980’s the term “cheesehead” started being used to describe Wisconsinites at baseball games. Rather than be insulted by this term, Ralph Bruno, founder and owner of Foamation, decided to embrace and reappropriate the concept. He cut up his mother’s couch, and the first foam Cheesehead hat was born. For nearly thirty years, Foamation has been producing Cheesehead hats (along with a wide array of foam merchandise). If you placed Cheesehead hats back to back, they would stretch across America and into the sea!

Although the Cheesehead hat still leads in sales (especially during football season), this company continues to add new items to their product offerings, along with fulfilling high quantities of custom orders. “Even though we’re associated (not officially, but in some consumer’s minds) with the Green Bay Packers, you don’t have to like the Packers to like our brand. What other fun, goofy, silly thing can we do?” stated Production Manager, Mario Busalacchi. Should you already own a Cheesehead hat, you could purchase other headgear or accoutrement, such as: a baseball hat, cowboy hat, hanging dice, tie, bad-call brick, fireman hat, or ice cream hat in chocolate, strawberry, or mint chip.

Lean ManufacturingThe factory floor is the core of any manufacturing company, but a lean factory alone does not make a lean enterprise. There are also other functions that support manufacturing and contribute to the Lean Pursuit of Perfection. Design Engineering falls under this general category and includes the following attributes: Designing for Manufacturability (DFM), Being Reasonable about Critical Parameters, Having Knowledge of Logistics and the Need for Standardization, Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs, and Shortening the Design Process all while considering the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  (For more on VOC, see: Critical to Quality Trees, Kano Analysis, and Customer Segmentation.)

Lean companies include the customer in new product decisions so as to avoid wasting design efforts on an undesired product that will flop. In order to embody the Pursuit of Perfection principle, companies must constantly strive for improvement with an anti-waste mindset and understand that the organization exists primarily to provide value to its customers.

Foamation pursues perfection by constantly evolving and enhancing their products based on customer feedback. Through online analytics, social media, and general observations, this company identifies opportunities and sets the development process in motion. Foamation discovered that there were opportunities to better serve women and children by producing products geared toward their preferences.  Women who would rather not wear a foam hat, now have the option of showing off their brand loyalty through other products such as Cheesehead earrings, and children now have the option of wearing a smaller version of the Cheesehead hat.

Foamation is also aware of the importance of technology in their customers’ lives. They are Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs by offering NFCheese key chains and necklaces that have Near Field Communication tags embedded within the foam. With this Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, fans can converge their digitally enhanced Cheesehead product with their mobile device.

Here’s to a great season…Go Packers!

To view all of the Cheesehead products, visit Cheesehead.com.

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Learning to See by Mike Rother and John Shook, published by The Lean Enterprise Institute (www.lean.org), The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne, and Creating a Kaizen Culture by Jon Miller, Mike Wroblewski, and Jaime Villafuerte.

Voice of the Customer – Customer Segmentation

When it comes to predicting customer behavior, historical sales data may contain critical clues. Who are repeat customers for a product or service? Have all segments of the target customers been identified? Segmentation is used to divide customers into groups based on their demographics, attitudes, or buying behaviors and target the specific groups with a message that will best resonate with them. The more you know about a customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior.

During this season of prediction making, you may want to consider playing the popular German game of Bleigießen “lead pouring,” in which your future is foretold through lead shapes. A spoon with a small amount of lead is held over a flame until the lead melts. The melted lead is then quickly poured into a bowl of water. Upon contact with water, the lead solidifies and forms a unique shape. The shape of the cooled lead is then compared to a list of meanings.

You might not have any control over shape formation (i.e. fish “Fisch” = luck “Glück” vs. cross “Kreuz” = death “Tod”), or what personal changes will manifest in 2015, but one area in which you may have some control is in increasing your company’s profitability. By implementing Customer Segmentation, a Voice of the Customer tool within Six Sigma methodology, you’re able to zero in on target customers who create the highest value and ultimately increase your profitability and bottom line.

What Does it Do?

Customer Segmentation identifies and focuses on subgroups of customers who create the highest value and prioritizes efforts to allocate appropriate marketing resources. Companies oftentimes neglect or miss opportunities because they treat all customers as bringing equal value or fail to understand the economic, descriptive, and attitudinal criteria of their core business.

Segmentation criteria can include:

  • Economic (revenue, frequency of purchase, loyalty, company size, etc.)
  • Descriptive (geographic location, demographics, industry)
  • Attitudinal (price, service, value)

The following Bleigießen examples exhibit segmentation criteria:

Customer segmentationShape 1. Ring “Ringe” = Marriage “Hochzeit”

Customers can be segmented demographically by marriage status (single, married, divorced). Married couples often have distinctly different purchasing behaviors compared to single consumers. This can relate to purchases such as cars, financial products, or holiday entertainment. For example, travel agencies would not offer similar holiday packages for bachelors and married couples.

customer segmentationShape 2. Mouse “Maus” = to be thrifty / economical “sparsam sein”

Customers can be segmented by purchasing power or behavior. These customers could be segmented demographically through social class (lower, middle, upper). Social class is a term linked to education, tradition, income (low, medium, high) and parenting. Alternatively, customers could be segmented attitudinally through values or lifestyle (conservative, economical, trendy). If your target customer is upper class, marketing via coupons will be a waste of time for a group indifferent to saving a few dollars.

customer segmentationShape 3. Bell “Glocke” / Egg “Ei” = Birth announcement “Ankündigung einer Geburt”

Customers can be segmented demographically through family size (couple only, small family, large family) and family lifecycle (young married no kids, married young kids). Customers can also be segmented attitudinally through needs or motivations (convenience, value, safety). If you’re considering entering new markets/regions and your target customers are children, you may want to avoid certain European countries, such as Spain, where there are 1.4 children per female.

How to Do It:

  • Identify the product or service being analyzed
  • Brainstorm to identify customers
  • Identify segmentation characteristics
  • Develop profiles of the segments
  • When gathering information, include members from each segment
  • Document results
Product/Services (Output) Customers Potential Segments
BleigließenGame  US Customers West Coast
East Coast
European Customers Western Europe
Eastern Europe

 Benefits of Tool:

  • Understanding customer segments and segment behavior can help tailor marketing and sales strategies
  • Reach profitability goals by demoting customers who don’t generate value
  • Formalizing segment profiles provides a common language

For related blogs that cover additional VOC tools:

Edgewater Consulting blog

Voice of the Customer – Kano Analysis

As a Consultant, I’ve acquired specific preferences when traveling, and learned to adapt behaviors that make these experiences as stress free as possible. For example, at airport security, I try to avoid standing in line behind anyone who is dressed too “casually” or has sun screen as one of the items in their plastic bag. Chances are that they will take twice as long going through security, thus delaying my time to reach my gate/flight. When selecting a hotel, I look for one with a good in-house dining menu. The benefit of coming back to the hotel and enjoying a good meal without having to leave my room is priceless. Also, let’s be honest, it all comes down to points.

The casual traveler might see little value in earning points or priority boarding; however, the business traveler sees great value in these service items.  Not all consumers value the same services and products on the market in the same way and many companies are keen to analyze these trends. To aid in analyzing customer needs, and provide insight into services or products of little importance or that miss Critical to Quality (CTQ) features, companies may want to perform a Six Sigma process based on the Voice of Customer (VOC), called Kano Analysis.

What Does It Do?

Kano Analysis identifies and prioritizes customer needs or requirements by classifying them under key categories, including: basic services a customer expects, services that a customer desires, and services that delight a customer. Below is a summary of categories and definitions (terminology may vary slightly).

Requirement/Need Definition
  • “Must Be”
  • Basic Requirements
  • Dissatisfiers
  • (Expected Quality)
  • Expected features – cannot increase satisfaction
  • Taken for granted, rarely voiced
  • If not fulfilled, customer is extremely dissatisfied
  • “More is Better”
  • Performance Requirements
  • Satisifers
  • (One Dimensional Desired Quality)
  • Linear effect – the more needs are met, the more satisfied
  • Customer is aware that feature is important to them
  • Remain in the market
  • “Delighter”
  • Excitement Requirements
  • Satisifers
  • (Excited Quality)
  • Unexpected feature – impresses customers
  • Delights when present – does not cause dissatisfaction when not present – rarely voiced
  • Leading edge in the marketplace

How To Do It?

Gather as much VOC information as possible (via interviews, focus groups, surveys, etc.) from your customers regarding service or product offerings. Have them classify the requirements / needs under the three categories. Eliminate any requirements that aren’t relevant. The example below shows classifications pertaining to hotel services.

Requirement/Need Definition
  • “Must Be”
  • Basic Requirements
  • Dissatisfiers
  • (Expected Quality)
  • Clean hotel room
  • Reinforced lock
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • “More is Better”
  • Performance Requirements
  • Satisifers
  • (One Dimensional Desired Quality)
  • Large work desk
  • Wi-Fi
  • Car service
  • Hair dryer
  • Bed-side outlet
  • On-Demand movies
  • “Delighter”
  • Excitement Requirements
  • Satisifers
  • (Excited Quality)
  • Dimmable lights
  • Heated floors
  • Bottle of wine on birthday
  • Cappuccino machine in room
  • Room access activated via smart phone

It’s important to point out that a customer’s needs / requirements change over time. What was once a “Delighter” could be a “Dissatisfier” nowadays. For example, receiving an invoice (slipped under the hotel room door) used to mean that it wasn’t necessary to wait in line to check out of the hotel. Nowadays, it’s just one more piece of paper to file. Many travelers prefer to automatically receive an electronic copy of the invoice.

Voice of the Customer – Critical to Quality Trees

Don’t Get Stumped by Broadness

Often times, employees are able to identify a service need or improvement opportunity, but do so in a way that is too broad or can’t be acted on by the team. Employees may have identified needs such as a comfortable work environment, increased competitiveness in the marketplace, or improved customer service, but what does that really mean and how can it be achieved?

In this case, having a structured approach in place with which to identify specific characteristics or requirements that are critical to quality is imperative. To achieve this, implement techniques for process improvement known as Six Sigma . Through the use of the Six Sigma technique, Voice of the Customer (VOC), you’re able to gain insight into customers’ needs and their perception of quality. One VOC tool, Critical to Quality (CTQ) Trees, aid in identifying quality measures from the customer perspective.

What Does It Do?
  • It aids in the transition from broad, Voice of the Customer (VOC) needs / vague statements to precise, actionable performance requirements
  • It identifies problems along with root causes
  • It enables employees to identify features by which customers can evaluate companies’ services and that can be used as measures for a project
  • A useful CTQ characteristic is:
    • Critical to the customer’s perception of quality
    • Specific
    • Easy to measure
How To Do It?

Identify Critical Needs

  • Ask yourself “What is critical for this service or product?”
  • Brainstorm to identify the critical need that has to be met
  • Create a CTQ Tree for each identified need

pic 1Identify Quality Drivers

  • Identify specific quality drivers that have to be present to meet the needs identified in the previous step
  • When considering each need, ask, “What would that mean?”
  • “Good Customer Service” means “Knowledge of Product”

pic 2

Identify Performance Requirements / CTQs

  •  Identify the performance requirements that must be satisfied for each quality driver
  • Keep asking “What would that mean?” until reaching the level of detail that the team’s knowledge will allow
  • “Knowledge of Product” means “Zero Calls Transferred”

pic 3

What’s the Benefit?

It’s easy to get trapped by broad concepts that are not so easily quantified, such as providing good customer service. When you branch out and translate performance in terms of units (e.g. number of calls made) time (e.g. amount of time on hold) or money (e.g. total expenses) you start to see the clearing through the trees. The Voice of Customer approach is a great way to obtain clear, desired performance requirements that promote overall company goals. In my next blog, I continue exploring the Voice of Customer, but do so using the tool of Kano Analysis. It’s sure to delight!

For more information on Voice of the Customer, or other related Six Sigma processes, the following book is recommended: Voice of the Customer: Capture and Analysis.

Diagnose Your Inefficiency Potholes

potholesMany employees tend to complain about work-related inefficiencies as much as Wisconsinites bemoan the craters (aka potholes) left in the roads each winter. In response, companies usually acknowledge that making improvements is critical, and do their part in researching Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) options. But, are all work-related inefficiencies exclusively due to a legacy system? Are people jumping the gun in assuming so, or are they misidentifying a process problem? Could some of these issues disappear by making a few simple process adjustments? Without empowerment and support, all the technology in the world won’t move your business forward.

There is no exact formula to determine if a problem stems from a bad system or a bad process; but asking yourself some basic questions could help you figure out where the problem lies. For example:

  • Would implementing new process improvements really resolve the problem?
  • Could implementing new system functionality resolve the problem and also provide a competitive edge?
  • Do the system benefits outweigh process benefits?

The following steps should aid you in your diagnosis and decision-making:

Create a problem Inventory 

Interview Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) from the various departments affected to develop a problem inventory list.

Identify process-related problems

Identify all process-related issues from your inventory list. Ask yourself: What is the root cause of the problem? Is there a lack of communication, lack of enforcement, or lack of an actual process? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the problem likely stems from a process issue.

Examples of process-related problems include:

  • A customer is upset that they’re getting bounced around
  • Sales Agents aren’t required to track or manage lead information
  • No official process for returns exists. (If an actual documented process cannot be provided, there probably isn’t one.)

These items may also range in severity. While going through this process, consider assigning priority levels or at least identify quick fixes.

Make process improvements where possible

This step is important because it improves overall business processes and productivity by making identified improvements. It also validates problems that can be resolved realistically. This step may take a few weeks to a few months to transpire, but it provides important insight and brings the process to the next step.

Focus on system-related problems

Once process-related problems are identified and resolved, one is able to ascertain that the remaining problems are system-related and decide if a new ERP system would be advantageous.

Examples of system-related problems include:

  • No visibility to inventory availability
  • Multiple customer masters, item masters, and vendor masters
  • Manipulation applied to reports (current system lacks reporting functionality)

This step will not completely resolve a company’s problems and inefficiencies, nor will it guarantee employee satisfaction. It will, however, allow for a more focused approach when considering solutions. It also provides the added benefit of some inexpensive process improvements along the way.