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Monday, June 29, 2015

Greenbelts Service Spring 2015 Graduation

Congratulations to the MEC Greenbelts! What a great way to start off Summer. MEC's lively presence will no doubt leave a lasting impression wherever they go. May they have a joyous and successful journey ahead! 

 Medalists (left to right): Esteban (Bronze), Shawn (Gold), Harry (Silver)

The Greenbelt programs begin again this Fall starting in September. Please check our calendar for dates or call (604) 264-1000 for more information.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This video summarizes Lean Sensei's Europe Lean Tour program, which just ended last week. It is one of the most fascinating programs that LSI offers.  It is a mandatory program for our Master Blackbelts, who travelled with us last week.  Executives may also join the program as part of our Executive Certification Program.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Europe Lean Tour 2015 - Day 5 Report - How can Lean help with luxury production? Just visit Florence Italy to find out!

- Submitted by Dave Cresswell, Master Blackbelt candidate

Friday, June 19, 2015 - Florence and Bologna, Italy

Today was filled with subtleties. After 5 days in Germany touring various examples of precision manufacturing, we arrived in Florence, Italy.  Now it may seem cliche, but what is so abundantly apparent in Germany as precision, accuracy and attention to detail, is on the surface replaced by a more casual, warm, easiness and appreciation for aesthetic beauty and grace.

Now I say "on the surface" for a few reasons.  First and foremost, it is foolhardy to try and typify an entire country or culture by a few, albeit well intentioned nouns and adjectives. But secondly, because while their appears to be a slower pace, with a greater appreciation for enjoying fine things that please the senses; food, wine, fashion, and conversation, the attention to detail and application of methodical production design and operation belie this casual 'amore della vita' (love of life).  

Now, given we have just settled into the geographic cradle of the Renaissance - where artistic masters flourished and spread their influence across Italy, and eventually the world, it is not surprising at all that the appreciation of "form" often seems to take precedence over "function".  And "passion" trumps "procedures" almost every time.  It is a sensory cornucopia. At every corner; the sights, sounds, fragrances, all contributing to a complete experience of being in a land of appreciation.  

And this was clearly the case at our first stop of the day - the Lamborghini Family Museum with our personal host, Fabio Lamborghini.  Signore Lamborghini was immediately charming, gracious, and filled with family pride and passion.  The way he explained the history of the family business, starting with his Uncle Ferruccio - born to a grape farming family in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  His intense interest in farming machinery, as opposed to farming itself, led to his first real passion, designing and building tractors. His nephew explained that whenever Ferruccio came upon a challenge, he had a need to find a solution.  Whether is was narrow width tractor frames to allow running between the rows of vines, to creating a system for the tractors to use less gasoline when it was in short supply and expensive. He was a "mechanical genius" Fabio told us. 

He went on to explain that in a strange way, it was Enzo Ferrari that started the Lamborghini high performance sports car.  Actually, it was when Ferruccio Lamborghini bought a Ferrari in 1962 and thought something  wasn't quite working right, and made a modification to improve it that the whole thing started.  Feruccio went to Enzo Ferrari just to show him what he found and how he made it better.  Enzo was a proud man, and insisted there was nothing wrong with the car, it was the driver!! It was at that point that Ferruccio made a decision, and told Enzo he would never buy another one of his cars, he would build his own and it would be better!!! And that set Ferruccio Lamborghini on the path to creating some of the most beautiful, exquisite high performance automobiles to come out of Italy. 

Fabio Lamborghini finished out tour with very gracious offers for individual pictures, and autographing some books for us all. Another testament to the warmth and passion of this part of the world. 

From the Lamborghini Family Museum, we moved on to the Lamborghini production factory. While the Lamborghini brand is typically thought of as an extremely expensive luxury sports car, the company has had its share of financial challenges. Founded in 1963 to compete with other established top performance luxury sports cars like Ferrari.  The company gained wide acclaim in 1966 for the Miura sports coupe, which established rear mid-engine, rear wheel drive as the standard layout for high-performance cars of the era. 

Lamborghini grew rapidly during its first decade, but sales plunged in the wake of the 1973 worldwide financial turndown and the oil crisis. The firm's ownership changed three times after 1973, including a bankruptcy in 1978. Chrysler Corporation took control of Lamborghini in 1987 and sold it to a Malaysian and Indonesian group V'Power Corporation in 1994. In 1998, V'Power sold Lamborghini to the Volkswagen Group where it was placed under the control of the group's Audi division.

As a high performance, luxury automobile, with absolutely top quality materials and craftsmanship, a challenge that Lamborghini had to overcome was both the rate at which they could produce quality automobiles, and the profitability of that production.  When Audi/Volkswagen acquired Lamborghini, they produced 2 cars a day.  All hand made.  One of the things that the new parent company began to introduce were a number of the production system improvements based on Lean that they have been using at many of their other brands, such as Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, etc.  Today, the Lamborghini factory is producing approximately 19 cars a day.  Most of their production still has the attention to detail and hand made quality that they have been known for.  But they have added process and production improvements, and just enough automation support to help reduce cycle time and increase profitability. 

From there, we moved on to the Ducati Motorcycle plant and museum, a subsidiary of Lamborghini, and therefore an Audi/Volkswagen group company since 2012.  Ducati was established in 1926 and originally began by producing vacuum tubes and radio parts, and moved on to manufacturing radios, cameras, and other consumer products like electric razors.  During the second world war, Ducati developed a small gasoline engine that could be mounted on a bicycle, and began selling them in 1944, and so began the Ducati Motorcycle company.  

Today, Ducati sells motorcycles worldwide, with the USA as their largest market, with Europe (and specifically Italy) as their second largest market. Ducati is producing approximately 40,000 bikes world wide. 

While touring through the Ducati Factory, evidence of early adoption of Lean methods and production techniques were evident such as kanban systems and some kitting. But there was still a large amount of batching and inventory in place.  Relative to other Lean production facilities, it is still early for Ducati. It will be interesting to follow their progress over the next 3 or 4 years to see how much more is possible.

So while the appreciation of the style, lines, and engineering of German automobiles is well deserved and shared by so many, the sense you get with Italian luxury motorcars is one of smooth curves, fast shapes, and passion for life. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Germany Museums

In case you were wondering what happened to day 2 report, we visited two museums that day and therefore didn't produce an official report. However we learned a great deal from visiting both the Porsche and Mercedes museums... Here are some photos. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Europe Lean Tour 2015 - Day 4 Report

- Submitted by Marvin Ilasco, Master Blackbelt candidate

Thursday, June 18 - Munich, Germany

Today marked Day 4 of the European Lean Tour.  After a fascinating tour of BMW facilities the day before, it was time to bid farewell to Munich and continue our journey to Florence, Italy, but not before a visit to Ingolstadt, the headquarters of Audi. Onboard the large and comfortable coach, Bob did his usual morning briefing on the day's tour plan and logistics notes.

Audi has been a subsidiary of the Volkswagen group since 1966.  It was founded in 1932 and currently has 11 production facilities in 9 countries around the world. The name Audi came from its founder: "Horch" means "listen" in German or "Audi" in Latin.   The four rings represent the four companies that came together to form Audi: Wanderer, Audi, Horch, and DKW.  The Ingolstadt plant, which is situated in Bavaria Germany, has a production rate of approximately 2,300 units per day, contributing to the 1.7 million cars sold in total worldwide in 2014.

We set foot on the Audi facilities a little early and took the opportunity to admire the lucky customers scheduled to pick up their built to order Audi at their pick-up center.  The gift shop was a very well stocked store and had something for everyone, even a toddler! 

An interesting fact is that most people around the world custom order their Audi's with the exception of North Americans who would rather not have to wait for their cars and instead purchase from the dealers' inventory. Maybe we have something more to learn from Europeans other than lean practices and amazing cars!?!

The plant tour covered key areas of the production plant which is over 2.1 million sq m in area, split between the north and south.  Suppliers co-located to the west provides a convenience to utilize a just-in-time, just-in-sequence production model, a common theme we have heard throughout this tour.  Tunnels and overhead skyways enable the cars to move through the assembly workflow as they transform raw materials from cold rolled steel to a completely built factory fresh vehicle. 

During the tour we were able to witness the press as they stamp the bodywork in the body shop, and later as robots they combine various body parts via glue and spot welds, and eventually the final assembly of the A3's.  This site also has its own tool shop where the molds for the A3,  A4, A5, and Q5 are made.  Unfortunately we were not able to go to those areas as they are making the new (top secret) 2016 models. We were also informed that the Q5 is nearing the end of its production in Ingolstadt as all Q5s will be manufactured in the new Mexico facility from 2016.

This plant had numerous examples of lean manufacturing that reminded me of the plants we toured in Japan.  Visual Andon examples found throughout the plant showcasing the output for the day, station status, as well as examples of defects posted that they have encountered.   Andon cords pulled triggering a chime of some sort (this instance the theme of Pink Panther playing) should an employee at a station need assistance.  Different sound chimes represent the area along the assembly line that has an issue.  All these in place to notify the team and management, support groups (maintenance) of quality and/or process issues.

The Audi museum at the adjacent building takes you back in time where you can see the very early cars to the DKW motorcycles, including the various groups that formed the company and the history of ownership until the Volkswagon group took ownership in 1966.

This was a great opportunity to be able to visit and see the outstanding RS3 being made as well as other models parked around the facility that are not available to the North American market.   I am extremely partial to the RS3 and RS6, two wagons I hope to see in North America one day.......well one can only dream........

We wrapped up the day boarding the plane to Florence for the fifth and final day, ending with a delicious Italian dinner.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Europe Lean Tour 2015 - Day 3 Report

- Submitted by Colin Jones, Master Blackbelt candidate

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - Munich, Germany

Having made our way from Stuttgart to München by train yesterday evening, today was solely focused on BMW. Across from the Olympic Park is BMW Welt (BMW World), the BMW/Mini Museum, and their Munich plant, which employs approximately 9000 "colleagues," all nestled beside the worldwide headquarters.

First stop was the BMW Welt to see their product lines, plus Rolls Royce and Mini -- both of whom are owned by BMW. We had a chance to see first-hand some of the differences between their German-made cars and their US-made SUVs.

After the Second World War, BMW survived by making pots, pans, and bicycles until 1948, when it restarted motorcycle production. BMW began building luxury cars in Bavaria in 1952, where it continues to this day.  We toured the the neighboring factory that builds 3-Series sedans and wagons, the 4-Series coupé.  Numerous variants of BMW gas and diesel engines, as well as high-performance power units for BMW M-models also originate from the Munich plant.

Different than the tours thus far in Germany and those on the Japan Benchmarking Tour, this was our first opportunity to see the pressing of panels and painting of the body. Each manufacturer chooses which elements to disclose and "show off," so it takes a few different factories before you get the full picture of manufacturing process.

The welding process is 100% automated and the tact time for the plant is 58 seconds -- down from 60 seconds last August. While 2 seconds may not seem like a lot, it means that each car takes 77 minutes less to complete.  Manufacturing of the engines is significantly less automated.  The V12 for the 7-Series and Rolls is 100% hand-made... probably something you like to brag about as an owner.  The V8 is 18% automated, the 6-cylinder 40% automated, and the new 3-cylinder (currently used in the i8 and Mini) is 60% automated.

Following the plant tour (and a lovely lunch), we had the opportunity to spend some time in the Museum.  It walked us through time all the way from BMW as exclusively an airplane engine manufacturer, to the preparations for a press event this evening to display the newly disclosed 7-Series.