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Manufacturing Engineering Magazine April 2010 Vol. 144 No. 4

Lean Is Crushing Six Sigma

After years of steady gains, lean manufacturing has now achieved a clear and dominant standing over six sigma as the leading force in corporate continuous improvement, according to the latest study of almost 3500 recent job postings reviewed by The Avery Point Group (Alpharetta, GA), an executive search and recruiting firm for lean and six-sigma talent. The now-dominant standing of Lean indicates that companies are increasingly relying on Lean as the core foundation for their continuous improvement efforts to help them face the challenges of today's economic downturn.

 

 

 

"As an executive recruiting firm, we have a unique vantage point from which to observe the latest trends taking place in industry," explains Tim Noble, managing principal of The Avery Point Group. "Trends in industry are often telegraphed into candidate requirements in job postings, and they can serve as a window into the latest corporate initiatives. Our annual study continues to serve as an industry benchmark that offers useful insight into the latest trends taking place in the area of corporate continuous improvement."

Based on its sixth annual study (http://www.leansigmatalent.com) of Internet job postings, The Avery Point Group found that demand for lean talent has surpassed six sigma as the more desired skill set by a substantial margin, accelerating an already growing shift in talent demand toward lean. This year's study showed that lean talent demand exceeded that for six sigma by almost 35%, significantly widening its lead over last year's results, which showed an 11% edge for lean over six sigma. This is a dramatic shift from The Avery Point Group's inaugural 2005 lean and six sigma talent-demand study that showed six sigma talent demand exceeding lean by more than 50%.

This year's study also found that for those companies seeking lean talent, only 41% require candidates to possess six-sigma knowledge as well, a requirement that has continued to decline in The Avery Point Group's more recent talent-demand studies. On the other hand, for those companies seeking six-sigma talent, almost 55% now require candidates to possess lean knowledge as well, a requirement that has steadily grown in its previous talent-demand studies.

"For companies seeking lean practitioners, these results may be signaling a possible trend toward a decoupling of lean and six sigma, or at the very least a de-emphasis on six sigma as a core job requirement for lean talent," states Noble. "It may also indicate that companies are instead opting to consolidate their limited resources around lean as a hedge against the steep challenges of today's economic climate, which they feel may be better served by lean's more immediate and practical focus on waste, flow, and flexibility."

In addition, this year's study focused on how requirements for certifications played into job specifications for lean and six-sigma talent. The study found that companies which sought six-sigma talent were almost 50% more likely to require some form of certification versus those companies seeking lean talent.

"Six sigma, due to its broader historical industry span, developed a legacy of training and certification that we are now just beginning to see for lean as it gains a broader foothold in industry," observes Noble. "A good example of this is the newly established benchmark AME/SME/Shingo certification for lean. As lean continues to gain more prominence, we fully expect our future annual studies to show increases in lean certification requirements in job postings."

So where does this newfound prominence for lean leave six sigma in the broader landscape of corporate continuous improvement? One telling sign from this year's study is that companies seeking strictly six-sigma skills with no lean talent requirement accounted for only 25% of positions posted in The Avery Point Group's broad sampling of continuous improvement-related jobs. Six sigma may find itself taking a back seat to a broader lean deployment, with six sigma applied when and where its heavy emphasis on statistics and variation reduction is best suited.

 

Doosan and Joe Gibbs Racing Renew Agreement

For the twelfth straight year, Doosan Infracore (Suwanee, GA), official machine-tool suppler for Joe Gibbs Racing (Huntersville, NC), is the racing program's largest and longest-running technical sponsor.

 

"Doosan has changed the way Joe Gibbs Racing does business. The concept-to-car objective is now done in days instead of weeks," says Mark Bringle, Gibbs' technical sponsor manager. "Quick turnaround time and quality of our parts allows JGR to keep proprietary designs in house. There are over 2000 such parts needed weekly to keep our teams going, and 85% of them are made in-house on Doosan equipment."

Visitors to the team's headquarters in Huntersville can see more than 19 Doosan machine tools, including four turning centers, 11 vertical machining centers, three horizontals, and a Puma MX 2500ST mill-turn used to do advanced precision machining.

 

Alliances

Mori Seiki Co. Ltd. (Hoffman Estates, IL) has agreed with the German machine tool manufacturer, Gildemeister Aktiengesellschaft (DMG; Bielefeld, Germany), to assume all sales and service-related activities in the US beginning April 1. The new DMG/Mori Seiki USA will assume responsibility for all product support, regardless of whether the product is manufactured by DMG or Mori Seiki.

 

Expanded service will be available to DMG users as existing product knowledge and expertise is transferred to Mori Seiki and its nationwide distributor network. DMG/Mori Seiki will also provide after-sales service, spare parts supply, training, and engineering support.

Advantages of the partnership include consolidation of parts inventory (located in Dallas), and an overall increased level of customer service for users of both Mori Seiki and DMG machines. The companies believe that their complementary resources will create an even stronger organization with a vast product line.

Waterjet manufacturers Tecnocut SpA (Bergamo, Italy) and Jet Edge Inc. (St. Michael, MN) announced a strategic research and development partnership designed to strengthen both companies' position in the waterjet industry. Tecnocut will share its innovative IKC five-axis waterjet cutting technology with taper control with Jet Edge. In exchange, Jet Edge will share its 90,000 psi (6200 bar) waterjet intensifier pump technology with Tecnocut. The companies also have agreed to partner on a number of innovative research and development projects related to waterjet pump design, multiaxis cutting, and robotics.

Okuma America Corp. (Charlotte, NC) announced that Mayfran International (Cleveland), has joined Partners in THINC. Mayfran provides solutions for chip and coolant management in metalcutting applications to help improve machine tool uptime, improve product quality through coolant filtration, and reduce overall operating costs. Partners in THINC is a facility and concept offering integrated solutions and a one-stop-shop designed to streamline current manufacturing processes, improve capabilities, or explore advanced manufacturing options. Each member of Partners in THINC brings specialized equipment, expertise, and a commitment to provide integrated solutions to the end-user.

 

New Names

Die Concepts (Waukesha, WI), a high-quality design and die-building company has evolved into eight different divisions, Stamping, Prototyping, CNC Machining, Gage Making, WEDM, Fabrication, Machined Components, Engineering and Tool Making, and management has decided that the company has outgrown its name. To better fit the nature of the company, its name has been changed to Wisconsin Metal Parts Inc.

 

Rolled Alloys (Temperance, MI) announced that Harvey Titanium (El Segundo, CA) officially changed its name to Rolled Alloys, becoming a fully integrated West Coast service center able to handle all material inquiries for titanium alloys, nickel alloys, cobalt alloys, stainless steels, and duplex stainless steels. The inventory includes plate, sheet, bar, pipe, fittings, welding consumables, billet, and a material conversion service. Rolled Alloys operates facilities in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Canada, England, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and China.

 

Deals

Greenerd Press & Machine Co. Inc. (Nashua, NH) announced that they have delivered and installed three 4000-ton Gib-Guided hydraulic compression molding presses to Ashley Industrial Molding (Oelwein, IA), a processor of sheet molding compound. The presses, which feature Allen Bradley controls, were built in Tianjin, China, by Tianjin Tianduan Press Co. Ltd., with whom Greenerd has an exclusive North American alliance. Each combined-frame Gib-Guided press weighs about 500 metric tons, and was assembled using quality American-made parts that were imported to China from the US for the press' operational components. The presses stand 34' (10.4 m) above and 11' (3.4 m) below the shop floor. They are the largest compression molding machines Greenerd has ever delivered, the biggest presses that Ashley has operated, and may be the largest compression molding press installation in North America, according to Greenerd.

 

Delivering the presses was a logistical challenge. After they were disassembled in China, the hydraulic presses took up 60% of an ocean freighter's capacity. They were shipped up the Mississippi River on three barges, traveling from New Orleans to Dubuque, IA, and were delivered to Oelwein as 53 semi-trailer truck loads. They were then reassembled and installed onsite by Greenerd technicians. Greenerd had all three presses assembled, installed, and in production in 60 days. Technicians remained on-site fine-tuning the programming and making adjustments until everything was running smoothly.

LVD-HD (Gullegem, Belgium), a joint venture company of LVD Co. n.v. and Hubei Tri-Ring Metalforming Equipment Co. Ltd. (HD) (Hubei Province, China), was awarded a contract from Sany Group Co. Ltd. (Changsha, China), to manufacture a custom 3000-ton press brake for the production of mobile crane equipment. The PPEB-H 3000 ton, 14-meter press brake is claimed by LVD to be the most technologically advanced machine of its kind, incorporating productivity-enhancing features developed by the company. The press brake will be jointly manufactured by LVD and HD. LVD will perform engineering and design work and provide critical components for the custom machine. HD will manufacture the frame and handle assembly. Installation of the machine is planned for November 2010. The press brake will complement other HD and LVD equipment installed at Sany's numerous production facilities located throughout China. To date Sany has already installed 96 HD machines.

 

Software

 

CAM Software Keeps Manufacturers Competitive

 

Chuck MathewsChuck Mathews is vice president at DP Technology Corp. (Camarillo, CA), developer of the Esprit CAD/CAM software.


Manufacturing Engineering: What are some key trends in CAD/CAM software today?

Chuck Mathews: CAM software is strongly influenced by ongoing advances in machines tools, cutting tools, and fixturing, as well as computer hardware, workpiece materials, and CAD systems. Direct requests from customers for specific productivity-enhancing functionality that helps programmers create programs as quickly and accurately as possible, and to help the machine cut the workpiece as efficiently as possible, also influence CAM vendors. Each of these influencers places demands on CAM companies to continually update their software in order to keep pace. From a commercial and economic point of view, the pace of the demands placed on product R&D has grown beyond the scope of what can be accomplished by the existing group of CAM vendors. The market must consolidate a smaller number of suppliers and products to provide an economic balance between the expenses required to fund the R&D with the income that can be earned by a given company and product. Upon close inspection, one will find considerable consolidation is actually already underway. For example, DP Technology, among others in the industry, has made two significant international strategic acquisitions over the last several years. In selecting a CAM product, the financial position of the supplier helps the consumer understand that if the company and/or product has the strength and commitment to survive the ups and downs of the current economic reality, it's a strong and viable force.

Current trends in computer technology that stand out are those brought on by the expanding use of multicore computers and the Windows 7 operating system. CAD-to- CAM data exchange is evolving to include more design, features, and tolerances, expanding its role beyond geometry. Manufacturing technical trends are currently driven by increasing demands for more sophisticated postprocessing and machine simulation to keep pace with the increasing complexity and numbers of mill-turn, Swiss-turn, and five-axis machines installed around the world.

ME: What can new technologies like multicore processor support do for users?

Mathews: Due to the inability of computer manufacturers to significantly improve the performance of microprocessors, they are now offering computers with multiple cores [or microprocessors] to achieve the performance gains that we are used to seeing year-after-year. However, for CAM software to actually benefit from this latest generation of multicore computers, the software needs to be re-written to be multithreaded—that is, to be able to perform several parallel tasks instead of performing tasks in traditional one-by-one sequences. This poses a significant challenge to CAM suppliers, as well as the opportunity to provide significant benefits to end users in the areas of toolpath calculation for complex three and five-axis machining, and in machine simulation verification and collision detection.

ME: How is the migration to the new Windows 7 operating system going?

Mathews: Our customers are reporting a good level of satisfaction with their use of Esprit on the Windows 7 operating system. We recommend the use of 64-bit computers, large amounts of RAM—8GB and larger—and higher-speed drives, along with the 64-bit version of Windows 7. The result for our users has been a significant increase in performance and speed of execution, and the ability to access larger amounts of memory to complete far more complex jobs in one workspace. This success is a combination of both upgrades to customer hardware and the new operating system. The one problematic area we have seen relates to a lack of software drivers required by Windows 7 to support certain printers and similar peripherals.

ME: What does Windows 7 offer specifically for CAD/CAM users?

Mathews: From our point of view, Windows 7 appears to be a secure, stable platform on which to run a CAD/CAM system—one that allows users to obtain optimum benefits from their hardware investments. Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been. While we can't easily identify specific technical features of Windows 7 that are of great benefit to CAM operators, we believe that the overall experience is excellent due to improvements in ergonomics, a number of new time-saving gadgets, and the elimination of many frustrating quirks within the previous versions of the operating system.

ME: How critical are CAD/CAM data interoperability issues still today?

Mathews: Today, CAD-to-CAM interoperability is an expected component of every product. We view this interoperability as being similar to utilities, like the flow of water or electricity: You expect them to work and you do not want to think too much about it. However, we must point out that one significant development of CAD-to-CAM data exchange is the evolution toward including more design features and tolerances along with the geometry within the CAM system, to aid the part programmer in selecting machining processes and cutting conditions.

ME: What can machining directly off solid models do for improving user productivity?

Mathews: Esprit FX is the latest in CAD-to-CAM feature exchange technology included in our software, allowing users to automatically capture the original design intent, clearly define what the user is machining, and program parts quicker and more accurately. Going beyond transferring just the part geometry, this technology provides portions of the original CAD feature tree inside the Esprit user interface, thereby including the complete original design intent—features, tolerances, material properties, surface finishes, administrative data, etc. Using the FX technology, the CAD features and associated properties are mapped into machinable features, providing a complete definition of 'what' is being machined. These manufacturing features and associated properties are then fed into the Esprit Knowledge-Base, which aids users in automatically selecting how to machine parts based upon existing best practices.

ME: What new capabilities will users see in the new Esprit 2010 package?

Mathews: Esprit 2010 has been optimized to fully embrace the capabilities of the latest multicore computers, a time-saving characteristic for three and five-axis programming. Our software runs on Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, and every customer will benefit from an all-new graphical user interface (GUI) used to define machining operations throughout the system. This new tree-style GUI is used to define machining parameters used for cutting parts in milling, turning, and wire EDM programming.

With the new multithreaded stock automation engine in Esprit 2010, customers benefit from instantly starting the part program simulation at any time and at any point in the program. This feature eliminates the need to simulate all operations from the beginning or to save the results of previous simulations. Customers can start a simulation with the stock that results from the completion of all previous operations, without first waiting for the simulation of the previous operation. The use of multithreading technology—with which stock calculations are done in the background—doesn't slow the programmer down. Machining pockets has just become easier with the new software due to advancements in feature recognition. The upgraded advanced feature recognition automatically recognizes pockets with any combination of open and closed walls, fillets, chamfers, and tapered walls. In addition, undercut areas that can't be reached with the given tooling are automatically excluded.

ME: What's the current business climate look like for manufacturing?

Mathews: We are certainly living in changing times. What many people don't realize is that the rate of change is also increasing. For example, estimates from IBM posit that the amount of digital information is now doubling every 11 hr. The good news is that change creates opportunity for companies brave enough to adapt. Our view is that US manufacturers who want to thrive in these changing times need to adopt technological and business practices aimed at doubling productivity over the next two to three years. We suggest that they look to improved processes and faster material-removal rates by utilizing advances in machine tools, cutting tooling, CAD/CAM software, and other modern and rapidly advancing technologies available to them.

 

Updates

Vision systems developer Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA) has released In-Sight Explorer 4.4 software for Cognex In-Sight vision systems. The updated package adds new color tools, improved calibration, expanded data access within its EasyBuilder configuration software, and additional support for larger line scan images.

 

The package also introduces InspectEdge, a new family of tools for detecting edge defects and inspecting edge pairs. This tool gives users flexibility to solve vision applications that rely on accurate edge detection, such as finding dents, edge cracks, gaps, or other defects. Support for irregular shapes in InspectEdge enables better performance on challenging width inspections, such as automotive glue beads.

CGTech Corp. (Irvine, CA) announced that it is shipping the next major release of its Vericut Composite Programming (VCP) and Vericut Composite Simulation (VCS) software packages. Developed in response to requirements from The Boeing Co. (Chicago), the Vericut composite applications are used to program and simulate machining done on automated fiber placement machines fabricating composites for the Boeing 787 aircraft program.

Software developer Geometric Ltd. (Mumbai, India) has released its updated NestLib 2010 R1 software that adds improvements in material utilization for sheetmetal punching and managing inventory. The release improves multiple corner nesting and inventory forecasting support; user controls like run time local area selection for every orientation of a part in the Common Punch module; new nesting reports in PDF format; and an Inventory Forecasting module that identifies the best sheet size for given orders, and for differing part materials and thicknesses.

 

Deals

Aras Corp. (Andover, MA), a PLM software solution provider, announced that PCC Structurals, a division of Precision Castparts Corp. (Portland, OR), a supplier of industrial castings, has selected the company's PLM solutions. The Aras implementation provides PCC Structurals better visibility into product information across the lifecycle and drives advanced product quality planning (APQP). PCC Structurals' initial implementation initiative features automation of engineering change processes; CAD file management of SolidWorks, NX, CATIA and other CAD systems; and integration with the existing ERP system. Deployment will be rolled out in stages, extending to more than 3000 PCC employees across 10 locations.

 

Ansys Inc. (Canonsburg, PA), a developer of simulation software and technologies designed to optimize product-development processes, announced that Volkswagen AG (Wolfsburg, Germany) signed a master agreement with Ansys. In its R&D, Volkswagen uses structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and explicit analysis tools from Ansys to perform, among other applications, studies on climate control, headlights, and engine internal flow.

 

Grants

Simio LLC (Sewickley, PA), a developer of 3-D object-oriented simulation software, has awarded a $594,000 grant to the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA). Simio Academic Edition is fully capable software with no model size limits, and includes discrete and continuous modeling, object library development, and 3-D animation. Students at the school will be able to model systems using intelligent objects and the software's direct connection to Google Inc.'s (Mountain View, CA) 3-D Warehouse.