In an era of intense global competition, companies are searching for ways to gain a competitive advantage to protect or improve their market position. Delivering value - high quality, sustainable, durable and reliable products at low cost - has become the key to survival in today's global economy.
A number of corporations have adopted value-driven strategies in implementing quality programmes and pursuing manufacturing excellence. Businesses that lead the field in quality and manufacturing excellence are now using the same strategies to adopt environmentally and socially responsible solutions.
There is evidence that companies which conform with ISO 9000 guidelines have significantly less difficulty meeting the requirements of ISO 14000.
Methods like 'Hoshin Kanri', 'Kaizen' and 'Poka-Yoke' are being used to support quality improvements, and to embed sustainability into products and processes.
The Hoshin Kanri technique is often described as a target-means strategy. The Japanese word 'hoshin' means 'shining metal pointing direction'; 'kanri' means management or control. Hoshin Kanri is described as a system for translating an organization's vision and objectives into actionable and measurable strategies throughout the company. It is a process for focusing many resources on a few high priority issues to achieve a breakthrough.
The greatest strength of this system is its ability to translate qualitative, executive goals into quantitative, achievable actions. It has proven its usefulness in the implementation of concepts like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Total Quality Environmental Management (TQEM).
Hoshin Kanri is seen as an important component of value-driven product and process development, since it describes characteristics of the product or process as a function of the characteristics of the organization that produces it. From the Hoshin Kanri perspective, the success of the product or process development is directly linked to the ability of an organization to put into practice its strategic goals.
'Kaizen' is often translated in western literature as ongoing, continuous improvement. In contrast to the traditional emphasis on revolutionary, innovative change on an occasional basis, Kaizen advocates uninterrupted, ongoing incremental change.
Originally a Buddhist term, Kaizen comes from the words 'Renew the heart and make it good'. Adoption of the Kaizen concept requires changes in the 'heart' of a business's corporate culture and structure, since Kaizen requires companies to translate their corporate vision into every aspect of a company's operational practice.
In practice, Kaizen can be implemented in corporations by improving every aspect of a business process in a step-by-step approach, while gradually developing employee skills through training and increased involvement. The key areas in implementing Kaizen are:
Shop floor - GENBA,
Product - GENBUTSU,
The facts - GENJITSU
By pursuing improvements in the three 'GENs', a manager develops an eye for problems. Gradual enhancements to the key operations - product development, manufacturing, service and sales - multiply into greater success, sustainable competitiveness and good business performance.
Poka-Yoke is the Japanese term for mistake-proofing. It is designed either to prevent an error from happening or to make an error obvious at a glance. Therefore, a product development process that respects Poka-Yoke logic aggressively seeks to eliminate the possibility of errors and waste and to increase resource efficiency in the entire product life-cycle.
The industrial engineer responsible for the introduction of Zero Quality Control (ZQC) in modern manufacturing was Toyota's production manager Shigeo Shingo. ZQC is firmly rooted in the Poka-Yoke approach to quality management.
Multi-disciplinary optimization (MDO)
'Multidisciplinary optimization' (MDO) is an emerging discipline that relies on mathematics, statistics, operations research and computer science. Objectives and environmental constraints are stated in terms of mathematical equations, and the best solution obtained via a solution of those equations.
There is a more qualitative version of the MDO method that uses the same algorithm. It is more comprehensive than the quantitative method, since it includes all relevant components. On the other hand, in this broader version of MDO, a number of components are not easily quantified. The qualitative MDO must therefore include a degree of subjectivity.
MDO is a useful tool for product or process optimization. The equations can be defined so that the objective is to maximize quality and resource efficiency and to minimize cost, and thus to maximize value. However, it is important to identify and define all design parameters in order to achieve the desired result.
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