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The Curse of "Continuous Improvement" - Are we there yet?

Kirkhill

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"The term continuous improvement can be very abstract if not placed in a specific context. Explained shortly, it is a never-ending strive for perfection in everything you do. In Lean management, continuous improvement is also known as Kaizen."

What could possibly be wrong with continually striving for perfection?

The F35 for one.

The primary problem is the inability to define a starting point, and end state, milestones and a current state. All is flux.

I get the sense that the USAF is coming to this understanding. With 283 in service, many at various stages of development, logistics has become, to understate, problematic. The problem has been made worse by trying to keep prototypes in service with continuous improvement upgrades and by the tendency of the US Congress to add more interim aircraft to the USAF inventory than the USAF asks for. Congress needs to stop helping. I believe that the recent pauses in acquiring F35s and retiring early models reflects this. The USAF would rather a fleet of the current standard, which is cheaper to buy and cheaper to maintain than spend dollars in continually improving, and maintaining, a fleet of aircraft that requires each aircraft to be individually monitored and maintained to its own individual standard. A problem that also influences training and tactical employment. Planning becomes problematic if every aircraft in a squadron has different capabilities and requirements.

The problem is not really a new one. It is one dealt by many people.

The version I am most familiar with is the continuous processing of milk. Dairies are supplied on a continuous basis by milk from thousands of cows that are milked two or three times daily. The milk from all those cows is collected in tanks on hundreds of farms. Every day or two dozens of trucks empty those tanks and transport them to individual dairies where the milk is received and held in silos. Each silo will hold 5 to 10 trucks of milk. Each silo represents the output of thousands of cows. The silo becomes a mixture of thousands of inputs. The milk in those silos is continually supplied to the plant for processing. The process never stops for 12 to 16 hours. Over that time a million or so containers of milk will be filled with standardized, homogenized, pasteurized milk with various compositions.

As part of the legal duty of care the processor has to be able to trace every drop of milk from farm to table and be able to recall defective products, determine the source of the defect and describe a program to ensure prevention of a recurrence in the future.

That requires that the continuous process be split into smaller, workable, batches. Otherwise you end up having to recall a day of production (or perhaps a season) rather than an hour of production on one specific line. In the absence of a natural break that defines a batch it is common to impose artificial breaks.

It seems to me that the USAF is coming to a place where it is reorganizing production along the F16 lines - with fixed blocks of standards.

The world's navies, I believe have long employed a similar model by building classes of ships by blocks or flights. The CSC seems to be headed that way as well.

Some times continuously chasing perfection is counter productive. Managed change, the imposition of interim standards, acceptance of the here and now, even if it is "imperfect" is often necessary.
 

CBH99

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"The term continuous improvement can be very abstract if not placed in a specific context. Explained shortly, it is a never-ending strive for perfection in everything you do. In Lean management, continuous improvement is also known as Kaizen."

What could possibly be wrong with continually striving for perfection?

The F35 for one.

The primary problem is the inability to define a starting point, and end state, milestones and a current state. All is flux.

I get the sense that the USAF is coming to this understanding. With 283 in service, many at various stages of development, logistics has become, to understate, problematic. The problem has been made worse by trying to keep prototypes in service with continuous improvement upgrades and by the tendency of the US Congress to add more interim aircraft to the USAF inventory than the USAF asks for. Congress needs to stop helping. I believe that the recent pauses in acquiring F35s and retiring early models reflects this. The USAF would rather a fleet of the current standard, which is cheaper to buy and cheaper to maintain than spend dollars in continually improving, and maintaining, a fleet of aircraft that requires each aircraft to be individually monitored and maintained to its own individual standard. A problem that also influences training and tactical employment. Planning becomes problematic if every aircraft in a squadron has different capabilities and requirements.

The problem is not really a new one. It is one dealt by many people.

The version I am most familiar with is the continuous processing of milk. Dairies are supplied on a continuous basis by milk from thousands of cows that are milked two or three times daily. The milk from all those cows is collected in tanks on hundreds of farms. Every day or two dozens of trucks empty those tanks and transport them to individual dairies where the milk is received and held in silos. Each silo will hold 5 to 10 trucks of milk. Each silo represents the output of thousands of cows. The silo becomes a mixture of thousands of inputs. The milk in those silos is continually supplied to the plant for processing. The process never stops for 12 to 16 hours. Over that time a million or so containers of milk will be filled with standardized, homogenized, pasteurized milk with various compositions.

As part of the legal duty of care the processor has to be able to trace every drop of milk from farm to table and be able to recall defective products, determine the source of the defect and describe a program to ensure prevention of a recurrence in the future.

That requires that the continuous process be split into smaller, workable, batches. Otherwise you end up having to recall a day of production (or perhaps a season) rather than an hour of production on one specific line. In the absence of a natural break that defines a batch it is common to impose artificial breaks.

It seems to me that the USAF is coming to a place where it is reorganizing production along the F16 lines - with fixed blocks of standards.

The world's navies, I believe have long employed a similar model by building classes of ships by blocks or flights. The CSC seems to be headed that way as well.

Some times continuously chasing perfection is counter productive. Managed change, the imposition of interim standards, acceptance of the here and now, even if it is "imperfect" is often necessary.
I actually thought this was a professional article that had been linked to a post. Wow, great post Kirkhill ๐Ÿ™‚
 

daftandbarmy

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"The term continuous improvement can be very abstract if not placed in a specific context. Explained shortly, it is a never-ending strive for perfection in everything you do. In Lean management, continuous improvement is also known as Kaizen."

What could possibly be wrong with continually striving for perfection?

The F35 for one.

The primary problem is the inability to define a starting point, and end state, milestones and a current state. All is flux.

I get the sense that the USAF is coming to this understanding. With 283 in service, many at various stages of development, logistics has become, to understate, problematic. The problem has been made worse by trying to keep prototypes in service with continuous improvement upgrades and by the tendency of the US Congress to add more interim aircraft to the USAF inventory than the USAF asks for. Congress needs to stop helping. I believe that the recent pauses in acquiring F35s and retiring early models reflects this. The USAF would rather a fleet of the current standard, which is cheaper to buy and cheaper to maintain than spend dollars in continually improving, and maintaining, a fleet of aircraft that requires each aircraft to be individually monitored and maintained to its own individual standard. A problem that also influences training and tactical employment. Planning becomes problematic if every aircraft in a squadron has different capabilities and requirements.

The problem is not really a new one. It is one dealt by many people.

The version I am most familiar with is the continuous processing of milk. Dairies are supplied on a continuous basis by milk from thousands of cows that are milked two or three times daily. The milk from all those cows is collected in tanks on hundreds of farms. Every day or two dozens of trucks empty those tanks and transport them to individual dairies where the milk is received and held in silos. Each silo will hold 5 to 10 trucks of milk. Each silo represents the output of thousands of cows. The silo becomes a mixture of thousands of inputs. The milk in those silos is continually supplied to the plant for processing. The process never stops for 12 to 16 hours. Over that time a million or so containers of milk will be filled with standardized, homogenized, pasteurized milk with various compositions.

As part of the legal duty of care the processor has to be able to trace every drop of milk from farm to table and be able to recall defective products, determine the source of the defect and describe a program to ensure prevention of a recurrence in the future.

That requires that the continuous process be split into smaller, workable, batches. Otherwise you end up having to recall a day of production (or perhaps a season) rather than an hour of production on one specific line. In the absence of a natural break that defines a batch it is common to impose artificial breaks.

It seems to me that the USAF is coming to a place where it is reorganizing production along the F16 lines - with fixed blocks of standards.

The world's navies, I believe have long employed a similar model by building classes of ships by blocks or flights. The CSC seems to be headed that way as well.

Some times continuously chasing perfection is counter productive. Managed change, the imposition of interim standards, acceptance of the here and now, even if it is "imperfect" is often necessary.

'Under no circumstances should we export North American management styles to a friendly country.' W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming​


"Ford Motor Company was one of the first American corporations to seek help from Deming. In 1981, Ford's sales were falling. Between 1979 and 1982, Ford had incurred $3 billion in losses. Ford's newly appointed Corporate Quality Director, Larry Moore, was charged with recruiting Deming to help jump-start a quality movement at Ford.[25] Deming questioned the company's culture and the way its managers operated. To Ford's surprise, Deming talked not about quality, but about management. He told Ford that management actions were responsible for 85% of all problems in developing better cars. In 1986, Ford came out with a profitable line of cars, the Taurus-Sable line. In a letter to Autoweek, Donald Petersen, then Ford chairman, said, "We are moving toward building a quality culture at Ford and the many changes that have been taking place here have their roots directly in Deming's teachings."[26] By 1986, Ford had become the most profitable American auto company. For the first time since the 1920s, its earnings had exceeded those of archrival General Motors (GM). Ford had come to lead the American automobile industry in improvements. Ford's following years' earnings confirmed that its success was not a fluke, for its earnings continued to exceed GM and Chrysler's.

In 1982, Deming's book Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position was published by the MIT Center for Advanced Engineering, and was renamed Out of the Crisis in 1986. In it, he offers a theory of management based on his famous 14 Points for Management. Management's failure to plan for the future brings about loss of market, which brings about loss of jobs. Management must be judged not only by the quarterly dividend, but also by innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future dividends, and provide more jobs through improved products and services. "Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment."
 
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