All entries for July 2016

July 07, 2016

The never ending cycle

This a completely different blog, to what I usually write. I came across an interesting concept today, which involves a combination of literally everything I have learnt so far this year. I have learnt that improving a company internally by itself is simply not enough. Optimising and improving manufacturing processes and products is simply not enough. As excellence models suggest, this optimisation should occur through the full product life cycle, from suppliers till the final end consumer. This consequently suggests that some form of knowledge sharing should occur. The customers will be able to give views and feedback on the kind of product they desire, and the sort of needs they require the product to fulfil. In the context of my reading, this involved the carbon footprint of the product. Sometimes manufacturing processes are optimised to reduce environmental impact, but what is not taken into account is the impact that the final product has, when it is in the hands of the consumer/customer. An example of this are the famous trucks of the United States, the guzzlers as they are so known. They were designed optimally, the manufacturing processes had very little environmental impact. But the final product exceeded all savings and reductions.

Reading further, this is what the Design for Six Sigma base of Design for the Environment is all about. It is about considering final use environmental impact as well during design stages. And what an important role knowledge sharing plays here in support. Information must be retrieved from as many stakeholders as possible. This involves first creating support mechanisms to generate the knowledge, and a review and analysis of this data to ensure reliability. The final stage involves application, which starts the cycle again, moving from an external to internal structure, where now the suppliers as well as people within the organisation can now share the generated information and apply it. And the never ending cycle moves on…

July 04, 2016

Let's preserve and protect our Earth

Throughout my life, I have only observed asset management to be considered from a financial perspective. Everyone around me always talks about how managing their assets increases their wealth, and is often confused with the modern term of wealth management. So for me, it took me by surprise when I came across the term asset management in this module. But all the categories discussed make sense, especially when I think about it from an engineering point of view, which I’m sure by now you are all aware is my previous background. It was sort of comforting to see that areas linked to the health and safety of employees, the security of employees, as well as environmental concerns were being considered as part of asset management.

I am a true believer that our earth and all its natural resources must be conserved, preserved and treasured. Due to rapid globalisation and urbanisation, our planet is being destroyed through atmospheric pollution, water contamination, deforestation, amongst others and natural causes. Living standards and the development of the human race has led to higher pressures on industry to produce to demand, increasing industrial waste and pollutants. These must be reduced in every way possible, in order to protect our earth and the natural resources it bears. Organisations today must therefore also include environmental management systems in their strategy. For the basic reader, this involves the removal or minimisation of as many sources of waste and pollution as possible. This could include carbon dioxide emissions, waste water, toxic chemicals, as well as intangibles such as noise pollution. One thing that I believe is a perception of the older generation, is that all such measures come at high costs to the business. In effect, this is true, as most measures require initial fairly large initial investments, and payback is not seen for a few years after. However, reduction of wastes actually involves improvement of processes, products and services, which means lower overheads and therefore savings to the cost of doing business. This is very simplified, but is the point that needs to get across to the world out there today.

Several standards have been implemented as a result of this, as can be seen in ISO 14001 and 50001. If we want to continue doing business on this earth, let us not use these standards as basic guidelines to follow, but actually believe in the principles that govern these standards and practice them. If we kill our earth and deplete all the natural resources available, there won’t be another earth for us to continue doing our business on.

save earth

Definitely a world of knowledge out there

Over the course of this year, I have been faced with several tools and techniques aimed at continuously improving organisations as a pathway to achieving sustainable excellence. Looking back, I cannot say that either of these have one specific focus, but they are all, individually, an integration of a broad spectrum of considerations. They all take into account several aspects related to a wide range of stakeholders. This, in effect, needs to be converted from an external view to the internal operations of the company, and is where I believe the topic of knowledge management must be appreciated. The most effective use of any tool or technique is when an entire group of people is knowledgeable, be it specialist or basic, to one strategic objective or vision. This will involve the generation of knowledge, the sharing of knowledge, the distribution of knowledge, and the application of knowledge. These are the founding principles of knowledge management, and should therefore be found at the heart of the organisation. How scarce this is in the real world out there. All the knowledge is available - take it, and make the most of it.

world of knowledge

Looking back at some of the tools, such as QFD, I constantly hear one phrase - “the voice of the customer”. I came across a similar topic under the branch of knowledge management which involves generation of knowledge about the customer, the target market, and through the process of feedback, customer preference. This relates to the production process, but can be applied to both service and manufacturing industries, and is what essentially a business is out there to achieve, and how it aims to survive. The sale of a particular service or product will only be rewarding if this customer knowledge has been passed through the knowledge cycle. This is a perfect example of how external views from stakeholders, in this context the customers, are converted into the product design.

I often come across the question of how knowledge management practices fit into the business strategy, and whether they are really useful or just perceived to be a waste of time. As in the example above, the same principles can be extended to: the processes of the business, the outgoing products of the business and the whole NPD cycle, the people who make up the organisation, and the assets of the organisation. With all these areas, knowledge is the key focus, without which, none of the business operations would happen, without which none of the businesses strategic objectives would be met. Without knowledge of the processes, core business functions may end up being dysfunctional, leading to several losses being incurred. Without knowledge of the product/service, customer’s needs will not be met, and the product may be classed as a fail. The knowledge embedded within the people of the organisation must be exploited in order for the business to function at maximum capacity and capability (the intellectual capital of the organisation). Which will then facilitate knowledge generation on the asset capability of the organisation, leading to better utilisation of all assets for greater rewards (not only financially, but who doesn’t like to know that the bank account is getting larger!)

July 2016

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