Skip Navigation
*To search for student contact information, login to FlashLine and choose the "Directory" icon in the FlashLine masthead (blue bar).

Your Training Partner Newsletters

May 2009 Newsletter

Posted May. 1, 2009

Now is Not the Time

By Robert D.Skillman

It has been disturbing to observe the Manufacturing Base disintegrate around us and to contemplate the things that are let go besides workers.

Hard times are definitely here for our Manufacturing Sector. The big question is which ones will survive and be in business when things turn around? One company I’m familiar with eliminated the entire Quality Department. That desperate move will finish them off. In hard times, quality, on-time delivery and price are still the competitive necessities. If you’re experiencing hard times, your customer most likely is too. Treat them to quality problems and they will drop you as a supplier, even more so during hard times.

Training is an investment in the future. When that is eliminated, so is your future. We are watching the collapse of our Manufacturing Sector and it is not entirely due to overseas competition; it is collapsing from within. We are in a global market and that can’t be changed. Overseas competition also is overseas opportunities. Product mix is important and agility is essential. If you’re making buggy whips, try windmills. Some companies will emerge strong; others are doomed; that is just the way it is. During Prohibition, Anheuser Bush shifted to nonalcoholic beverages and held on for ten years knowing the Prohibition would eventually be lifted. It just had so many unintended side effects, like being the parent of the largest crime wave ever endured in this country. Anheuser Bush knew it would not last and they planned for the day when Prohibition ended. On that day they sent a case of beer to the Whitehouse.

It is clear that when business drops off, the necessity to layoff workers is a reality. We all understand that. However, we also understand that layoffs result in a depletion of tribal knowledge that may not be recoverable in the short term. Loss of tribal knowledge can lead to erosion of core values and the very ability to be viable when business returns.

I have been talking to senior executives that I have worked with for years; some I have considered to be “Level V Leaders.” I must say it is reassuring to know the “Level V Leaders” remain so. Surrender is not in their vocabulary. Of the closest companies I have been working with, none is suffering from dramatic loss of business like Kimble Manufacturing. It is hard to reconcile that just a year ago they built a new plant just to handle the increased and planned expansion of business. However, surrender is not in CEO Jim Cahill’s vocabulary. Layoffs have been necessary, but every action Jim has taken to survive the hard times has included the plan for the recovery. Training has not been eliminated, his Black Belts continue to work on cost reductions, and another Black Belt student is registered in Kent State’s Fall Black Belt training and certification. Aggressive actions to penetrate other truck and trailer markets are underway. Kimble is down but by no means out.

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great,” gave us the term “Level V Leaders.” In order for our Manufacturing Sector to return to prosperity, we need the “Level V Leaders” to Lead. Surviving the hard times must begin with an unwavering belief that better times are possible. Possibility will remain a dream without action.  Action without a plan is still a dream.  A good result without planning is an accident.  A good result with planning is good leadership.

Now is not the time. What does that mean?

  • Do not abandon possibility thinking
  • Don’t give up
  • By all means do not abandon quality or on-time delivery
  • Do not surrender your core values
  • Do not eliminate training, that is the future

You get it! Keep on keeping on! Lead! Our “Level V Leaders” will find ways, and through their efforts others will be pulled along as well.

Lean for Office/Service Simulation a Continual Improvement!

By Tina Benson, Director of Quality and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, TechniGraphics, Inc.

While Lean and Six Sigma have long been heralded as superior quality improvement tools in the manufacturing realm, there has been some confusion on how to ensure relevancy of these methods for those of us who work in another industry, such as service, transactional or other non-traditional production facility.

TechniGraphics, Inc. is a multinational company focused on solving the problems of its customers with innovative solutions regarding the capture and conversion of digital data and the implementation of graphical software for visual information systems. So how does Lean Six Sigma apply here? After searching for an appropriate application tool, we found a wonderful simulation tool called LeanZone Office. TechniGraphics brought in a two-day simulation exercise for a group of sales people in the organization; the experience was well-received and invaluable! Jumping off from this simulation, the organization has taken its cumbersome sales process and streamlined it down to an efficient model.

One of the few suggestions for enhancement I had as a steering committee member for Kent State University’s Lean Six Sigma training was to add a tool that would translate to those who do not make “nuts and bolts,” but who want to improve their processes. Kent State University’s Black Belt curriculum now includes the LeanZone Office simulation. I believe the addition of the LeanZone Office simulation will give students a well-rounded perspective on how to apply Lean Six Sigma in any industry.

Kent State’s Skillman Presents Technical Information at ASQ Meetings

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) holds monthly meetings at each major section location. The chapter invites an expert to speak about a technical subject of importance to the quality field so that members may stay abreast of the latest thinking in relevant topics. Section 800 in Cleveland meets the third Wednesday of each month. Kent State’s Bob Skillman presented to this group on February 18, 2009. Skillman’s presentation, “Demystifying Capability Indexes,” covered topics such as capability indexes including Pp, Ppk, Cp, and Cpk. He also presented the mathematical differences and how the two can be played against each other to clearly understand the voice of the process and pick up on subtle changes, as well as the impact of “Special Causes” on capability indexes. His one-hour program reached approximately 35 participants.. 

Skillman’s talk in February was so well received that he was asked to return on April 15th to continue the dialog on the subject. On this evening, he covered the topics of taking a deeper look regarding the effect of Special Causes, understanding the impact of non-normal distributions when attempting capability analysis and a review of some of the typical causes for non-normal distributions. Bob also shared several recommended remedies for Special Causes and non-normal distributions, as they would apply to the mathematical models used in capability analysis.

There’s still time to catch an upcoming presentation. The Akron/Canton Section 810 of ASQ has invited Skillman to present on June 18th. He will be talking on the same topic at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7:00 p.m. at the ASQ Section 810 meeting on June 18, 2009, at the 356th Fighter Group near the Akron Canton Airport. For information, and to register, link to ASQ’s Web site at

Kent State University Lean Six Sigma Symposium

Thursday, October 1, 2009
2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The University Center at Kent State University Stark
$95 per person

Our Keynote Presentation features the executive management team from Allied Machine and Engineering Corporation, Michael Dreher, Vice President of Manufacturing, and Steven Stokey, Executive Vice President and Part Owner.

Concurrent Session Descriptions 

Using Lean Six Sigma Tools in the Current Economic Climate, presented by Robert D. Skillman, Principal Kent State Lean Six Sigma Facilitator

Lean Six Sigma Best Practices Panel Discussion
Panel Members:

  • Tina Benson, Director of Quality and Master Black Belt for TechniGraphics, Inc., Wooster, Ohio.
  • Dustin Hostetler, Business Consultant and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt for Lean CPA, LLC, a division of Rea & Associates, Inc.
  • Tom Mego, Director of Quality, Continuous Improvement and IT at Keithley Instruments, Inc., Solon, Ohio.
  • Mary Ellyn Sedenik, moderator, University Hospitals Conneaut Medical Center, Conneaut, Ohio.
Saint Vincent’s Lean Six Sigma Journey: Results and Lessons Learned, presented by Steve Osborn, Vice President for Quality Compliance and Improvement at Saint Vincent Health Center, Erie, Pennsylvania.