Just-in-Time at Fluke and Genie


According to the Toyota Production System, just-in-time is an industrial management principle that strives to reduce inventory and its carrying costs. Synonymous with its name, the time that inventory is received should be optimized according to the time the product is needed. From making observations at two factories in the Seattle area: Fluke and Genie, I noticed that ”Kanban” signals were crucial for the success of implementing just-in-time.

At Fluke, many of its components were placed there by the supplier. Therefore, the inventory and carrying costs are the responsibility of the supplier and the components were only purchased by Fluke when they are needed (just-in-time). This provided a win-win situation for Fluke as they get immediate access to the goods without having to tie down cash flow. Further, the quantities of multi-meters are made to either actual customer orders or estimates based on the “heijunka” system (“Fluke” Tour Guide, 2009).

At Genie, the style of just-in-time implementation varied based on the leadership team. If the plant manager comes from a materials management background, then reduction of inventory would be more conservative. Those who have experiences in process improvement would be more aggressive in reducing any excess inventory. Regardless of the management, the materials still need to be purchased and kept as inventory based on the estimates. Per a conversation we had with a production lead at Genie, his method was to experiment by slowly reducing quantities until a lower limit was reached. From observation, systems were created at the Beckwood Punch Machine such that weld cell consumption triggered replenishment of the link tubes (“Genie” Tour Guide, 2009).

Manufacturing Processes

At Fluke, just-in-time is evident in its manufacturing processes through the use of vendor managed inventory. Internally, they have also implemented a train system where goods are moved from its receiving department to different stations on an hourly basis. The internal transportation system prevents workers in different stations from working ahead of the ”Kanban” quantities.

Due to the complexity of the products made by Genie and the need to manage a growing inventory of over 2,000 parts, just-in-time is emphasized internally in the delivery of parts to the various stations on an as needed basis. In general, material handlers at Genie try to group the parts together for each lift and have them ready when the respective stations have the need through a two-bin system. It is much easier control inter-company transportation than coordinating part deliveries with outside suppliers. In the worst case scenario, even if one of the over 2,000 parts were to run out, the entire production line could be halted, so underestimating is extremely risky.

”Kanban” Signals

”Kanban” signals are vital in the just-in-time system. At Fluke, ”Kanban” signals are triggered by its MRP forecasts and work its way up the supply chain using a self-regulating pull system. According to an industrial engineer at Fluke, physical ”Kanbans” are most useful. Not only do they serve as visual controls, they include important information that pertains to the part such as: part number (new and old), destination, location cell, ”Kanban” quantity, total quantity, lead time and amount per package amongst other important information. Additionally, they are color coded for different types of purchases: internal, external, expense, inventory and supplier (reorder point). Ideal quantities tend to be smaller per batch but with a higher frequency than having all products sent at once. The number of interim products moved with each signal varied depending on the customer orders, but is usually adjusted to meet one piece flow requirements. In a good economy, MRP forecasts are close to accurate and allow for production leveling based on those predictions. However, amidst the current credit crisis, it is much harder to accurately predict inventory needs (“Fluke” Tour Guide, 2009).

At Genie, ”Kanbans” take shape in the form of cards, labels, and storage bins as well as designated areas on the painted floor for storing standard work in progress (SWIP). In general, SWIP (the minimum number of units needed to keep the product line running smoothly) is limited to two units at a time. Although they strive to maintain a one piece flow production line, with each ”Kanban” signal, there could be more than one interim product being moved. Almost every part in the line is moved by the ”Kanban.” Essentially, blue ”Kanban” cards indicate that the part is from an outside supplier while the orange labels are for internally made parts. Additionally, colored visual controls sort parts by product line. When materials are consumed, barcodes of Kanban cards are scanned, which provide material information to the respective machines (“Genie” Tour Guide, 2009).

The Approach

In comparison between Fluke and Genie, it appears that the application of just-in-time is more evident at Fluke. One reason for this is that the products made by Fluke are much smaller. By observing the processes at both factories, it appears that Genie’s equipment and tooling are more investment intensive, so it is more difficult to implement any improvements. By comparing the two plants, it is quite evident that Lean manufacturing is more integrated at Fluke than at Genie.

At Fluke, one of their main priorities is to focus on their core competencies. In this case, it is to handle the final assembly of the multi-meter, while having many components built elsewhere. For example, the PCA assembly division is to be outsourced to a factory in Alabama. The main objectives of Fluke/Danaher is to free cash flow to buyout troubled companies, then apply Lean and either keep them for a high return or resell them. From observation of their factory in Everett, there was a clear sense of organization with 45 cells grouped in a well-lit facility. In addition to just-in-time, principles such as 5-S and safety as well as QDIP (quality-delivery-inventory-productivity) measures are used to determine the success of the plant (“Fluke” Tour Guide, 2009).

Many of Genie’s processes follow its parent company’s TEREX Operating System, which is primarily a combination of just-in-time and “jidoka”. The objective of “jidoka” is to produce high quality products with one-by-one confirmation to detect any flaws. If there are quality problems, the entire is line is stopped. Additionally, some of its machines are able to detect abnormalities witnessed in the products. In particular, the Turning Center and Large Slab Scissors Links Weld stations emphasized “jidoka” in their operations. Prior to delivery, the Turning Center checks each part for defects while the weld cells are equipped with inspection lighting and other visual control aids to check for the quality of the weld. As a whole, Genie also emphasizes level production on its machines using the “heijunka” board. Aligned with their lean philosophy to reduce costs by eliminating waste, its system has three assurances: delivery and minimum cost, safety and morale, as well as product and process quality. Additionally, we were informed that the unused space in the factory is part of an attempt to consolidate other factories as part of its space reduction plan (“Genie” Tour Guide, 2009).

As with both companies, the goal of using just-in-time is to make money. In order to make money, one must increase throughput while reducing inventory and other operating expenses. Optimization using Lean manufacturing techniques like just-in-time allow for reduction of wastes such as inventory and unnecessary overhead.

Works Cited

“Fluke” Tour Guide, Fluke Electronics, Everett, Washington, personal communication, Nov. 10,

“Genie” Tour Guide, Genie Industries, Redmond, Washington, personal communication,
Nov. 19, 2009.

The Challenges of Collaborative Writing: Sharing Files

Recently, we’ve been working on a collaborative writing project in our HCDE 333 class. So that each of us could work on the same document at the same time, we decided to use Google Docs for the first draft. Each of us was responsible and accountable for an assigned section of the proposal, so we weren’t as concerned about others accidentally removing content that was intended to be there. However, there were some limitations on Google Docs. One of which is formatting. Since our document was designed for print, Google Docs had limited abilities in terms of visualizing the print layout for the document. It is also more difficult adding tables, graphics and charts onto Google Docs. Overall, when printed, the documents don’t have the “look” of Microsoft Word.

In order to benefit from both worlds, we used Google Docs for our first draft and later moved it to Microsoft Word for final version. Yet, the conversion from Google Docs and Microsoft Word was a bit of a challenge as some of the alignment was not perfect. Also, sharing Word documents with each other was not feasible either. Our solution was to have one team member work on the Word document and then we would fix it up as a group in a physical face-to-face meeting before the class. Another method we could try is to use Dropbox to share the files, so that we can all access it without having to email the attachment around after each revision.

How to Deliver an Effective Presentation

A few days ago, we presented our mock consulting proposal to our Advanced Technical Writing and Oral Presentations class. There are a number of key elements for giving successful and effective presentations. It is very important to practice; have succinct and well-designed slides; and deliver the presentation with the correct vocal and physical demeanors.

Practice Makes Perfect

In general, every time I give a presentation, I’d like to script out what I plan to say and then read over the words a number of times. It is exactly what I did for this presentation. In the actual presentation, I would not necessarily be reading the words from memory, but practicing the script allows me to thoroughly understand the content of the presentation and it’s easier to elaborate on-the-spot if you know the right keywords. By practicing, you also gain confidence in your presentation skills, because you feel like you know your presentation topic well. I’ve been told that the success of any presentation is mostly dependent on your state of mentality. So, it is a good idea to be calm, relaxed and confident while giving a presentation.

The Succinct and Well-Designed Deck

For all Power Point presentations, it is a good idea to have them look visually appealing and be clear and concise. You don’t want to be reading off your slides directly. If so, it usually means you are not elaborating enough or your slides are way too wordy. A common saying says: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” You don’t need to have 1,000 words for each picture in your presentation, but the words you select to place on your slide should tell more than the word itself. They should basically be words or phrases that can be used to represent the underlying meaning of your message. For this presentation, I tried doing something new: having a keyword and one or two photos with caption fill a slide, instead of having a bulleted list of details. This way, it allows me to focus and present without having phrases to read off from the slide.
Ideally, a presentation should have the following elements: introduction (engages the audience, clearly states the purpose, establishes credibility and previews main points); body (supports your message, adapts to the specific audience, and should be organized in a logical manner); conclusion (restate your main idea and closes the presentation with a call for action). Some people have told me not to provide handouts to the audience of the deck, while others have told me to do so. There seems to be pros and cons for each situation, but I think the best thing to do is provide the handout after the presentation is over. People in the audience will try to read ahead on your handout while you present, which will distract your connection with them during the presentation.

Vocal and Physical Traits Both Matter

People generally look for two things about you in the presentation: how you speak and how you look. Things to consider in terms of vocal delivery are: volume, rate and pause, conversational tone, enunciation and enthusiasm. Many of these traits are dependent on your type of audience as well as the environment you are in. Being in a small conference room versus a huge auditorium without a microphone can make a huge difference. Rate and pause is also important; depending on the type of presentation, this may be different. I’ve always had a habit of speaking too quickly, so I try my best to speak as slowly as I can. The tone of voice and enunciation is also for each type of presentation. This presentation is supposed to simulate a consulting pitch, so a B2B professional persuasive (different from late night infomercial) tone is good. Enthusiasm is always important. There are things we like to do, and many times there are things in life we don’t like to do, but have to do. No matter what type of presentation you give, even if you aren’t interested, you should look interested and be happy about it.

In addition, people look at the way you position yourself during a presentation. It’s important to have good posture and not be fidgeting too much. Also, it is crucial to pay attention to your facial expressions. I’ve always had the habit to be slightly more fluid and moving in my presentations. But with practice, it has become easier to pay attention to my physical delivery.

The Big Picture

Practice, practice, practice; make a good set of slides and watch the way you speak and stand. Overall, the opportunity to work on different styles and types of presentations is a great idea. Practicing and learning new things is always great. There are a variety of situations we must adapt to in the future. Especially as an engineer, not only is it important to have a strong technical background, having good soft skills is vital in the workplace. Wish you the best of luck!

Managing a Successful Project

In our Human Centered Design & Engineering class, we are working on a mock consulting project with a sustainability focus. Similar to a case competition, these projects are supposed to help us learn about typical business projects and provide us with the opportunity to build leading teamwork skills. There are a number of elements that make a project successful. First, we started off established guidelines for teamwork and created an agreement to reinforce the rules. Next, we had our initial project kickoff meeting that determined our research focus and generated a list of action items for each team member. Then, we presented our initial oral proposal (sales pitch) to promote our skills, credentials and our project vision. To help us in the process, we used two Google applications: Groups and Docs so that we can work together collaboratively. Several important tools one must consider using when working on team-based projects are: written agreements that set the procedures, policies and objectives for the project; information systems that suit the needs; and efficient methods of communicating.

First, we drafted a team work agreement that sets out rules that we must follow.

Team Working Agreement (TWA)
I. Meetings
When meetings are necessary, they shall take place on either Monday or Wednesday, one hour before class. The meeting place for these meetings will be prearranged in an appropriate location (i.e. in the classroom (Low 101), or a library). An advanced notice email will be sent out at least day prior to the planned meeting in the event of a cancellation, or project emergency.

In the event that a team member becomes sick, or needs to miss a meeting due to conflict, it is expected that they will let the group know through email ahead of time. On the account of several absences, the team member in question will be confronted and talked to.

II. Communication
Communication will be done via email and Google Group. Everyone must check these sources of communication at least once a week (more during more busy parts of the project). In case of urgent situations (members need help and/or are behind in work), groups members will call each other to resolve any issues.

III. Contributions
Each member is required to contribute to the team project. Every group member will be responsible for communicating with the group, updating their work status with the group, attending group meetings, and completing their portion of the project.

Team members are allowed to ask for help from other members when there is trouble in research, or when the team member is unable to finish the assigned work by the agreed deadline.

IV. Behavior
All team members will be respectful of each others ideas, and follow the agreed TWA. If team disagreements occur, the argument will be talked over by creating a compromise that everyone can agree to. If no compromise can be met, a majority vote will rule. This means a vote of 3 out of 5 will decide the outcome of the argument.

V. Additional Material
In the future, TWA amendments may be changed if the majority vote (3 out of 5) agrees. The time and place to do so is at group meetings.

If the TWA is not being followed, the following 3 actions will take place:
1. An email warning will be sent out.
2. If problem persists, a verbal confrontation will take place at group meetings or in class.
3. If problem still persists and cannot be resolved, there will be a reporting the instructor.

Although it is not as stringent as the typical legal document, it establishes a criteria for us to follow. Also, the process of drafting the document was an opportunity to work with the newly created team and to get to know each other. So, it is generally a good idea to have one of these types of agreements, so that when issues occur, there is a policy to enforce those situations.

Having the right software tools and information systems is also very important. For our team of 5 people, we like using Google’s series of applications. They are quick and easy and they serve our needs. Google Groups enable us to message each other and share necessary project files in an easy-to-use place. Google Docs allows us to be working on the same presentation at the same time, without having to worry about merging slides from different files with different formats.

Another one of the most crucial factors that determine success is effective communication. Working in a team environment with more than two people, there is often “politics” involved. If a team member is having an issue with a particular action item or deliverable, we ask that that the member speak up and share with the group, so we can work together and get the project done. The number one goal is actually getting the project done in a timely and quality manner. We each can communicate each other via phone, SMS, email, instant messaging, Google groups, Facebook and of course in person when we see each other. Lastly, I’d like to stress the importance of interpersonal communication. In many cases, it is important to communicate the person. As I stated in one of my earlier blog posts, “Eating lunch with people who are going in the direction you want to move in“, liking someone’s status update on Facebook isn’t really “communication”.

Overall, we decided to establish standard objectives and procedures. We utilized two different methods of collaborative communication in our project team: Google applications (Groups and Docs) and face-to-face meetings. And we emphaisezed the need to communicate effectively.

What Skills Do I Need to Get Hired?

“What Skills Do I Need to Get Hired?” emphasizes that soft skills are required, especially for technical-based engineering positions. It also discusses how to be successful at the workplace. Collaboration is very important within large enterprises as there are very many learning opportunities that one can learn from his or her coworkers. This video also reinforces the common proverb: “It’s not only what you know, but who you know that counts.” I agree with the messages from the video. Having essential soft skills are crucial for getting hired, working efficiently and climbing up the ladder.

It is quite obvious that during interviews, employers want to see you beyond what’s written on your resume. Your resume will tell about your experiences but it only shows your ability to write. It doesn’t reflect your personality and your ability to express yourself verbally. In many cases, employers will ask questions that may seem random but are actually not. In behavioral interviews, employers get to see how you solve complex problems and your thought process. No matter how good one’s technical skills are, if he or she cannot express it, then those skills would not be as helpful when seeking a job.

From my work in organizations of different sizes: startups to FORTUNE 500, it is evident that communication is important. In small companies, one tends to interact with a lot of external customers and vendors. In large companies, one will end up working with plenty of internal customers and vendors. Groups and teams are like systems. They generally have inputs that are dependent on the output from other groups and they group (system) would typically have an output in which other groups are dependent on. In addition, many large companies have leverage Web 2.0 and social networking technologies to encourage collaboration. For example, large enterprises have similar processes within certain groups. People who don’t normally work together can do so through a corporate social network, such that work can be shared and does not need to be repeated. Hence, to be efficient, one must collaborate. If one can solve the problem more efficiently by consulting another person or having another person ask another person, then that can be a more feasible way to address these complex problems. Efficiency is a key performance measure in a number of organizations – hence it is important to know how to communicate to be effective.

Promotions typically require the candidate to be able to extend his or her influence beyond his or her own work and into the tasks of others. Generally, one enters a company directly after college at an entry-level stage, where he or she is responsible for doing the grunt work of problem solving. As stated above, if he or she does not know how to solve the problem, then he or she must find some way to take care of it. Then, there comes an independence stage, where an independent worker has the ability to influence others through mentorship or sharing of experiences. One needs good communication skills to be an independent worker and to start influencing others. As one move up the career ladder, one’s job shifts from solving detailed problems to more leading and guiding others how to solve those problems. At that point, it is effective to communicate in a way that people are willing to work to their fullest efficiency. So to be successful at leading and managing people, one would need solid communication abilities.

Currently, I am taking a course offered by the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, focused on advanced technical writing and oral presentations. One of the key objectives of this class is to better prepare engineering students in the working world. In the workplace, it is important to present effectively. At meetings for example, there are opportunities to present your work or proposal to senior managers and executives. Successfully delivering the presentation will provide you with added visibility within your organization. Likewise, if things don’t turn out too well, your image may be impacted adversely as well. Therefore, before entering the world of work, it is important to enter with a solid background in delivering effective presentations and communicating effectively.

In reviewing the course syllabus, the projects and activities are all very useful in real life. So far, we have completed an elevator speech and begun on our journals and group project. Not only will the elevator speech will come in handy inside an elevator at the high rise office building, but . Journaling allows for ideas to sprout. Additional projects planned for the quarter include: portfolio, oral proposal, written proposal, team work status reports, posters and final presentations.

Often, presentation abilities improve with practice. Not only will this class will provide additional opportunities to sharpen presentation skills, but there will be more chances to work collaboratively in team-based environments through group work and delve deeper into technical writing projects, whether they are documents or presentations. Overall, this course will cover important subjects that will enable one to succeed in the workplace from the initial interview to the everyday work and beyond.

Learn How to Add Your Facebook Friends on Linkedin

Do you have more friends on Facebook than connections on Linkedin? Have you ever thought about how to transfer your Facebook friends onto Linkedin? Here is how to do it. It is a simple 2 step process.

1. Create a Yahoo! account if you haven’t already. In Yahoo! Mail, you can go to Contacts and select “Import your Contacts from other accounts to Yahoo!” From that page, you can choose to import your Facebook contacts to your Yahoo! account.

2. On Linkedin, you can log in to your Yahoo! account and import your contacts onto Linkedin.

Voila! Now, you can send invites and connect with your most, if not all of your Facebook friends on Linkedin! Good luck and have fun networking!

Summer is finally here!

Summer is finally here. Hope things are going well. Sorry for another brief hiatus in blog posting. Recently, I have begun my internship and have successful passed the exam for the Washington Real Estate Broker licensure. I will be licensed and ready to go once I handle all the paperwork with the brokerage firm and the State of Washington.

Lately, I have also looked into features of Linkedin that I have not utilized before. For example, Recommendations is a great feature, where you can ask people in your network to endorse your work. It basically serves as a online portfolio for your recommendation letters and testimonials. Earlier this year, I blogged about the importance of having a professional portfolio in the story “Jump Start your Future with a Career Portfolio“. So what you can do right now is to ask your network (of course, only those you have worked with professionally or academically) to endorse you through the Recommendations feature of Linkedin. To add to that, I was just reading a highly ranked blog post by Guy Kawasaki that discusses the Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn. Although, the post is over three years old, it still retains the important elements of why you should use Linkedin. I would highly recommend checking that out.

Overall, I’ve been slowly increasing my number of connections. This evening, I finally reached 141 connections, which is quite a substantial improvement from last time. My goal is to reach 500+ connections (by that time, Linkedin will simply display that you have 500+ connections). I don’t yet have a time frame for that goal to happen, but I am hoping it can be achievable by the summer of 2011.

On a side note, did anyone get a chance to see the beautiful fireworks on the night of July 4th? I’ll be posting some up shortly.

Image source: WA State Licensing: Real estate – http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/realestate/ (July 9, 2010).

STREAM Tools for Scientists and Engineers

Come join UW IEEE and Prof. Alexander Mamishev, Associate Professor and Director of Sensors, Energy, and Automation Laboratory (SEAL) in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering share with us about STREAM
Tools: a Comprehensive System For Collaborative Writing. STREAM Tools is a unique, integrative, team-centered approach to writing and formatting technical documents.

Date: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: EEB 303

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Space is limited; please RSVP at http://bit.ly/aGeC4T. Thanks.


The presentation is aimed at students and professionals in science and engineering disciplines to discuss about STREAM Tools, a system developed by Profs. Alexander Mamishev and Sean Williams and presented in the book “Technical Writing for Teams: The STREAM Tools Handbook.”

STREAM Tools is a system of best practices to improve the efficiency of collaborative writing requiring teams to learn new or taxing software. STREAM Tools helps collaborative authors unlock their fullest potential, working both independently and as a team, to create the highest quality documents in the shortest time possible by advocating the use of a single software package. The use of a single software package, implemented uniformly by the team members, avoids the difficulties that result from endless discussion of compatibility issues: teams spend their time generating new text and innovating, not worrying about small details.

The presentation outlines STREAM Tools, including the key areas of document generation, writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, and file management. The presentation outlines how STREAM Tools overcomes
common challenges that writers face, and addresses such areas as team dynamics, separation of duties, and workflow. The presentation also presents a business case for STREAM Tools, showing the financial impact organizations realize as teams produce better documents faster.

Technical professionals who produce complex documents as part of their jobs (especially those who work and write in teams) will find STREAM Tools approachable, easy to learn, efficient, and most importantly, simple to share with their colleagues. Both employers and employees will find this information useful to maintain profitable relationships with their collaborators and create effective writing teams.

Speaker bio:

Alexander V. Mamishev graduated with Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 1999 and a minor in Technology Commercialization and Management from Harvard Business School and MIT
Sloan School of Management. He is an Associate Professor and Director of Sensors, Energy, and Automation Laboratory (SEAL) in the Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle. Prof.
Mamishev is an author of more than 100 peer-reviewed technical publications and patents. His research interests include sensor design, robotics, and energy technology applications. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the IEEE Outstanding Branch Advisor Award, and the UW EE Outstanding Research Advisor Award.

Book co-author bio:

Sean D. Williams, PhD, Professor of Professional Communication at Clemson University, is the alumni of the University of Washington Technical Communication program. He has published or presented nearly
100 papers on information architecture, industry/academy relationships, visual communication, and virtual collaboration, and most recently 3-D virtual worlds. In addition to his research, Sean has consulted extensively in industry, helping companies develop and implement communication training programs, training materials, and collaboration systems.

100 LinkedIn Connections!

Today, I just checked my LinkedIn profile and realized that I have 100 connections! Even though, I keep in touch with most of these people outside of LinkedIn too, being connected will give you additional exposure to people you may not see or talk to as often as you want to.

On a side note, I have been rediscovering the WordArt feature in Microsoft Word. I haven’t used it in a while and I noticed that there are many cool things that can be done with it. The above image was created using WordArt. It seems to look cooler than the original WordArt from 10 years ago.

On another related note, Microsoft representatives will be coming to the University of Washington this Thursday to present Office 2010. Might be something worth checking out. Go here for more information.

Another cool event coming up is a STREAM Tools presentation to be held at the University of Washington next Thursday in the afternoon. Check out STREAM Tools for more information.

Have a great rest of your week and good luck with your endeavors!

Free Google Voice for Students!

Have you been hearing about Google Voice? It is an innovative application by Google that lets you have send text messages for free, and leave voice mails through email. It will also give your very own online telephone number. So why wait? Click on the link at the bottom of this post, enter your .edu email address and you should receive your very own invitation to Google Voice. Have fun!

If you have a .edu email address, go to this website to join now: