Congratulations Robert!



Congratulations on completing your Six Sigma Green Belt Robert! We are so proud of your huge accomplishment!



For more information about the Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, click the link below:


We Finished Exportech

We finished Exportech

Mariah, Ernie and Robert with their certificates.

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Mind Mapping and Root Cause

This week’s post will primarily be about Mind Mapping and Root Cause. Mind Mapping is a diagram used for brainstorming. Originally developed by Tony Buzan, these mind webs are commonly used when:

a) you want to learn something at a faster pace,

b) developing new ideas,

c) collaborating with a group, and

d) trying to better understand a complicated system or structure.

Mind Maps are perfect for projects where there are hundreds of factors to keep track of because it allows you to simplify and summarize ideas in an organized and visual way. To assist you in keeping thoughts orderly, Tony Buzan created some helpful guidelines:

  • Starting at the center, use an image of the topic you will be outlining.
  • Whenever applicable, use images, symbols, and codes to keep things visually appealing and less “wordy”.
  • Highlight your keywords by using upper or lower case so they are easily identifiable.
  • Try to have each word alone on its own line.
  • Each line should be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic, and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the center.
  • Use multiple colors throughout the mind map, for visual stimulation and also to encode or group.
  • Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
  • Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.

Occasionally, Mind Maps are successfully used when a company is trying to identify a problem. Once the overall problem is identified, Root Cause analysis is used to help further recognize not only what the issue is, what happened, why it happened, and what to do to prevent it from happening again.

For Probes Unlimited, Inc. these methods will be very valuable. Mind Mapping is a tool that can be used on all levels of PUI from designing a website, creating a new product, or to help improve efficiency on the production floor. Root Cause analysis is most helpful when problems/processes involve human factors and/or interactions. Since PUI is a manufacturing facility with several production cells, human involvement is frequent. No facility is perfect, but since the market continues to dictate price, organizations like us need to focus their resources to meet these needs. This is an effective, relatively quick and inexpensive tool that can greatly increase our productivity and help us keep our cost low.

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A3 Thinking

Robert Aurelia, our purchasing aficionado at Probes Unlimited Inc, is currently attending a series of workshops to complete his Lean Level One Certification. The certification means that he will be versed in several technical and social tools that will aid PUI in our continuous lean journey for maintainable growth and productivity.

Over the course of these several weeks, Robert has reflected on some of the valuable and feasible changes that will be useful for PUI. Each week we will be looking at a new tool that Robert believes to be relatable to PUI. This week we will be talking about A3 Thinking. A3 Thinking is a method used to support businesses with problem-solving, control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It’s based on W. Edwards Deming’s method of P-D-C-A, (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and is also known as the Deming Cycle.

To prove the authenticity of the lesson, the class was separated in groups of 5, where they had to make airplanes out of LEGO bricks. The cell was set out of order on purpose and the teams were told to build in batches of 5. The only rule was that only one process would be built at a time. In other words, each person had to wait until the process before them had completed all 5 parts. They had 6 minutes to build as many as possible. Not surprisingly, this system was not successful. There were many parts partially built at all stages and their areas were cluttered and disorganized. After their unsuccessful bout, they began to discuss the methodologies behind A3 Thinking. Then they were asked to use their new principles to complete the exact same task. For this they used an A3 sheet. Essentially, a sheet of paper with multiple steps that identifies what the problems were. For round 2, they were encouraged to make adjustments. For this round they changed the order of operations, and converted to “one piece flow”. Amazingly, the results were remarkable. Robert commented that “the results were pretty impressive.  The first go around I believe our group had five finished planes and 15 in work in progress.  After another round of our A3 thinking, we completed 40 parts with only 4 parts in “WIP” in the same amount of time. “

All in all, he is a believer.

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Meet the Newest Probes Unlimited, Inc. Intern

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Our new intern, Sajid Muntasir Subhani (Saj), is in his third out of a five year Industrial and Systems Master of Engineering program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Since starting in June, he has been working closely with Mike Berry – Senior Operations Team Leader and Bill DeLany – Advanced Lean Manufacturing Manager of the production floor. He has jumped right into the manufacturing cells and made efficiency improvements on several areas of the production line.

Using a combination of the Probes Unlimited, Inc. (PUI) team’s experience with his academic applications, they have been diligent in collecting data on the production cell workflows. From this data analysis, Saj recognized a key factor in over-processing — the time study worksheets. The employees use these worksheets to help them stay on schedule by documenting the amount of time it takes to complete each step. Saj observed that while the time study worksheets have their advantages, they were very time-consuming themselves. So he has helped simplify the worksheets resulting in less time spent on non value-added processes, which has not only improved efficiency, but made it easier to more accurately track the time it takes to build each part. After developing these more streamlined work tracking tools, Saj admits that the most important part of the process improvement is for the production team to sustain the improved workflows over time.

Another project Saj has been working on is implementing 5S – which is a Japanese method for eliminating waste in the workplace. Saj noticed that there was an excessive volume of equipment in the production cells. Although we already use shadow boards, over time, especially with the addition of new cells, our equipment distribution has proven ineffective.  After revamping the shadow boards, we ran into yet another challenge. As Saj finished hanging the production boards, workers began to realize that they were too high for them to reach. Saj confessed that his 6-foot height didn’t even occur to him as he was building the new boards and hanging them up.

Fortunately, it was minor issue with a quick fix. When asked what practical learnings he has taken away about manufacturing so far, he emphasized that communication is key. He remarked that in order to do the best job, it is imperative that employees work together as a team. He said that in the beginning, asking questions and really getting a feel for the company culture was essential. From his observations he was able to make suggestions and work collaboratively with cell leaders to make sure that his ideas were realistic to their everyday work. So far, his impact with Probes Unlimited, Inc. has proven that college internships and practical work experience are key elements of the learning experience for all involved.

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