Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nice facial hair infographic

From a Reddit user's analysis of this study by Dwight Robinson, hat tip to Vox. Mostly, thank you internet.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cruise ship lean

 Changeover times a zillion: a 6,000 passenger cruise ship comes into port for a same-day turnaround. A great article about the logistics of changeover for the biggest cruise ships in the world. Some excerpts about eliminating motion, transport and waiting waste:
To prevent long immigration control lines from forming, departures are staggered over a few hours. Passengers begin to leave their cabins about 7 a.m. and must be off the ship by 10:30 a.m. The main bottleneck is juggling the flow of bags. Passengers are handed color-coded tags for their luggage, which is collected the night before the ship reaches the port.
The ship recently received four out of five stars on for the whole trip; the embarkation process was rated five out of five by most reviewers

They also figured out a way to clean rooms faster by borrowing from techniques used in auto manufacturing. The company conducted time and motion studies on their workers to identify where they could be more efficient.

On turnaround day, they have a precise list of tasks to perform. They first take out the dirty linen and towels and line them up in the hallways in green and red bags. The efficiency specialists decided that bedsheets and towels should be separated before they are sent to the laundry room.
Attendants work alone, except when they fit new sheets to the beds, when they pair up. That task should take three to five minutes at most, said Edna Pli, the head housekeeper. Thanks to this precise flow, 189 housekeepers can get more than 2,700 rooms ready by noon.
Hat tip to my friend Bill W who is engineering a sculpture for the sister ship. It's similar to this one his company Hypersonic did in Massachussets.

Friday, April 24, 2015

When I introduce a new product how much should I make? Here's an idea: zero.

You've got a brand new product. You've never sold it before. In fact, no one has ever really sold anything quite like it. Also, it's not really one new product. It has many variations—color, size and so on—so it's more like dozens of new products.

Here's your problem. How many of each kind should you make?

It's a classic manufacturing dilemma. The typical approach is to guess. No one calls it guessing of course. You dress up the process to make it seem like you're not guessing. You have math and formulas. You have spreadsheets. You title the spreadsheets "forecasts" which is another word for "guesses" but sounds way more scientific. And you are wrong. Always. You make too many of some versions, too few of others.

Another approach is to not make any—at first. You wait until one is ordered, then build it to order. Sure, you have to have all the components on hand so those aren't built to order, but most of the components are probably shared between the different variations so it's not that big of a deal. The big benefit is that you never have the wrong level of finished goods inventory. It's always zero. The only products that exist are the ones that are already paid for.

Apple introduces their watch this week. Build-to-order is the approach that some believe they are taking. There are demo versions of watches out there but, when you buy one, the order goes to China and someone in a pink dust suit starts making your watch. 

Will Apple keep doing this forever? I don't think so. For one, FedExing a single watch at a time out of China is expensive. Another reason is that build-to-order creates a long lead time for the customer—days, if not a week or more (though Apple doesn't seem to care much about long lead times when they introduce products, to some extent it appears to be their strategy). If Apple does build to order they're probably doing it to learn about the demand. Once they see which versions sell in what quantities they can begin to build inventory ahead of time.