Tuesday, March 31, 2009

trash talk

How much trash do we generate?

I discovered a man took on the task of measuring how much he threw away to better make better purchase and life decisions that would allow him to waste less. He saved every piece of garbage for a year. In his basement. Everything. He did have rules of course; view them and meet the guy here.

I started to follow his daily journal last summer and it got me thinking about garbage. Where does it go? When have we thrown away too much?

Do you remember the last time you drove past a landfill? I could do without the wafting smells that greet my nose long before the site is in view. Do you know where your trash goes?

Let’s take a look shall we?

I did some searches online for landfills and used the aerial feature on Mapquest to get a bird’s eye view of their locations and operations. In Chesapeak, Virginia, I found this:

A relatively compact operation, though very close to a neighborhood with one of those ‘water view’ ponds that I’m sure no parent let’s their kids swim in. It’s also located next to a pretty major river. In western Washington I found the following. I don’t know if it’s only used for the coastal towns or if Seattle sends trucks their way.

To pick on the state of Michigan, I found that it receives trash from neighboring states as well as Canada. A plan to phase out the import of Canadian garbage was created in 2006 when in 2005 it was brought to the greater public attention that Canadians dumped 19% of Michigan’s total trash volume, or 11.9 million cubic yards annually. We can’t really isolate Canada though because many states outsource their garbage dumping. That a state can outsource the land-filling of their trash is amazing to me though in a way is the same decision you and I make every time we take our bag of garbage to the curb each week.

Back to Dave and processing my garbage more effectively. In the last 8 years I have saved at least one bag per week from going to the landfill by recycling paper, glass, plastics, and metals. This year inspired by 365daysoftrash.blogspot.com, I started composting. This has reduced my weekly curbside deposits in half.

The compost becomes rich soil that is returned to your garden and lawns, right? Now not all our household garbage is good for soil, but just for kicks, let’s consider how much volume we’re really talking about if the Canadian trash coming to Michigan was mulch.

Using a material calculator I found on-line, 11.9 million cubic yards IF it were mulch metered out two inches thick, would cover 1,927,800,000 square feet of land (based on usage of one cubic yard covering 162 ft^2 per upstatemulch.com). If you wondered how many subdivisions that might service, I guesstimate 481,950,000 typical high-end neighborhood houses .

Per the national census data, there are only slightly more than sixteen million households in the Great Lake states combined. Sure they could export to California, but that would only add twelve million more households and surely all of those don’t have the mulch requirements previously stated. Certainly California has enough mulch of it's own.

The importing and exporting of trash is not likely to go away as the economics of such business is just too good though I’m happy to contribute less to this cause.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

material recycle and reuse

I think a lot about maximizing material use, recycling, and reuse. Call me my grandmother's child, but as a product of the depression, she knew how to reuse! Cleaned plastic jelly single use packets held beads recovered from old dresses and hand bags. Material once tattered as a skirt became fodder for a new purse or scarf. It was always fun in our household.

I became a fan of Trader Joe's last year living in places where I could easily shop there and I purchased their reusable shopping bags. These bags have finally caught on in Michigan where every store now sells their own version, granted none as nice as TJ's.

I do a lot of sewing projects and consequently, I have fabric remnants from those projects in addition to taking spare fabric when offered. I decided that more people should enjoy their shopping experience with a beautiful custom, possibly shabby-chic bag made from my recycled fabrics.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

when bad things happen to good people

When I posted last week about risk assessment, it reminded me how often in spite of our good intentions, bad things still happen; companies that don't plan ahead not withstanding.

Permanent corrective action is the goal of problem solving however, it’s not always found on the path of least resistance. Too often a cause is diagnosed early and the ‘problem solving’ ends only for the issue to rear its ugly head down the road in the SAME product or in a similar product line. Thorough understanding and definition of the problem, the *multiple* causes, and exploration of solutions is critical in the development of long term corrective actions that will provide your customers with the highest quality products & services.

Whether or not an ‘8D’ is required by the customer, this tool provides the basics of issue identification, isolation, short and long term solutions, as well tying actions to existing company procedures.

It's a great tool to lead you through the basics of problem solving: define the problem, find out what you don't know, determine the root cause, analyze risk on actions to prevent the root cause, then after implementing, fix areas with risk for similar failure. Focus on the complexity of issue identification and resolution are the basics of the 8D method. Ideally you will pull in other tools such as the Ishikawa Diagram, 5-Why, and Kempner Tregoe tools simultaneously to enable your colleagues to identify multiple root causes and thus close the loop on all issues in question.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Risk assessment and prevention

Murphy’s Law applies to most unless you plan to prevent failure by considering solutions before you encounter it. Making snaps more flexible, creating a one way only assembly aid before the molding tool is built, or implementing a poke yoke to ensure screw torque are all examples of preventative actions spawned by the thoughtful organized disciplined brainstorming of product risk assessment and prevention. In some industries, this is also known as advanced product quality planning, or: APQP.

Do you experience the same issues every time you launch a new product? Are 8D's and fire fighting a part of your daily work?

The use of such tools as a process flow, failure mode and effects analysis, a control Ppan, and useful operator instructions will statistically ensure a provision of the highest quality for product s and services. Think of it as problem solving before the problems arise. Think of it as saving money by avoiding the high cost of customer issues, tool changes, and revalidation costs t o name a few.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Implementing a quality system that works

ISO is a three letter word. Most think of thick quality manuals and multiple forms one has to fill out to change their desk location. I’ve found it doesn’t really have to be this way. Did you know there are really only six required procedures for ISO9001?

Seriously, only Document Control, Record Control, Control of Nonconforming Product, Corrective Action, Preventive Action, and Internal Audits are necessary to be controlled documented procedures. An unread manual is useless. A useless manual is likely one that’s hard to read. Simply document briefly with easy to read language these six procedures along with a few more of my favorites relative to communication, training, product history files, sanitation (clean room), and product introduction to manufacturing, to create an effective Quality Management System.

In addition to this concise language you’ll be using, also clearly identify all documentation and make it easy to find.

Sure there are lots of topics in 9001 and 13485 that a company should take heed and follow the advice to have procedures – but the point is, it doesn’t have to be controlled except for those ‘golden 6’ and the few others you deem critical. Less control means less paperwork which means happier colleagues which equals more use of the system thereby encouraging compliance and few to no quality issues.

If the system you currently use is hard to use and infrequently used, it’s not providing value to your company and may eventually (if not right this moment) cause you to be non-compliant with quality issues on your hands. So, forget the lawyer speak and get to the point to keep procedures brief, simple, easy to follow, and with some flexibility for the user to be creative in product development, leadership, and in solving day to day problems.

I once witnessed one company who eliminated text in their procedure writing by using a flow chart. Everyone likes pictures, right? ISO was created to help not hinder a company from operating with excellence and consistency.