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Articles by David Amos
Following Eddie2nd Jun 2003
Over the years manufacturing has treated storage and distribution as a Cinderella. Late and incomplete deliveries and damage in transit have been all too regular occurrences.   More...

Surprise, Surprise! 1st Jun 2003
There are few situations more frustrating than discovering that results you expected to be good are an unpleasant surprise. Itís too late now to go back and do it differently. Weíve all been there, but recently a fabricator asked me if there was a way to avoid surprises. “Our computer system tells me by job how much profit I should make,” he said, “but month after month we fail to hit the target.”   More...

The Generation Game1st May 2003
The PVC window industry has been operating at full bore for some 20 years and many senior people are beginning to consider the issue of succession. It's a make or break issue that separates one-generation businesses from those that put down roots to create a second and third generation. Sadly, because they don't take it seriously enough - or start soon enough, most never make it to second base.   More...

Squeezing the last drop5th Mar 2003
The head of a successful window company, concerned that the rate of productivity improvement in his factory had slowed, asked me how to squeeze the last drop of efficiency out of his factory.   More...

Seven secrets of effective distribution4th Feb 2003
One of my Christmas gifts was a set of videos of old black and white Ealing films from the 1950's. One of the things that struck me about the street scenes in the films was the absence of lorries. My scant memories of those days were that much of the goods we bought, such as bread, milk and vegetables, were produced locally. Things are now very different; almost everything we buy is shipped by road and distributed to factories and stores seven days a week. This reliance upon road transport has spawned a whole new industry, Logistics.   More...

High quality and low cost7th Jan 2003
During a discussion with a manufacturer he asked:   More...

Seven secrets of reducing costs5th Jan 2003
“I don't know how they do it, they must be losing money,” the Managing Director said, complaining to me about a competitor who was undercutting him. He wasn't the first fabricator to tell me that, and I expect he won't be the last.   More...

Make or buy-in2nd Dec 2002
Make or buy-in is a continuing issue with fabricators as pressures on cost and delivery increase. Last week a long established fabricator asked:   More...

Seven secrets of managing projects4th Nov 2002
As a youngster the annual trip to the seaside was a big event not least of all to my father who would spend hours preparing. He would work out how much petrol was needed, carefully budget for food and treats, check over the van and service it. Nothing would be worse than breaking down and not getting to or from our destination or blowing the budget.   More...

The problem with absenteeism2nd Nov 2002
I have been asked lots of times about how to tackle absenteeism among employees. It is a question that I have been dodging in these pieces, but one I now feel I can dodge no longer. Here's a typical question:   More...

The machinery minefield30th Sep 2002
Recently a fabricator asked me about machinery. He said: “I've just spent a packet buying a successful window company making about 300 frames a week. I know weíll need to upgrade our machinery soon, but it seems to me that buying machinery is a minefield. The machines always look good at exhibitions, and the advertisements tell a good story, but I hear other stories about fabricators who get it badly wrong. I canít afford to make a mistake, so what should I do to make sure I buy what is right for the company?”   More...

Getting more for less2nd Sep 2002
Many of the questions I'm asked are about improving factory output. This recent question is typical: “I desperately need to improve output from the factory, how do I set about it?”   More...

Seven secrets of continuous improvement1st Sep 2002
A friend recently had heart surgery. His family were concerned but they were encouraged by the fact that many thousands of people in this country undergo such surgery and are the better for it. Yet it seems just a few years ago that Christian Barnard astonished the world with the first heart transplant. Over the years techniques have improved little by little so that today transplants are an everyday event.   More...

Waste not, want not1st Aug 2002
In the last few days a fabricator asked me: “What's the right level of profile waste for a fabricator of my size, and what do I have to do to reduce it?”   More...

Seven secrets to reducing lead times4th Jul 2002
I vividly remember my father buying our first television set. He went to the local electrical shop, placed his order, which went onto the waiting list and paid a deposit. Some weeks later (it seemed an eternity to us kids) it arrived. Last month he bought another. This time he went to the store and it was delivered next day. All those years ago he was grateful to get the set within three months, today immediate delivery is expected and in most cases is the norm.   More...

Emergency First Aid For Quality3rd Jul 2002
Quality is an ever-increasing concern for fabricators, as this typical question highlights: “David, we simply cannot improve our quality. Some small thing always seems to let us down. One of our good customers who has been with us for some time is unhappy and has given us one last chance to get things right. How can you help?”   More...

Seven Secrets of quality20th May 2002
A few weeks ago my wife took a garment back to the shop she bought it from because she wasn't happy with the finish. So what's unusual about that? Spot on, there is nothing unusual about it now because our expectation of what represents good quality has soared in the last ten years.   More...

The bones of a good Bonus Scheme7th May 2002
Incentive or bonus schemes are always an issue with fabricators. Typical questions I 'm asked are:   More...

Are you on the right road?4th May 2002
Some ambitious window companies are beginning to recognise that there are two roads to success: a fast track and a slow track. And taking the slow one can be fatal.   More...

Next generation initiative for next generation fabricators21st Mar 2002
Of all the issues facing fabricators, manufacturing is key. If you can't get your production right everything else is bound to suffer. Until recently anyone could claim to know what constituted good performance in fabrication. With little evidence to back up the statistics, investment decisions, fabrication advice and even factory layouts were proposed on the flimsiest basis. Decisions made in this way are not without damaging consequences.   More...

Seven secrets of TPM will keep your machinery working14th Mar 2002
The safety and reliability of Britain's railways was so poor last year that the network practically shut down. Investigation revealed a history of delays and skimping on maintenance. The cost to the nation can hardly be exaggerated.   More...

The Seven Secrets of Partnership8th Jan 2002
The days of power-based bargaining between customers and suppliers and relationships involving in-built suspicion and conflict are not yet over but they are drawing to a close. Products and services are still bought and sold on an armís length basis, but businesses are under pressure to find new ways of improving effectiveness.   More...

Constructing the Lean Machine12th Dec 2001
I have a great admiration for the late John Cooperís engineering and development ability. Father and son Charles and John Cooper are credited with changing the face of Formula one car design with their switch to rear engined cars in the late 1950ís. They established themselves with as race-car manufacturers with formula three cars with rear mounted motorcycle engines, the famous Cooper Nortonís and Cooper JAPís.. It was in one of these race-cars that started Stirling Moss on his career. It was only as the Coopers constructed formula one cars to the rear engined principle that the inherent advantages of lower weight, smaller frontal area and more responsive handling became apparent. Jack Brabham took consecutive world titles in 1959 and 1960. After these successes every team had to accept the inevitable and copy the Cooper formula.

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Driving the Lean Machine10th Jan 2001
A year ago I visited the Morgan Motor Company at Malvern to see the classic Morgan cars being built. Few cars excite so much attention and command so much loyalty among drivers as the Morgan. A few years ago John Harvey Jones visited Morgan for his famous TV programme Trouble-shooter. John Harvey Jones said at the time ĎComplacency is a big problem. From their point of view they are doing so well at the moment that they can see no reason for change and none of them are really aware of the dangers they face. Iím rather doubtful about my ability to convince them that the dangers are real and the need for change is urgentí. This caused a storm of protest from Morgan owners at the time. When I visited Morgan I noted that they really had made many changes to their production methods and taken note of some of the suggestions from John Harvey Jones. All this without loosing the appeal of the Morgan Motor Car. Additionally, The Morgan Motor Company is still fiercely independent and they make profits and seem to have fun.   More...

Revisions to ISO 90008th Jan 2001
Several of the key standards within the existing (1994) version of the ISO 9000 family of Quality Management and Quality Assurance standards have been revised. The new standard is ISO 9000:2000.

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Grey Matter Before Greenbacks6th Jan 2001
One thing is certain in the window industry in 2001; the market will get tougher. The continuation of the trend of lower prices and margins will demand higher levels of efficiency to be successful. The good news, however, is that whilst mature markets are very difficult they can be profitable provided companies change themselves and their approach sufficiently to benefit.

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Rome wasn't built in a day5th Jan 2001
I have never been to Rome to see some of the remains still there from the time of the great Roman Empire over 2000 years ago. I have however been to Bath and wondered at the remains there. The Romans knew a thing or two about project management. Some of the rules they laid down are still good today. Unfortunately, many people in the year 2001 do not apply the fundamental rules of project management for their businesses. Just imagine Nero saying to his army chief ' Pop off, Lurkious and conquer those Gauls and at the same time design and build Bath for me. Yes I know you are a fighter, but you can find a few minutes to design and build a city to last over 3000 years'. It didn't happen, we know he used people skilled in the various disciplines dedicating themselves to detail planning and meticulous management to achieve the objective on time. After all how long can an Emperor wait for a hot bath?

Most projects in manufacturing involve effecting change through a project whilst the day to day has to go on seamlessly. Customers still need supplying, quality maintaining, employees managing and profits maintaining. Rarely can a project be managed by the day to day team. What is a project? Moving factory, buying and installing a new machine, raising output, changing systems suppliers and introducing a new model are all examples of projects. Projects of any size need to be carefully planned and managed in order to ensure that the task is completed to the specified timetable, within budget, safely, within legislative requirements and good practice is adhered to. A few do's and don'ts:

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Changing Vrooms4th Jan 2001
Change is nothing new; it just gets faster all the time. Ask any Formula One team owner and driver. In our industry, technology, globalisation, competitive pressures and customer expectations are all accelerating the pace of change. Just imagine a F1 team today trying to win with a five-year-old engine; they would be so uncompetitive that they wouldn't even get to the start line. Today successful companies are those in which change is a continuous process, a way of life, part of the culture, embedded in the values. Successful companies create a continuum of change, to ensure that performance improvement becomes a sustained reality rather than an elusive goal. Successful companies learn how to:

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To the Brink and Back3rd Jan 2001
A Company that has been family owned for two generations has had a history of performing OK and no better. This was despite taking on the "can't fail" opportunities that were offered - many of which did fail, with no real value being added to business; and usually at a cost.

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The Lean Machine2nd Jan 2001
Lotus founder, the late Colin Chapman, has many times been dubbed a genius. Chapman was an enthusiastic builder of his own cars in the early 1950's and founded the Lotus engineering company in 1952. He started to build his own lightweight sports cars before designing a string of brilliant single seaters culminating in seven Formula One Constructors awards. At all levels from club racing to Formula One the practice has been to reduce specifications down to the bare minimum until it broke in operation (usually, and hopefully, on a test bed) requiring a slight increase in specification. Those of us who have been involved in racing remember drilling a hole here and using a lightweight material there. Chapman was a genius he had the expertise to create leaner machines than his competitors and was consequently a winner.

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He who benchmarks wins1st Jan 2001
No, its nothing to do with the Iranian Embassy attack or other exploits of the SAS. But it could be. Knowing in fine detail what the other side is doing and how to defeat them is what gives the SAS the edge over most they come up against. They are the elite because they carefully benchmark themselves against their opposition before drawing up their plan of attack.

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