Editorial


 

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Gemba + Grimm = Insider Angles on 3D Metal Printing

By: Brad Kuvin

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
 

Gemba walks are a major component of the Toyota lean principles. The concept denotes managers moving out of the office and on to the front lines of manufacturing—the production floor, where, according to the rough definition of the Japanese term “gemba,” real value is created. During these gemba walks, a lot can be learned—managers can identify wasteful activities, observe machinery and equipment conditions, and ask questions. The goal is to collect data—production data, quality data, etc.—and then process that data to drive continuous-improvement efforts.

Here at 3D Metal Printing, I’m proud to announce that we have found our very own gemba walker—industry insider Todd Grimm. His new column, Grimm’s 3D Metal Printing Tales, debuts in this issue. For his column, Grimm will “walk around” additive-manufacturing (AM) service bureaus and interview those on the front lines of the metal-AM movement. With these interviews, Grimm promises to present a balanced, unbiased view (“no Grimm’s fairy tales,” he promises) of metal additive manufacturing.

“The messages to be conveyed,” Grimm proposes, “are those that users feel are important to share and that are discovered through informal conversations. There are no agendas, and there are no pre-prepared interview questions.”

That’s exactly the plan for gemba walks—no scripts nor preconceived notions. These are opportunities to gather data from every source possible, and identify areas ripe for improvement from every corner and crevice of the factory floor.

Grimm is the founder and president of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Inc., a consulting and communications company dedicated to additive manufacturing, and a 26-yr. veteran of the AM industry. And, he knows that this industry relies as much on the people working in it as it does on the equipment and technology. As a respected consultant, author, writer, speaker and researcher in the field, he’ll be able to conduct incredibly meaningful conversations with the people leading the push to move metal AM into production manufacturing. We’re thrilled to have him on board.

In his inaugural column, Grimm talks with Ashley Nichols, general manager of 3D Material Technologies, a metal-AM service provider in Deland, FL. Here are a few insightful viewpoints that Nichols shared with Grimm:

  • Nichols’ advice is to look to metal AM when settling for status quo because there are no better options, or when open to change that results in big gains. “If you are happy with what you are getting,” he explains, “stick with it. But if there is a need to improve, metal AM may be a great alternative.”
  • “Without design modifications to improve performance, reduce cost and decrease time, the value of metal AM is severely undermined,” he says.
  • Low-volume production often is cited as a critical factor for success, but Nichols sees this pillar differently. He believes that the success factor is high-mix, mid-volume production, where metal AM opens the door to timely, affordable production of multiple designs.

 


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