Author Archives: Mike Shipulski

About Mike Shipulski

Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

The Power of Stopping

The Power of Stopping

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If when you write your monthly report no one responds with a question of clarification or constructive comment, this may be a sign your organization places little value on your report and the work it stands for.

If someone sends a thank you email and do not mention something specific in your report, this masked disinterest is a half-step above non-interest and is likely also a sign your organization places little value on your report and the work it stands for.

If you want to know for sure what people think of your work, stop writing your report. If no one complains, your work is not valuable to the company. If one person complains, it’s likely still not valuable. And if that single complaint comes from your boss, your report/work is likely not broadly valuable, but you’ll have to keep writing the report.

But don’t blame the organization because they don’t value your work. Instead, ask yourself how your work must change so it’s broadly valuable. And if you can’t figure a way to make your work valuable, stop the work so you can start work that is.

If when you receive someone else’s monthly report and you don’t reply with a question of clarification or constructive comment, it’s because you don’t think their work is all that important. And if this is the case, tell them you want to stop receiving their report and ask them to stop sending them to you.

Hopefully, this will start a discussion about why you want to stop hearing about their work which, hopefully, will lead to a discussion about how their work could be modified to make it more interesting and important.

This dialog will go one of two ways – they will get angry and take you off the distribution list or they will think about your feedback and try to make their work more interesting and important.

In the first case, you’ll receive one fewer report and in the other, there’s a chance their work will blossom into something magical. Either way, it’s a win.

While reports aren’t the work, they do stand for the work. And while reports are sometimes considered overhead, they do perform an inform function – to inform the company of the work that’s being worked. If the work is amazing, the reports will be amazing and you’ll get feedback that’s amazing. And if the work is spectacular, the reports will be spectacular and you’ll get feedback that matches.

But this post isn’t about work or reports, it’s about the power of stopping. When something stops, the stopping is undeniable and it forces a discussion about why the stopping started. With stopping, there can be no illusion that progress is being made because stopping is binary – it’s either stopped or it isn’t. And when everyone knows progress is stopped, everyone also knows the situation is about to get some much-needed attention from above, wanted or not.

Stopping makes a statement. Stopping gets attention. Stopping is serious business.

And here’s a little-known fact: Starting starts with stopping.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products

Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

With inflation on the rise and sales on the decline, the time to reduce costs is now.

But before you can design out the cost you’ve got to know where it is. And the best way to do that is to create a Pareto chart that defines product cost for each subassembly, with the highest cost subassemblies on the left and the lowest cost on the right. Here’s a pro tip – Ignore the subassemblies on the right.

Use your costed Bill of Materials (BOMs) to create the Paretos. You’ll be told that the BOMs are wrong (and they are), but they are right enough to learn where the cost is.

For each of the highest-cost subassemblies, create a lower-level Pareto chat that sorts the cost of each piece-part from highest to lowest. The pro tip applies here, too – Ignore the parts on the right.

Because the design community designed in the cost, they are the ones who must design it out. And to help them prioritize the work, they should be the ones who create the Pareto charts from the BOMs. They won’t like this idea, but tell them they are the only ones who can secure the company’s future profits and buy them lots of pizza.

And when someone demands you reduce labor costs, don’t fall for it. Labor cost is about 5% of the product cost, so reducing it by half doesn’t get you much. Instead, make a Pareto chart of part count by subassembly. Focus the design effort on reducing the part count of subassemblies on the left. Pro tip – Ignore the subassemblies on the right. The labor time to assemble parts that you design out is zero, so when demand returns, you’ll be able to pump out more products without growing the footprint of the factory. But, more importantly, the cost of the parts you design out is also zero. Designing out the parts is the best way to reduce product costs.

Pro tip – Set a cost reduction goal of 35%. And when they complain, increase it to 40%.

In parallel to the design work to reduce part count and costs, design the test fixtures and test protocols you’ll use to make sure the new, lower-cost design outperforms the existing design. Certainly, with fewer parts, the new one will be more reliable. Pro tip – As soon as you can, test the existing design using the new protocols because the only way to know if the new one is better is to measure it against the test results of the old one.

And here’s the last pro tip – Start now.

Image credit — aisletwentytwo

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