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Case Study: Determining the Profit-Maximizing Machine/Technician Ratio

MC900433932[1]A wafer fab asked if I could tell them what level of maintenance-technician staffing would maximize profits in their epi area.  Their technicians were the ones who repaired machines when they failed.  Occasionally, all technicians would be busy when a machine failed, causing it to sit idle until a technician could get to it and conduct the repair.  More technicians would cost more money but reduce this wait-for-technician time.  Fewer technicians would save money but increase wait-for-technician time.  Where was the profit-maximizing tradeoff?  What was the profit-maximizing machine/technician ratio? Read more ›

Posted in Computer-simulation modeling

What Is “Reengineering”?

Wrench clip artHow it Started

Reengineering—sometimes called business process reengineering, or BPR—originated in a 1990 article in the Harvard Business Review by former MIT professor Michael Hammer, who followed up in 1993 with the seminal book Reengineering the Corporation.

The Core of Reengineering

The core of reengineering is a change in organizational structure, in which people who were formerly organized by function (“functional silos”) are instead organized by process or product. That is, all the people who need to work together in a process or product report to the same manager, instead of separate functional managers.  There’s more to it than this, but this is the heart of reengineering. Read more ›

Posted in Operations improvement

3 Rules for Getting the Most Out of Operations-Improvement Consultants

3-ball clip artConsultants can be a panacea to a firm, bringing in:

•  Fresh outside perspectives

•  Expertise

•  Unbridled firepower, since they’re not beholden to the daily production grind

But bringing in a consultant, if done wrongly, can be disruptive—and even destructive—to a firm. Read more ›

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Posted in The human factor

How “Overstaffing” at Bottleneck Machines Can Unleash Extra Capacity

MP900382684[1]TDK felt that it needed another $5 million machine to open up a capacity bottleneck until Bob Kotcher’s computer-simulation analysis showed that additional operators could accomplish the same thing for dramatically less money.  This was counterintuitive, since the operators already had significant slack capacity.  Bob presented this paper at the 2001 Winter Simulation Conference—the premier international conference for system simulation:

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Posted in Computer-simulation modeling, Operations improvement

Restroom and Wet-Bench Equality, Now!

CB028861Sign for Men's Restroom

The simplest—and highest-profit-margin—modeling project that Simitar founder Bob Kotcher has ever done demonstrates the power of simulation modeling for operations improvement.

Celebrate your inner Seinfeld

At a restaurant one day, my inner Seinfeld came out (we all have one—come on).

Since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, many restaurants had to remodel their restrooms to make them wheelchair accessible. This often required them to remove internal partitions that comprised the stalls. With privacy gone, they put locks on the restroom doors and made each restroom single-user. Read more ›

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Posted in Computer-simulation modeling, Operations improvement

Save Up to Millions of Dollars a Year in Capex: Use Dynamic Capacity Planning

MP910216373[1]Dynamic capacity planning incorporates the randomness and variability of the real world.  It shows you how to target your capital-equipment (capex) spending to attain throughput and cycle-time goals for millions of dollars less than with spreadsheets.

Dynamic capacity models account for the variability of the real world

In operations with variability, executives know that they cannot run them close to 100% loading because queue times become unacceptably high. They know to invest in surplus capacity—not to increase throughput, but to keep queue times in check.

But what is the optimal amount of surplus capacity to purchase, and exactly where? What is the optimal capital-equipment (capex) purchase plan? Read more ›

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Posted in Capacity planning

What Level of Capacity Planning is Right for My Facility?

MH900367908Capacity planning can range from literally back-of-the-envelope calculations to highly detailed computer models that require thousands of man-hours to build, interface with a company’s MES in real time, and even update and run themselves.  Where on this spectrum is the right place for you?   Read more ›

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Posted in Capacity planning

Use Real-Time Simulation to Preempt WIP Bubbles and Set Production Goals Each Shift

MH900240691Real-time simulation is a tool that takes into account the up-to-the-minute status of your factory and predicts what’s likely to happen in the coming hours, days, and weeks.

Knowing this, you can preempt problems such as WIP bubbles.  The result is:

  • Higher throughput
  • Better on-time delivery
  • Reduced cycle time
  • Reduction in problems/headaches/firefighting

It also enables you to set more realistic production goals for your managers each shift. Read more ›

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Posted in Operations improvement

How Do I Choose Between Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints (TOC), and other Operations-Improvement Approaches?

Question guy (cartoon)Industrial Engineering is the optimization of systems of people and technology.  This can be as narrow as optimizing performance of a single machine, or as broad as optimizing performance of an entire company.  As with any field, over time, people have continually discovered better ways of doing things.  At certain points, authors and consultants—for better or worse—have coined new buzzwords for the current state of the art.  Over the last thirty years, some of these have been: Total Quality, JIT (Just-In-Time), World-Class Manufacturing, Lean, Reengineering, Six Sigma, TPS (Toyota Production System), and Theory of Constraints (TOC).  These are all just other names for…

The state of the art in industrial engineering

I can’t think of any aspect of the above philosophies that conflicts with any other.  Each iteration is just what came before it, combined with new findings.  So you don’t need to determine which to apply.  A competent industrial engineer will know all of them, and make use of all of their tools as appropriate.


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Posted in Operations improvement

How to Improve Factory Performance via Computer-Simulation Modeling

MH900311306Overview of modeling

Unlike most other operations-improvement consultancies, Simitar is expert in computer-simulation modeling. 

When operations are highly complex or variable, computer-simulation modeling can reveal huge opportunities for savings that spreadsheet models—and even experienced observers—overlook.  That’s because simulation models take into account the variability present in real life.  Simulation models also include a critical factor that spreadsheet models ignore: cycle time, and how it varies with load.  Read more ›

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Posted in Capacity planning, Computer-simulation modeling, Operations improvement
Simitar founder

Bob Kotcher

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    • “At Western Digital, I brought in Bob Kotcher based on his exemplary job performance, project management skills, academic & practical knowledge, and teamwork/communications skills, all of which Bob had repeatedly demonstrated to me when I had the opportunity to work with him prior to Western Digital. Bob brought with him world-class academic credentials and a simply outstanding knowledge of Factory Physics, including Capacity Modeling, Cycle-Time Simulation, and Lean Manufacturing. Bob is a great guy to work with and would be a valued member of any operations staff wanting to improve its productivity and/or lower operating costs. He won’t let you down.”

      Guy Harper – Engineering Projects Director
      Calisolar, Inc.
    • “At MMC, Bob initiated and led numerous cross-functional process improvement teams that made significant improvements to our production. For example, in one area, he linked together several disparate operations into a cell, reducing cycle time and WIP by 97% and saving $220,000 a year in labor and damaged product.”

      John Kim – Director, Thermal Reactor Process Engineering
    • “At Headway Technologies, we were planning a major capital investment in an additional photolithography stepper tool in order to improve throughput at this bottleneck. Bob did a Monte Carlo simulation analysis of this area and found something that none of us had suspected. The capacity at this work-center was actually operator-constrained, not machine-constrained. He showed us how, by adding operators, we could meet the required capacity increase. A few additional operators in the photolithography area kept these tools at an optimum utilization and this extra Opex was a small fraction of the capital depreciation that another stepper would have cost.” 

      Guy Harper – Engineering Projects Director
      Calisolar, Inc.
    • “At each company that he works with, [Simitar founder Bob Kotcher] strives to improve day-to-day operations, and thus to improve the bottom line.  Bob is not afraid to present politically unpalatable truths, if his work suggests that a change will lead to overall improvement.”

      Dr. Jennifer Robinson – Chief Operating Officer
      Fabtime, Inc.
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