Recently we came across the article titled: “How to master the seven-step problem solving process: Structured problem solving can be used to address almost any complex challenge in business or public policy” from Mckinsey & Co. This article makes a very useful and interesting reading material. Below is a table that shows the alignment of the STIMS Strategy for System Thinking and Transformational Skills as well the as the differences.
STIMS strategy emphasizes knowledge integration across the disciplines of Science, Engineering and Management, skills which are dependent on collective core capabilities of human resources involved in the project and problem solving. STIMS Strategy also requires treating every problem as a “System” and handling the solution at three levels: Awareness, Analysis and Synthesis.
The referenced article also makes reference to the “Design Thinking” methodology. The table below provides a comparison between this methodology and the STIMS methodology for System Thinking and Transformational Skills.
Develop a Common Language: Define the “problem” as Input / Transformation / Output system. (See Figure 1)
2. Use logic trees to disaggregate the problem. (e.g.): “How can we save Pacific salmon?”
Decompose the outputs between the “What?” – the deliverables (TECHNICAL Outputs) – and the “Why?”- value /benefit for the user (SYSTEM Outputs). This is the STRATEGY behind the solution. Transformation = The “SCIENCE”, the causal connection between the inputs and the outputs; ENGINEERING is the application of the “Science” to achieve the deliverables Problem and its solution = Knowledge Integration (Across relevant Science, Engineering and Management (Strategy) relevant to that problem.
3. Rigorous prioritization—we ask the questions “How important is this lever or this branch of the tree in the overall outcome that we seek to achieve? How much can I move that lever?
Decompose the “inputs” in four categories: Investment / Expenses / Need / Constraints or Platform (Hardware) / Tooling (Software) / Need / Specifications Machine / Tools (Supplies) / Component / Parameters. Develop tools and methods to validate the “Science” and the “Strategy”
4. Work plan: Depending on what you’ve prioritized: It could be breaking the work among the team members so that people have a clear piece of the work to do. It could be defining the specific analyses that need to get done and executed, and being clear on time lines. There’s always a level one answer, there’s a level-two answer, there’s a level-three answer. One can solve any problem during a good dinner with wine. It won’t have a whole lot of backing.
Complete the STIMS Diagram. Identify the gaps and find the data and resources to fill the gaps: This step leads to a natural formation of inter-disciplinary Team (Eco-system) across relevant resources inside the company, across companies and other players. Develop a “Hypothesis” – science based model – based on real life data. Demonstrate the hypothesis and its modifications: Using a controlled “testing” or “incubator” unit. More rigorous the understanding of relevant Science and Engineering more accurate and reliable is the testing and validation. At this stage the TECHNICAL Outputs and how to achieve them (in a scaled down version) are well established. Scale up the testing unit to achieve the desired outcomes – the SYSTEM Outputs.
Some people think of problem solving as a linear thing, but of course what’s critical is that it’s iterative.
System Thinking involves three levels: AWARENESS (of the problem as a whole) – Steps 1and 2 above. ANALYSIS (of the problem in terms of relevant Science, Engineering and Strategy) – Steps 2, 3 and 4 (See Figure 2).). SYNTHESIS (Knowledge integration and delivery of SYSTEM outputs) – Step 4
It’s also the place where we can deal with biases. Bias is a feature of every human decision-making process.
Bias is an outcome of subjective (task oriented) approach for problem solving; System Thinking (and related knowledge Integration) is non-personal and hence distances human bias from the solution process. However caution must be exercised with respect to bias due to lack of relevant knowledge (Science, Engineering and Management (Strategy / operations) – core capabilities) behind the problem and its solution.
See Step 4
6. and 7. Synthesize the pieces that came out of the analysis and begin to weave those into a story; That helps people answer the question “What should I do?” Motivating people to action
Synthesize the solution at three levels or scales: Feasibility demonstration (Bench Scale) where the Science is validated. Scale up where the Engineering (and its constraints) are established. Full scale implementation where the SYSTEM outputs (from Item 2 above) are validated.
“Design Thinking”: Start with an incredible amount of empathy for the user and use that to define the problem; go out in the wild and spend an enormous amount of time seeing how people interact with objects, seeing the experience they’re getting, seeing the pain points or joy—and uses that to infer and define the problem.
System thinking and Transformational Skills (Seven steps): 1. Develop a common language: Define the problem as Input / Transformation / Output system 2. Decompose the “problem” into relevant Science / Engg. / Mgt. 3. Distinguish between “deliverables” and “Value/benefits” – end user experience (Technical Vs. System Outputs). 4. Emphasize on Science and Strategy; Rely on diagnostic tools, in-process (real life) data and analysis. 5. Eco – system Development (Every solution requires many partners both inside the company as well as outside).All partners in the eco-system are connected through the common Science, Engineering and Strategy (System Outputs). 6. End to End Innovation (Awareness to Analysis to SYNTHESIS) 7. Emotional Intelligence (for innovation and problem solving) https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/
Professionals in every field must constantly equip themselves with the latest skills to achieve new solutions for process problems.
Being adept at ‘Transformational skills’ and ‘system thinking’ constitutes a lifelong learning strategy required to develop a stream of New Solutions, a must to survive and succeed in the 21st century economy
Who exactly are ‘intrepreneurs’?
We hear a constant drum beat for professionals to be entrepreneurial, capable of handling a variety of jobs and problems. This is in total contrast to the standardized
and de-skilled task-oriented replication activities. There are many opportunities to integrate knowledge from various sources – from other workers, knowledge available across departments, with the suppliers as well as with the customers or end-users. The advent of smart phones, Facebook, Google and other search engines also augment this ability to aggregate information from across the globe and convert them into new knowledge. The result is a “new solution” of high added value. They are heralded as “entrepreneurial”. The new term used for such entrepreneur working inside a company – as opposed to a startup operation – is “Intrepreneur”.
Life Long Learning Strategy:
Modern Manufacturing India, a Publication of the Indian Machine Tool Manufactusers Association (IMTMA) carries the cover page article authored by STIMS Institute. This article provides a strategy for life long learning for entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs.
We were invited to present a Key Note lecture on August 5, 2017 at the Chinese Conference on Abrasives Technology at Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China. Inserted below are main points, some images and a link to the full presentation.
To address the limited capability among Indian machine tool manufacturers to produce high precision machines, a model on Next Generation Precision Grinder (NGPG) has been developed. This project also illustrates the development of a collaboration frame work to integrate the expertise available with the Indian machine tool manufacturers, academic resources, etc with the knowledge available from across the globe.
Key lessons learned:
Cooperative R&D is entirely possible between industry and academic/R&D institutions in India as long as everyone is focused on the same common goal (i.e.) advancement of academic knowledge that supports commercially viable end results.
Such an approach is most appropriate for medium to long term R&D projects (3-5 years), not those requiring immediate development.
At higher reaches of technology, the scientific inputs can only be brought by academia, since industry – especially the SMEs – mostly does not have the needed resources.
There are tools and resources available from Govt. funded agencies that could be deployed by students and industry professionals. Developing such eco-system enhances efficiency and reduces the total cost and investments needed in such projects.
A structured project with system thinking leading to clearly laid down quantified objectives stands a good chance of success.
There must be a driver each from industry and academia, who make it their personal mission to complete the project successfully.
7. It is essential for the industry and academic institution to continuously interact and jointly work on the project at every stage. Such collaboration also benefits from engagement of organizations, such as IMTMA and international experts in knowledge integration.
A free exchange of information and data is essential, without being worried about Intellectual Property (IP) confidentiality at every stage. This can be secured through a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) at the start.
If properly reviewed and managed periodically (as by the PRMC), it is possible to complete such projects within the time and budget allotted.
Education, Process Innovation and End to End Innovation are the focus areas of STIMS Institute. Each of these three focus areas are interconnected. education that is merely academic is less valuable today in the world where more than 80% of what is needed can be obtained through Google. Today education has to be holistic (i.e.) system oriented. That implies scientific fundamentals together with an emphasis on application of the science and the strategic reasoning required to make such education relevant and useful in the real world. Such Education was offered for the fourth year in a row . This leads to over 100 senior engineers, managers and teachers trained to meet the high end professional needs in the manufacturing sector.
This year the course was offered under the GIAN (Global Initiative for Academic Network) program at IIT – Madras, India.
Why should we grind?
Critical and enduring role of physical processes like grinding in manufacturing and especially in Precision Components Manufacturing
Examples of grinding processes used in a wide variety of:
Work materials, machines, components and applications
Role of grinding processes in traditional applications as well as emerging needs like high efficiency IC engines, computer parts, LED, PV and wind energy components manufacturing.
The System Approach to Grinding Processes:
Every process is an Input / Transformation / Output system
“Transformation” represents the Science of the Process
System Approach requires integration of Science, Engineering and Strategy
Grinding Processes are Input /Transformation / Output systems for surface generation to meet critical functional needs and process economics.
The Science of grinding: The microscopic interactions that occur at the grinding zone and their quantification
Inputs to the grinding process and how they impact the microscopic interactions:
Work Materials and components
Abrasive and dressing tools, coolants and other consumables
Machine Tools (key element of investment and process design)
Process parameters (that are selected as part of process design and can be changed at the shop floor )
Measurement and Analysis of grinding processes
Hands on laboratory exercises
Tutorials and analytical and data driven problem solving
Technical Outputs – What are the requirements to be met when using grinding processes
System Outputs – the Why? strategic and economic considerations pertaining to grinding processes
Application of the System Approach – Case Studies
Truing & Dressing of CBN grinding wheels
Optimal use of CBN grinding solutions
Simple Solid Shape (S^3) grinding – High MRR low WIP, short lead time and flexible processes
Processes for micro – chip, magnetic head and LED substrate fabrication.
Machining to Grinding Processes
Data driven process solutions.
Optimization in the development og new machine tools for grinding process solutions.
Guest Lectures from Industry and academic leaders on the need and role of System Approach for manufacturing processes.
This course was a team effort in collaboration with Prof. Ramesh Babu, IIT – M, Mr. Sudheendra – a research student for his Ph.D program and Mr. Anant Jain – R&D manager, Micromatic Grinding Technologies, a well recognized Precision Grinding Machine manufacturer.
Traditionally grinding process is treated as something very complex and known only to a few with many years of experience and with specialised skills in the shop floor. A portable diagnostic tool and interpreting the process signal is changing the situation and helping to reduce such challenges faced in grinding.
“It is like using a torch light in a dark ally. Once the light of the signal shines, we can see the path more clearly and easily,” states Dr Subramanian.
“Further analysis of the signals and explaining the variations in terms of the microscopic interactions that occur in the grinding zone, brings the science of grinding to the shop floor,” according to Dr K (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute Inc, USA. He has been mentoring this work at IIT Madras and its subsequent transfer for industrial use. This work at IIT Madras has been carried out as part of a larger project, “Development of Next Generation High Precision Grinding Machine Tool,” funded by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. Prof Ramesh Babu is the principal investigator of this project along with his students at IIT Madras. MGTL, an industrial partner in this project is commercializing this mobile diagnostic tool as Grind TrakTM.
In a recent example, a grinding process was the bottleneck operation, limiting the production of the entire line. By looking at the signals obtained and analyzing them, it was determined that the cycle time for this operation can be reduced resulting in a net increase in line throughput of 40%, without the need for any additional investments.
“Next generation of manufacturing will require smart and well qualified people using portable diagnostic tools and techniques very much like the medical field. In this regard, the Grind TrakTM will serve as the stethoscope and thermometer for this new generation of grinding professionals”, asserts Dr Subramanian.