Searching for Lost Profit

After just finishing her department’s monthly activity report, Patty took a break to stare out her window, admiring the beauty of last night’s fresh snowfall. Her mind quickly went to the events of the past week.

Rob had “popped the question” and Patty had quickly said yes. Their mothers were ecstatic. Both Patty and Rob liked and enjoyed each other’s parents. Patty recognized this as a blessed situation, but both mothers were now spending 10 hours each day planning the wedding. A result, Patty and Rob were both fielding several calls a day from each mom. Patty decided to go “with the flow” and count her blessings that both she and Rob had great parents.

She briefly looked down at the ring Rob had given her. It was a striking two carat emerald with 0.4 carat diamonds on either side. Rob was concerned that Patty might not like an emerald, but he explained that the price of diamonds is controlled and that “you could pave your driveway with diamonds for each equally good sapphire, ruby, and especially emerald that exists in nature.”

“All the emerald mines of Colombia produce only one or two good 2 carat emeralds per year,” he went on to say.

Well, one of them was right there on her finger. In addition to the uniqueness of emerald, the setting was in rhodium, the hardest and rarest of the precious metals. “Five hundred times more rare than gold,” Rob told her. She was especially impressed when she looked up rhodium on the Web and found this quote: “Rhodium has been used for honours, or to symbolize wealth, when more commonly used metals such as silver, gold or platinum are deemed insufficient.” Gold and platinum insufficient!?

Rob was secretive about how he found such an apparently rare ring. But it was consistent with his many other successes in life. She was thrilled to have him as a future hubby, even if she did beat him at golf.

These happy and a little stressful thoughts were interrupted, by Pete coming to her door.

“Hey, kiddo, get packed, looks like will be going on another trip. Guadalajara, this time. Como es su espanol?” Pete said with gusto.

“Mi espanol es muy bueno. Why do you think we will go to Guadalajara?” Patty asked.

“Well, I just talked to Pedro and he said that they performed our productivity audit. Uptime is 29%, and all lines are time balanced to +/-2%, about as best as could be hoped.”

Patty and her team developed a Productivity Audit from what they learned with The Professor in their recent adventures together.

“Then what is the problem?” Patty inquired.

Pete responded, “Jane, the finance exec we met on our trip to South Carolina, implemented a company-wide profitability software program. It was implemented and Guadalajara is 10% too low. No one can figure out why. I think we’ll want The Professor for this one.”

Patty called and was stunned that The Professor was again available. Apparently this was his off term teaching at Ivy University, as he teaches over the summer.

When our trio arrived at ACME’s Guadalajara facility they all spoke in Spanish. Patty had taken Spanish in 4th grade through high school, Spanish was one of the 7 or 8 languages The Professor spoke and Pete’s grandparents hailed from Puerto Rico. They were surprised that the site GM, Harry Hopkins, asked them to speak in English.

“Give me a break, I grew up in Boston, I can barely speak English,” he joked in his heavy Boston accent. “We want you to help us find that lost 10%, we must be doing something wrong. Help us find it,” Harry implored. “One thing I can tell you is that I am really proud of my team; they are really working hard, you can tell by all of the product that is out there. It makes me proud just to walk out on the shop floor and see all of the product!”, he went on.

Patty was relieved that Harry was so supportive. Apparently Jane had sent the “good word” about how the trio had helped ACME’s South Carolina plant.

As the trio went on a tour, one thing immediately struck Patty, there was hardly room to walk around. There were partly assembled boards all over the place.

At the end of the tour Patty spoke up, “This facility is striking in how much partially completed product is on the shop floor.”

And therein lies the problem,” responded The Professor.

How can profits be off when uptime and line balancing are so good? Could it be that Guadalajara uses poor solder pastes, fluxes or performs? Will our illustrious trio find the problem? Does Patty really like her emerald engagement ring?

Stay tuned for the latest.

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About Dr. Ron

Materials expert Dr. Ron Lasky is a professor of engineering and senior lecturer at Dartmouth, and senior technologist at Indium Corp. He has a Ph.D. in materials science from Cornell University, and is a prolific author and lecturer, having published more than 40 papers. He received the SMTA Founders Award in 2003.