Continuous Improvement and 3D Printing

Posted by in 3D Printing

Shapeways Operations Manager Hugo Ploegmakers shares his thoughts on how continuous improvement and Kaizen principles apply to 3D printing.

In our continuing challenge to improve the service we provide at
Shapeways, to improve quality, lead-time and drive down cost (making 3D
printing more affordable for our customers), we are fully embracing
continuous improvement as a methodology. In short: continuous
improvement means that you never accept the status-quo, everything can
be improved, and everybody is involved in the improvement process.

Just
recently, I read this Wired article on how improving 10x is easier
than improving by 10%
, about how reaching for the moon, which is a Bold
Audacious Goal, opens possibilities you wouldn’t have seen when aiming
for less.

How does this rhyme with the lean methodology, which
we’ve embraced at Shapeways? Does this contradict with the small steps
of ‘continuous improvement’? I don’t think it does. Bold Audacious Goals
are a requirement to make lean a success!

Improvements comes in
two different shapes. One, a continuous stream of small improvements:
the many changes we make to our production process each day in our
factories in New York and Eindhoven. Two, the less frequent but huge
breakthrough projects (e.g. our new back-end tool: Inshape). The picture
clearly shows how the combination of continuous improvement processes
and breakthrough projects makes us twice as fast! Only when successfully
applying both, we can improve as quickly as needed and make our
community happy.

Bold Audacious Goals trigger breakthrough, which
is needed to remove the boundaries for continuous improvement before we
reach them. They accelerate continuous improvement: it
makes every tiny problem worth solving.

Are you a continuous
improver? Or is ‘breakthrough’ your style? Can you do both? We continue
to also look for new team members who want to join the teams in
Eindhoven and NYC.

2 comments

  1. Chris J

    It seems to me that things are exactly as you described. Most people who improve are making small, constant improvements that lead to large, infrequent breakthroughs.

  2. dominique

    who drew the green improvement line which is a result of red and blue? It seems it was rather a marketing person than a mathematician :)

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