What Is a Hackathon?

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As a company focused on helping companies improve workplace performance, we’ve got a lot of interest in techniques intended to help solve problems, be more creative, and innovate more. For example, check out our articles on learning organizations, design thinking, facilitating change, learning teams, and innovation.

And that’s why we asked our good Dr. Stella Lee to have a discussion with us about hackathons (you may remember Dr. Lee from our earlier discussion on disruptive technologies in L&D).

Thanks to Dr. Lee for telling us what a hackathon is, sharing with us some reasons to hold a hackathon, and giving us specific tips on how to hold a hackathon based on her own personal experiences doing so (pus she shared some great resources for learning more!).

You can listen to our recorded discussion immediately below or, if you’d prefer, we’ve typed up the transcript below that.

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Intro to Systems Thinking for Workplace Performance Improvement

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It’s common to hear people talking about the importance of systems thinking in the workplace these days.

The point that folks make is that if you want to really solve problems, or really grasp opportunities, you’ve got to think of issues systemically.

I’ve heard this same basic point made by people in different work circles: learning and development, safety, operations, maintenance, HR, and more.

And beyond that, the point is often extended with some helpful advice: think of connections instead of disconnections/silos; think in circles instead of in a linear manner; think in wholes instead of parts; think of synthesis instead of analysis; think of relationships instead of about things in isolation. Be big-picture. Be holistic.

And that advice is good, to a point. But I also find it somewhat vague and hard to act on.

As a result, I decided to do a little reading on systems thinking to learn more. I’m hoping that by learning about different systems archetypes, different components of systems, and the different ways systems grow/decline, it will make it easier to identify systems at work, determine how they work, and then try to change them when I want to.

I’m doing this as a bit of a “learning out loud” project, not entirely knowing where this will go or how useful it will be. As a result, even though I always invite your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below, that’s especially true for this article. If you’ve got your own favorites sources about systems thinking, your own thoughts about systems thinking and how to apply it at work, or if you can begin to point out how to apply some of the lessons below in specific contexts, please do share! NOTE: Here’s one by Steven Shorrock on Systems Thinking for Human Factors that just got published.

In the credit-where-credit is due section, I should note that this article is largely based on the first-half of the book Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows. We are deeply endebted to Meadows here and in no way do we think this captures all the great thought in the book. Please consider buying a copy of the book today, as it goes into much more detail and includes many helpful examples and illustrations. It’s our plan to return to some of the materials in the second-half of Meadows’ book in future articles.

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Quality Basics: PDCA & Risk Management

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All good quality management efforts, including those following and/or in compliance with the ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems Standard, include an emphasis on risk management and the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle for continuous improvement.

In this article, we give a brief introduction to risk management and the PDCA  cycle and their relation to quality assurance and quality management.

And don’t leave without downloading the free PDCA Cycle infographic from the bottom of this article! 

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Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point for Food Safety Management

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If you’re involved in food/beverage production and have food safety responsibilities, you’re required to fulfill Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, or HACCP, compliance requirements (see 21 CFR parts 120 and 123).

HACCP is a systematic and preventive food safety approach intended to avoid the introduction or and/or contamination of food by biological, chemical, and physical hazards rather than simply inspecting food products after their production to determine if they have been contaminated (this is somewhat similar to the “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound full of cure” adage).

Enjoy learning more about HACCP and it’s important role in food safety, and don’t forget to download the free 7 Tools of Quality download we’ve provided for you at the bottom of this article as well.

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What Are Predictive Maintenance & Conditions-Based Maintenance? (Interview with Dr. Klaus Blache)

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It’s always great to talk with someone who really knows their stuff, and when it comes to issues around maintenance, reliability, and maintainability, Dr. Klaus Blache of the UT-RMC really knows his stuff.

That’s why we’ve enjoyed holding (and publishing here) a series of discussions with Klaus on issues related to reliability and maintainbility (if you missed some, check out our recorded discussion on the benefits of reliability and maintainability and articles we co-wrote on creating a culture for reliability, maintainability, and continuous improvement as well as what reliability and maintainabilty are).

So with no further ado, please feel free to watch our short discussion explaining predictive maintenance and conditions-based maintenance (also known as PDM and CBM) below. If you’d rather read instead of watch and listen, we’ve created a transcript for you below the video.

And before you go, please feel free to download our free PDCA Cycle infographic from the bottom of this article.

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Skills for an Advanced Manufacturing Workforce

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The era of Advanced Manufacturing is coming soon. Industry 4.0. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Great, right? Sounds good, huh?

Except, who’s going to do the work during this era (other than robots and computers)? What skills are they going to need?

There are going to be some skills that are specific to industries, and skills that are specific to sites, and skills that are specific to job roles. But there are also going to be some skills that are required in general. And those are going to be the skills we’ll discuss in this article.

And before you get too far down the page, don’t forget to download our free Manufacturing Training Guide before you go!

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What Is the ISO 22000 Food Safety Management System Standard?

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If you’ve worked in the food chain for a period of time, you may well be familiar with the ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Standard. However, if you’re new to the industry, you may be unfamiliar with the standard. Plus, it was updated in 2018, so even if you’re familiar, you may need to renew your acquaintance.

In this article, we give a brief introduction to ISO 22000 and give you some resources where you can learn more.

Also, know that we’ve got a free 7 Basics Tools of Quality guide for you at the bottom of this article.

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The Benefits of Reliability & Maintainability (Interview with Dr. Klaus Blache)

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If you’re a maintenance professional, you probably already know you want to minimize the amount of reactive maintenance you perform. And a great way to do that is to focus on reliability & maintainability.

We’ve asked our partners at the University of Tennessee’s Reliability & Maintainability Center, and in particular Dr. Klaus Blache, to help us better understand reliability and maintainability.

If you’ve been reading us for a while, you may have also read our articles on Creating a Culture for Reliability, Maintainability, and Continuous Improvement and What Is Maintainability & Reliability?. If you haven’t read those articles, you may want to check them out. Plus, keep your eyes out for future articles on related topics, including one coming very soon on predictive & conditions-based maintenance.

Also, once you finish this article, you’ll see we’ve got a Free PDCA Cycle Infographic you can download down at the very bottom (or at the link you just passed). You can use the PDCA cycle to evaluate the effects of your reliability & maintainability efforts (or any continuous improvement efforts).

You’ve got two options here: Watch a recorded version of our conversation or continue down to read a transcript. The world is your oyster–enjoy!

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Common Food Safety Problems

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Are you new (or newish?) to food safety? Would you benefit from an introduction to terms commonly used to discuss food safety? Or maybe you’re a more experienced food safety expert and would just like a quick review & reminder?

If so, you’ll enjoy reviewing this article, as we’ve prepared a quick review of some basic and common food safety problems. We’ve drawn the material from a helpful resource created by the US FDA to help introduce good manufacturing practices (GMP and/or cGMP) titled “Definitions of Food Safety Problems.”

And before you go, be sure to download our free 7 Basic Tools of Quality Guide from the bottom of this article.

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Features to Look for in a Compliance-Based LMS

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Organizations get a learning management system, or LMS, for a number of different reasons. Often, for some combination of reasons.

One very common reason that organizations get a learning management system is to stay on top of and document compliance training requirements.

In this article, we’ll give you a few key features to look for if you need an LMS to comply with mandatory training requirements.

And be sure to download the free LMS Buyer’s Guide from the bottom of this article, which has even more helpful information for you. And if you’re interested in compliance for safety training, check out our free Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist and/or our Guide to MSHA Training Compliance Requirements.

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What Is 5S in Lean Manufacturing? (Includes Free 5S Infographic)

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5S is central to lean manufacturing, and it’s frequently one of the first parts of a lean manufacturing implementation at the workplace.

In this article, a continuation of a series of articles introducing key lean manufacturing tools and concepts, we’re going to briefly introduce you to 5S.

Before you begin reading about 5S, know that we’ve included a free What Is 5S? infographic at the bottom of this article. 

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What Is Standardized Work in Lean Manufacturing?

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Standardized work is an essential element of lean manufacturing.

It’s also got a non-intuitive name, because although standardized work sounds static, it’s actually a dynamic process (due to its lean manufacturing buddy, kaizen).

In this article, we’ll explain what standardized work is and explain its relation to kaizen within the lean manufacturing methodology, and we’ll give you some tips for getting started with standardized work now.

Before you begin reading about lean manufacturing and standardized work, know that we’ve included a free Five Principles of Lean Manufacturing infographic you can download at the bottom of this article, too!

Plus, free free to check out our online lean manufacturing training options.

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