Craft Production is a Good Trick

Image of Harvey Littleton’s glass work: Flickr user vigilant20

Some tricks require dedicated practice, persistence, and flexibility. We practice plenty of tricks at Osborne and we’re happy to share them. Practicing flexibility is one of the tricks that helps us develop new electromagnetic products.

Often a design will pass through many iterations in the course of becoming a single physical prototype. And complex circuits may require more than one major revision to the first prototype. Insightful changes save a lot of time and expense in the development cycle. It’s essential that these ideas come from all members of the production team, because the sooner the good ideas surface, the faster a team can identify and implement opportunities for innovation, the shorter time frame required to reach a stable release. In this way, flexible teamwork during all stages of early development will get your concept to market faster.

While automated production systems have led to efficiencies for many commodity transformer types, the Osborne application specific design approach emphasizes a team oriented “craft manufacturing” process. The creativity and flexibility of the process enables superior quality results and shorter lead times. Financial and quality considerations demand that electromagnetic product designs be developed in a flexible and creative environment.

Please note that different operations analysts use different terms to refer to the same thing. I’m using the term “craft manufacturing” as defined by Wikipedia:

“Craft production (or One-off Production) is the process of manufacturing by hand with or without the aid of tools.”

Stevenson’s “Operations Management” would classify this process as a “job shop” type:

“A job shop usually operates on a relatively small scale. It is used when a low volume of high-variety goods or services will be needed. […] High flexibility using general-purpose equipment and skilled workers are important characteristics of a job shop.”

The craft manufacturing label is more appropriate than Stevensone’s job shop label; our practices at Osborne have developed partially in unison with the “studio glass movement“, and artists such as Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino, and Dale Chihuly.

Craft manufacturing teams tend to be more creative and flexible than teams working with automated production systems. Of course there are exceptions, and at Osborne we favor the advantages of the craft approach. It’s the type of work we like to do and it supports close collaboration between engineering and production disciplines. Our craftspeople are not machines! They are skilled technicians and they bring an artisan’s attention to detail to every unit. They are also experienced in working with a broad range of electromagnetic products, and this design familiarity helps us identify innovative product opportunities.

Osborne’s technicians have a unique combination of skills in the areas of production, engineering, and quality control. The team is alert to the needs of each product as a whole; not just the steps required to move the product through their workstation. Unlike automated production systems, Osborne’s technicians are involved in every step of the production process and their skills are not compartmentalized.

The craft manufacturing process allows the production team to contribute to all aspects of design engineering. Creative ideas can occur at every workstation, sometimes very spontaneously. These artisans employ the type of industrial craftsmanship that once characterized the Detroit area. And while many manufacturers have spent decades in pursuit of increasingly automated assembly systems, Osborne’s team has focused on handcrafted quality and flexibility. You can be sure those are the types of tricks we’ll continue practicing.