Archive | innovation RSS feed for this section

Lean Boot Camp Comes to AlphaUSA

21 Jan

AlphaUSA  hosted our annual week-long Kaizen Bootcamp, with enough participants for two separate labs.  Fourteen participants from across the country (some from as far as Oregon and Florida) came out to see “lean” in action.

Boot campers perform a structured “blitz” to drive out waste. Alpha showcased our already tight processes, then the group poured over process details and brainstormed to root out any small bit of waste they could find to make them even leaner.  The groups focused on process flow in the shipping of the tumbling area and on paperwork and gauge flow between QC to the press.

The bootcamp is just another way AlphaUSA is continually working to get closer to our lean goals, it’s exciting to bring in the Lean Learning Camp and participating companies to get outside insight.

Examining processes to go lean!

Advertisements

Alpha’s Going Lean

11 Dec

Lean is all about being organized and more efficient, using less work to maintain or exceed the same quality product.  AlphaUSA is continually transforming our work areas and processes to be lean.

Long time Alpha employee, Mike Hootman, is championing this lean movement. Along side Production Manager Doug Prime, they are continuing to make sure that our facility is becoming  more efficient and safer day-to-day.  Alpha has even brought in a new set of eyes, the Lean Learning Center (LLC), to push us further.  The LLC has been hosting monthly labs for our Alpha employees onsite, enabling us to learn lean right on our own equipment, and in our own offices.

The rules of lean are simple: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

Take some time to use the “5 S’s” in your life, and you’ll see how helpful a little lean can be.

New Symphonic Composition Inspired by SS United States Makes Waves at Abbey Road Studios

7 Sep

AlphaUSA is proud to support the restoration of the historic ocean liner SS United States, and the ship continues to fascinate.

The SS United States broke the speed record for Trans-Atlantic travel on her maiden voyage in 1952, earning the Blue Riband and the respect of the world. Now, composer Kenneth Fuchs debuts his recording “Atlantic Riband” as a tribute to the United States and the revered title she still holds. The piece was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra and earned a 5-star rating from BBC Music Magazine.  The Virginia Symphony Orchestra will perform the piece for the first time tonight at a special concert in Newport News, Virginia, near the shipyard where the SS United States was built.

JoAnn Falletta Conducts the London Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Atlantic Riband. (Photo: K. Fuchs)

An engineering marvel, the beauty and sheer size of the SS United States is awe-inspiring.  In his youth, composer Kenneth Fuchs would visit the New York Harbor and the “Big U” was among the ocean liners docked there. Inspired by the ship, he recorded “Atlantic Riband” and contacted the SS United States Conservancy.

In UConn Today, Susan Gibbs recalls learning of the musical piece and the SS United States’s ability to inspire: “It was just so fortuitous. It was a perfect example to us of how this ship continues to inspire us – whether in the arts, in design, or as symbolic of postwar American pride, patriotism, and technological innovation. Ken’s piece perfectly captures the S.S. United States’ enduring mystique.”

In another example of the ship’s ability to inspire, last week, Philadelphia’s WGAL News 8  featured a three-part series on the SS Unites States. In part one the ship’s history is explored and Susan L. Gibbs, the SS United States Conservancy’s Executive Director and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs, talks aboard the ship. Part two interviews a passenger of the maiden voyage and in part three three we hear about the big ideas for the future of the ship.

You can see even more ways the superliner has impacted all sorts of lives by looking through the stories contributed at savetheunitedstates.org

We’re glad to see that the SS United States has been able to inspire others the way it has inspired AlphaUSA.

Alpha’s Got a Greener Point of View

22 Apr

Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. Take a quick shower, not a bath. Recycle your junk mail. We all know we can make a difference and save resources by making little changes day to day.

There aren’t really quick tips to running 125,000 sq. feet of facilities greener. But, Alpha is not about quick fixes, we have a serious commitment to our environment and planet.

One thing we’ve done is change the lighting systems in our manufacturing facility, switching from 400W High-Intensity Discharge bulbs to T5 High-Output bulbs. If you’re wondering what that means, it translates into an energy savings of 50% while giving off twice the light. But that’s just the beginning of our story.

That’s why we’ve rolled out our new environmental page, so you can learn about how we innovate and update our business to do our part in saving the planet. From recycling materials to changing our processes and work habits, Alpha has been working hard for the little blue ball in our solar system we call home.

Happy Earth Day.

Alpha: Made in Michigan

18 Apr

At the IDEA: Detroit conference, near the doors, was a table stacked with literature boasting “MAKE it HERE,” filled with reasons for setting up shop in the mitten. They are the same reasons our city can’t stop discussing Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” Commercial. The welcoming address of the conference referenced the commercial, spoken hand-in-hand with the expressions of awe over “inspiring, electrifying, nourishing” ideas from the region.

Dale Dougherty, of Make Magazine fame, noted that he was not a Michigan native, but he chooses to host a Maker Faire here because of the area’s compelling nature, naming Henry Ford the original tinkerer. “You have manufacturing in your blood,” he explained. It was tough to argue with him, especially after an elaborate technological explanation of the 2011 North American Car of the Year, the Chevy Volt. Throughout the different presentations, it was clear southeastern Michigan offers opportunities and a mindset like no place else. Regional residents carry strong local pride, including a couple of innovators featured at the conference. Travis Wright and Philip Lauri are planning a college tour to tell students about the value of this great city, explaining why they should “Do it in Detroit .”

At Alpha, we love hearing echoes of the reasons to be here in Metro Detroit, but we don’t need to be convinced by pamphlets or fancy presentations. These reasons are what have kept Alpha here for over 50 years. Innovations come from Michigan, and we are proud to offer products that do too.

:Detroit Gets the IDEA

13 Apr

Advocates of innovation, Alpha excitedly attended IDEA: Detroit a few weeks ago. The day was a mashing together of striking thinkers and ideas from southeastern Michigan, as well as from around the country.

“Tinkerers” at heart, we were intrigued by the inventions of Dale Dougherty and Make Magazine, and excited that Maker Faire will be coming to our own backyard (The Henry Ford) this summer. Wello grabbed our attention with more than just its name, offering the WaterWheel as an inspiring solution to water transportation challenges throughout the world. Chevrolet wowed us with the inner workings of the new Chevy Volt, while Ford impressed us with its simple yet inspired “ask the audience” customer involvement. IDEA left us with no shortage of inspiration.

Check the links to these ingenious presenters for now, and shortly we’ll let you in on a few of Alpha’s own ideas that arose from the conference.

ster•e•o•li•thog•ra•phy

7 Mar

If you are an engineer, you likely know what stereolithography (SLA), rapid prototyping and 3D printing are. If you are a recently graduated psychology major working in the PR department, chances are you do not.

A few days ago, I saw a part sitting on the desk of Alpha Engineering Director and Resident Genius (RG) Stew, and it caught my eye. Plastic rapid prototypes of parts are often created before making the real deal out of steel. Like a printer, SLA works layer by layer, but instead of using ink, it’s done using liquid UV-curable photopolymer, which is basically liquid plastic. Using a computer program you give the machine a blueprint (the “math data” in Stew speak) of what to make. A laser plots the dimensions layer by layer, heating up the plastic (aka curing the photopolymer) and creating a solid version of the 3D form designed in the computer.

Interestingly, on a side note, there is a whole community of DIY-ers who make 3D printers at home. These self-proclaimed makers are creating everything from door knobs to baby shoes. Currently this involves a little more know-how than Microsoft Word, but in theory someday, anyone may be able to print physical objects from their own computer. It seems like the stuff of the Jetsons, in the future you may be downloading everyday items, like dishes or even washing machine parts, the way you download iTunes. Need a toaster? There’s an app for that.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: