imageContinuing along with my occasional discussion of Lean Six Sigma topics which apply well to farming, here is the next: the Pugh Matrix (or decision matrix method). We are often faced with making a decision between multiple choices which have complex variables. In engineering and manufacturing firms, obvious examples are deciding between two major design path choices, or selecting a vendor who will supply components long-term or perform some sub-contracted duty.

These are decisions where there are many pros and cons between all the choices, and it can be overwhelming trying to choose which is the best solution. The worry is that if we just default to our “common sense,” we may end up being biased and unable to make a truly objective choice. We may unconsciously place more importance on a certain consideration than other critical factors; and in the end, not select the best solution. With vendor selection, it can be easy to be swayed by one you know well and like; or by a good salesman. With design choices, the most assertive person in the room can sometimes sway the group in one direction. With farming, especially animal selection, the potential for bias towards our favorite animal, or best-looking animal, is huge.

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imageHere is another Lean Six Sigma (LSS) tool that I love: the Pareto chart. In Lean, there is constant focus on eliminating the “seven wastes.” Six Sigma is used to apply a mathematical approach to measuring the wastes and identifying ways to eliminate them. In general, problems often have multiple contributors, or root causes. Often it’s not feasible, affordable, or even worthwhile, to address all of them. Sometimes getting rid of 80% or 95% of the contributors is good enough. Often, we can’t achieve perfection, or complete elimination of a problem. So, how do we decide which root causes to tackle first?

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imageA couple of Katahdin registry folks and I have been working on a website which explains more detail about the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), specifically as it relates to our breed, Katahdin hair sheep. Kathy Bielek and Roxanne Newton put together most of the content, and I worked on the back-end of the site.

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Happy Engineers Week!

This week a twenty-something employee at the feed store noticed my alma mater sticker on my cargo van and asked what was my major. I always hesitate a moment when I say Electrical Engineering; I guess because I’m anticipating the pause that’s going to come from the other end, as it takes the asker by surprise. I almost say it with apology, yeah, I know, I picked one of the hardest majors, and you maybe didn’t. This time, the reply was enthusiastic. I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering! Then he quickly asked, with a little resignation, slinging a bag of feed over his shoulder, was it worth it? (more…)

Duty Calls

I ran across an interesting Mother Jones article about the impact that Internet trolls have on the perception of article readers. For those who aren’t aware, a troll in the context of the Internet, is defined by Wiki as follows:

Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

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