Rule 3 of engineering communication is efficiency: All I need to know about manufacturing I learned in Joe’s garage. The book changed my life. It might be the best $6 you’ll ever spend. Here’s why. Let’s take a quiz:

Joe is making cabinet’s for his garage and has a different production philosophy from Frank, who is trying to help. Here’s a couple of problems they faced:

1) Which plans should Frank and Joe use for the cabinets?

a) The highest rated cabinet plans Joe found on-line.

b) No plans required, figure it out as they work.

c) A book on custom cabinet design and production.

2) With a plan selected, it’s time to get materials. Joe has connections to lumber and cabinet supply liquidators that are 80% the price of the local hardware store, but must be ordered in bulk. Frank and Joe should:

a) go to the local hardware store and buy enough to build 1 cabinet.

b) buy all supplies from the local hardware store to promote the business.

c) place the bulk order while supplies last.

3) With the plan selected and materials in place. Joe decides to invite the neighborhood over to hammer the project out. Joe and Frank need to create an assembly line to keep everyone busy. They should:

a) assign everyone to different stations where they have just one job that they need to repeat for each cabinet piece handed to them. (i.e. we have a cutter, someone else that drills, another who sands)

b) assign everyone to a part and everyone completes the operations following the leader. (i.e. everyone drills, cuts, and sands their part at once following instructions)

c) assign individuals to cabinets who follow them from station to station. (i.e. they take they’re materials to the drilling station, following the drilling instructions, then to the sanding station, follow the sanding instructions, until the cabinets are assembled)

4) There are 4 drilling operations that must be performed. Frank and Joe should:

a) borrow 4 drills from neighbors for each of the operations.

b) use 1 drill press and build a different jigging fixture for each operation.

5) The question of quality control comes up. Frank and Joe should:

a) Assign a quality control master to each station for inspection.

b) Build jigs and label edges so that each part and process can only be completed in one way, with little thought or measuring required.

6) The question of assembly comes up. Frank and Joe should:

a) assemble each part as quickly as possible to check for fit and compliance.

b) wait until all of the parts are complete to assemble everything at once.

7) Half-way through Frank and Joe realize that a pipe along the wall of the garage cannot be moved and the cabinets need to be modified with a groove for the pipe. Frank and Joe should:

a) stop everything and inform everyone of the change.

b) add an additional step to the cutting instructions to cut the notch.

8) Near the end of the day, Frank and Joe realize that they are not going to finish the cabinets in time before everyone needs to go home. Frank and Joe should:

a) get everyone responsible for particular operations to commit to coming back at the same time on another day.

b) get everyone to come back for a final assembly.

c) Thank everyone! Frank and Joe can follow the instructions at each station to complete and assemble the remaining two cabinets.


(Answers: 1-c, 2-a, 3-c, 4-b, 5-b, 6-a, 7-b, 8-c)

Frank is following the Japanese philosophy of Lean Manufacturing, which is closely tied to Quality Function Deployment (QFD) which was the origin of the House of Quality we discussed previously.


Notice that the “Lean Manufactory” above is in the shape of a house and utilizes many of the elements, like Kaizen, as foundation. Opposing Kaizen is “5S”. 5S originally stood for 1. Seiri (sort), 2. Seiton (systematic arrangement), 3. Seiso (shine), 4. Seiketsu (standardize), and 5. Shitsuke (sustain). A great article describing 5S is here that provided the following rubric:

5S levels


For our specific build we’re both establishing the factory and working to complete our initial prototype. So far we just have a design and are looking to procure our first parts (question 2 from above). But with the principles and ideas of lean manufacturing in place, we can be confident in our plan to eventually deliver a working station with as little waste as possible.