To understand why I joined Tulip, you need to understand the manufacturing environment that I came from.
What I Saw
I’ve worked in 4 manufacturing plants in the Aerospace and Defense industry, in 3 different US states. Some were better than others, but they all used a lot of paper.
Production visibility was not a thing.
During one of my supervisor positions, I made 2 formal walkthroughs of my hardware’s entire process flow through the plant, including to the quality hold areas, per day, making tally marks on a piece of paper to sum the number of pieces that were in each process step. How else would I know where my parts were? I hand counted every piece of aircraft engine hardware from my cell, 2x/ day, every day. And then I used this information to make customer commitments.
Work instructions were reams of paper.
In the plant where I spent most of my manufacturing life, in a blended manufacturing and quality engineering function, work instructions felt like they were a ream of paper each, particularly those that broke down cuts of a CNC cutting path. For compliance reasons, every printed work instruction had to be thrown out and replaced within a certain time interval, and of course had to be reprinted if any changes were made.
Our team would go on regular purges to toss out the work instructions that found their way into forgotten workstation drawers, or for which the operator simply forgot to reprint by the required time interval, and then we would reprint the documents.
A lot of trees died in the name of compliance.
And then there was dispositioning…
Every non-conformance, whether to an engineering drawing or to an approved process, had to be “called out,” on the part’s paper router. A person with the appropriate qualifications, which in my manufacturing quality role was generally me, had to disposition the non-conformance on the router.
My back-of-the-envelope calculation on how much writing I did is a bit disheartening so let’s just say, I ran pens out of ink.
There’s more to manufacturing than making parts
I felt like I lived in the shops I worked in, yes because I spent a lot of time there, but also because I have been through so much with the people who were there with me. Some were skilled machinists or welders, some were manufacturing process experts, and some were just a pain. But whether they worked for me or with me or literally next to me, I owe what I learned to those people.
Broadening my perspective on the shop floor
Working in manufacturing, I felt pride in delivering a good to the world that I still carry with me. I was also frustrated beyond words. I knew when I left the industry that I would not come back unless I was in a position to change it.
Flash forward a few years, I had an MBA and was working for a top tier consulting firm. I did a variety of work, including some in manufacturing that gave me real life exposure to all the buzzwords: 4th industrial revolution, IoT, digital transformation. I worked with manufacturing sites considering automation and digitization for reasons from cost improvements to eliminating tasks no human should really do for 8 hours a day (think of the “intellect” or “talent” waste in Lean, and ergonomics).
I also learned about the future of workers, the supply and demand of certain skills, and how our changing technology landscape changes what it means to work in manufacturing.
And now, Tulip
For someone from the shop floor, Tulip took a few tries to fully grasp – it’s not like traditional software for manufacturing and operations. Apps? Built on a platform? That you can modify yourself? That can generate real time data and enforce quality compliance? I’m still continually impressed with the features Tulip develops and the problems it solves.
I was interested in Tulip because I saw a product that could have changed my life on the shop floor. I joined Tulip because I saw a company that believes in the humans that keep manufacturing running, and that saw how to realize the potential of the industry. I have now seen Tulip Apps improve efficiency, communication, operational performance, and decision making across production, quality, maintenance, and even logistics. I’m part of delivering a very different product to the world now, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.