It’s safe to say that the industrial manufacturing industry is alive and well right now after a roller coaster of a year for 2020. 10-12 week lead times are the first clue. New concrete foundations being poured are the second indication.
What We’re Seeing
In our travels throughout the region, 60-70% of the companies we met with have started or are planning to do some type of expansion by either building, moving or acquiring their way to a larger footprint to handle the increasing demands placed upon them by their customers. While managed growth is a welcomed sign of scale and critical mass, it can also bring about new challenges in finding skilled workers to fill open positions, and increase burden on the existing people trying to ensure that new capital is fully utilized and producing up to expectations. This can put strain on everyone from operators up to senior leadership. There might be an interesting study that correlates factory growth to personnel, span of control and technology leverage. A twist on the Fredrick Taylor time motion studies of the late 1800’s.
Continuous improvement has become a very important initiative in these growing organizations. While cost cutting and quality improvements are vital to remaining competitive at a profit, the constant is the need to increase the skills and awareness of all employees to make processes better. It’s pretty common to hear an executive during a meeting ask us if we know of machinists looking for a job as they are hard to come by. When they find a good one, they put a lot of energy into enabling them to produce quickly. Faced with this dilemma of hard-to-find labor, the desire to rapidly increase the skills of existing labor, and solid demand for their goods, companies are turning more and more to continuous improvement programs to ensure they can morph with demands and best practices. The best way to ramp up your continuous improvement game? With a co-pilot, of course, but maybe not in the form you are thinking.
Who’s the Co-Pilot?
One of the simplest ways to on-board critical new employees is by bringing them up to speed on your approach to continuous improvement. What do you track and why? How do you measure success and capture new improvement opportunities? It’s even better if you can do this visually, with technology. What job is that? What’s the score? Why does it look like we struggled this AM? Who do you speak to about that? Do we think it’s back on track? Did the engineers hear about that issue? The ability to look up at a TV screen and have that detailed of a conversation with a new employee is exactly the kind of continuous improvement norm you want to demonstrate on day one. This is precisely the value of a co-pilot – a technology solution that gathers and presents data in forms and functions that align with your continuous improvement mindset. Even better if that solution does it automatically, with no input required from your operators, and no complex integration with your machines. Plug into your machines, get the story straight from the machine, and go.
Our most successful supervisors use Datanomix to show operators what the benchmarks are by job and what standards of performance they look for from setup to machine tending to common maintenance/machine issues. Our collaborative software brings workers to the SmartTV to discuss the day in progress, or a recorded history of each shift, pointing out areas where the company could improve cycle time or response time to meet output expectations and identify sources of variation in performance. The same software can be used to aid in shift transitions, morning production meetings, or post-mortem job analysis. And when you think about it – that’s exactly what you’d want in a co-pilot. A system that prepares data for consumption by you and your team in the form and manner that aligns with the way you already work. You want to keep beating the drum of continuous improvement so that language, attitude and responsiveness associated with that mindset are a muscle that is flexed every single day inside your factory, and you want a co-pilot that is there giving you information as it naturally flows into your daily workflows.