Monthly Archives: December 2012

3 Tips for Successful Shop Floor Resolutions!

Break the cycle of broken New Year’s Resolutions with these simple to implement ideas.

The New Year has become synonymous with renewed energy, passion, and the resolution list.  Perhaps it’s the holiday joy or eggnog that motivates us to personal and professional improvement.

But, unfortunately, all too often reality sets in quickly after the New Year.  Promises and goals are renegotiated and adjusted, before eventually being put aside sometime during the doldrums of February.

Set yourself up for success in 2013 with these tips.

Set yourself up for success in 2013 with these tips.  Photo:

Let’s be honest… it doesn’t have to be that way.  The energy, passion and motivation that starts the New Year, and drives the beginning of many manufacturing improvement projects, doesn’t have to fade.  So, as the New Year rolls around and many of us in manufacturing are planning for Q1, here are a few ideas to ponder and ways to ensure the motivation and energy we all find after the holidays lasts the whole year.

 1) Do Your Homework!

Many of us set aside an hour or so to write out resolutions, which leads to goals that sound good, but may not be the best solution.  By the time you determine the resolution is not all it’s cracked up to be, you’ll have lost the motivation and energy necessary to replace it with a better one.

Take time to do research before writing resolutions or making improvement plans.  Even a few hours of reading and studying pay HUGE dividends for your business.  Make research part of the resolution.  Ask questions of potential vendors and collect information.  Many of us are afraid of opening the floodgates to sales calls, but an honest vendor will help ensure you have the best solution plan.  In fact, once you’ve done a little research and understand what you are getting into, you’ll be even more motivated and driven.

Example: There are more options than ever for manufacturers looking at paperless manufacturing.  In fact, CIMx is preparing a new product for 2013 that will deliver paperless manufacturing to shop floors that may never have imagined paperless would work for them.  Okay, this might sound like a shameless pitch, but the truth is, the marketplace is continually changing with new products and options.  Gather information and make an informed decision on how to proceed.

 2) Set Manageable Goals!

January 1st seems to hold more opportunity than February 12th (and no, I have nothing against February 12th, but you get the idea).  This means the massive undertakings you plan at the beginning of the year may not be as possible as you imagined.  And all too often, when one part of a resolution doesn’t seem possible, we put aside the entire resolution.  Creating a complex, ambitious goal will likely lead to nothing getting done, and 2013 being another year of the “same-old.”  But, setting a smaller goal or a few smaller goals that lead to quick rewards and measurable improvements make it much more likely you’ll find success and make positive changes.

Example: Here’s a simple improvement with quick rewards: digitize your shop floor.  This might seem like a massive undertaking fraught with risk and high costs (despite new options that minimize risk and cost), but the simple step of making paper work instructions digital lead to savings and production improvements, and it’s not nearly as hard as you might think. 

For example, many remember those massive, yellow phone books that wasted ink, paper and time.  Now, the phone book is online and user-friendly.  Why can’t we do the same thing with work instructions?  Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to shuffle paper from printers, to shop floor, to cataloging and storage, only to haul it back out for an audit?  Digitizing the shop floor is a simple process with real rewards.

3) Make Change Sustainable!

Does anyone remember no-carb diets?  Years ago, it was all the resolution-rage.  But, let’s be honest, a diet of steak and hamburger is NOT sustainable.  You need to spend some time considering how sustainable a change is before you set a goal.  Plan on how you will make a lasting, positive improvement.  You need processes and change management systems in place before you dictate improvements on your shop floor.

Example: No one can honestly deny Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma won’t improve production.  Fewer errors leads to more profit.  The problem many manufacturers have is collecting the data necessary to implement changes, and implementing procedural enforcement to sustain change.  Integrating process improvements such as Lean and Six Sigma into software processes or features will ensure success and maximum benefits.

There is an energy and optimism that accompanies every New Year.  Capitalize on the energy by making positive changes to keep your business competitive, profitable and successful.  Your goal for each year should be steady improvement, because the competition is continually finding ways to improve.  Opportunity is out there.  Do your research, set achievable goals, and make sure those goals are sustainable.

What are your goals for the New Year?  What areas do you want to improve, or what challenges are you faced with on your shop floor?  Tell us!  Putting your plans in writing will add even more motivation to improve and deliver success in 2013.

Do you have any questions about this, or any of our blogs, or just want to know more? Leave a comment or email us at

3 Tips to Building a Winning Production Improvement Team

A Winning Team is built on more than just luck

Picking teams can be one of the most cruel grade school rites of passage. Selections are rarely based on need, kindness, or even logic.  Inevitably there are a few lonely stragglers left to be thrust onto teams they know don’t want anything to do with them.

Building the right team can be the difference between success and failure.

Building the right team can be the difference between success and failure.  Photo:

Unfortunately, many times Production Improvement teams are built the same way, with the same, sad results.  A manufacturing need will force co-workers together, with little strategic thought.  The team is given a monumental task with huge potential upside (paperless manufacturing, production control, and real-time visibility of operations are potential game-changers), but without the right people or skill sets in place on the team, you’ll have minimal gains for maximum effort.

Ensuring you have the right people will pay huge dividends for the project.  Here are a few tips for asking the right people to your production improvement team.

1) Ask yourself, what solution are you looking for?  Production improvement projects begin with a challenge that must be overcome.  Understanding the motivation behind the project should guide team selection.  For example, if your shop floor struggles with document control, then having someone who understands how documents are currently managed, and how they should be managed, would help.  If your company can’t make an accurate estimate on shipping dates, then having a customer service or business representative on the team makes sense.

This seems like an obvious strategy, but the key here is making an honest assessment of the challenges, analyzing potential solutions, and make sure you have buy-in from everyone on the team.  Creating a successful committee or team begins by doing more than just assigning people; it’s assigning or recruiting the right people who will get results.  Limiting membership also keeps the project focused.  Many MES or paperless manufacturing improvement projects struggle against bloated functionality lists when team members bring priorities outside of the original scope of the project.  This leads to increased costs, longer project schedules, and increased risk.

2) Recruit key stakeholders as soon as possible.  When creating a production improvement team, you will (almost) always need a few key team members.  First, you’ll need someone from operations.  Without approval and buy-in from the shop floor, your solution will become shelfware instead of software.  The existing production process, which operations manage, should shape the solution you select.  Early involvement of operations will save work later in the project.

Next, you’ll want a representative from IT.  IT may not use the new software every day, but they will maintain and troubleshoot the system.  They want an integrated software solution that works with existing systems and won’t be a burden on their team resources.

Finally, you need a representative from management on your team.  They will be a trusted voice and advocate to the executive team who helps earn approval for the project, and can ensure buy-in for the new system in all departments.  This representative may not lead the team, but they help coordinate efforts and overcome internal challenges.

3) Ensure you have the right skill sets for your project.  Match the tasks on your to-do list with the skills on your team.  This will prevent future frustration that can potentially slow progress.  For example, many times a company will require a study on the projected ROI (Return On Investment) before releasing funds for software.  Make sure you have someone on your team confident enough in completing a cost analysis to convince management the project is worthy of approval.

You might also need to prepare an RFI or RFQ, or lead a presentation to management on your findings.  If there is no one on your team with the experience or confidence in these tasks, then you may need to recruit additional help.  No matter how large your team, you may still need to recruit outside help, but proactively plan these steps before problems arise.

What is your strategy for building a successful team?

What is your strategy for building a successful team?

The comparison between a schoolyard kickball game and a potentially game-changing manufacturing decision involving cutting-edge software may seem ludicrous at first, but often a lack of strategy when team-building will destroy a project before it even begins- the same result schoolyard teams’ face.  Many times, it’s obvious who should be on the production improvement team.  Projects move smoothly through the committee, funds are found and the system implemented without a hitch.  Even so, it never hurts to have a strategy and plan in place when building your team.

What are your thoughts on how to create an effective team?  How have you found success (or failure) in team building?  Let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

The holidays are in full swing!  Our next blog is scheduled for Christmas Day (which means we’ll be releasing our next blog a little later so it’s not lost in the festivities).  We’re going to take a look at a few manufacturing ideas waiting to take off in the New Year.  Have an excellent holiday!  Stay safe, stay warm, and see you soon!