Monthly Archives: April 2013

What do we know about the future of manufacturing?

There is one important factor you should consider when pondering the future of manufacturing, and it may not be what you think…

I once worked for a company that offered quarterly education classes for all employees to help “prepare for the future.”  It made for powerful marketing and employee recruitment pieces, but most classes were seen as a burden.  It was a wasted day of surveys, icebreakers, and guest speakers, with free pizza as a consolation prize.

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by

In retrospect, I see the advantages.  Process improvement initiatives found greater success, there was greater coordination between departments, and a company culture flourished (nothing builds rapport more than pizza and complaining).  The business was agile and adaptable, able to make enterprise level changes quickly through the training sessions and follow-up.   The point of the training sessions had less to do with classes and speakers, and more to do with preparing employees to think agile and learn new skills.

Manufacturing isn’t like other businesses.  It’s difficult to shut down operations every few months for pizza and classes.  But we can’t ignore the benefits of an agile, educated work force.

A recent survey highlights how important education has become to manufacturing.  An article from Manufacturing Business Technology and written by Prime Advantage states, “Nearly half of U.S. manufacturers (46 percent) have engaged with local educational providers in order to train workers (up from just 19 percent in 2012).”  The article goes on to cite difficulty finding skilled labor as a hurdle for continued growth. 63 percent of the CFO’s who responded are providing training for new employees, with 58 percent preparing re-training for existing employees.  As technology rapidly changes, manufacturers could be left with an inefficient work force that cannot handle the new technology and machines.

How can you prepare for the future?   Photo by

How can you prepare for the future? Photo by

Providing education for employees and preparing your business for the future may not be as difficult as you think.  Imagine training delivered daily without taking anyone from production work.  The technology driving change, such as paperless manufacturing, not only provides effective process control for shop floor operations, information management, and improved efficiency; it also provides an effective tool for employee training.  Here’s how:

  • A shop floor viewer will not only provide paperless work instructions, but best-in-class systems such as CIMx Software will seamlessly provide multi-media files, including training videos, machine set-up instructions, and safety information;
  • The system will connect the shop floor to the rest of your enterprise, promoting collaborative manufacturing. This could also include mobile manufacturing, ensuring everyone has the information they need, when and where they need it.
  • Recent studies have shown process improvement is most successful when Lean techniques work in conjunction with paperless manufacturing and MES.  The process control, data collection, and efficiency improvements make employee education initiatives and Lean programs even more effective.
  • You control the system, and select the information and media available to your shop floor.  They see and learn the skills you need them to have as a part of each job.
  • Practical in-system training and hands-on lessons make a shop floor viewer device a superior employee training option.

So what do we know about the future?  We know it will be different.  New skills will be necessary, and an educated, focused work force will be a key to success.  As new manufacturing methodologies are developed, and customer needs change, employee training is even more important.  Agile organizations find success, while organizations who struggle to adapt will bleed customers.  Employee education is a key factor to preparing for the future.

Manufacturers see employee education as a vital business resource.  The traditional methods of employee education won’t work for manufacturing.  Paperless manufacturing offers an integrated solution to the challenge of educating shop floor employees, while minimizing disruption to normal production flow.

So what employee education programs do you have in place? Are you confident you’ve built an agile organization?  How much is a well-educated work force worth to you?  Contact CIMx Software to learn more today.