Category Archives: Six Sigma

Are You Putting “Best” Into Manufacturing Best Practices?

Are You Putting “Best” Into Manufacturing Best Practices?

“Best Practices” has become an industry buzzword so overused it is more “buzz” than word.  In fact, a recent study discovered the phrase “Best-Practices” was used more than 4,600 times in industry press releases.

Reliable metrics and data collection is an integral part of any best practice initiatives.

That’s too bad, because a best practice program offers tremendous benefits to manufacturers through increased quality, and reduced errors, non-productive work and variation.  But, like the latest fad diet, concepts this “buzzy” often lead to short term improvements and not real sustainable change.

There are three key components in best practice campaigns: people, process and technology.  First, you need to have buy-in from people on the shop floor to implement process improvements.  Empower and prepare people to make changes, otherwise production might suffer as you struggle to micro-manage process changes for your team.

Also consider your process as you plan a best practice campaign.  You need to have a process for not only identifying a best practice, but implementing the process change.  If the processes you are using require significant production downtime to make a change, the net result of the best practice exercise won’t benefit the business.

Finally, many best practice campaigns are only made possible by technology and tools which can evaluate a production process and help sustain the improvements with procedural enforcement, creating a culture of accountability. Software tools like MES which offer real-time visibility of the shop floor and accurate production process control are invaluable for sustainable best practice improvements and operational excellence.

Do you have the tools to capture real-time production data?

Before you begin any Best Practice initiative, study these three components in your own business to evaluate your potential success.  If your technology component doesn’t offer real-time visibility of production processes, then you won’t be able to measure or maximize your best practice benefits.  Similarly, without buy-in from the shop floor team success will be difficult to achieve.

A careful balance between people, process and technology are essential for success.  There may be costs associated with attaining this balance, but the benefits of the change will not only give your company a competitive edge, but also support sustainable best practice process improvements far into the future.

A successful process improvement campaign can be a game-changer for manufacturers.  Implementing best practices, Six Sigma improvements or Lean Manufacturing is a step toward achieving operational excellence, but sustainable change can only be attained once the proper tools are in place.  The right technology that enhances processes and empowers people is the BEST “Best Practice” in today’s competitive environment.

Have you had any success implementing best practices in your company culture?  What steps have you taken to empower employees to enact best practices, and what tools have you found to help sustain change?  Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!  Join us next time as we take a closer look at paperless manufacturing, and how it can help you find manufacturing success today.

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

Finding opportunities for improvement is easy, but taking the steps necessary to improve is much more challenging.  The unfortunate mess in my basement is proof of that.  I wrote a list of “basement improvements,” but boxes sit against the wall and shelves still aren’t hung.

Too often, process improvement faces a similar challenge in manufacturing.  We recognize steps for improvement, but taking them is more difficult.  But I believe now, more than ever, manufacturing excellence is within reach.  Here are a few simple reasons why:

Moving toward Operational Excellence.

  1. Seamless, integrated communication is possible (and affordable).  To manage change and ensure quality, shop floor workers need access to up-to-the-minute information and the latest plans.  Managers need access to quality control and other data instantly so they can rapidly respond and make informed decisions.  With improvements to data collection, integrated MES software systems, wireless networks, and secure mobile technology, seamless communication is not only feasible, but easy to implement using the right tools.
  2. Lean and Six Sigma processes are sustainable.  There is no doubt Lean and Six Sigma processes improve efficiency, work flow, and inventory control, leading to improved shop floor processes and company profit.  According to the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the UK, implementing Lean manufacturing principles will, on average, improve productivity 25%, reduce scrap levels 26%, and improve delivery performance by 26%.  The challenge has been sustaining improvements.  MES systems implement and maintain a production system that takes advantage of improvements through procedural enforcement and controlled processes.
  3. Shop floor workers are becoming more proficient with technology.  Mobile technology is revolutionizing manufacturing, and is now as commonplace as the smart phone. In fact, according to AdAge, 4.8 billion (out of 6 billion) people on the planet have a mobile phone (and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush)! In an age where everyone has multiple home computers and many of us spend more time browsing the web than watching TV, we all find it much easier to accept new technology, even on the shop floor.
  4. Quick implementation of new technology is possible.  Implementing an MES project doesn’t necessarily mean taking production offline for an extended period of time.  There are currently OOTB (Out Of The Box) projects that deliver the functionality manufacturers need, and can be implemented and go live in production in 90 days or less (sometimes, much less).  Creating an implementation plan with short, focused phases can show an almost immediate ROI.

The truth is, production shops are dynamic environments where change, both planned and unplanned, is the norm.  Technology has improved and processes developed to give us the capability to manage change and risk, and deliver quality results in less time and money.

The goal of this blog, Paperless Manufacturing, is to focus on manufacturing excellence and what steps we can take to get there.  Manufacturing excellence is a lofty goal, but it’s not one we can ignore.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturing produces $1.7 trillion dollars of value each year.  For every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.35 is added to the economy.  We have too much riding on manufacturing not to strive for excellence.

Delivering manufacturing excellence.

If you have an idea for a blog topic, a question you want to ask, or an issue you want to discuss, let us know.  If you have something you want to add to the conversation (and who doesn’t want to be heard), leave a comment.  We’re listening.  You can email us here.  Improvement should be the goal for all of us.  Next week we’ll talk about mobile technology, manufacturing, and what you should look for as you plan for the future.