Creating a high-performance culture can help manufacturing operations transform from a cost center to a source of competitive advantage.
In manufacturing, the real value comes from people effectively creating finished goods from raw materials at a consistent high-quality standard in the most efficient manner — this is what consumers ultimately pay for. So how can organizations align their people and processes to deliver that value? It comes down to three things: capable people, empowered shop floor teams, and high engagement between leadership and the shop floor.
Some believe a critical few are the superheroes of their manufacturing organization. But in a 24×7 operation, those superheroes can only spend, if they’re lucky, about half their time on the floor, covering less than 15% of the operating period.
Most of the time, performance is driven by capable and smart machine operators using documented standards (not necessarily just on paper, but also video, audio or images). It’s important to help your people understand those standards and make them routine and regular so that high performance is predictable. Standards more effectively enable organizations to identify and train operators on critical skills, institutionalize knowledge to enable the next generation of operators and allow time for developing creative solutions to chronic issues.
When your people need to react to abnormal conditions, they must be empowered to collaborate, conduct problem-solving and make their own decisions. The problem is that when people don’t feel empowered, or worse, they fear getting punished for making a mistake, they won’t make the best decisions.
For example, if the analytics from a machine say that product quality will start to drop in 30 minutes, is the operator empowered to make an adjustment or shut down the operation on the spot? If not, you could have several hours of rework ahead of you.
High engagement between leadership and the shop floor
To make confident, empowered decisions, operators need to understand more about the business context. For example, if there are two production runs going at the same time, one for a critical customer and the other for a less significant one, do people operating the equipment know which production is the priority? This is the second dimension of empowered people, and it requires more engagement from leadership.
Do leaders in your organization feel their role is truly to enable operators? Is it to reduce barriers and increase capability? Maybe not — especially if the shop floor managers feel it’s a step down to leave their office and get onto the floor. But to help people understand the broader business context, which in turn will lead to operators making the right decisions, managers must act more like coaches than light-touch supervisors.
The importance of the last mile
Imagine you’re doing everything right. You have capable people, empowered teams and high engagement between leadership and the shop floor. However, you might be missing something.
With innovations such as the smart factory, organizations are increasingly trying to leverage data in a different way, using cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and so on. The real challenge, however, is that managers may feel it is their role to assess that data for strategic insight, leaving out the people below them on the organization chart. The right information might never reach the shop floor operators, those who need it the most.
Given that most of the value in manufacturing is created at the point of production on the shop floor, organizations must consider how data can be packaged and presented in a way to make it actionable by shop floor operators. This is often called “the last mile,” and this is the stage at which it’s important to have data-driven insights in the hands of those who need it the most — those making decisions on the shop floor, who convert the decisions to actions and deliver value. Such an effort toward better performance makes capable, empowered people, with the right technology and analytics at hand, more important than ever.
Empowered people, powered by the right tools and information
A high-performance culture helps transform manufacturing operations from a cost center to a source of competitive advantage by empowering capable people to make the best real-time decisions, including providing your teams with advanced technology that enables them to do their jobs extremely well. All of this is only possible through increased engagement and constant communication between leadership and the shop floor, enabling the transformation of your manufacturing system for the best results.