If you’re reading this and the title doesn’t instantly make you think of a 1980s TV series, then maybe I should explain. Based initially on the short stories of Roald Dahl, each episode of Tales of the Unexpected was renowned for serving up an unexpected twist ending.
But how, I hear you ask, does this relate to improving manufacturing productivity?
Well, it’s about highlighting the fact that the devil behind any performance concerns is always in the detail – and that once found can provide a wholly unexpected ‘twist’ on everything from process to profitability.
- What would you find if you were able to identify the true factors impacting employee utilisation?
- What surprises are in store if you attempt to uncover the causes of delays in planned work orders?
- Are there twists in the tale when it comes to understanding why one employee consistently outperforms the rest?
Delivering immediate and long-term value
Answering these types of questions has traditionally been a difficult exercise for many manufacturers. But what value comes from uncovering these insights? Unsurprisingly, the answer is a lot – and here are some examples to provide the context:
The price is right: one MESTEC client had concerns their pricing model was losing money on various jobs. With access to real-time data from the shop floor, they were able to identify the problem: some product lines took operatives longer than anticipated to set up. As a result, they were able to adjust resource plans and consolidate small batches to increase efficiency.
You get what you pay for: another one of our clients took the decision to buy cheaper materials in smaller pieces to cut procurement costs. However, when jobs started to come in over budget investigations finally recognised that the excessive time required by employees to handle the smaller pieces far outweighed the initial savings.
Putting a price on defective: as a final example, Siemens used the insights provided by MESTEC to analyse the cost of re-working faulty supplied components. Doing so highlighted how this cost was far higher than expected – leading them to work closely with suppliers to reduce the number of defects – while also recovering the costs incurred.
In search of actionable insight
These 3 examples help bring to life the why behind mining performance data for hidden ‘nuggets’ of insight. The how is also relatively straight forward (at least for MESTEC customers): make the collection of all relevant data from the shop floor to the back office a simple and seamless part of any workflow – coupled with easy-to-use analysis tools.
Let’s turn our attention instead to the what: what to do with all this data at your fingertips? The first step we typically recommend is to utilise such real-time insights to measure performance versus time, with the goal of knowing:
- How long is it taking to complete specific client jobs?
- Which tasks and activities within these jobs are taking longer than expected?
- Conversely, which ones are proving quicker to complete than expected?
Drilling into the ‘time factor’ helps to immediately identify any potential problems. That said, you’re only really uncovering the effects – a deeper drill down is required to reveal the underlying causes.
With MESTEC you can do this with just a few clicks and ‘drag-and-drop’ movements. As a result, you can slice and dice the data by the different activities making up an overall process – by product, task, or operator etc. This enables you to:
- Quickly diagnose any situation
- Focus in on those areas holding performance back
- Spot patterns – i.e. tasks consistently exceeding time allowed
As another example, one of our clients found that one task relating to a particularly heavy sub-assembly was always contributing to poor employee utilisation. Interrogating the data soon helped reveal the problem: crane availability at the time the task was set. Adapting the schedule therefore led to a fast and permanent solution.
Finally, there’s one further dimension the data opens up: workforce performance. Review who’s doing what and when, and you’re soon be able to:
- Identify top performers and areas where improvements are needed
- Use this data to set practical benchmarks for others to follow
- Build on the experience of top performers to quantify and share best practices
What’s more, such insight helps further enhance the accuracy of future job pricings, due to a more realistic understanding of the time needed to complete certain tasks. Plus you can align future training and recruitment agendas to cover known shortfalls.
Talk about the unexpected…
Summing it all up
Taking the time to fully appreciate both cause and effect of workforce productivity can indeed lead to some ‘twist endings’. From crane availability to shift patterns, it can often be the small things that make a big difference. Get them right and you’ll see performance improve almost overnight – while also finding multiple opportunities to cut costs and drive productivity.