January 9, 2019
Posted by: David Marshall
Category: Manufacturing, Measurement
I’ve long been a proponent of measuring a company’s efficiency by measuring each employee’s productivity, output, and even their costs. Whether it’s an associate on the floor, an associate in the Accounts Receivable office, or even the President and COO of the entire company, you have to know how well the company is performing in all their important metrics.
But you can’t pore over every single line on a spreadsheet and understand what’s going on. That’s too much information to comprehend. You need a measurement dashboard to give you a 30,000 foot aggregated view of how the departments and divisions are doing.
So what should you have on your company measurement dashboard?
For example, my old employer, Robroy, manufactures fiberglass liners for oil field tubulars, which are used to prevent corrosion on the actual tubulars (the industry term for pipes). There are critical events that happen during the production of the liners that ensure chemical resistance and corrosion protection which increase the performance of the product.
Some of the critical events are where the fiberglass and various resins are wound onto a mandrel. For the chemicals to react correctly and give you the outcome you want, you have to maintain certain curing temperatures on a consistent basis. If you don’t, you can actually reduce the chemical resistance of the finished product. So it’s important that you can ensure, on a minute-by-minute basis, that each piece is reaching the optimal temperature for the required amount of time.
You need to know if these processes are happening correctly. If they aren’t, you need to spot the problem very quickly. If you’re producing 30-foot liners, you need to know that each one is being pre-cured at the right temp and right amount of time. If that doesn’t happen, you need to be alerted immediately so you can solve it. Otherwise, you’ll be producing an awful lot of scrap or a potentially-bad product.
You also want to make sure everybody has access to their own data about the critical aspects of their production area, as well as receive the automatic alerts if there are any deviations to the optimal settings. This is true whether you’re making a fiberglass liner or a kitchen table. If there’s any deviation, you’re not going to have a predictable product at the other end.
Another item on your dashboard should be the state or status of the equipment itself. Are the critical components consistently optimal? Are any pieces wearing down or nearing a breakdown? It’s important information to include because you won’t know if there’s a problem unless it’s being monitored by a sensor or camera. You won’t know until you see bad products coming out the other end, or get angry phone calls from customers.
You also want to keep an eye on the production rate of your associates. Are they making rate or are they falling behind? While the dashboard may not tell you why they’re falling behind, it will alert you to the problem so you can investigate it further.
The dashboard should also tell you when a system ends up being in arrears. You should know the production numbers of the previous shift, the alerts that sounded, what types they were (quality or equipment), and whether they were fixed.
If there were quality-related alerts, they should correlate with the scrap count. That is, if you had a quality alert, it would suggest you had a rejected product. If you didn’t, why not? Did someone shirk their duty to quality? Or did the material review board take it under advisement and decide whether the product should be scrapped or not?
Your measurement dashboard can be a piece of software running on your computer, as well as everyone else in operational or production management, or it can be a daily report that’s emailed or printed out. It’s something you should review on a daily basis, if not hourly, to ensure everything is running smoothly.
If you’re not going to use continuously-running software, you should at least have a system that will automatically send an email alert to the production personnel and management telling you when a machine is running out of tolerance or if production numbers are falling.
In the end, the objective of your operation should be zero failures. But this shouldn’t be measured on a monthly or even a weekly basis. It’s something you have to check every single day, every hour. If you can spot an error before it gets out of control, you can save an entire order, or even keep a high-value customer happy.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, as well as speak at conferences, trade shows, and chambers of commerce. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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