4 Key Skills to Develop and Manage Production Efficiently and Effectively

This article is primarily intended for manufacturing managers, but these skills are also essential for performing in other industries. In addition to suggesting ways to improve your skills as a manager, we share some tips for developing them in your everyday work. 

Change management 

In the modern era, where technology is evolving at a very fast pace, managers are increasingly exposed to change. Some integrate new assets such as machinery and equipment or new work methods, labor and optimized or better adapted processes into the organization. Manufacturing companies must operate through a jostled, regulated industry with several gradual and radical changes. Corporate organizational culture has also undergone several changes in recent years. There is no choice but to manage change to keep the business competitive. 

You must: 

  • Anticipate, understand, manage concerns and fears;
  • Knowing how to communicate the change and the human, organizational and technical impacts it can bring;
  • Involve the employees concerned and create a relationship of trust.

How to perfect this aptitude? 

  • Get out of your comfort zone both personally and professionally;
  • Read books about change management. For example, DavidAutissier’sMethod of Change Management book proposes a structured approach to driving change through a very interesting business model. 
  • Take training courses or attend conferences such as the third edition of theUsine4.0 Conference in Montreal. http://www.lesaffaires.com/evenements/conferences/usine-40/600981 

Interpersonal communication 

Communication is essential in the plant to secure all operations, meet deadlines, meet objectives and ensure resource efficiency. The supervisor or factory manager acts as a conductor. He must set the tempo (speed of execution), guide and coordinate the work of the employees. 

You must: 

  • Communicate, negotiate and maintain relationships of trust with different stakeholders;
  • Be attentive and available;
  • Manageconflicts; 

How to perfect this aptitude? 

  • Think about asking questions when uncertain and demonstrate your listening skills;
  • Take examples from leaders you admire and pay attention to their speeches;
  • Get out of your comfort zone and start discussions with people you are not used to talking about;
  • Undergo corporate communication training for managers.

Leadership 

Factory supervisors need leadership to mobilize their team towards achieving goals and to implement changes in the business successfully. Motivating employees and creating a sense of belonging is key to boosting performance. In some large manufacturing companies, employees feel like little cogs or numbers and it is often this way of dealing with the workforce that creates a high turnover rate. That’s why it’s essential to make them feel like great team players and push them to excel. To be a good leader, one must also be able to show the benefits that all can derive if goals are achieved. 

You must: 

  • Delegate and assign tasks according to the strengths of each;
  • Create the best conditions to encourage initiatives;
  • Create a motivating and collaborative work environment that will be conducive to performance;
  • Provide training, development and continuing education;
  • Implement a structure to measure and improve operations.

How to perfect this aptitude? 

  • Practice your speech, intonation and gestures. Enthusiasm and dynamism are very important to motivate employees in the factory. They need to be made to understand that it is nice to work and take on challenges;
  • Be humble and recognize your mistakes;
  • Analyze the mistakes you made to not repeat them;
  • Establish contact with more experienced leaders, a coach or mentor and learn from their best practices.

Problem solving 

As a manager, you must be able to recognize and solve problems of different natures in a stable or emergency state. To achieve this, the human side of problem solving is essential. You have every interest in involving some people in solving a problem. 

You must: 

  • Create a climate of constructive exchanges;
  • Have a good sense of observation: pay attention to all stages of the process;
  • Identify, evaluate and prioritize risks;
  • Check the usefulness and relevance of the information;
  • Really understand the situation in all its facets beforeacting;
  • Regularly clean up the information collected and set aside unnecessary data;
  • Be an agent of change and a promoter of continuous improvement.

How to perfect this aptitude? 

  • Learn and observe daily key performance, security and compliance elements. Ensure the writing of reports to measure these elements;
  • Develop a continuous improvement approach and learn about industry best practices;
  • Make a list of all the problems encountered in the past. You will be more alert if a problem resurfaces;
  • Prepare meetings to identify the problem to be solved and to find solutions.

For some, managing the production or the entire plant may be easier and for others it is a big challenge. At GCC, we believe that some skills are developing, and that skills development is possible. However, when the manager does not have the knowledge, the time or the resources needed to carry out a project, he can call on specialized external professionals. Groupe Clermont Conseil has a team of engineers in industrial engineering and project managers who specialize in the following areas: 

  • Operational excellence
  • Supply
  • Industrialization 4.0
  • The amelioration keeps going

Do not hesitate to contact us for an evaluation of your needs. 

Sources: 

Lise FreveHow to solve problems in business? Transcontinental Publishing inc. and The Editions of the Fondation de l’entrepreneurship, Canada, 2006, 218 pages 

Business. 3rd edition of the Plant 4.0 conference. Montreal. http://www.lesaffaires.com/evenements/conferences/usine-40/600981 

Waste: the Source of all Problems

The first reaction after reading the title of the article is to think, “Of course, everyone knows that! “. Still, you will be surprised to find that while everyone agrees that wasting is not a good business strategy, the waste still surrounds all our activities. Probably we will never be able to eliminate it completely, but there are ways to reduce it effectively and continuously. 

Let’s assume that the customer wants to buy a product or service that meets their expectations. At first, it would be up to us to understand his expectations and, once we have understood them correctly, to produce what the customer wants as much in quantity as in time. 

Up to this point and while the challenge is significant, it can get even more complicated if we are to achieve this success by using the minimum amount of resources required to add to our product what the customer wants: value. Any use of resources that does not add value to our product is a loss. 

It can be concluded that waste is anything that exceeds the minimum amount of material, equipment, space and time required to add value to the product. Since all waste is a waste, it is in our interest to fight it. Indeed, in an increasingly competitive market, improving our processes to eliminate waste is a matter of survival. We have no choice but to strive for excellence! 

The idea of eliminating waste to become more competitive is not new. Indeed, it was thought in the 1950s by Kiichiro Toyoda, president of Toyota, to catch up with the giants of the North American automotive industry having, at that time, a productivity 10 times higher than that of Japanese. 

From this idea, MM. Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo, both industrial engineers of the company, have developed waste elimination techniques, which, over the years, have formed the basis of a whole management philosophy aimed at the structured elimination of waste (MUDA). in Japanese) while producing what the customer wanted, in the quantity ordered and exactly when he wanted it. The rest is part of the story; Toyota has become the most profitable automotive company in the world. 

In this pursuit of waste, Toyota has identified the seven wastes (Mudas) to eliminate to move towards quality and excellence: 

Waste from overproduction 

  • Produce required products later to occupy machines or employees;
  • Produce more than necessary “just in case”;
  • Produce large lots to “cushion the race time”.

Waste from waiting times 

  • A coin waiting for its turn on a tablet, in a cart, on the floor,etc.;
  • An employee who is waiting for materials, information, a person, an authorization, an inspection.

Waste caused by transport 

  • This source of waste includes all transport and handling that does not add value to the product but increases costs. One can name thereturns, the double or triple handling, the displacement of the articles during manufacture (WIP). Not all transports can be eliminated, but care must be taken to minimize them.

Waste in manufacturing processes 

  • The ranges and procedures not kept up to date leave useless operations in the process;
  • Verbal indications, redundant operations,over quality,etc.; 
  • This type of waste materializes in the form of prolonged and / or unnecessary production steps.

Wastage due to unnecessary inventories 

  • Inventory is a cushion to hide inefficiencies. It increases costs without adding value to the product;
  • Inventory occupies space (which has a cost) and represents capital tied up, which impacts the company’s overall return on investment.

Wastage due to unnecessary movements 

  • This source of waste consists of all movements of operators that do not contribute directly to adding value to the product;
  • Useless movements include moving to find what is missing, late, to ask for additional information;
  • Operations that require complicated manipulations, turning, bending, executing unnecessary extensions, etc.
  1. Waste due to defective parts
  • Inspections, sorting, retouching, recovery, rejects, overtime, additional production capacity required.

Now that you know the sources of waste around you, fight them, always keep them in mind. Remember that the customer is willing to pay only for activities that add value to their eyes. 

Do or Buy?

When is it better to do an activity internally versus when is it better to outsource it? 

It is desirable to maintain in-house activities whose specialized resources are difficult to find on the market. On the other hand, it may be interesting to outsource activities for which internal expertise does not exist, when economies of scale are more interesting or when the activity has little added value. The purchase is to be considered when a specific product is expensive to produce and there is a similar one at a lower cost in the market. A partnership can also be viable to gain a strategic competitive advantage. 

In the World Class Supply Management book, David Burt, Donald Dobler and Stephen Starling present an easy method for defining whether it would be useful to outsource or not. 

If the activity is not in one of these three categories, then it is best to outsource it: 

  • The activity is critical to the success of the product, including the consumer’s perception of certain important attractions;
  • The activity requires specialized design and manufacturing skills or specialized equipment and the number of suppliers with this expertise is limited;
  • The activity fits well in the main skills that the company owns or wishes to develop and is considered strategic.

3PL: Outsourcing Logistics Services

Nowadays, many companies that want to reduce their operational costs choose to outsource all or parts of their supply chain to an external company. Thus, although this trend may prove to be a very interesting choice for some companies, entrusting this precious link to an external firm may, however, be a bad choice for others. A meticulous examination of your individual situation is therefore necessary in order to make the right choice. 

Why outsource? 

The reduction of operating costs, the gain in flexibility and the ability to concentrate human and financial resources mainly by increasing the value added for the company are the main reasons why today’s companies are outsourcing certain functions, including distribution and warehousing. Indeed, the high capital investments and specialized skills required by the logistics function propel them to second place in the list of the most frequently outsourced functions, according to a study by Ernst & Young. [1] 

When to outsource? 

Before embarking on any outsourcing process, it is imperative to ensure that this decision will add value to the company and will not generate any loss of know-how internally. Thus, in general, it’s needed to avoid outsourcing a department or service if it represents a strategic lever for the company and if the people working there have developed special skills. Conversely, outsourcing will be considered if the department or service in question adds no value to the product and if a specialized firm could take over this aspect of the supply chain more efficiently and cheaply. In addition, temporary outsourcing may be useful for a young start-up company that does not have a lot of financial capital, or just for a company that is seasonal. 

Risks related to outsourcing 

Although outsourcing has a lot of economic and operational benefits, a bad choice of outsourcing can be extremely risky for the company in question. In fact, the main risks associated with this practice are the creation of a non-arm’s length relationship with the service provider, the loss of internal skills related to the outsourced function, the risk of the service provider’s failure as well as the inherent differences to this service. 

Nevertheless, it is possible to protect from these potential risks by drafting a contract that will make possible to define both the expectations of the outsourced company and all the obligations that must be respected by the chosen provider throughout the duration of the contract. In the medium or long term, this contract is strategic because it will become the only way to ensure continuity in the performance of the provider who will incur costly penalties in case of non-compliance of his share of obligations. 

Also, the outsourced company will have to maintain a harmonious relationship with its service providers and keep an open and frank dialogue to maximize the quality of its outsourced operations. Thus, it is only once all these conditions are unified together that a company will reduce its risks and can thus take full advantage of the benefits of outsourcing, this of course if it has previously weighed well the counter depending on its situation. 

[1] Ernst & Young Outsourcing Barometer, 2002 

Making an Operational Diagnosis in a Manufacturing Environment

The GCC team frequently conducts internal “Lunch & Learn” trainings. The counselors of our team are, in turn, in charge of setting up a training to present in front of their peers. This week, our counselor, Amine Baffoun, presents us the tools to use to carry out an operational diagnosis in a manufacturing environment. 

An operational diagnosis is performed by a team of multidisciplinary experts who analyze all the functions in order to have an illustration of the current situation and to scrutinize the critical functions. 

The goal is to quantify the potential for improvement and set achievable goals that will translate into an improvement plan. 

During this training, two operational diagnostic tools were presented: 

Cartography 

It is an effective tool for identifying wastes and constraints. Cartography is not the purpose of a project, it is part of the puzzle. 

Process and Value Chain Mapping are two of the most effective measurement tools in our Lean Six Sigma Toolkit. 

Mapping of a process (image) 

Instant observations 

The purpose of the instant observations is to observe the execution of the operations in order to paint an overall statistical portrait of the level of added value and non-added value of the work performed. 

The principle is to establish a circuit, in the factory, to see all the workstations and thus perform the circuit at random hours established beforehand. The activity done by the employee at the time of the passage is noted on the observation sheet and will serve to define the statistical portrait of the work done. 

In other sectors, such as services, form-based data collection is preferred, interviews with staff, and Kaizen workshops can help to make a diagnosis. This formula encourages staff to participate in the improvement and implementation phases of the solutions. 

Form of the value-added measurement by instantaneous observations 

Increase Production Capacity With a new Layout 

Description of the completed project 

The company offers top-of-the-range painting services, including “motorhomes” (motorhomes), buses and trucks. Its factories are growing. The project consists of redeveloping the bottlenecks to increase the overall capacity of the plant. The goal is to increase daily production by 33%. 

Since our consultants are now Green Belt Lean Six Sigma certified, the D-M-A-I-C methodology (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) will be used in this project. This philosophy puts forward fault prevention, rather than detection. This increases customer satisfaction and results. How? By reducing variation, waste and cycle time as well as promoting work and flow standardization, which creates a competitive advantage. 

Once the project and its boundaries are clearly defined, data collection is needed to assess the current situation. One of the tools used is the Systematic Layout Planning (SLP) which is presented below and could certainly be useful for your business. 

The SLP method 

By properly organizing the space, it is possible for your business to increase productivity, save money and, perhaps even, push back a costly real estate investment you once thought inevitable. 

Indeed, the “Systematic Layout Planning” (SLP) method is a method of designing or redesigning implantations developed by Richard Muther in the early 1960s. Based on a systematic and quantitative approach, rather than an instinctive one, the method allows to review or improve the implantation that supports your manufacturing methods or the delivery of your services. 

The main benefits you can get from applying this method are: 

  • Reduced travel costs;
  • a decrease in cycle time;
  • decreased congestion and interference;
  • Better use of space;
  • Increased security and motivation of staff.

Its impact is immediate and major on your productivity and your profitability. The method proposes four overlapping phases which make it possible to ensure that no element has been forgotten and that the implantation will be adequate. 

Here is a brief overview of each phase: 

The localization 

In this phase, we are interested in where the implantation will take place. Whether it is a new site or the redevelopment of an existing site, it is strongly recommended that a method specialist be involved in the assessment of the potential site. 

The general layout 

At this stage, we study the main flows, the general dimensions and the general configuration of each block. Also, we will start with this step when the location is imposed from the start. It is during this phase that all relationships are identified and coded according to the importance of their interactions. 

A – ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY = 16 

E – VERY IMPORTANT = 8 

I – IMPORTANT = 4 

 NOT VERY IMPORTANT = 1 

U – NOT IMPORTANT = 0 

 UNDESIRABLE = -80 

Detailed implementation 

The output of this phase will be a set of drawings, plans, computer files or a model that details the details of each block. It describes the location of machinery, equipment, workstations, raw materials, work in progress and finished products. It is also at this stage that we specify the services (compressed air, electricity, water, unloading bay, etc.) that will be needed. 

The installation 

During this final phase, installation instructions and schedule will be developed. We will also look at the permits, approvals and authorizations needed to carry out the work. The quality of the work accomplished during this stage will minimize production interruptions in the case of a redevelopment and the respect of deadlines in the case of a new design.