There are plenty of articles out there about the latest in ERP systems and OEE, and how to make your equipment work hard for you. But I’m here to tell you about an underused and overlooked asset that you’ve already invested in. And it’s not a machine. It’s a human being.

 

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, CATCH ‘EM ON FIRE.

Let’s call a spade a spade – people aren’t easy to manage. We’ve all heard how the industry is moving more toward machines and artificial intelligence, and that eventually we’ll replace a lot of jobs. But the truth is, your workforce isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. More importantly, there’s nothing more powerful and efficient than a motivated, effective operator… or manager… or CEO, for that matter. And there are simple ways to recharge and ignite an under-performing worker that, frankly, might shock you. It’s all about giving them the right tools.

UPGRADED INPUT = UPGRADED OUTPUT

A press takes paper and puts out a printed product. A human takes information and puts it to work. It’s input driving output. Decisions without the right information are always sub-optimal.

Shop floor data is the information they need, but it’s only as good as it is easy to use. When operators have real-time feedback in front of them, it allows them to react and respond in the moment. It’s like being on a treadmill at the gym and being able to adjust your speed and effort by seeing your progress right there on the digital display. Your operator can work wonders if you just provide a scorecard.

MIRACLE WORKERS

Amazing stories play themselves out every day on the shop floor, we see them all the time. The idea that shop floor data plays the role of ‘Big Brother’ is an antiquated one. Often the opposite is true. I remember one young upstart on a shop floor that had just installed Flex. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and remarked ‘I’m glad they’ve put in this software. Now they’ll know how good I really am!’

After implementing FLEX real-time production management software on his shop floor, one plant manager discovered that an employee was performing at a considerably lower rate than the other two shift workers. After examining the situation, it turned out she was in a work cell where she had to walk to several different points on the floor, a bit more than was required of the other operators. After reviewing her FLEX performance metrics, he remembered that she’d had knee surgery in the past. By simply moving her to another station, she went from being the bottom performer to one of the top performers in the company. And BOOM – output was improved.

PUTTING THE GAME IN GAME-CHANGER

The term ‘gamification’ is becoming more common in business, and it is quickly finding its place in manufacturing. The idea is that when you turn something into a game, people respond with a newfound energy that can motivate people to learn more and perform better. A particularly creative plant manager I know figured this out on his shop floor. He implemented a NASCAR-inspired game using FLEX to score every hour of an 8 hour shift, translating to eight laps on the track. There were three cars on the team to represent shifts one, two and three. They would score ‘Winston Cup’ points every day. At the end of the quarter, they’d see who topped the list and that team would get an enormous trophy called the ‘Factory Cup’, which was prominently and proudly displayed on the top of that machine.

The manager had Factory Cup tee shirts made up and it was widely publicized internally. This game inspired everyone to do their absolute best, enough so that they became the first gold-certified plant as a result of it. But what was even more amazing, was that everybody loved playing the game. At some point, they introduced bonus payouts for the winners. But after a budget cut, it was announced that they could no longer fund the bonuses. The response was astonishing. Employees insisted on doing the Cup Series anyway because ‘it’s not about the money, it’s about the Cup!’ Talk about a win-win!

DOLLARS AND SENSE: HOW MUCH CAN YOU SAVE?

You may be wondering, what’s the bottom line? Imagine reducing costs or increasing capacity by 4%, just by empowering your people and eliminating avoidable waste. Because that is not just possible, it’s happening. The investment is minimal, it’s easy to install, easy to use, and people get more job satisfaction. Think about it, it makes sense.

Even human beings need a little upgrade now and then.