Two key concepts in manufacturing that often get misconstrued or even used synonymously are productivity and efficiency. Do you know what the difference is? Despite these two words pertaining to improving the production process of a manufacturing, agriculture, or service sector company, they refer to different things. Once you think about the differences, you can better utilize productivity and efficiency in your business.
Rhythm Blog | Manufacturing
by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team
I grew up in a manufacturing family. My grandmother had her own manufacturing company, and my father was a partner in a local manufacturing company. I still have very fond memories working in and running the business. It was like one big happy family - most of the time, that is. We had employees that stayed with us pretty much from the beginning and that would be close to forty years in some cases. How do you get employees to stay with you for the long term and contribute to the best of their ability? One of the answers is to ensure they are treated with respect, appreciated, and given the opportunity to be fully engaged. Being fully engaged means different things to different people, but here are some key approaches to consider.
We have an internal team that meets weekly and goes by the name “CANI." Although I was trained as an industrial engineer, this was a term that I did not know. CANI stands for continuous and never-ending improvement and was brought to us by our own Melissa Enriquez. Our CANI team has accomplished a lot by meeting weekly with different groups to work on and develop new processes. I just mentioned this in the submission I wrote for our annual culture book and thought, it might be a good time to write a little about LEAN and one of the main objectives of the Toyota Production System (TPS) developed by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda.
My 12-year old son, Charlie, was treating us to an egg masterpiece and tossing ingredients into the cast iron skillet with reckless abandon. Curious as to whether or not he had an actual plan to our morning surprise, I asked how he knew the amount of each ingredient to add.
“I assume stuff. The best chefs do.”
Luckily for Charlie, his assumptions were delicious; but, the outcome was incredibly messy.
How often do you assume stuff about how your team is really doing or what your customer values or needs? Do you ever really go to where the work is done?
I came across a video on YouTube titled "Steve Jobs on 'Think Different' - Internal Meeting Sept. 23, 1997." I believe any company that has hit the growth ceiling or is in the midst of a turnaround situation should watch this. The video is only sixteen minutes long and is very inspiring. As you may recall, Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 and returned in 1997 when Apple purchased his company NeXT. Steve had only been back with the company for ten weeks before presenting this vision to his team.
Let me start by saying that Core Values are unique to each company - they are foundational to your company's culture and should describe how you do what you do. You should go through the process to discover your company's Core Values by identifying the underlying behaviors of team members who represent what's best and right about your company. The right values for your company are already evident in how your strongest people are interacting everyday; you don't need a list of examples to help you find them. However, I find patterns fascinating, and I was interested in what the patterns might be - What do successful companies have in common when it comes to how they do what they do?
Because Rhythm acts as a framework for pulling together into one single system many improvement initiatives and management tools that are popular among manufacturing companies, many of our most successful clients come from this industry. One area that our clients come to us for help with is determining the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Some are not sure where to start, and many are measuring so many things that their metrics are just noise, not driving action or change.
“In war, there is no prize for runner-up.” - Omar Bradley, U.S. General
The last blog I wrote asked questions about how your company’s innovation engine was running and looked at some of the barriers. The whole reason for the blog was to get companies, particularly manufacturing companies, thinking about their level of investment in R & D and innovating new products and services. Once you know where you stand and are ready to commit resources, we can begin to look at some strategies or processes to put our innovation machine in gear.
I have spent most of my life working in the manufacturing sector. My first experience began as a young boy in my Grandmother’s sewing factory. After eating sugar cubes and Lance crackers while my Dad helped her out at night, she thought it was time to start earning my treats and put me to work sweeping her factory floor. Memory sometimes gets the best of you, but I could swear I was only six years old. I did not mind because along with the treats she would throw a couple of quarters my way.
I never looked back and soon worked summers for my Dad full-time to earn the money to feed my motorcycling hobby. This continued as I went to work for him after high school, before attending college a few years later. I give you this background because I wanted to share that manufacturing is in my blood from all of the years I spent growing up and working in it. It is something I am very passionate about, and I believe it is the backbone of our economy. I have seen a lot of changes through the years as tariff structures have changed and trade agreements have been put in place.
I have spent a large part of my career consulting and working with a variety of companies, including many manufacturers. One of the things I have come to believe is that while implementing process improvement methodologies like Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma are extremely powerful, they do not always make the difference between success and failure for a manufacturing company.