Friday, August 28, 2015

Are Your Manufacturing Operations Obsolete?

By Patrick Weber, MESA International Technical and Education Committee member and MESA-Recognized Practitioner

How can you determine if your manufacturing operations are no longer competetive? There are telltale signs if you know how to look for them.  The following excerpt from "Seven Warning signs that your Manufacturing Operations Are Becoming Obsolete" give one example.

Your operations cannot run without spreadsheets 

If as an operations manager you walked onto a plant floor and saw equipment patched with duct tape, you’d probably read maintenance the riot act.  “Temporary” patches have a tendency to become more permanent than anyone intended, and soon a “we’ll just make do” attitude sets in. Just as with production equipment, your production work processes can get temporary patches which end up becoming permanent.  Excel is the duct tape of information technology; as with duct tape, there are times it is appropriate, but it should not become the primary solution for information sharing.  The preponderance of spreadsheets is evidence that your underlying systems are not meeting the needs of your organization.  Because your workers require the information, they will build work process patches using the tools they have on hand; typically this means spreadsheet software, but it may also encompass personal database tools such as Microsoft Access.  People creating these solutions are not in your IT department; they are your engineering, management, accounting, procurement, and logistics staff. The time they are spending developing these stop-gap work process solutions is time they are not spending engineering value-adding solutions, coaching your workers to improve productivity, speeding up the accounting workflow, reducing your purchasing costs, or finding better ways to get your product into the hands of your customers.

It’s easy to dismiss correcting this problem; common arguments usually center around definable payback and “soft” savings versus “hard” savings. Without a thorough analysis, an organization cannot know the price it is paying for the inefficiencies of its work processes. In addition to downtime, idle time, waste and scrap, the work involved in ineffective information management has become part of what quality guru Armand Feigenbaum termed “the hidden plant”. Unfortunately, this is also an inefficiency that is almost never tracked, and it impacts an organization’s highest-paid workers.

Further reading: “How Many Spreadsheets Does It Take To Run A Fortune 500 Company?”

Want to learn about other ways to determine if your manufacturing operations are becoming obsolete? Sign up for Integrated Automation Consulting’s newsletter and download your free copy of “Seven Warning Signs That Your Manufacturing Operations Are Becoming Obsolete” today.

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