Subscribe to Blog:
SEARCH THE BLOG
- Asset Maintenance
- Building Products
- Case Studies
- Chemical Processing
- Food & Beverage
- Forestry Products
- Hospitals & Healthcare
- Knowledge Transfer
- Lean Manufacturing
- Life Sciences
- Material Utilization
- Office Politics
- Oil & Gas
- Private Equity
- Process Improvement
- Project Management
- Spend Management
- Supply Chain
- November 2023 (1)
- October 2023 (6)
- September 2023 (3)
- August 2023 (4)
- July 2023 (2)
- June 2023 (3)
- May 2023 (7)
- April 2023 (3)
- March 2023 (3)
- February 2023 (5)
- January 2023 (6)
- December 2022 (2)
- November 2022 (5)
- October 2022 (5)
- September 2022 (5)
- August 2022 (6)
- July 2022 (3)
- June 2022 (4)
- May 2022 (5)
- April 2022 (3)
- March 2022 (5)
- February 2022 (4)
- January 2022 (7)
- December 2021 (3)
- November 2021 (5)
- October 2021 (3)
- September 2021 (2)
- August 2021 (6)
- July 2021 (2)
- June 2021 (10)
- May 2021 (4)
- April 2021 (5)
- March 2021 (5)
- February 2021 (3)
- January 2021 (4)
- December 2020 (3)
- November 2020 (3)
- October 2020 (3)
- September 2020 (3)
- August 2020 (4)
- July 2020 (3)
- June 2020 (5)
- May 2020 (3)
- April 2020 (3)
- March 2020 (4)
- February 2020 (4)
- January 2020 (4)
- December 2019 (3)
- November 2019 (2)
- October 2019 (4)
- September 2019 (2)
- August 2019 (4)
- July 2019 (3)
- June 2019 (4)
- May 2019 (2)
- April 2019 (4)
- March 2019 (4)
- February 2019 (5)
- January 2019 (5)
- December 2018 (2)
- November 2018 (2)
- October 2018 (5)
- September 2018 (4)
- August 2018 (3)
- July 2018 (2)
- June 2018 (4)
- May 2018 (3)
- April 2018 (3)
- March 2018 (2)
- February 2018 (2)
- January 2018 (1)
- December 2017 (1)
- November 2017 (2)
- October 2017 (2)
- September 2017 (1)
- August 2017 (2)
- July 2017 (2)
- June 2017 (1)
- April 2017 (3)
- March 2017 (3)
- February 2017 (2)
- January 2017 (2)
- December 2016 (2)
- November 2016 (4)
- October 2016 (4)
- September 2016 (3)
- August 2016 (6)
- July 2016 (4)
- June 2016 (4)
- May 2016 (1)
- April 2016 (3)
- March 2016 (4)
- February 2016 (2)
- January 2016 (4)
- December 2015 (3)
- November 2015 (3)
- October 2015 (1)
- September 2015 (1)
- August 2015 (4)
- July 2015 (6)
- June 2015 (4)
- May 2015 (7)
- April 2015 (6)
- March 2015 (6)
- February 2015 (4)
- January 2015 (3)
CONNECT WITH US
There’s a popular phenomenon being shared online at the moment: “Instagram vs. Reality.” It’s two photos, side by side. One is doctored and photoshopped and filtered to look perfect. The other is what it looks like in reality. More often than not, there’s a big difference. Perfection is a far cry from reality, and not just on Instagram.
It got us thinking about operational excellence. Some operational excellence consulting firms might tell you their goal is to deliver optimal perfection in which your organization is running on all cylinders 24/7. But in our experience, reality is a lot more complicated than that. We find that operational excellence is a process. And sometimes it’s a moving target. It can change and morph, affected by myriad factors that may be out of your control, like the economy, supply chain issues, hiring problems and snafus, your best leader on the line quitting with a moment’s notice. The list goes on.
As an operational excellence consulting firm, we contend that operational excellence is a process of continuous improvement, not something static and perfect that stays that way in perpetuity. Does it exist? Absolutely. But it doesn’t stay the same.
What is operational excellence consulting?
The textbooks will tell you operational excellence is a process for improving a company’s effectiveness and efficiency — two things we happen to specialize in. The goals of operational excellence consulting read like a playbook of our typical projects: Improving productivity and throughput, reducing waste, focusing on quality and reducing defects, optimizing shifts, updating processes.
Often an end goal of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), operational excellence is a moving target. Striving for operational excellence means continuously improving, rolling with unforeseen circumstances, adapting to ever-changing tides. Here are some effective strategies we’ve honed in the pursuit of operational excellence that you can apply in your operations today.
Strive for process optimization
The cornerstone of LSS, process optimization means finding opportunities to ramp up efficiency, eliminating bottlenecks and waste, enhancing productivity, reducing defects and glitches in both the product and the process, and the whole nine yards of LSS. To read a deep dive into LSS and what it can do for your organization, download our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
Get the right people in the right jobs…
Is everyone from the front lines to the corner office in the right jobs? Assess skills, provide training if necessary and listen to feedback so your team is ready to tackle their roles with a great work ethic and enthusiasm.
…and then empower them to do the job right
Many times, the people who work on the shop floor know a lot more about the job than the people in the C-suite. Give them the power to do their jobs and to act quickly when unforeseen situations arise.
If you’re not already establishing and monitoring key performance indicators and metrics, get on that. It helps your people know what’s expected of them, and helps you evaluate the quality of the work they’re doing. They also show opportunities for improvement.
Hand in hand with KPIs, standardized operating practices and procedures can ensure you’re getting the consistent results you need.
Manage by the numbers
It’s an oft-used phrase here at USC. Decisions need to be driven by data and hard numbers, not what’s “always worked in the past.” The data can tell you where to improve, what’s working and what needs to change.
Keep the customer in focus
Sometimes, companies can get so caught up in process improvements they lose sight of the end customer. By keeping their needs, expectations and wants in the forefront, you can be assured you’re hitting the mark.
Encourage a culture of continuous improvement
Culture change is easier said than done, but it’s a necessary component to operational excellence. Encourage innovation and ideas for improvement, and reward employees for finding ways to do their jobs better.
Above all, remember it’s a process, not a single achievement. Yes, you may have achieved operational excellence… today. What about tomorrow?
Enjoy the article? Subscribe to our blog to receive the latest news and content.
Back to top ↑
We’re celebrating a milestone here at USC Consulting Group — 55 years partnering with businesses around the globe empowering their performance. Our goal is to help our clients drive operating excellence, increase throughput, become more efficient and boost their bottom lines.
We got our start in 1968 when founders Tom Rice and Pat Price founded a fully-engaged operations management consulting firm that strives to impart positive, impactful change to our clients. Back then, we were Universal Scheduling Company, communicating with clients over mimeograph and analyzing their schedules. We’ve grown quite a bit since those early days. Over the years, we expanded into other industries like mining & metals, food & beverage, life sciences, transportation & logistics and more. Our reach opened up to serve companies all around the globe. In 2001, we changed our name to USC Consulting Group to better reflect the breadth of our services and a few years later, relocated to Tampa, where our corporate headquarters is today.
That’s a tremendous growth story that we’re incredibly proud of.
During our half-century-plus in this business, we’ve seen a lot of changes come down the pike. The ups and downs of the economy, employment markets that wax or wane, the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, technology advancements in machinery and tools for businesses we serve, and a whole host of other factors that ebb and flow during the passage of time.
We’ve rolled with it all and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
What has 55 years of consulting taught us?
Here are some of the top things we’ve learned during our 55 years in this business.
Experience matters, but every challenge we tackle for our clients is different. Many consulting firms dole out cookie-cutter solutions. But we’ve learned there is no such thing if you want to find sustainable results. Even if two businesses are in the same industry, they are not the same. We understand companies have unique processes, procedures, management styles, cultures, machinery, employees — you name it. So we go into every project with fresh eyes, knowing that what worked for others may not work again. There are too many variables to apply cookie-cutter solutions. That’s why we start by listening rather than talking to learn each client’s challenges before implementing improvements.
Upper management walking the shop floor is vital. We can recommend operations changes all day long, but the meat of the action happens day-to-day on the front lines, no matter the industry you’re in. If you’re a manager or in the C-suite, it’s so important to get down into the nitty-gritty of how their work gets done. You’ll get a better understanding of your operations, spot trouble sooner and also spot diamonds in the rough for promotion. You’ll hear great ideas to improve operations from the people who are actually doing the job, and when those employees are engaged, it leads to ultimate business success. Read more about it in “How to Increase Employee Engagement and Training to Improve Retention.”
Getting people onboard at the outset is a key element of success. Over the years, we’ve learned not everyone in a company is excited about process or operations improvements. Consultants can be viewed with skeptical eyes. That’s why we encourage engagement with employees at all levels, getting people on board early so employees understand they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Going beyond Lean Six Sigma… Lean, which has been around forever and has recently migrated from the manufacturing floor into other industries (they’re even talking about Lean HR methods) and Six Sigma, a newer technique, are two methodologies for improving processes. Two sides of the same coin, Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing lead times, while Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. The combination of the two produces powerful results. They’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles: Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times. Striking the perfect balance between the two is tricky. It requires training and certification in the techniques. At USCCG, Dr. Frank Esposto is our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality. He is also a certified LSS instructor. Read more about it in our eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?
…but we don’t just set it and forget it. Dr. Esposto says: “When we employ the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help our clients’ operations, we don’t simply do it for them. We train clients in these techniques so they can employ them long after we leave.” That goes for any process changes we help our clients make. It’s not about giving them a fish. It’s about teaching them to fish. That’s how lasting change happens and it’s a key differentiator between us and other consultants out there.
We could go on forever about lessons learned in a half-century plus. But the bottom line is, putting our customers’ needs squarely in the forefront of every engagement, understanding the marketplace and challenges the business faces, and focusing on people and processes will help your business reach a state of operational excellence.
Contact us today and let USC put our experience to work for you.
Back to top ↑
If your company is looking for process improvements, greater efficiency, operations upgrades and generally a greasing of the gears in order to function at a higher level, that’s great! Now the question becomes: Do you hire an operations management consulting firm or rely on your internal improvement team?
Here’s a look at both options:
Internal improvement teams
What are internal improvement teams, exactly? In general, they’re full-time employees within an organization, usually (but not always) within the HR function. They act as advisors, change agents, process improvement experts, coaches or trainers. But it doesn’t have to be as formal as having a dedicated “internal consultant team.” Oftentimes, companies looking to improve processes pull together a team of people from different departments within the organization to tackle a problem or challenge that is impeding productivity.
Some other aspects, including pros and cons, of internal teams:
Cost. On the surface, using an internal team may seem cheaper than hiring an outside firm because the company is not paying an outside consulting fee. But figuring in salaries, benefits and all of the other expenses involved with full-time employees that are dedicated to process improvement, those savings can dry up. Also, if you’re using an internal team made up of people from different departments, there is the issue of time away from their usual job functions and the loss of productivity that can result from that.
Company knowledge. Internal people have an immediate understanding of the organization. No learning curve needed. There’s already a deep knowledge of the culture, the processes and the “unspoken rules.”
Accountability. Some external consultants “fix it and forget it.” In other words, they swoop in, offer recommendations for change and swoop out, leaving the company to implement the changes and deal with what comes next. (Note: We do NOT do that at USC Consulting Group) Internal people are there, onsite, through it all, and after it all.
Internal politics. This is one of the big “cons” of using an internal team. In many workplaces, you’ve got internal politics and drama running through everything. Who takes recommendations and advice from whom can become an impediment to progress. Certain people may want to be the one to come up with whatever fix is needed, and if they aren’t, they can put up roadblocks or sow seeds of negativity. The internal pecking order can rule the roost. Not ideal when you’re talking about making process improvements, which typically involve changing the way “we’ve always done it.” That’s a delicate endeavor, even for outside consultants. When you have Phil from HR telling a 30-year veteran on the line there’s a better way to do his job, it doesn’t go over very well.
Internal view. Internal teams have a great view of their organization, but not what’s going on out there in the industry at large. They are also not necessarily on top of the latest developments in process improvements, and certainly aren’t experts in things like Lean Six Sigma.
Operations management consultants
Operations consulting, simply put, is a discipline designed to improve your company’s internal operations and processes, making them more efficient, streamlined and ultimately, profitable. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been dedicated to that since 1968.
Operations consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. They talk with front-line workers, executives and everyone in between. Listening is a big part of the job. They employ methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, the Fishbone, the Five Ms and other tactics to uncover what’s bedeviling your operation and create ways to solve those problems.
Some operations consultants are advisory consultants, or “boardroom consultants,” who perform a two- to three-week study and provide a book of recommendations to help you out, and then hand it to you and go on their way. Implementing consultants, like USC, roll up their sleeves and work with a company’s internal teams to help implement the changes, and ensure the sustainability of those improvements.
Other features of outside consultants include:
Above the fray. This is a main reason execs hire outside consultants. An outside firm is not subject to internal politics and company red tape. They can make the changes necessary for improvements to get results without stepping on anyone’s toes. Oftentimes, recommendations for change go down easier when delivered by someone outside the organization.
A fresh set of eyes. You know what they say about the forest for the trees. Sometimes, when you’re too close to a problem or challenge, you can’t see the big picture of how to solve it. Operations consultants are outside experts who can look at your operations with a fresh set of eyes.
Horsepower. In many cases, operations management firms actually augment the efforts of internal teams and provide “horsepower” to improvement initiatives and help achieve results quicker.
Cost. Outside firms are hired for limited engagements and are not full-time employees. Therefore, a company does not need to provide salaries, benefits and other costs for full-time employees who are part of their internal teams. Yes, the upfront investment for an outside firm is more than you would pay your internal employees. However, once the project engagement is complete, those consulting costs are removed from the ledger, but the benefits are realized for years after.
Industry expertise. Another facet of bringing fresh eyes to a challenge is the fact that those eyes have seen a thing or two. Consultants like USC Consulting Group have worked in the industry for decades and have seen how similar companies have solved similar problems and challenges. While every situation is unique, the decades-long expertise in operational improvements is impossible to duplicate in-house.
Process improvement expertise. It’s a fair bet that companies don’t have many black belts in Lean Six Sigma on staff. LSS is focused on eliminating waste and improving throughput, and it takes years to become an expert in it. External consultants like USC bring that expertise, and even train your staff to implement these tools.
A final thought: Sure, we’re biased. We’re a consulting firm with 55+ years of experience helping companies improve their efficiency and ultimately boost their bottom lines. However, there is a stigma about consulting that seems to be rumored. To clear up this misconception, read our blog “Debunking Myths About Operations Management Consulting.”
Which option should you choose?
Bottom line is you need to make a decision that is best for your business. Whether utilizing your own internal improvement teams or employing an outside consultant, the main focus is reducing your operating costs and improving your productivity and efficiency.
If you would like to talk with one of our subject matter experts to see if USC would be the right fit for your improvement project, give us a call.
Back to top ↑
In many industries, globalization has resulted in the consolidation of suppliers and increasingly interdependent Supply Chains. Globalization has increased efficiencies and economies of scale, but it has led to decreased diversity of sourcing and supply options.
Increasing geopolitical tensions, pandemic related lockdowns, and ideological polarizations have increased supply chain disruptions for many products and materials.
Supply Chain Risk Management System
An active Supply Chain Risk Management System cannot ensure continuity of supply, however, it can provide a playbook with options when sources of supply are threatened.
Download our free eBook “The Supply Chain Risk Management Playbook: Navigating Through an Uncertain Supply Chain Future” as we advise how to identify and respond to the unique risks that affect your business.
This Playbook details the various concepts that will secure your operations, including:
- Planning the Risk Management assessment
- Conducting the Risk Management assessment
- Checking your findings
- Acting on your findings
Planning the Risk Management Assessment
During the planning stage you will define the project charter and assess your organization’s Risk Tolerance.
Conducting the Risk Management Assessment
Once management has defined success and risk tolerances, it’s time to take action and conduct the assessment.
Check your findings
This step must be tailored to the risk being assessed. Here you will build the risk models and validate the assumptions with your stakeholders.
Act on your findings
Once all appropriate stakeholders have agreed to the change, put the risk mitigation strategy into action.
For full details on each of these critical stages, download the complete Playbook below:
Installing a well-functioning Supply Chain Risk Management Operating System is a journey, not an event.
Enhancing responsiveness to risk provides competitive advantages, especially in industries where competition for key vendors, access to resources, and logistics constraints are prevalent.
USC Consulting Group’s Supply Chain experts have over 50 years of industry experience with the latest risk management practices and can help you with your unique challenges. Contact us to remove the risks and start driving operational improvements in your business.
Back to top ↑
Are you always putting out fires? Not in the literal sense, of course. We’re talking about operational problems that pop up at the most inconvenient times. Once you take care of one issue, two more seem to appear in its place. Issues such as:
- Machines break down
- Workers calling in sick
- Human errors
- Backups and bottlenecks
- Inventory uncertainty
If you’re busy troubleshooting today, it’s hard to focus on improving tomorrow. Opportunities for growth can be missed.
Get ahead of problems before they catch fire by watching this video:
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping clients for over 50 years to implement strong Management Operating Systems that assist them with breaking that firefighter mentality.
The best management operating systems center around four main components:
A well-designed MOS will have your company operating like a well-oiled machine, making your bottom line stronger and your operations more efficient.
So put down the fire extinguisher and enhance your management operating system today by contacting USC Consulting Group.
Learn more about the benefits of an effective MOS in our article How Can A Management Operating System Help Your Organization?
Back to top ↑
With a potential recession looming, inflation and interest rates rising, and the post-pandemic surge in consumer confidence slowing, productivity is stepping into the spotlight. Amid all of this economic uncertainty, manufacturers are turning their focus toward their own operations and processes, making sure everything is running like the proverbial well-oiled machine. Lean and mean. As efficient as possible.
We get it. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping manufacturers become more efficient and productive for 50+ years. Process improvement is our wheelhouse. We can’t do anything about the economy, but we can help our clients increase their productivity so their companies can be at their fighting best to withstand any economic headwinds that come their way.
In the end, it’s about striking that delicate balance between increasing throughput and maintaining quality. Too much speed on the line can indeed increase throughput, but quality could suffer. So, finding that sweet spot between optimal throughput and optimal quality is the key.
Here’s some of the advice we’ve been giving to our clients to do just that.
Focus on the Five M’s
One of the first steps we take when evaluating process improvements in manufacturing companies is to focus on the Five M’s. Many times we find it all starts and ends with this. It’s a tried-and-true management tool — with some debate as to where and when it originated. And now, people put their own spin on the M’s, as they relate to their own operation. At USC, we call them Machines, Methods, Materials, Measurements and Man and Woman power.
- Machines. Evaluate your machines on the line. Do they need maintenance? Do you perform regular maintenance or wait until something is “broke” before you fix it?
- Methods. This step involves evaluating the process of getting the job done. Are there any opportunities to make the workflow more efficient?
- Materials. This is a big headache for manufacturing today — supply chain issues are messing with the ability to have enough material to get the job done when it needs to get done.
- Measurements. Are your metrics and measurements for success and profitability on target?
- Man and Woman power. Do you have the right people in the right jobs? That’s the ideal. But increasingly the question is: Do you have enough skilled people to get the job done, or enough people, period?
Focusing on these five elements of your operation can illuminate a host of opportunities for improvement. Let’s look at some of those in more detail.
Schedule regular maintenance
The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not serve manufacturing very well. We recommend regular maintenance. Yes, it causes a work stoppage, but it doesn’t take you by surprise. You’ll know the line will be stopped for a certain amount of time on a certain day rather than having things grind to a halt unexpectedly because of an unknown problem you’ll have to ferret out and fix. It’s also important to talk to your people on the line about the troubleshooting they’ve been using when things go wrong. It could be they’re on to something.
Look at the 7 Deadly Wastes
It sounds rather dramatic, but this is a concept initially pioneered by the Toyota Lean manufacturing model. It’s aimed at identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. We’ve added one additional “waste” to that list. Here they are in detail.
- Overproduction. It leaves you with unused product.
- Waiting. Waiting on the shop floor between steps on the line, or waiting on supply or even equipment.
- Transporting. Excessive movement of inventory, causing the possibility of damage, or even excessive movement within the manufacturing process itself.
- Processing. Do you have extra, unnecessary steps in the manufacturing process?
- Inventory. Too much stock on hand.
- Excess motion. Extra walking, lifting, reaching.
- Defects. Defects in product happen to the best of us.
- People. This is the eighth waste we thought was important to add. It is about taking a close look at the untapped potential of your people.
Examining all of these areas of “wastes” in your operation will help you become more efficient and ultimately more profitable.
→ For more information about Lean, download our free eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?
Upskill Your People
About that eighth “waste.” There may well be hidden potential working on your lines every day that is being underutilized. We see it all the time in talking to frontline workers, who usually know more about the ins-and-outs of the day-to-day than their supervisors do. Is anyone on the line ready to move up? It might take some classes in management training, but so be it. Promotion from within is a powerful motivator for your workforce and in this market, where retaining good people is so difficult, it can be a lifesaver. There’s also another part to this. It’s about not being able to find skilled workers to do the job. This is a big problem for manufacturing industrywide. The solution just might be to invest in training courses for new hires to get them the skills they need.
At USC Consulting Group, we’re committed to helping manufacturing companies improve their processes to become as efficient and productive as possible. In this economy, it’s a must. Give us a call to find out more.
Back to top ↑
Not every manufacturer has the same needs. As a result, various manufacturing systems and approaches have been developed, each with its own benefits and use-cases.
Familiarity with these systems is essential for any business that needs to understand what’s available or what a given manufacturer is capable of.
These are five of the most popular options, why businesses use them, and how they may benefit a manufacturer.
1. Custom Manufacturing
The custom manufacturing system is the oldest and most popular approach. Skilled craftspeople produce every item by hand, typically with the help of equipment. Machines used are generally built for a specific purpose and can only help a worker create a single product at a time.
Custom manufacturing is associated with high costs, long production times, and high quality. Items manufactured this way are often bespoke and unique. Each product can be customized to a client’s specific needs and desires.
Examples of custom manufacturing include certain medical devices, architectural elements, and military weapons. This applies to items produced on an on-demand basis, one at a time.
The approach is not practical for products that need to be mass-produced. Batches of a large enough size may also not work with a custom manufacturing system. For this reason, most large manufacturers use other methods that allow them to produce more items at a time.
2. Job Shop or Batch/Intermittent Manufacturing
The job shop manufacturer aims to create small batches of various custom products for clients. Most items that the shop produces need unique setup and process sequencing — meaning that switching from the manufacture of one product to another can be challenging.
Most job shops manufacture custom components for business clients, like machine shops, gear manufacturers, and metal fabricators.
In some cases, job shop manufacturing may be very close to a custom manufacturing system and produce just a few items at a time. Other shops may make larger batches.
This manufacturing system makes the most sense for businesses that manufacture tailored items in small quantities for clients but do not necessarily create custom orders. When necessary, job shops will typically customize existing stock rather than create new orders from scratch.
3. Continuous-Flow or Process Manufacturing
Continuous-flow manufacturing systems are built for the mass production of a single product. As the name implies, the process flow in this system aims to be continuous, with raw materials coming in and finished products going out.
Unlike batch or job shop manufacturing, there are no breaks or stops between each step of the manufacturing process in a continuous-flow system. Instead, goods simply move from one stage to another.
Continuous-flow systems are all about volume and producing large amounts of products at the lowest cost possible. However, they may be designed to operate continuously at all times.
These systems are the go-to choice for manufacturers that need to produce a massive quantity of very similar products. Customization is typically minimal or none.
Examples of businesses that use continuous-flow manufacturing systems include mass-manufactured food and beverage products, cosmetics and plastic containers.
4. Modular Production or Manufacturing
The modular approach is another manufacturing strategy that aims to balance mass-production with flexible workflows that adapt to changing market conditions or client needs. With modular production, a manufacturing facility is designed with multiple process modules that can be slotted in and out of the site’s workflow as needed.
These modules enable a plug-and-play approach to manufacturing, where the overall production process can be quickly retooled to produce different products or components as needs dictate.
The approach can help reduce production costs by 40% and decrease time-to-market by 50%. This is often a good option to consider for businesses that need mass-production capabilities but want to remain flexible.
5. Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing is less a system of manufacturing and more of a technology. Tools like 3D printers allow manufacturers to create objects by steadily adding material to a base. This is unlike the more common approach of subtractive manufacturing, where a machine or worker removes material from an object to produce a component or product.
Additive manufacturing is often less wasteful and more cost-effective than subtractive manufacturing. A 3D printer or similar machine will only use the material it needs to produce a product, so businesses will have to worry less about reusing or recycling the waste typically produced by subtractive manufacturing.
The technology is somewhat new and has significant limitations — especially for businesses trying to mass-produce goods.
The additive approach to manufacturing is most useful for businesses that need to create small batches of products and manufacture customized parts or rapidly prototype designs. However, companies will find the cost-reduction benefits of additive manufacturing will start to shrink and eventually disappear with larger orders.
Manufacturing Systems Help Companies with Different Needs
Different manufacturing systems allow companies to produce goods that meet the various needs of customers.
Custom and batch manufacturing systems work best for companies that need to produce low-volume, bespoke orders for their customers, typically other businesses. Continuous-flow and modular manufacturing help businesses that need to create large batches of products, typically with less need for customization. Companies need to tailor their method and find the best fit for their operation.
*This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
Back to top ↑
If you’re in manufacturing, you’ve certainly heard of two process methodologies, Lean and Six Sigma. Lean, which has been around forever and has recently migrated from the manufacturing floor into other industries (they’re even talking about Lean HR methods) and Six Sigma, a newer technique. Two sides of the same coin, Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing lead times, while Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. Both are useful goals when aiming to optimize your processes, throughput and ultimately, your bottom line.
Lean vs Six Sigma, which is better? Which should you be investing in if you’re coming up against inefficiencies in your production, and can they be used together?
Let’s take a closer look at both methodologies to see who comes out on top in this operational improvement matchup.
The whole concept of Lean started with identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. Pioneered back in the day by Toyota… or by Henry Ford even earlier, depending on who you ask, Lean manufacturing is about cutting costs, eliminating waste in both processes and products, and generally becoming as “lean and mean” as possible to reach optimal efficiency. The heart of the process is identifying and eliminating what Toyota called the “seven deadly wastes.” (We happen to think it’s eight.)
- Overproduction. Making too much leaves you with unused product.
- Waiting. This includes waiting on the shop floor between steps on the line, or waiting on supply or even equipment.
- Transporting. This covers excessive movement of inventory, causing the possibility of damage, or even excessive movement within the manufacturing process itself.
- Processing. Do you have extra, unnecessary steps in the manufacturing process? Are you doing in two or three steps what you can do in one?
- Inventory. Too much stock on hand. During the pandemic, many companies combatted supply chain delays by stocking up on inventory. We think that’s a mistake.
- Excess motion. This means getting from Point A to Point B on the floor, extra walking, lifting, reaching. Can things be configured more efficiently?
- Defects. Defects in product happen to the best of us.
- People. This is the eighth waste, which Toyota didn’t identify. Are you using your people to their fullest potential? Or is there untapped potential for a great manager or supervisor you haven’t noticed?
Examining all of these areas of “wastes” in your operation will help you become more efficient and ultimately more profitable. In other words, lean and mean.
Six Sigma, at its most basic level, is about quality control. Minimizing flaws and defects. But it’s much deeper than that. Six Sigma is data driven, statistical and aims to improve cycle time while eliminating or reducing defects in manufacturing. It’s about using stats, data analysis and also project management techniques to improve the whole process.
The Six Sigma process is defined by an acronym: DMAIC. Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. First, you define the problem that you want to improve. Then, the team measures the process and analyzes it by using data analytics to get to the root of the problem. From there, it’s about creating improvements and fixes, and setting up controls to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Six Sigma requires rigorous training to get the process right, so rigorous that practitioners need a certification in the process. The certifications are ranked with a belt system similar to martial arts, with white belts being familiar with the basic process, up to black belts who become masters of the process and are certified to take on complex problems and projects, and to train others in it.
Lean Six Sigma: Better together?
Should it really be Lean vs Six Sigma? Or rather Lean AND Six Sigma? Can these two powerful methods be used together? Yes indeed. In fact, they’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles: Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times.
But, here’s the tricky part.
Ironically, Lean and Six Sigma can clash if not deployed correctly. Defects can be reduced by slowing processes down — reducing speed. On the other hand, you can increase the defect rate by speeding up processes.
Getting it right, striking that perfect balance is imperative. That’s why it requires training and certification in the techniques. At USCCG, Dr. Frank Esposto is our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality. He is also a certified LSS instructor.
Dr. Esposto states, “When we employ the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help our clients’ operations, we don’t simply come in and do it for them. We train clients in these techniques so they can employ them long after we leave.”
The training course Frank teaches is rigorous and hands-on. When participants complete the course, they are certified. Being certified in Lean Six Sigma is a highly sought-after skill.
To summarize, it is not Lean vs Six Sigma, but rather Lean Six Sigma – two complimentary methodologies that when balanced properly reduce operating costs, increase throughput, and achieve overall improvement to your bottom line.
Are you interested in learning more about how these powerful methodologies can work to optimize your processes? Give us a call today. In the meantime, read much more about LSS in our eBook: “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
Back to top ↑
How well do you know Lean? The concept is nothing new. Pioneered back in the day by Toyota… or by Henry Ford even earlier, depending on who you ask, Lean manufacturing is the art of maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. It’s about cutting costs, eliminating waste in both processes and products, and generally becoming as “lean and mean” as possible to reach optimal efficiency.
Another, newer term is often bandied about when talking about Lean: Six Sigma, a methodology designed to tackle defects in manufacturing and product/service development. Two sides of the same coin, while Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing process lead times, Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. In fact, they’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles. Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times. What is it? Are they stronger together? Could they clash? Who should use it? And who shouldn’t?
For answers to these questions, read USC Consulting Group’s eBook Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies? We’ll look deeper into Lean Six Sigma through the lens of Dr. Frank Esposto, USCCG’s Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality, and a certified LSS instructor. You think you know Lean Six Sigma? Download the eBook below to find out.
Dr. Esposto discusses Toyota’s classic Lean manufacturing model that identifies “seven wastes” and he recommends you expand your mind to add one more. Furthermore, he will advise you on the best strategies for LSS training, the key challenges you will face, and the factors that lead to successful LSS implementation in your operations.
Applying the Lean Six Sigma methodologies effectively in your processes is not a one-size-fits-all and may require help. Dr. Esposto elaborates on the tools, techniques, and methods to use and the benefits you will gain from it.
So, how well do you know Lean Six Sigma methodologies? A whole lot more once your read this eBook.
Back to top ↑
Operations management consulting is a discipline designed to improve your company’s internal operations and processes, making them more efficient, streamlined and ultimately, profitable. It’s what we have been doing at USC Consulting Group for more than 50 years now. During that time, we’ve run across some misconceptions about operations management consulting. In this article, we’ll give you a short rundown of what operations consulting is, and highlight (and debunk) some of the more common myths that are floating around out there.
Operations Management Consulting 101
Operations consultants are outside experts (like us) who can look at your operations with a fresh set of eyes. If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — it’s time to bring in an operations consultant. Operations consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. They talk with front-line workers, executives and everyone in between. Listening is a big part of the job. They employ methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, SIOP, the Five Ms and other tactics to uncover what’s bedeviling your operation and create ways to solve those problems.
Some operations consultants are advisory consultants, or “boardroom consultants” who perform a two- to three-week study and provide a book of recommendations to help you out, and then hand it to you and go on their way. Implementing consultants, like USC, roll up their sleeves and work with a company’s internal teams for as little as 12 weeks to upwards of around 40 weeks depending on the scope of the project to help affect change, and ensure those changes will stick.
For a deeper look at operations consulting, read our blog: “What Is Operations Consulting and Can It Help My Business?” Now, here are three common myths about operations consulting, debunked.
Operations Consulting Myths
Myth: Operations consulting is all about math
At USC, we like to say we’re 80% people and processes, 20% numbers. Yes, some data crunching is involved. But we’re more about getting into your operations, talking to people from the front-line workers to the boardroom, and listening to the pros on the line who do the job day-in and day-out. We use common-sense methodologies to find opportunities for efficiency that you might have missed. We’re not a bunch of pencil-pushing statisticians. Anything but.
Myth: Operations consulting is only for the manufacturing sector
We work with a wide range of industries, including chemical processing, forestry products, food & beverage, life sciences, mining & metals, oil & gas, transportation & logistics, private equity, and yes, manufacturing. We also work with a wide range of disciplines and departments within these industries, including organizational operations, supply chain, sourcing & procurement, maintenance, finance, business process management, shutdowns & outages, research & development and outsourcing.
Myth: Operations consulting has no strategic importance
We’ve got to admit it, this one stings. People somehow got the notion that operations consulting looks only at the day-to-day aspects of getting the job done, and not the big picture, so there’s no strategic importance in what we do. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
One example of how operations consulting is all about strategic importance: SIOP. What is it? It’s our enhanced methodology on Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP). S&OP is a business management process that involves sales forecast reports, planning for demand and supply, and other factors. The goal is to help companies get a better, clearer look at their operations and create better-informed strategic decisions, allowing them to deliver what clients need in the most profitable way. It’s a useful process, but we’ve found it’s missing a critical area: Inventory. Hence, the addition of the “I” in the acronym.
Adding inventory into the mix is just one additional step, but we find it can be the key to the whole thing. When you’re focusing on inventory, it requires a more careful strategy and elevates the entire planning process up a notch. When your inventory is optimized, which is not an easy mark to hit in these days of supply chain disruption, things tend to fall into place. With SIOP, you can make your inventory work for you.
Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning is a holistic process that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans, resulting in improved tactical and long-term decision-making.
So, you see, it’s ALL about strategic importance. Three common myths, debunked!
Want to see more myths busted? Catch the second installment Debunking Myths about Operations Management Consulting: Part 2 here.
If you have questions about operations consulting and what it can do for your business, give us a call or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have the answers you’re searching for.
To read more about SIOP, download our free eBook, “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”
Back to top ↑