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In the food processing industry, optimal efficiency is the key to keeping those razor-thin margins in the black. Now, with ongoing challenges like supply chain delays and changing markets, it’s even more important.
Efficient processes lead to reduced operating costs, improved yield and throughput, and more control over your management systems.
The following graphic provides seven ways to improve your efficiency in food processing:
1. Identify loss points
Where are the opportunities for greater efficiency? Look at the equipment, like the grinder, blenders, transfer belts, oven, steamer, even the transportation and logistics. Where can you save time and money? A thorough loss point analysis can uncover key areas where more efficiency can be achieved.
2. Recipe/formula control
The goal here is to ensure accurate measurement of ingredients. To improve processes, use volumetric measuring, metering tools and “right size” recipes to match ingredient containers. It’s about containing costs and promoting formula consistency.
3. Calibrate measuring devices
You won’t get accurate measurements if the measuring devices are not functioning properly. All devices that provide “factual” information must be accurate! It means verifying the calibration of scales, load cells, meters and equipment speeds, temperatures, tolerances and capabilities.
4. Process control
Remember, any knob, dial, meter, switch or button can vary the process. It’s essential to understand what they control and what they reveal. Generate a thorough process run history to define the relationship (or correlation) of each control point to the end product.
5. Measure actual yield vs. plan
Challenge the current paradigms. How does yield loss vary when raw temps vary? How much do you lose if you extend cooking times? Are you batching properly? Focus on maintaining tolerances and capabilities, and monitor the causes of variation. It makes the invisible visible!
6. Audit fill weights
This is about understanding overfills. In the industry, they call it “the giveaway,” which happens when more product is added to a package to compensate for weight loss in processing. Shaving a bit off of each overfill can add up to huge savings.
7. Recovery and resolution
Review, report, resolve! Do a thorough root cause analysis, implement short-term fixes immediately, and seek to eliminate waste completely in the long run. Continuous improvement is the goal! Find opportunities for greater efficiency and help implement them.
It’s about developing a plan to measure performance, and ultimately getting to a “zero-loss based” yield. The more quickly and efficiently you get the job done, the sooner your product can be in the hands of the consumer. Questions? Contact us today.
For more information about how Food & Beverage consultants can significantly reduce your operating costs and improve productivity, read this eBook:
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The B2B supply chain is changing in this tech-forward world. Like so many other things, if you’re not getting on board with smart business tech, you could be missing out on important successes. That starts with your supply and integrating tech to reduce human error and track things more clearly.
As a B2B business owner, you already know that transactions tend to happen within the supply chain. Whether you’re a wholesaler or retailer, if you’re not using tech to keep track of your supply and your sales, your business might not be able to keep up with those who are integrating different types of tech – including cloud-based technology.
Let’s take a close look at how smart business tech is optimizing the B2B supply chain, and what steps you can take to implement more sophisticated technology into your management strategy.
Why Smart Tech Matters
Tech innovations aren’t just important for manufacturing purposes. They are extremely beneficial for every step in the B2B supply chain. If you’re a supplier, integrating smart tech into your supply chain strategy can help with things like:
- Cash flow
You’re also reducing the risk of human error throughout the process, especially when it comes to processing and fulfillment. Integrating smart technology as a part of your risk management plan makes it easier to reduce risk and put plans in place for fast recovery if disaster does strike within your supply chain.
Additionally, when you use things like automation and AI, you’ll actually end up freeing up many of your employees so they can focus on other tasks while improving efficiency. Your business can grow, your employees can move up the ladder, and you can move more product safely and quickly.
What You Can Do Today
Although technology is quickly advancing, there is plenty of technology you can start implementing into your B2B supply chain strategy immediately. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software will help you overcome existing challenges you might face within supply chain management, including:
- Customer acquisition
- A global shift toward e-commerce
- Time constraints
With this kind of software, you’ll enjoy seamless data transfer from system to system. This offers another opportunity to reduce human error while optimizing your efforts because you won’t have to rely on manual data entry. Instead, you’ll have a consistently-updated clear picture of your efforts.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of automated workflows and accurate shipment tracking while offering greater confidence in fulfilling orders on time.
Integrating ERP software into your existing system should be just the beginning when it comes to what you’ll be able to do in the future with smart business tech. As you continue to grow, take advantage of existing technology that is becoming more widely available to small businesses and enterprises alike.
Preparing for the Future
As our globe becomes inundated with fossil fuels, every business needs to do its part in reducing its footprint to succeed in the future. Luckily, our world has combined the power of technology and sustainability, and nowhere is that more evident than in solar power technology. In the last decade alone, the limits of solar technology have broken down significantly. Today, solar power has been used for a variety of purposes, including transportation, military defense, and even space exploration.
When it comes to harnessing solar power for your B2B supply chain, it can be utilized almost anywhere you’re currently relying on traditional forms of energy. You can take advantage of solar energy-powered transportation by integrating it into your fleet. Not only will it help to reduce your overall reliance on fossil fuels and reduce your budget for fuel, but it can shed a positive light on your business practices and help with client acquisition
In addition to solar technology, you should also be looking into 5G for the future of your supply chain. Integrating 5G into your existing supply chain tech will help to reduce disruptions and improve optimization efforts. Things like smart sensors can be placed on your fleet trucks to track product location or determine the cause(s) of delays in real time. Shipments can be tracked electronically to prevent cargo from getting lost. Again, the risk of human error will be greatly reduced this way. 5G makes it much easier to implement AI and automation into your strategy without having to worry about network lags or lapses in connection.
Many people look at the supply chain industry and automatically assume it’s outdated. Others think if it’s not “broken,” it shouldn’t be fixed. But, smart technology is already optimizing the B2B supply chain, and the businesses that don’t jump on board will experience greater losses, delays, and burnt-out employees for years to come. Consider some of the tech solutions you can implement now and in the future, and you’re likely to see greater success and more streamlined production.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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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.
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A little goes a long way. It’s an old adage, but one we’ve seen play out, day after day, during our 55-plus years in the consulting business. It’s the notion that what may seem like small changes actually produce big results. At USC Consulting Group, one of our specialties is the “detective work” we do to find hidden opportunities for greater efficiency. Acting on those opportunities can create great change.
Here are some ways a “little” can go a long way for our clients.
Most industries that have 24/7 operations — manufacturing, mining & metals, and others — need to do planned outages, or work stoppages, for regular maintenance. It’s a practice we enthusiastically recommend. Planned outages prevent unplanned crises when a machine breaks down unexpectedly. Managing planned outages correctly is vital, because any time the operation is shut down for maintenance, that time is money.
Intricate detail and planning go into planned outages. That was the case with one of our recent clients in the mining industry. They approached USC to assist in planning and executing an upcoming plant-wide outage. Because of cost and schedule overruns year in and year out, the plant was given an ultimatum from its parent company — make the upcoming outage successful or close the plant down.
Through careful planning and execution, we shaved one day off of their planned outage. You might be thinking, just one day? That “small” improvement saved the company upwards of $1 million. The outage was successful, and the plant stayed open.
The commercial food industry has a tough nut to crack (pardon the pun) when it comes to processing and bagging their product to send to grocery stores or other end-clients that sell to consumers. Getting the most of their raw materials is all about improving yield, but it’s not easy to achieve the right balance. Let’s take the beef industry for an example. In processing beef into burger, there is a loss of moisture. That’s why when you start off with a pound of beef you don’t get a pound of burger. But, as a consumer, when you’re buying what is labeled a pound of burger, you can expect a pound — by law. To achieve that, the industry compensates for the loss of moisture and adds more ground beef into each unit. Better to pack a little too much than too little, right? It’s what the industry calls “the giveaway.” It’s essentially overpacking.
Just a little more? How big a problem is this, really? If a company is processing, say, 30,000 pounds of ground beef into burger every day, adding a smidge more into each package can be a very big problem indeed. One recent client of USC came to us when they realized they were giving away over 1.5 million pounds of beef yearly.
With process improvements, equipment fixes and increased speed and throughput, we were able to help our client strike the right balance, decreasing that overpack from 2% to 1%. Just a 1% savings? That’s a pretty small number on the face of it… until you see it resulted in a savings of $84,000 per month. That’s huge.
Not every “small” change can produce hard numbers like the examples above, but we see the benefits time and time again when we’re helping clients with change management.
We’ve learned that we can effect all the change we can muster — make the line more efficient, increase throughput, get the operation lean and mean, whatever else is needed — but none of it will stick without managing the change correctly. This part of the job isn’t about numbers, planning or complex methods. It’s about people.
Whatever the change you’re making, it’s going to involve people behaving and working in a different way. So at its core, effective change management requires helping people transform their behavior. As we all know, people don’t necessarily love that, especially if they’ve been getting the job done one way for the duration. Research shows 62% of people don’t like leaving their comfort zone.
We find that small changes really go a long way here. It’s about the CEO taking some time to walk the shop floor and talk with frontline workers about the changes that are coming down the pike. It’s about us involving those workers in the process of change from the get-go, asking for their ideas for improvements, their thoughts about what the problems are that need solving. That way, the change that we’re implementing won’t be happening to them. They will be a part of it, champion it, and make that change stick every day on the line.
One other bonus to this tactic? It creates employee engagement and loyalty. Just 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and 74% are actively looking for new jobs, according to a Gallup survey. 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, LinkedIn reports. With manufacturing looking at 1 million unfulfilled jobs and the cost of replacing an employee as much as twice their annual salary, those small changes can mean big numbers on your balance sheets.
This is one part of our process that doesn’t take advanced degrees, engineers or Lean Six Sigma black belts to achieve. It just takes a little time and some people skills.
Get in touch today if you’d like to talk about how USC can help your company become more efficient and effective. One small conversation can go a long way to improving your operations.
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In most business settings, time is measured by hours and days — how long will it take to receive a proposal, mockup sheet or important presentation. But in the manufacturing world, time is measured in product cycles. From sourcing materials to testing to packaging, how long will it take to get one product from conception to full completion?
That is the essence of manufacturing cycle time.
Not to be confused with lead time, cycle time is how long it takes to complete a unit of product, from the beginning of the manufacturing process until the product is ready to ship. In this article we will detail how to calculate cycle times, and the ways you can improve it in your organization.
How to calculate cycle time
The manufacturing cycle time is different for every organization and every product run, and it’s important to constantly check on this variable to ensure productivity benchmarks are being met. The formula to determine cycle time is actually fairly simple:
Total amount of goods produced / Time of production = Cycle time
Once a baseline is determined, manufacturers can try a number of different things to decrease cycle time and increase profitability.
How to improve cycle time
There are a number of ways that a manufacturer can decrease cycle time, such as:
Streamline production process as a whole
By identifying and eliminating any bottlenecks or inefficiencies during the production process, manufacturers can reduce cycle time by improving the system as a whole.
Take a detailed look at your operations — are there issues associated with the production layout of your floor? Are there certain tasks that could be automated or otherwise simplified? Is there an opportunity for you to implement lean manufacturing principles? Evaluating your operations is a great way to identify inefficiencies in your organization.
The key is to reduce the time required in order to increase overall capacity, all while ensuring that nothing gets missed, as shortcuts can lead to quality control issues and dissatisfied customers.
Improve equipment and systems
Is your equipment up to date? Or are you using outdated machinery and legacy technologies?
The more outdated the equipment a manufacturer works with, the greater opportunity for preventable delays in operation. Take an assessment of physical equipment and the software your businesses utilizes on a daily basis. If you find that your systems are more than five or ten years old, it may be time to set aside profits to update your manufacturing facility.
Invest in employee training
Well-trained employees are more likely to work efficiently, produce high-quality results and create ways to optimize operations.
Develop a culture of employee development and make sure they feel comfortable giving suggestions. Doing so can increase morale — leading to higher retention rates, a growing concern of manufacturers — and improve the quality of operations as a whole. The more high-quality employees a manufacturer has, the more efficient the business will run.
Manufacturers should take an even deeper look at operations, utilizing analytics to alert them to any inefficiencies in the process.
On the surface, production could seem to be running smoothly, but perhaps there is an area of production, for example, that is taking 20% longer than expected. Create and gather data points wherever possible, because you never know what inefficiencies may be lurking under a normal-looking production cycle.
At USC Consulting Group, we can help your manufacturing business decrease manufacturing cycle time and increase efficiency and productivity. Contact us to find out more.
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Knowledge is power, right? The problem? Most working professionals learn the majority of what they will ever know about their chosen profession between the ages of 18-22. They’re kids still, at that age, not even legally allowed to rent a car.
Sure, they’ll learn more on the job. Arguably, they’ll learn everything that really matters at work. But those pedagogical skills. The theory and tech that goes into professional life — that’s typically learned in the more formal classroom setting.
Without upskilling, your staff can wind up in professional limbo. Fortunately, there are many ways to continue developing professionally, even after school is out.
In this article, we take a look at how upskilling your employees can help create a stronger organization.
What is Upskilling?
As the name suggests, upskilling is simply the process of teaching your staff new skills. They learn more about how things work around your organization and perhaps gain the capacity to fulfill other responsibilities somewhere along the line. Kind of like a professional cross-fit program.
Instead of an inordinate amount of leg days, you have team members learning about new technologies or embracing business concepts that might otherwise be outside their job description.
Usually, upskilling is framed as being optional — professional development opportunities that, while not compulsory, may improve the employee’s overall standing within the organization somewhere down the line.
Not everyone will be interested in upskilling, but those who are will learn valuable skills.
Identifying the Go-getters
One of the most obvious benefits of upskilling your employees is that it helps to identify the go-getters. With this, you find out quickly who is interested in growing professionally, and who is more or less coasting on the job. When it comes time to decide who winds up taking on leadership roles, your upskilled staff will often be a great first place to look.
Upskilled professionals may also be better equipped to fill gaps within your organization. This is a problem that business leaders all over the world are still dealing with. They have jobs to fill, but they can’t quite find the people willing or qualified to take them on.
You definitely don’t want to rely on your best employees to pick up all the slack, but you can use them here and there to handle additional responsibilities when the moment requires it. Just make sure you reward them accordingly. Short-staffed businesses often experience very high levels of turnover because the work becomes more stressful for the people who remain.
You certainly don’t want to drive away you’re A-team, so call in the favors sparingly and make sure that your incentives are on point.
Avoid Efficiency Lags
As staff members age they inevitably fall out of touch with the most modern business practices. How could they not? Things change constantly, both in terms of what is considered best practices, and based on things like what technology is being used now.
If you’re twenty years out of college, you might not have your finger on the pulse of the latest industry trends. Upskilling is a great way to stay refreshed on what is going on in your chosen profession.
A Downside to Upskilling?
There are downsides and risks associated with upskilling your employees. Perhaps the most straightforward of these is that it takes time, and, by extension, money to teach people new things. Depending on your current resources, that might not be in the cards.
There’s also just the risk of alienating your staff. People work hard. They don’t really like being asked to work harder. You can edge around that particular issue by making professional development optional, but even then you run a bit of a risk. Yeah, you don’t have to do it but…you have to do it, right?
Read the room. There are times to upskill, and times to leave things be. As a decision-maker, it’s your responsibility to take an analytic view of the situation and go from there.
It’s also important to keep in mind that upskilling, or any other form of professional development is not a one-time thing. Technology will continue to change. Strategies will change along with it, and it will be time to refresh your staff’s knowledge all over again.
Learning and progress are important elements of growth, but remember that slow and steady can win the race here. You want to encourage your staff and help them grow. Not bombard them with new responsibilities.
*This article is written by Andrew Deen. Andrew has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewDeen14.
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In the modern era, being aware of the latest technology can provide unique benefits for your business, no matter your industry. When it comes to warehouse management, utilizing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help boost productivity so your processes are as efficient as possible. Here’s more about the benefits of using an ERP and why your facility should implement it as soon as possible.
What Is an ERP?
ERP software is a complete organizational solution that allows you to manage essential business aspects like supply chain operations, accounting, and other processes in one place. An ERP program allows your team to seamlessly manage your warehouse, as every kind of data you need works together more efficiently.
Rather than rely on traditional methods like maintaining physical document files, an ERP allows you to take an informed, digital approach to warehouse operations. These systems can transform your warehouse’s productivity levels so you can complete the essential components of your business faster.
Explore a few productivity benefits of ERP systems, all of which lead to subsequent advantages like better company reputation and improved client relationships.
Likely the most notable selling point of an ERP system is the ability to automate tedious job duties. Almost every role can include some form of automation, which allows employees to direct their skills and attention to more complex tasks. Thanks to automation, teams can be more productive in the areas of their work that matter most.
For example, instead of having your customer service team personally respond to every inquiry, ERP software can help reduce the number of interactions needed to resolve an issue. Therefore, the system can provide information on straightforward problems, allowing employees to meaningfully connect with people who have more complex issues. This increases customer satisfaction, which is extremely advantageous to your company.
Other areas for potential automation through an ERP platform include customer data management, inventory management, and purchase orders.
ERP software keeps your company’s data in a single, accessible digital space. All the information your team needs to successfully manage your warehouse is readily available whenever and wherever they need it.
This way, the right people can access the information they need to complete their job duties without having to ask a co-worker and wait for a response. Further, the platform’s accessibility means departments can easily communicate and collaborate, reducing typical warehouse issues that stem from a disorganized system.
ERP systems are also completely mobile, which is especially advantageous today. No matter the size of your warehouse or whether you have one or a dozen facilities to manage, your team is likely in a few different places throughout the week. Reducing communication issues that come with a spread-out team is easy with ERP software.
Every approved and connected employee can access the ERP platform from their smartphones, laptops, or tablets, whether in the warehouse or off-site. Therefore, your team no longer needs to wait until the right person is at their desk to approve a document — it can all happen on the go, keeping productivity levels high.
4. Forecasting and Integration
No one can accurately predict the future, but you can forecast trends to have at least a small idea of what is to come. ERP software can navigate supply chain issues and other disruptions in your warehouse. That makes you better equipped to create sales reports and generate additional crucial information to circumvent sudden delays and high demand.
Similarly, ERP platforms are ideal for supply chain management integration. These features allow you to see the full view of your warehouse’s operations, including an in-depth look at your distribution channels. If you manage more than one facility, you use the system to view details regarding all of them in one location.
5. Data Security
A data breach can set your team’s efficiency back tenfold as they work to correct the error, increase protections, and manage your company’s reputation. Switching to an ERP platform lets you better protect your data from attacks, as software improvements and updates continuously happen for today’s ERP systems.
Moving Forward With an ERP Solution
If your team is interested in incorporating an ERP solution to better manage your warehouse’s productivity, consider doing so with the help of a consulting firm that understands the full spectrum of ERP. ERP software is advantageous in many ways for warehouses. Still, it can be a complicated system to configure, especially when you currently rely on an outdated management process that will take skill and time to convert.
Maximize your warehouse’s productivity by partnering with a reliable team to make implementing and understanding your new ERP software simple. This way, you can discover the best features of your new software without sacrificing any efficiency to learn it. Your warehouse will be reaping the rewards of this solution in no time.
* This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in the IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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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.
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There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s tough out there for manufacturers on the front lines of the hiring wars. We are in an unprecedented hiring-and-retention situation in this country. The Great Resignation numbers just keep climbing. According to CNN, 47.4 million people left their jobs in 2021. That’s a lot of open positions and a lot of people out of work. You’d think it would be a hirer’s market. It’s just the opposite.
“54% of U.S. manufacturers are finding it difficult to attract skilled workers to get the job done. That’s up from 38% before the pandemic.”
Companies in all industries are feeling the hiring pain, but manufacturing is getting hit especially hard. IndustryWeek reports that 54% of U.S. manufacturers are finding it difficult to attract skilled workers to get the job done. That’s up from 38% before the pandemic. Competition for skilled workers to fill all of those jobs has never been more intense. And that competition isn’t just coming from other manufacturers. It’s also coming from other industries, like transportation, warehousing, even retail.
Hiring is only one part of the challenge. It’s also about retention. From a study by the Workforce Institute at HR solutions company UKG, manufacturers are getting “ghosted” by workers who simply don’t show up for their shifts. A shocking 68% of manufacturers said they let employees go because of it between January and March 2021.
So, what’s going on? Instead of the Great Resignation, you might call it the Great Reassessment. As Industry Week puts it, workers aren’t just reassessing what they do for their 9-to-5 and walking out the door, they’re also thinking about where they do it and why they do it. People have streamed out of the workplace in record numbers because they want more. More pay, more flexibility, more benefits, more meaning and more happiness.
Manufacturers who understand that is the key to winning the hiring wars. Let’s look at how to put that into practice when you’re trying to hire and retain employees.
What manufacturers can do to hire and retain workers
Here are six strategies to help you attract and keep the people you need to get the job done.
1. Open your company purse strings. To borrow a line from Cuba Gooding Jr., show them the money. With McDonald’s paying more than $20 an hour to flip burgers, it’s tough to compete with that. But look at what your competition is paying and match it, or if possible, exceed it. Job seekers today are ultra-choosy, and a high salary is one of the most important weapons in your hiring arsenal.
2. Cast your net wider. Do you have a background check that excludes people who have had felonies or other arrests? Would you consider hiring a retiree? How about someone with special needs? From the same Workforce Institute study, 62% of manufacturers have hired or considered hiring people with special needs, 56% have hired retirees, and 52% are considering hiring people who have been incarcerated. You may not have considered this talent pool in the past, but there are great advantages to hiring people who traditionally have trouble getting a break. Increased loyalty is a big one.
3. Work with schools to train and recruit students. The National Law Review points out that an entire generation of manufacturing workers is getting ready for retirement, and younger workers simply don’t have the skills to take up the mantle. By training students and those just out of school, you’ll be creating a pool of new employees who have the skills to get the job done in your workplace. This, in turn, will help reduce the skills gap that separates your new hires from your seasoned veterans and retirees.
4. Rethink your benefits. Your benefits package is especially important in luring Great Resigners back into the workplace. As we said, many people have quit their jobs because they’re looking for something more, and benefits are a big part of that. Robust health care that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is a must. But think outside the box, too. Industries like retail and hospitality are luring younger workers by offering to pay off their student debt, cover childcare expenses and grant generous PTO.
5. Invest in upskilling and training. This is vital for retention, but it’s important for hiring, too. If your candidates know you are committed to your current employees’ futures, giving them the opportunity to learn new and valuable skills, it’s a big plus. It shows you’re in it for the long term, not just hiring a warm body to fill a hole on the line. For your employees who are already on the job, upskilling and training can increase their engagement exponentially. One of our clients recently put a new training program in place for longtime employees and awarded certificates when they completed the course successfully. Engagement went through the roof, along with employees’ pride of achievement. A benefit for you, along with happier, more engaged employees, lies in cross training your people. That way, if and when an employee “ghosts” you on a shift, you’ll have a pool of qualified people to step in and do the job.
6. Consider your efficiency. Are your machines breaking down frequently? Are there stoppages on the line? The same client of ours that invested in training and upskilling realized that their employees were continually frustrated with snafus on the line day in and day out. Correcting those problems and making your operations as efficient as possible gives employee satisfaction a boost and helps with retention. Also, it’s crucial to involve employees at all levels, from the corner office to the line on the shop floor, in the process of improving your operation’s efficiency. People with varying viewpoints of the job bring a variety of opinions and ideas to the table.
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve spent more than 50 years helping companies improve employee engagement and realize greater efficiency in their operations. Ready to talk about what we can do for you? Give us a call.
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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?”
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