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With Halloween just around the corner, we started thinking about nightmares that can occur to manufacturers. Is something bedeviling your productivity leading to more tricks than treats? Is there a ghost in the machine? Here are some of the most common “monsters” that haunt manufacturing managers, and ways to banish them from your operation for good.
Things that go bump in the night (or day). Every manufacturing plant on the planet has experienced an “unexpected shutdown” that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Something broke, wore out, went awry or otherwise seized up, causing production to grind to a halt. These unexpected dark periods, whether they last an hour, a day or longer until the problem is resolved, are extremely costly in lost productivity and revenue, delays in shipments and deliveries, and more.
Banish it! Regular shutdowns for maintenance need to be an essential part of your yearly calendar. Yes, these planned maintenance periods still mean downtime, but the point is, you build them into your schedule and plan accordingly for shift scheduling, delivery and other variables.
Zombies on the line. Unmotivated teams can bedevil companies in any industry. From the Great Resignation to Quiet Quitting, employee morale has taken a tumble since the pandemic. People are just going through the motions out there. Couple that with some spooky stats: According to a Gallup survey, only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work and 74% say they are actively looking for new jobs. Low morale costs companies in just about every way possible — increased absenteeism, dips in quality and efficiency, and rock-bottom motivation levels among them.
Banish it! There are many spells you can cast to break that zombie curse. Invest in training and development for your employees. Hold listening sessions to get ideas for improvements on the job. Walk the floor and talk to your people regularly, something management just doesn’t do enough. Build a promotion pipeline from your front lines. All of these will help increase employee engagement and get their heads back in the game.
Process poltergeists. Are you constantly putting out fires that seem to combust without warning? Human errors, unforeseen backups, supply chain bottlenecks, inventory imbalances (too much or too little), glitches on the line. It can feel like you have a firefighting mentality, and it’s counterproductive to, well, productivity. When you’re in a constant state of troubleshooting, you’re not efficient at doing the job today or laying the groundwork for tomorrow.
Banish it! A solid Management Operating System, which is a structured approach to your operations, will help stop trouble before it starts. This allows you to make adjustments and otherwise pivot so your operations aren’t adversely impacted. The best management operating systems focus on processes, systems, roles and structures to map out how the job gets done, and by whom. To learn about MOS in more detail, watch our short (and dare we say fun) video, Stop the Firefighting Mentality.
“20% of each dollar is wasted in manufacturing due to inefficient processes each year”
Wasting disease. Waste can hide on your shop floor like a monster under the bed. It hides where you least expect it, like time, energy, employee talent, productivity and more. Here’s a figure that will keep you up at night: 20% of each dollar is wasted in manufacturing due to inefficient processes each year, adding up to $8 trillion globally.
Banish it! Waste is such an enormous problem in manufacturing, Toyota (or Henry Ford, depending on who you ask) created a process methodology about it. Lean is all about identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. The classic Seven Deadly Wastes (we think it’s eight, but let’s not split hairs) include overproduction, waiting, transporting, processing, inventory, motion and defects. (People is our eighth.) Lean is the process to minimize or eliminate those, boosting your bottom line. Read more about it by downloading our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
The invisible man (or woman). The loss of institutional knowledge happens when your best workers vanish (retire or quit) and take all their hard-earned, on-the-job know-how with them. It’s the tips, tricks and tactics that aren’t in the employee manual. The loss of this irreplaceable knowledge is a growing issue for manufacturing, because the workforce is aging, and there is a lack of skilled younger workers to take their place.
Banish it! Capture that knowledge before your seasoned pros retire or otherwise leave the workforce. Create mentorship programs pairing older workers with younger ones, ask those older employees to participate in roundtable sessions that can focus on “what’s not in the manual” knowledge, and solicit their advice on how to do the job better.
While this is a lighthearted look at manufacturing problems, these issues are no joke. They can seriously hamper your efficiency, productivity and ultimately, your bottom line. At USC Consulting Group, we’re the experts in helping companies reach operational excellence. If you’d like to learn more, please give us a call.
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It’s a problem plaguing companies across most, if not all, industries: the loss of institutional knowledge when a seasoned vet retires. The person you’ve had on the job for decades gets their gold watch, has a retirement party and walks out of your door for the last time… and takes everything they’ve learned on the job with them. That knowledge is gold to companies, and the loss of it can be devastating. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the lack of knowledge transfer when an experienced worker retires can cost individual companies $47 million per year “due to time wasted, missed opportunities, frustration and delayed projects.”
Manufacturing is especially hard hit by this, because its workforce is aging and younger people aren’t coming in to fill in those ranks. 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. But, it’s not just a manufacturing issue. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. That’s a lot of great employees looking at retirement.
All of that said, the loss of institutional knowledge isn’t just an age issue. It’s also a generational turnover rate issue. Compared to Boomers, younger workers are on the job for a nanosecond before moving on. The average millennial tenure on the job is 2.9 years. For Gen Z, it’s even less: 2.3 years. The “Great Resignation” following the pandemic didn’t help matters, when people who could leave the workforce, did. They still are. In February 2023, 4 million people left their jobs. The one-two punch of older workers retiring and high turnover rate among younger workers has created a knowledge gap crisis.
The solution? Companies need to have rock-solid foundational training that covers key processes in their operations, written on stone tablets if necessary. It requires a shift in a company’s learning curve, and many simply don’t know where to start. That’s where USC comes in.
How USC helps companies shift the learning curve
Those are the stats and facts about the loss of institutional knowledge. We’ve seen it play out on the shop floor in many of the companies we partner with. Companies that didn’t have simple, well-documented processes lost capability, capacity and quality as their experienced workforce left. It resulted in companies playing catch-up in terms of time, money and employee turnover.
This doesn’t just affect the shop floor. Junior and mid-level managers lost mentors and leaders who might have been there to show them the ropes. We’ve seen frustrated, disengaged, underdeveloped employees leave companies as quickly as they’re hired.
It has resulted in USC developing a closed loop Training Management process that documents and maintains standardized operator work instructions, quickly ramps and levels employee knowledge, encourages employee engagement, and promotes leadership development.
The objectives? Here’s what we’re looking to accomplish:
- Document operator level processes and standard work using a closed loop system that facilitates change management and training.
- Implement a training management system to keep track of who is and who is not trained.
- Retain employees through leadership engagement and demonstrating your investment in their performance and development.
Deliverables include all of the above, along with a detailed timeline for standard operating procedures development and training.
Our approach is designed to accelerate and deliver sustainable change while engaging your people and bringing focus, clarity and transparency to organizational effectiveness.
It includes a Rapid Assessment Analytics Phase and an Implementation Phase. Here’s how it works:
Learn and Collaborate
With leadership, we explore key issues and opportunities in order to articulate the vision of the project.
In this stage, we find the gaps and align with leadership on goals.
With key players, we develop a roadmap and a detailed execution plan. We determine the changes we need to implement and do triage to knock out quick wins to move the project along.
Execute and Sustain
This is where the rubber meets the road. We mobilize stakeholders and implement the solution. It requires ongoing training and coaching, weekly reviews, and a study of ROI and benefits.
As with every project we undertake, our training management approach does NOT include us swooping in and making pronouncements of how things should be. Instead, we engage with your people to create a blueprint that’s unique to your company.
Training Management Project Approach
We aim to drive significant value on two fronts, the “just do it” phase to drive immediate value, and the “change the game” phase to drive sustainable outcomes and long-term value. It includes
- Employee engagement: If people don’t buy into the process, it’s never going to stick.
- Leadership engagement: Involvement with HR, Ops and Training managers is critical.
- Leadership training: We’re not going to be onsite forever. Leaders need to become trainers for this to sustain. We empower people but provide ongoing support.
Yes, a lot of this can sound like “consultant-speak.” What it boils down to, in plain English, is keeping your operations humming along on all cylinders even if every experienced employee on your line suddenly walks out of the door. It’s about identifying your core processes and procedures — what needs to happen to keep the place running. Documenting those procedures, and then creating and providing solid training to employees and higher ups. Sometimes that can involve getting to the heart of what IS NOT in any training manual, those invaluable nuggets of institutional knowledge your people have developed over years on the job.
To learn more about how you can shift your learning curve to retain your employees, give us a call today.
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William is the newly promoted COO at Acme Widget Company. He recently conquered his operational issues by improving efficiency and increasing throughput with the help of USC Consulting Group.
William’s current foe: Manufacturing labor shortages and the growing skills gap.
William has noticed, as his seasoned Acme Widget employees retire or leave, they take their hard-earned institutional knowledge with them when they walk out the door. The turnover is driving up operating costs and finding replacement workers with the skills, knowledge and expertise to do the job, which is increasingly technical, is a growing challenge.
But it’s not just that. It’s finding workers, period.
Analysts predict 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled by 2030, costing the U.S. nearly $1 trillion in GDP.
So how does William retain his skilled workforce while finding new hires? He called his friends at USC Consulting Group. Together, they came up with a plan: An advanced training course to retain employees and an expediting strategy to onboard new talent. The goal was to upskill current employees with the knowledge they need today and tomorrow, cross train them to do multiple jobs, and speed up the learning curve for new hires.
It was a win-win! Employees dove into the training and became more engaged. They saw Acme was investing in them and their futures, creating loyalty and appreciation on the shop floor and beyond. Plus, William’s new hires joined the team quickly and seamlessly.
With better employee engagement and training, William saw improved retention along with increased production and reduced operating costs. He created a work environment where his workers were skilled, felt valued, and took pride in getting the job done. The skills gap was closed and labor shortages were no more!
Are you experiencing manufacturing labor shortages and a growing skills gap on your shop floor? Give USC Consulting Group a call and they’ll put their expertise to work for you.
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When’s the last time you walked the shop floor and engaged with your people who get the job done on the line day after day? If you’re a manager, COO or CEO, you’re dealing with bottom lines, efficiencies, throughput, supply chain headaches, hiring woes and everything else on your plate. It can seem like there aren’t enough hours in your busy workday to visit with the folks on the shop floor. We’d ask you to rethink that. Engaging with your employees might not seem like a bottom-line priority, but it’s more important now than ever, especially as it pertains to employee retention.
Here are a few stats to illustrate why:
- More than 1 million manufacturing jobs are unfilled in the U.S., according to a report released in March 2022 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a record high in manufacturing, and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you’ve been on the front lines of hiring to fill those open positions, or if you’re vexed that your productivity is suffering because of a short staff, you know how tough it is to get people in the door, and the consequences for your bottom line if you don’t.
- 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.
- The pandemic-wrought supply chain disruptions and inventory uncertainty continue to plague manufacturers.
What those varied numbers and stats add up to is, it’s really tough out there. Hiring is more difficult than ever, the skills gap is widening, employees still on the job are not engaged, and all of it is affecting your bottom line, productivity, throughput, efficiency… the whole nine yards.
One simple way to start tackling all of those problems is walking the floor, talking to employees and getting a sense of what’s happening on the line day to day. We guarantee you’ll find it illuminating.
For over 50 years, we at USC Consulting Group have leveraged the benefits of doing just that. Here are six reasons why you should too:
1. You’ll gain a better understanding of your operations
At USC, that’s why we work side by side with frontline workers when we engage with a company. There are no better sources of truth of the day-to-day operations than the men and women on your shop floor. Experience first-hand the ins-and-outs of what makes your operations hum and what is hindering it.
2. Employee engagement equals business success
We’ve seen this time and time again. Just one example: We recently worked with a manufacturer that was dealing with dwindling efficiency due to challenges on many different fronts. They were having employee hiring and retention problems, machinery issues and operations and communications breakdowns. Management had let slip decades-old initiatives that had given them shop floor controls and visibility. This was a key piece to the puzzle. We helped them create a Management Operations System that involved them getting on the front lines and engaging with those employees. The result was a boost in production improvement. Read more about it in our case study, “Construction Materials Supplier Builds Up Equipment and Employee Engagement Programs.”
3. Build a promotion pipeline from your front lines
As you get to know your employees better, you can spot talent that could benefit from increased training and development for internal promotions. This has cascading benefits. Remember that LinkedIn statistic? Ninety-four percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. That’s not just for white-collar jobs. And your whole staff will see your commitment to developing and promoting your people on the line. Internal promotions increase employee retention companywide.
4. You can also spot trouble sooner
Just as you’ll notice who is doing a stellar job, you may well find some people who aren’t. The weak links in the operation. You can also spot breakdowns in efficiency and opportunities to improve what may be going wrong by simply walking around on a frequent basis.
5. You’ll get great ideas to help improve operations
Our clients are all different, with unique challenges. The one thing we see everywhere we go is, the people on the line, the ones who do the job every day, can have the most informed and effective ideas — ideas that may not have occurred to management — about how to improve productivity, efficiency or any other challenges that arise.
6. You’ll help boost morale
Workers feel more valued and appreciated when the “higher-ups” take the time to get to know them, listen to them and are concerned about any issues they may be experiencing.
The bottom line is, take the time to walk around your facilities from time to time. There’s no downside to engaging with your workers on the shop floor. You’ll develop relationships with your staff, gain a good handle on what’s going on day to day, and create engagement up and down the line. Read more about it in “How to Increase Employee Engagement and Training to Improve Retention.”
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If the Great Resignation has hit your company, leaving you short-staffed and scrambling to fill open positions, you’re not alone. An average of 4 million people per month have resigned from their jobs since April 2021, according to the Department of Labor Statistics, and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. In November 2021, the number reached an all-time high: 6.3 million. It is unprecedented. Economists are calling it a disaster. It is creating headaches from the corner office to the shop floor and everywhere in between.
Why are people leaving their jobs in record numbers? You can point to the pandemic as the major cause. To put it mildly, it has been a challenging time for everyone, and many people have decided life is too short to stay in a job that isn’t fulfilling.
For businesses, it means a necessary shift in focus. Employee engagement and retention needs to take its place at the top of the priority list for HR, managers and shift supervisors. Employee engagement is job one. Why is it so important? Gallup reports that just 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and 74% are actively looking for new jobs.
It’s not enough anymore to issue a paycheck. The work has to be fulfilling and meaningful and engaging in order to retain your best people. One powerful way to address that growing problem is by increasing employee training, learning and development.
“According to LinkedIn, 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.”
Engagement through training
The statistics bear out the connection between training and development and employee engagement in study after study. Udemy: 80% of employees said learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged. LinkedIn: 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. The list goes on.
It stands to reason. Companies that are invested in their employees get invested and engaged employees in return. It really is as simple as that.
The benefits of giving your employees training, learning and development opportunities radiate throughout the company.
- Happier, engaged employees aren’t looking for greener pastures.
- Well-trained people make your whole operation more efficient and effective.
- Engaged workers really care about the job they’re doing, and aren’t phoning it in.
- When employees feel valued, they give 100%.
- Giving an employee a career path within your company helps ensure they see a long-term future.
- When problems arise, engaged employees are motivated to help solve them.
- Engaged employees are not cogs in a machine. They are invested partners in profitability.
At USC, we’ve seen it work in practice, playing out on the shop floor. Many clients are dealing with issues resulting from the Great Resignation — lost productivity, dwindling throughput and low engagement on the part of employees. The fix for that is by focusing on your employees and keeping them on the job.
We recently helped one client get a dramatic uptick in employee engagement and retention as a result of increased training. But it didn’t start as a training project. It began as a productivity project that led to increased training. Oftentimes, many facets intertwine to create a snarl of challenges in the workplace, and this was no exception.
We’ve highlighted it all in our recent case study, “Construction Materials Supplier Builds Up their Equipment and Employee Engagement Programs“, but in a nutshell: The client was dealing with dwindling efficiency due to challenges on many different fronts, including maintenance and equipment breakdowns, hiring and retention difficulties, and operations and communication breakdowns.
As we dealt with maintenance and other machine issues, we came upon some old manuals that detailed how best to operate and maintain equipment on the shop floor. Nobody was using the dusty, old volumes anymore, but we thought they held important gems of knowledge that, perhaps, had been lost. That’s a common byproduct of veteran workers leaving or retiring — they take that hard-earned institutional knowledge with them when they walk out the door for the final time, leaving younger workers without skilled mentors who really had a firm handle on how the job should get done.
We took those manuals and updated them. The next step was formalizing a training process to add a new level of skill to the workforce.
Certifications were the key
We decided to take the extra step of issuing certifications to all of the employees who successfully underwent the training process. We found this one, small step was a crucial piece of the puzzle. Employees who worked hard and passed the training were given a tangible symbol of their achievement. Like a diploma, a marriage certificate, or a driver’s license, they were just pieces of paper. But the meaning infused into that paper certificate was all about pride, advancement, achievement and mastery.
We saw employees waving their certificates to others on the shop floor, boasting about what they had achieved. For trainers, it doesn’t get any better than that.
And the company saw a change in productivity as well, with highly trained people working the line on the shop floor. All of that training led to the machines functioning better, which in turn lessened the frustrating situation that led to them coming to USC in the first place — low productivity and dwindling throughput. With engaged employees, that problem was solved.
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