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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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If your business is experiencing challenges with processes and operations, it isn’t as efficient as it should be, or if you are striving to increase throughput while cutting costs, it may be time to bring in an operations management consultant.
However, before you sign on the dotted line, you should know the advantages and drawbacks to hiring operations management consultants to help. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at operations consulting, how it can benefit your business and some pitfalls we can help you avoid.
Pros and cons of operations management consultants
Operations consulting is what USC Consulting Group has specialized in for more than half a century, and with that, we have been exposed to various situations around the world. But it’s not always easy bringing in people from the outside to tackle the challenges you’re having internally. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pro: Process improvement expertise. Your company is in the business of whatever it is you do. Consultants are in the business of process improvements. It’s all we do. We are experts in techniques like Lean Six Sigma (LSS) — there aren’t many companies out there with many in-house black belts in this discipline. LSS is focused on eliminating waste and improving throughput, and it takes years to become an expert in it. External consultants like USC goes beyond LSS to focus on both your people and processes.
Con: Lack of accountability. Some external consultants “fix it and forget it.” They swoop in, offer recommendations for change, hand you a file stuffed full of info about what they found and then swoop out, on to the next project. This is a serious drawback. (Note: USC does NOT work this way)
Pro: Industry expertise. At USC Consulting Group, we have 55 years of experience under our belts. We’ve seen it all. And while every situation and challenge is unique, we are coming at those challenges with decades of experience as our solid foundation for success.
Con: Learning curve. Consultants lack knowledge of in-house procedures and it takes a couple of weeks to get up to speed with a company’s specific processes. USC performs Feasibility Studies to build the business case for the project and at the same time get acquainted with the client’s facilities and operations. We start by listening, hastening that learning curve.
Pro: Training and improvement for staff. If you’re working with the right outside consultant, that is. At USC, we aren’t just about fixing challenges for companies. We coach and teach our clients on how to sustain those changes, instead of just fixing and forgetting. In other words, we provide the training and know-how for you to take it from there. The result is the upskilling of your employees as part of the bargain. That’s an added bonus not all consultants provide.
Con: Lack of sustainability. This is another potential downside of hiring the wrong consultant. Sure, it’s great to highlight challenges and offer recommendations for change, but those changes don’t stick if the consultant leaves it to you to implement them. That’s why we work with your team to implement the process improvement changes and train your people along the way so they can sustain the success long after we’ve left.
Pro: Unbiased third-party advisors. Consultants are not part of a company’s internal politics. We are above the fray. This comes in handy when recommending process changes, because who takes direction from whom can be tricky in companies. We’ve seen it time and time again: recommendations for change go down easier when they come from outside the organization, rather than from within it.
Con: Don’t know the unwritten or unspoken rules. Yes, we may be the aforementioned unbiased third-party advisors, and that’s a big advantage. But it also can be a stumbling block because we don’t know the unwritten rules in your organization. These are cultural norms, do’s and don’ts, that aren’t in any company handbook. Depending on the company, this may be good or bad.
Pro: Cost. Bringing in an outside consultant is actually less expensive than doing the project in-house. If you use an internal process improvement team made up of current employees from different departments, you’re not only paying the cost of the project itself, but the cost of lost productivity when team members are away from their usual duties. If you have a dedicated internal process improvement team, we’re talking about costs involved with salaries, benefits, perks and the whole nine yards. On top of all of that, you are risking the costs associated with failure because you don’t have experienced pros on the project. At USC, there are no net annualized costs due to the results and benefits achieved within the first year that continue for many years after.
Con: Cost. Yes, there are both pros and cons to cost. With consultants, you’ll have a large upfront investment. There’s just no getting around that. But, in the immortal words of the author Kurt Vonnegut, you get what you pay for. Hiring a consulting firm, you’re paying for process improvement expertise. At USC, we have 55+ years of it under our belts. One important thing to note: The breakeven point, when you’re reducing operating costs and improving productivity and throughput, this offsets the cost of the project and is usually realized within six months or sooner.
Pro: Fresh eyes to overcome challenges. You know what they say about forests and trees. Sometimes, internal people are simply too close to the problem to see their way out of it. We can look at the big picture and shine a light on processes and gaps that may be weighing you down.
Pro: Horsepower. USC Consulting Group empowers employees with the tools and techniques that drive optimal performance, adding “horsepower” to your teams. We can augment your team’s efforts and achieve results quicker.
So what does this all mean? Yes, there are drawbacks to be aware of when bringing in operations management consultants. However, when done right, the benefits they bring to your team and process improvement projects completely outshine those concerns.
USC Consulting Group stands ready to help you. Operations consulting is what we do. We know we can come in and get the job done, helping our clients achieve greater efficiency and throughput, improved processes and ultimately a healthier bottom line. We’ll be happy to talk with you about how we can augment your operations.
Already have an internal improvement team? Read more about both options in our article: “Operations Management Consultants vs. Internal Improvement Teams: What’s the Difference?”
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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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Slowly but surely, consumers are returning to the marketplace in full force after a number of tumultuous years. According to Industry Week, consumer spending is up 20% from this time last year. While that number is great for a manufacturer’s balance sheet, there are still challenges in the industry that are keeping CEOs up at night. Here is a look at a number of concerns of top executives — and ways you can tackle them head-on to get a good night’s sleep.
Problem: Retiring workforce
Ah, retirement. The day valued, longtime employees get their gold watches and leave the plant for the last time. It’s great for the employee, not so much for their CEO. That’s because as retirees head out to enjoy their golden years, they’re taking all of the institutional knowledge they’ve learned over many years on the job with them. The median worker age as of 2018 was 44.1 years old — over two years older than workers in other industries. And that was in 2018, the most recent stat. Those folks are 48 now. But you don’t need stats to tell you that. A walk around your shop floor (or a talk with HR) will give you the lowdown on how many of your employees are nearing retirement.
Solution: Capture that knowledge
It pays to be proactive in most situations and this is one of them. Capture that institutional knowledge before your seasoned vets walk out the door. Create mentorships between older and younger workers. Film a roundtable discussion featuring your best older workers talking about the ins and outs they’ve learned over the years. Ask your seasoned vets to be part of updating your manuals. At USC Consulting Group, when we go into a manufacturing business to improve efficiencies, we understand that the people on your front lines are your greatest resource and our greatest ally in that effort.
Problem: Skills gap
The other side of the institutional knowledge coin is the lack of skilled workers to replace them. You’ve heard about the skills gap, certainly, and this is it. There is a dearth of qualified people out there. Or enough people. Manufacturers in the U.S. are expected to see 2 million unfilled jobs by 2030. It paints a grim picture for companies that aren’t planning or prepared for the future of their workforce.
If you’re not finding skilled people, one solution is to create robust training programs that will get them the skills they need. It’s an investment, yes. But a worthy one.
Another tactic: Partner with a local trade school or community college to target upcoming grads.
Problem: Employee engagement (or lack thereof)
Are your employees happy? Do they feel valued and appreciated? If you don’t know, now’s the time to find out. To add to the problem of an aging workforce retiring and taking their skills with them, the new generation of warehouse and manufacturing workers are less and less inclined to begin and continue careers in the industry. The Great Resignation is a countrywide juggernaut that has prompted many of the younger workers to resign from and reject positions where they don’t feel adequately fulfilled or see a future career. The manufacturing industry is not immune.
The younger generation of workers needs validation and appreciation to stick around. Only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work and 74% are actively looking for a new job at any given time with their current employer.
Solution: Start walking the floor
Walking the floor is an oft-overlooked yet crucial way for managers and executives to engage with their team, foster relationships and directly affect employee retention in a positive way.
Getting out onto the shop floor shows employees that their employer cares about them and their career. For the employer, this strategy fosters retention while also affording an opportunity to discover any standout employees or ways to improve day-to-day operations. This directly combats an aging workforce by keeping new employees around long enough to become skilled themselves.
Another tactic: Invest in career pathing for your employees. It starts with promoting from within and giving people a roadmap for how to get there. It’s a powerful tool. In fact, 94% of employees said they would stay at a job that invested in their career development, according to a survey on LinkedIn.
Problem: Worldwide supply chain disruptions
While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down, the manufacturing problems it caused are still very prevalent in the industry today. Bottlenecks in every level of the supply chain and overcrowded shipping ports have become the norm over the past few years — with little signs of slowing.
According to Industry Week, a 400% increase in shipping costs from China and a 45% increase in ocean freight wait times — both increases relative to last year — is a trend that could continue for 6 to 12 months, if not longer.
Reshoring has long been suggested as idealistic and beneficial for the country, yet unrealistic. That is, until now.
The dramatic increase in outsourcing costs and interminable shipping wait times has resulted in many Fortune-500 companies — General Motors, Toyota and Samsung, to name a few — making considerable investments in the improvement, expansion and new developments of their manufacturing plants in the U.S.
Reshoring is a way for U.S. manufacturers to invest in the country and claim valuable subsidies, while also shielding themselves from any potential global supply chain issues.
Problem: Inventory management
Dialing in proper order quantities, reorder triggers and keeping an accurate and adequate lead time have long been hot buttons for manufacturers. The aforementioned bottlenecks and disruptions have not helped.
The issue compounds when all departments have a different viewpoint on the situation: operations, sales, finance and business executives can all have contrasting requirements and best practices when it comes to an inventory management philosophy. Any divergence in departmental expectations mixed with a lack of communication can spell disaster for any manufacturer.
SIOP expands on S&OP — the business management process that involves sales forecast reports and planning for demand and supply — by adding a crucial component: Inventory.
SIOP is a powerful tool that helps your company get departments in sync, ensures that everyone is on the same page and realistic about the process, helps you manage and roll with changes, and measures performance.
“A key to SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues,” explains David Shouldice, Senior Vice President and Managing Director at USC Consulting Group. “One lever of control in the SIOP process is to make inventory harder working as a strategic tool.”
SIOP helps you wrangle your inventory management, achieve the optimal balance between not enough and too much, and settle back into Lean manufacturing principles that can eliminate waste and help ramp up your efficiency.
These aren’t the only challenges keeping CEOs up at night. At USC Consulting Group, we have more than 50 years of experience helping manufacturers find opportunities for greater efficiency and productivity. Call us today to talk about how we can help you get a good night’s sleep.
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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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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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The competition has become sky-high and relentless across all major industries. Pricing is a race to the bottom, resources are harder than ever to come by, and new protocols and regulations constantly disrupt processes and add to manufacturing costs. The still-struggling economy doesn’t help matters.
Operations managers have their work cut out for them: Creating and maintaining smooth, high-functioning processes in this climate is a challenge. Preparation, a constructive attitude, and informed decision-making are required in spades. Here’s USC Consulting Group’s take on how operations managers can remain competitive and, indeed, thrive in the digital era:
1. Keep your customers front and center
Metrics like cycle time and the operations profit margin are important. They show you how well your operations processes are doing. They don’t, however, determine your net profitability – your customers do. As such, while it’s important to tweak your operations processes, satisfying your customers’ various needs and expectations is more so. Some ways to make customers – B2B or otherwise – happy is to focus on end-to-end transparency, automation, timeliness, accessibility, and user-friendliness.
2. Train your employees
Processes are more than machines, automation, and technology – they are the people that run them. Your employees can be your biggest asset and resource. Cultivating them – especially the ones in key roles on the floor – can net you massive gains across the board. Consider investing in employee training and education programs. Spend plenty of time with your workers, exchange feedback, and create a culture of honesty, accountability, and pride in a job well done. Every manager needs people skills to be successful, says ESRI.
3. Embrace change
Change is rapid and swift in this day and age, thanks to the onset of Industry 4.0, globalization, and constantly shifting market conditions and associated employee turnovers. Even iconic brands like Motorola – once the biggest name in the cellphone industry – can go out of business at the drop of a dime. A process being profitable today is no guarantee of it being profitable tomorrow. Also, what you did to find and keep good employees yesterday may not work anymore. Don’t be averse to change – it’s one of the more common small business management mistakes. Instead, see it as a good, necessary thing. Don’t be afraid of restructuring, reshaping, and overhauling if you need to.
4. Utilize the latest technology
Technology is resource-intensive but it can pay you back multifold. Researching the newest technologies and updating your processes to match can assist in several ways. With real-time data gathering you can make informed operations decisions on the fly. Using IoT, you can keep tabs on multiple processes, worksites, and employees remotely. With automation, digital reality, AI, and blockchain, you can speed up and optimize your supply chain end-to-end. With inventory tracking, you can keep your customers in the loop. It’s a good idea to study how the biggest manufacturers operate – like Toyota – for inspiration.
5. But don’t use technology too much
As important as technology is, it’s not the answer to all your problems. Industry 4.0 is a relatively new phenomenon and the apps or software you’ll be using will typically be a work in progress. Automating every process just because can and will backfire. Technology is excellent for number crunching, simple machine operations, and data gathering. It can’t replace skilled human labor for complex operations and is never a substitute for a well-oiled, streamlined work process.
Analyze every process thoroughly and assess if technology is going to help or hinder before the implementation. Finally, consider the long-term costs of maintaining, updating, and integrating the technology. Not all technology plays well together. Strike a balance.
The secret to success for sustainable operations management is to constantly keep improving and evolving. The biggest manufacturers in the world, like Volkswagen, didn’t become successful overnight, as Translate Media can attest. They focused on innovation, quality, a culture of excellence, and – most importantly – keeping customers happy. They led change instead of shying away from it.
*This article was written by Dean Burgess. Dean runs Excitepreneur, which celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurs. He understands that there are many types of entrepreneurs, and strives to provide helpful information to assist them in achieving their particular idea or goal.
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Few innovations have so saturated modern society quite as much as digital has. Perhaps the best example of all is in the consumer products space. From navigation apps, streaming media services, mobile devices, voice assistants and so much more, artificial intelligence tools and features are regularly used by approximately 85% of Americans, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Gallup. And that was three years ago — the percentage has almost assuredly risen considerably since then.
The ubiquitous nature of digitalization has essentially forced businesses to take steps toward incorporating the latest and greatest technologies into their production processes and strategies. Its implementation is evidenced at just about every stage of the supply chain.
Has your company embarked on a digital transformation journey? No matter where your organization is in this shift, there are a few important things to be mindful of to ensure that the changeover is as painless as possible. Be aware of these issues during your company’s digital transformation journey:
1. Transformations don’t always take
Once businesses makes the decision to move forward with a transformation, those who are new to the processes may underestimate how lengthy it all can be – and their chances of finding success. In other words, even though the presumption is going digital naturally increases efficiency, it doesn’t always come to pass.
For example, in 2018, directors, front office executives spent a combined $1.3 trillion on digital transformation initiatives, according to reporting done by Forbes. However, of that total, $900 billion was ill spent, as the transformations never took hold.
Why not? There are plenty of reasons, but as noted by Harvard Business Review, it may have something to do with decision makers’ failure to put the right strategy or mindset in place before the transformation actually begins. Employees — not to mention people, in general — are creatures of habit. Installing new systems and technologies with which they’re unfamiliar can lead to frustration and resentment. That’s why it’s important to establish what workers can anticipate; namely, the changeover may come with some rough patches in the beginning, but the end result will make the challenge worth the effort. Therefore, it is pivotal to define a digital transformation strategy to help evolve your organization, as per digital marketing firm Dash.
2. Provide ongoing training
In a similar vein, digital transformations are described as such because the change is often substantial, even though it may occur pieces at a time to avoid major interruptions in production. That’s why it’s important to ensure staff members have the instructions they need to utilize unfamiliar equipment — and can provide directions to customers who may have the same difficulty making the transition.
A classic example is in the manufacturing space. According to Oxford Economics, the speed with which manufacturers incorporate robotics into their workflows can dramatically enhance production. Indeed, the study found that increasing robot installations by 30% within the next 10 years could lead to a 5.3% uptick in global gross domestic product.
While just about all business decisions are time sensitive, a sudden infusion of robotics can cause confusion and consternation amongst workers, which is part of the reason why digital transformations so often fail. Ongoing training, seminars, and fielding questions from staff is essential to digital adoption so nothing gets lost in translation.
3. Consider a digital transformation consultant
Financial institutions, warehouses, manufacturers, and processing centers have all implemented digital solutions into their workflows in one form or another. While you as an owner must serve as a leader in these efforts, you may not have the level of expertise to effectively answer your workers’ questions. That’s where a digital transformation consultant can be worthwhile. In addition to ensuring work processes go more smoothly with digital elements as opposed to physical or analog, a digital transformation consultant traditionally specializes in whatever industry new tools or solutions are being rolled out, be it manufacturing, consumer products, life sciences, or food and beverage. In short, a digital transformation consultant can make the unavoidable growing pains of process changeovers less painful.
4. Recognize the reality of the digital divide
It sure seems like the world as a whole has gone digital, especially when you consider that a majority of citizens in a number of developing countries own smartphones, according to polling done by the Pew Research Center. But it’s important to understand that access to digital technologies is not as ubiquitous as it may seem at first blush. Look no further than the United States. In a separate survey also conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly 80% of homeowners who live in or along the outskirts of the city have broadband internet connections. However, less than two-thirds of Americans who live in rural neighborhoods can say the same.
Similarly, 83% of suburban residents own smartphones, Pew found. That percentage drops to 71% for Americans living in rural climes — a 12% gap.
Translation: If you’re looking to grow your business and cater to more customers, you may need to continue providing legacy services until digital technology and the accompanying infrastructure casts a wider footprint.
5. Make sure it’s scalable
While just about every industry has gone through some kind of digital transformation journey, they’re often confined to one particular department or sector, typically the one that needs it the most. In a recent survey of 200 manufacturing senior executives in the U.S. and Canada, more than half of the execs polled said their industrial internet-of-things innovations were small in scale and could not be subsumed by other units, IndustryWeek reported. This may be due to the pinch points that are so often associated with integration.
Making these efforts more scalable requires ongoing communication among departments, step-by-step instructions tailored to each department and selecting an integration platform that is user-friendly and fosters collaboration, IndustryWeek advised.
Transforming your work processes won’t be done overnight and it may not go exactly as you intended. However, USC Consulting Group has expertise in many different industries and can help your employees adopt and adapt to a new production approach more seamlessly than going about it on your own. Contact us today to learn how we can help.
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