Tag Archives: Maintenance

 

Mining and metals companies are implementing a range of strategies to enhance asset management and equipment reliability.

In today’s market, many senior executives leading natural resource companies hesitate in making additional capital investment and instead focus on what can be done to squeeze higher performance out of current assets. Consequently, companies are increasingly looking for ways to improve performance and returns with existing infrastructure.

The key approach to this challenge lies in upgrading and improving asset management capabilities. Many organizations have failed to deploy optimal asset management practices. This is surprising given that asset spend frequently represents 30% to 50% of the overall operating expenses. Shifting to a best-in-class asset management program will consistently deliver improved plant or equipment performance, lower operating costs, extend asset life, and generate a higher return on capital. Most recently, companies have sought to implement a range of strategies such as:

  1. Implementing Asset Management Systems: Utilizing robust asset management systems to track equipment performance, maintenance history, and lifecycle costs, allowing for better decision-making regarding repairs, replacements, and upgrades. Digital technologies like IoT sensors, AI-driven analytics, and automation further optimize asset management.
  2. Enhancing Maintenance Practices: Implementing proactive maintenance strategies like conditioned-based monitoring and reliability-centered maintenance to address issues before they cause failures. Utilizing data-driven insights, mining companies can optimize “time on tools” by identifying patterns and trends in equipment usage, maintenance needs, and performance. This allows for more precise scheduling of maintenance tasks, reducing downtime and maximizing the time equipment is operational.
  3. Investing in Training: Providing comprehensive training programs for front-line management, maintenance and operations personnel to ensure equipment is used and serviced properly, reducing the likelihood of breakdowns due to human error and that access to equipment is available. Training personnel to utilize data-driven insights enables management to make informed decisions impacting “time on tools” and leading to improved equipment utilization and overall operational performance.
  4. Improving Supply Chain Management: Ensuring timely access to quality spare parts and materials to minimize downtime caused by equipment breakdowns and repairs. Some are adopting blockchain for transparent supply chain management and better tracking of assets throughout their lifecycle.

The level of performance improvement companies can realize by implementing key strategies such as enhancing proactive maintenance practices, investing in training to improve skills and capabilities, improving supply chain management, and leveraging digital technologies and data-driven insights varies depending upon factors like current operational efficiency, the scale of implementation, and industry conditions. However, many can expect significant improvements in:

  1. Safety: Proper training programs and proactive maintenance strategies contribute to a safe work environment by reducing risk of accidents and equipment failures.
  2. Productivity: Proactive maintenance and digital technologies can reduce downtime, increase equipment availability, and optimize process execution, leading to higher productivity levels.
  3. Cost Reduction: Efficient equipment usage and maintenance practices can lower operational costs by minimizing unplanned downtime, reducing repair and replacement expenses, and optimizing resource utilization.
  4. Quality: Improving the essential management skills and work place practices result improve the quality of maintenance execution.

Overall, these strategies can result in substantial performance improvements, enhancing competitiveness and profitability for mining and metals companies.

USC Consulting Group partners with your organization and coaches your people to significantly impact performance outcomes and accelerate Asset Management and Reliability Excellence.

USC’s experience helping clients to shift asset performance by transforming and optimizing asset management capabilities and processes has repeatedly demonstrated the need to focus on the key levers and enablers to asset management and reliability excellence. Our asset management framework is designed to be pragmatic rather than conceptual, thereby leading to accurate, practical decisions about a client’s assets and aspirational outcomes.

The primary goal of USC’s asset management framework is to help our clients to implement and execute of a robust set of integrated processes and tools to manage and maintain their operational assets at the targeted service levels while optimizing life-cycle costs and asset life. This is accomplished by recognizing the needs to:

Our asset management and reliability framework helps clients identify an organization’s asset management maturity level and the areas and gaps that need to be addressed, by evaluating their strategic, tactical and operational levers and the enablers that comprise each.

Asset Management Triangle

Strategic (Lifecycle Management): A tailored maintenance program for each piece of equipment translates overall strategic objectives into executable plans for equipment upkeep. Our framework helps to structure and prioritize critical assets while defining a baseline operational ‘plan of action’ by determining strategies for maintaining equipment based on analysis of equipment capabilities, required performance levels, failure frequencies, and cost objectives. Optimal maintenance strategies are frequently a blend of preventative, predictive, operator-maintained, and run-to-fail options.

Tactical (Business Processes): Business processes bridge the gaps between the initial, ideal plan and the reality of ‘day-to-day’ operations, so the maintenance and reliability organization can make adjustments. Historically, many maintenance organizations have been poor utilizers of labor resources that result in low “time on tools” and excessive delays in repairing down or poor performing equipment.

Operational (Enablers): Enablers help to identify needed support to manage assets throughout their lifecycle in alignment with organizational aspirations. Leading asset management teams have also made changes in their organization structures and management practices to foster more action-oriented leadership that focuses on operational excellence, which usually requires a culture shift that must be relentlessly supported by the leadership team over the long-term. A heavy emphasis on management behaviors and company culture can help organizations make this difficult transition.

USC Helps You Tackle Key Challenges

Do you want to understand how prepared your company is to drive needed asset performance and reliability improvements and what the key focus areas that will contribute to lower operating costs?

Want to find out more about how USC can help you uncover the hidden value lurking in asset portfolio?

For more information, let’s talk it through with a no obligation video conference call or a meeting with one of our executive team. Email info@usccg.com to arrange a call.

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The energy and utilities industry is in the midst of change.

Businesses are facing pressure from the government and consumers alike for more renewable energy while also balancing that with grid reliability and traditional energy sources. Meanwhile, electricity demands are expected to skyrocket. Other wild cards are supply chain disruption, labor shortages and more.

But within those challenges, we always see opportunities. Let’s take a closer look into the outlook for energy.

Continued focus on renewables. The demand for clean energy will continue to rise. Governmental regulations are mandating the focus on clean energy and decarbonization, including enacting green-friendly legislation and incentives for companies to transition to cleaner sources like solar and wind. The industry made great strides in solar power and the energy storage it necessitates in 2023, but more is needed and the focus will continue in 2024 and beyond. Consumers are demanding it as well, with climate change among people’s top concerns. All of it has led many companies to push the timeline to cut carbon emissions by 80% from 2050 up to 2030.

Energy storage. The push for solar requires an enormous amount of battery storage capacity to, in very simple terms, store all of that energy for times when the sun’s not shining. It means innovation in battery technology, and 2023 saw much of that, with storage capability doubling in 2023 and set to nearly double again in 2024.

Electricity surge. According to industry sources, the demand for electricity is expected to triple by 2050. It means planning now for this increased load on what is likely aging infrastructure, resulting in costs to shore up that infrastructure to ensure grid reliability. It’s also necessary to consider expanding the grid to meet that demand.

Aging grids + extreme climate.  We all saw the worst-case scenario play out in Texas when their grid failed when the state experienced a rare deep freeze. But weather extremes are becoming the norm, with heat, wildfires and drought on the one hand, floods and record snowfall on the other. The industry is modernizing the grid, and made progress in that area in 2023, but reliability is still a large concern.

Supply chain uncertainty. The recent geopolitical unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East has underscored the need to reshore this nation’s oil supply.

Labor shortages. Like many industries today, energy is battling a labor shortage and facing the double whammy of their most experienced workers retiring and taking institutional knowledge with them, and having too few younger people in the pipeline to pick up where they left off.

It’s a full plate for the energy sector in the coming years, that’s clear. But within these challenges, we see opportunities to bolster processes, making operations more efficient and guard against supply chain snafus. Reducing operating costs, improving productivity and increasing efficiency will help the industry navigate these challenging times.

This is where USC can help

Management Operating Systems. A solid Management Operating System is a must for efficiency, time savings, employee productivity and so much more. For a real-world example on how USC helped an energy producer save time and money by implementing an MOS, read “Energy Producer Generates Savings with Smarter Labor Practices.”

Reskilling employees. All of this innovation and growth in renewables, not to mention AI entering the mix, requires more workers with new skills. This can be very good news for your current employees, who can move up the food chain with new training, and the ability to attract highly qualified workers.

Resource planning. If you know anything about our company, you know we are great proponents of SIOP – Supply, Inventory and Operations Planning. It gives companies a roadmap to the future, so they’re not reacting to events, they’re anticipating them. With the exponential growth of the energy and utilities sector in the coming years, solid planning for the resources needed for that growth, like increased storage capacity and grid strength, is a must.

Bottom line, delivering reliable, affordable and sustainable energy is the goal for the energy and utility industry. It takes efficient operations, a handle on resources, and a clear eye toward the future. Contact us today to find out more about how USC Consulting Group can help.

How reliable is your asset maintenance program

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Have you heard of a High Reliability Organization? The concept has been out there for several decades but it’s taking center stage again now. Let’s delve into what a High Reliability Organization is, why this concept is coming to the forefront again, and whether you should explore implementing the principles in your own organization.

Simply put, a High Reliability Organization (HRO) is a company that has a solid operating system of execution in place that emphasizes safety and strives to minimize risk across the business.

We’re talking about complex or hazardous industries like nuclear power, the Navy and other branches of the military, air traffic controllers and the mining industry.

The idea behind HRO is a basic one. Expect the unexpected. An HRO creates a number of operational systems and ways of working that promote consistency and keep the focus on achieving company goals while avoiding major errors. These systems not only make the HRO more nimble, responsive and functional than a non-HRO competitor, but they also deliver more efficiency and most importantly, safety.

Why being an HRO is vital today

The concept of HROs has long been a method of ensuring safety in hazardous industries, but it’s becoming more relevant today in mining and other industries because of a perfect storm of circumstances. The marketplace is changing dynamically. Shifting sands don’t exactly make for solid foundations. A few things happening now:

Natural disasters. We seem to be in a period of increased earthquakes, “storms of the century,” droughts, volcanic eruptions and more. It makes facilities vulnerable to disruption.

Cyber attacks. Another vulnerability. As the industry gets more dependent on technology, the vulnerability to hacking of control systems ratchets up.

Boomer retirements. The impact of this can’t be overstated. Baby Boomers make up nearly a third of the entire U.S. workforce. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that 4.4 million people will turn 65 (retirement age) every year from now through 2027. During the period from 2022 to 2030, 75 million Americans are expected to retire. Called the Silver Tsunami or the Great Retirement, it is the largest surge of retirement age Americans in history.

Loss of institutional knowledge. Those retiring Boomers represent your most experienced, knowledgeable workers. These are the people who have gotten the job done, and done safely, for decades. All of that know-how will walk out the door with them.

Lack of skilled workers. It’s a real problem for many industries, including mining. Talent acquisition and training is on the top of the list of concerns for mining CEOs, because when those Boomers retire, the mining industry needs skilled, experienced people to keep the operation moving.

Doing more with less. In this economy, it is incumbent on companies to do more with less, cut costs, trim staff and extend the lifecycle of equipment while also investing in AI.

All of these things are coalescing into a situation in which the mining industry is experiencing a great potential for increased risk. It’s easy to see why. Experienced people retiring en masse, less experienced people taking up the mantle but not having that deep institutional knowledge you just can’t get in a training course, and the need for constant cost cutting – it all adds up to risk.

And when you’re talking about operations in a mine, risk doesn’t just mean business disruption. It means people’s lives.

HRO core principles

It’s about more than just focusing more on safety. The core principles of HROs, specifically in the mining industry, include:

Preoccupation with failure. It’s vital to anticipate the potential for failure and put measures in place to stop a problem before it starts. Emergency response training, regular equipment inspections and maintenance, failsafe protocols. The goal here is to be ready to spring into action, to have that training kick in, when a potentially disastrous situation arises.

Sensitivity to operations. Everyone’s eyes need to be open, all the time. Much like the “see something, say something” campaign at airports, it means developing a culture of awareness among workers on the front lines and in the front office. Identifying processes and  ways of working that can be optimized; or potential issues or risks that could lead to disruption in the future.

Resilience. The ability to roll with the punches. Redundancies need to be built in. Clear protocols for disruptions or sudden change responses need to be automatic.

Shared understandings. Everyone in the organization needs a shared understanding of HRO principles, the role they themselves play, and are operating with the same road map.

Respect hard-earned expertise. Those Boomers who are retiring? They know how to get the job done. They’re carrying your organization’s institutional knowledge – the part of the job that can’t be taught in a training class. This knowledge needs to be respected, especially when decisions get made.

High Reliability Organization core principles in Mining

Why being an HRO matters

Why should mines focus on high reliability? Here are a few of the benefits.

Safety. Since the first canary went down a coal mine, this industry has been implementing safety protocols. It can be dangerous for people working in a mine, period. Anticipating risks and putting safety protocols in place will save lives and reduce accidents and injuries.

Efficiency. The focus on asset management minimizes unscheduled downtime and process disruptions, while getting everyone on the same page streamlines operations. It all works together to increase efficiency.

Equipment lifespan. One of the challenges today is doing more with less, and that means keeping aging equipment on the job. The regular maintenance and inspection of equipment adds to its lifespan.

Hiring and retention. That lack of skilled workers? It’s causing stiff competition for the skilled workers who are out there. Being a High Reliability Organization shows new recruits that you’re committed to safety, value their contributions and knowledge. In short, it’s a powerful recruiting tool.

How USC can help: Anticipate the Unexpected

One of the most vital components of transforming into an HRO is the integration of a solid Management Operating System that breaks down siloes between areas of the organization like engineering, maintenance, procurement and operations.

The end goal: Constantly anticipating the unexpected and executing in a consistent manner.

When USC begins the process, we start with an assessment of current operations. Then we do a deep dive. Some, but by no means all, of the areas we focus on:

Identify operational disconnects. Is everyone on the same page to execute the plan? Are priorities between departments aligned? Has production prepared access to equipment to be maintained? Are shift managers setting work expectations in the same way? How are variances to the plan addressed?

Close the gaps. This is about breaking down silos and getting everyone looking in the same direction, working in the same way, and managing departmental operations with a common vision.

Build in buy in. Like many projects that require change at all levels of the organization, this requires buy in from the corner office to the depths of the mine. In many instances, this requires a culture change, with people being used to doing the job one way now asked to shift their operations.

Make it transparent. Change can’t be foisted on people in a vacuum. The new initiative on transforming into an HRO should be a full team effort, with full transparency from the top.

Implement measures and metrics. It’s also important to implement accurate measurements and targets. Still, one assessment rises above all others: addressing overall organizational health. Organizational health is the softer side of the business that is frequently dismissed because it is often viewed as both difficult to revamp and even more difficult to measure.

HRO Checklist

Do you need to focus on High Reliability Organization? Here’s a quick checklist to help you decide.

Transforming into a High Reliability Organization doesn’t happen overnight, and many challenges exist in the process. It requires a cultural shift, training for both workers and management, investing in protocols, and commitment from the top.

But, in today’s volatile world, it’s a solid framework the mining industry can use to ramp up safety, increase efficiency, minimize risks and anticipate the unexpected. For help setting up your HRO, contact USC Consulting Group today.

 

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In the dynamic realm of industrial operations, downtime is the arch-nemesis of productivity and profitability. Every minute lost to equipment breakdowns or maintenance activities translates into potential revenue losses, increased operating costs, and compromised competitiveness. Amidst this relentless pursuit of operational efficiency, the emergence of low or no maintenance industrial machinery heralds a transformative era for industries worldwide.

High maintenance equipment has long been a staple in industrial settings, requiring regular servicing, lubrication, and part replacements to ensure optimal performance. However, the inherent drawbacks of such machinery, including frequent downtime, escalating maintenance costs, and operational disruptions, have spurred a quest for alternative solutions.

Enter low or no maintenance industrial machinery—an innovation poised to revolutionize the industrial landscape. Engineered with durability, reliability, and longevity in mind, these advanced systems promise to mitigate the adverse effects of downtime and high maintenance requirements, ushering in a new era of seamless operations and cost savings.

The detrimental effects of downtime on industrial productivity cannot be overstated. Whether due to unexpected breakdowns or scheduled maintenance activities, every moment of idle machinery translates into lost production opportunities and diminished output. Moreover, the ripple effects of downtime extend beyond immediate financial implications, impacting supply chain dynamics, customer satisfaction, and overall business resilience.

In contrast, low or no maintenance components, equipment, and machinery offer a beacon of hope for industries grappling with the specter of downtime. By incorporating self-lubricating mechanisms, wear-resistant materials, and advanced monitoring technologies, these innovative solutions minimize the need for frequent maintenance interventions and extend operational uptime.

The benefits of adopting low or no maintenance industrial machinery are manifold. Beyond the immediate gains in productivity and cost savings, these systems promote a culture of efficiency, sustainability, and resilience within industrial ecosystems. By reducing reliance on traditional maintenance practices, industries can reallocate resources towards value-added endeavors, enhance worker safety, and contribute to environmental stewardship efforts.

In this infographic from FLEXIM, we delve into the profound impacts of downtime and high maintenance equipment on industrial operations, while illuminating the transformative potential of low or no maintenance machinery. Through compelling visuals and insightful analyses, we aim to empower industries with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the evolving landscape of industrial maintenance and usher in a new era of efficiency and prosperity.

To learn more about best practices for asset management and reducing downtime, contact us to connect with our subject matter experts.

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The automotive industry is driving automation by having the largest number of robots working in factories around the world — operational stock hit a new record of about one million units, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). With the prevalence of automation rising in the automotive industry, the benefits associated with its use in manufacturing cannot be understated. With advantages that work to bring productivity and efficiency all around, advancements in technology such as the integration of artificial intelligence underline the many innovative applications to come.

Exploring the current advantages of automation

“The automotive industry effectively invented automated manufacturing,” notes Marina Bill, the President of the IFR. “Today, robots are playing a vital role in enabling this industry’s transition from combustion engines to electric power. Robotic automation helps car manufacturers manage the wholesale changes to long-established manufacturing methods and technologies.” The IFR goes on to highlight the recent density of robots in the automotive industry — in the Republic of Korea, 2,867 industrial robots per 10,000 employees were in operation in 2021, while Germany had 1,500 units followed by the United States with 1,457 units.

Automation plays a variety of roles in automotive manufacturing, including taking on tasks such as screw driving, windshield installation, and wheel mounting. Automate highlights one example of a valuable role that automation plays in the manufacturing process, via an automated vehicle floor plug insertion system developed by FANUC for General Motors. As a result, the system effectively helps relieve workers from “the ergonomic strain of the manual process and improves production time.” Apart from assembly, Robotics and Automation News notes additional uses for automation in manufacturing include car painting, welding, polishing and material removal, and quality inspection. Regarding the benefits, automation in automotive manufacturing is known to have a wide variety of advantages that heighten productivity in immense ways — including lowering costs, improving accuracy and safety, and amping up efficiency.

Increasing automation highlights a productive future

According to CBT News, automakers are “likely to introduce more robots and other forms of automation over time.” Currently, CBT notes that many robots on production lines are called ‘cobots,’ as they work alongside workers in order to complete tasks that are physically demanding or more challenging to do — Ford, for example, has “at least 100 of these cobots across two dozen of their plants around the world.” Automakers are already planning for increased automation in the future in order to achieve various goals. Tesla is a pioneer regarding factory automation and robots; Elon Musk, for example, has said that introducing more automated equipment at Tesla as part of a goal to cut the costs of making future models by 50%, according to CBT News.

To further underline the presence of automation in auto manufacturing, a 2021 article from The Korea Economic Daily Global Edition highlights the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) by Kia Corp., South Korea’s second-largest automaker. According to the article, the company had released a video “showing a highly automated production line of the all-electric mid-size crossover utility vehicle (CUV) at a smart factory powered by artificial intelligence and robot technology.” Crossovers have risen in popularity in the US, with the vehicle featuring an SUV-style body based on a car (rather than a truck platform), therefore using unit-body construction. Today’s crossovers offer a variety of features, with top-rated crossovers offering those such as a spacious interior and a smooth engine.

Innovation foreshadows advancements to come

In addition to simply expanding automation efforts throughout auto manufacturing, ‘smart manufacturing’ employs technology in addition to automation. Also called Industry 4.0, RT Insights notes that data-driven decision-making and predictive maintenance are just the beginning of the advantages associated with smart manufacturing, with benefits extending to areas such as energy efficiency and supply chain optimization. “The resulting factors of having a smart manufacturing set-up are efficiency, production optimization, trackability, quick turnaround during downtime, safer working conditions, and responsible manufacturing,” notes Mobility Outlook.

AI and machine learning (ML) are both components that are driving the future of smart manufacturing, with Mobility Outlook explaining that AI systems analyze data sets and historical records of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As a result, AI can identify patterns and trends which would otherwise go unnoticed by workers. ML algorithms, on the other hand, can “learn from data, make predictions, and make suggestions to improve manufacturing processes.” Predictive maintenance can also make a major difference in the future of automotive manufacturing, with the analysis of data allowing for minimized repair costs and proactive maintenance. Furthermore, Mobility Outlook highlights the value of quality control systems powered by AI — with this technology, defects can be detected in real-time, allowing for waste reduction and improved product quality across the board.

Automation brings a variety of benefits to automotive manufacturing. While automakers are already making use of the technology, technological advancements like AI are driving the future of ‘smart manufacturing,’ effectively foreshadowing a range of advantages to come.

*This article is written by Lottie Westfield. Lottie spent more than a decade working in quality management in the automotive sector before taking a step back to start a family. She has since reconnected with her first love of writing and enjoys contributing to a range of publications, both print and online.

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Manufacturers today deal with greater demands from consumers than ever before. It is vital for manufacturers to deliver on time, every time. Fail to do so and they will lose customers, revenue, and credibility.

Therefore, streamlining operations is essential. This doesn’t mean manufacturers need to invest in expensive equipment or high-performance technology. Often, what needs to change is how people work and the strategies businesses can employ to support this.

Let’s get started.

Why is it so Important to Streamline Manufacturing Operations?

Streamlining manufacturing processes ultimately maximizes a company’s profits and helps them stay competitive. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s so important:

6 Ways Manufacturers Can Streamline Operations

Streamlining operations can feel like an overwhelming task at first. However, with the right strategies in place, it doesn’t take long to improve efficiency and boost productivity. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Identify Issues in the Production Line

Every manufacturing operation has a bottleneck. This is a stage in the manufacturing process where things slow down or perhaps even stop. Bottlenecks are a nuisance and can lead to severe delays, time and labor inefficiencies, and increased costs. Identifying bottlenecks is essential for optimizing the production line and helping everything run more efficiently.

There are a few ways you can identify issues in your production line. For instance, you should look for signs of the following:

2. Support Faster Payment Processing

As a business owner, you know the importance of faster payment processing. Whether you’re paying your suppliers or your customers are buying your products, faster payment processing keeps everything running smoothly.

The simpler your payment process is, the better so spend time to find the best card reader for your business operation. Streamlining both the supplier and customer experience by offering online payments is a game-changer.

Online payments make it easier for customers to purchase from you, removing delays in the payment process and reducing cash flow issues. This helps streamline operations and keep everything running smoothly.

3. Adopt Lean Manufacturing Methodology

Lean manufacturing methodology focuses on reducing costs by limiting waste and improving manufacturing efficiency. Lean manufacturing is a great methodology to apply to your business if you’re looking to streamline operations.

For lean manufacturing methodology to be effective, all types of waste in the manufacturing process must be identified and then removed. There are four types of waste you should focus on eliminating as a priority. These include:

  1. Unnecessary transportation of materials such as equipment, tools, and employees can be avoided simply by optimizing factory layouts.
  2. Excess inventory. Whether it’s products, materials, or equipment, having excess inventory is a waste as it increases storage costs and slows down processes.
  3. Waiting time: time-wasting is common in manufacturing operations, either due to idle workers or idle machines. It typically occurs when workers can’t work because they’re waiting on materials or equipment. Machines can be idle when waiting on maintenance or replacement. Optimizing manufacturing processes eliminates this time wasting and boosts operational efficiency.
  4. Defective products are a waste that must be reduced as much as possible. For every defective product, you have an unhappy customer. This means returns are made and apologies are required, which increases costs and wastes time.

Reducing unnecessary waste goes a long way towards reducing lead times, boosting customer satisfaction, and improving operational efficiency. It is a process of continuous improvement and manufacturers will find that regular adjustments need to be made as customer demand fluctuates. However, adopting the lean manufacturing approach will go a long way towards streamlining your operations now and in the future.

4. Embrace Automation

Automation (utilizing production management software or robots to operate machinery) reduces the need for manual labor. It avoids human error and allows for consistency across all aspects of your manufacturing process.

Many areas within manufacturing can benefit from automation, most notably: payment and accounting processes, order processing, marketing efforts, and inventory management (to name a few!)

According to Industrial Machinery Digest, “One obvious byproduct of automation is increased productivity […] The market should see more businesses turning to industrial automation on various scales. When this happens, the market will be able to see not only more innovative products produced on a larger and quicker scale, but the quality increasing with production speed.”

Adopting automation as part of your manufacturing process will help streamline your operations like nothing else. It will allow your organization to keep up with customer demands and grow as your business grows.

5. Reduce Downtime (where possible)

As mentioned earlier in this article, many things can cause your processes to bottleneck. One of these is downtime.

Downtime is a significant cause of inefficiency in the manufacturing process. Therefore, finding ways to reduce it can improve efficiency. A few common causes of downtime are:

To improve on these it is important to monitor your production processes closely. This will let you identify and address any issues quickly and efficiently.

6. Train Employees Well

For employees to do a good job and support a streamlined manufacturing process, they need to know what they’re doing and proper training supports this. Proper employee training is a surefire way to improve efficiency, boost company morale, and support business success.

Establishing an effective team through professional training lets employees add real value to your business by preparing them for higher responsibilities, increasing their productivity, strengthening any weaknesses, improving workplace safety, and boosting production overall.

If you want to streamline your manufacturing operations, it is essential that you properly train your employees. This will go a long way towards supporting your business success.

In Summary

We hope the tips shared in this article have highlighted the importance of optimizing your manufacturing processes and how to achieve this! We know that streamlining your operations can feel a little daunting at first (we’ve all been there!) But with the right strategies we know you can transform your manufacturing process and take your business to new heights.

*This article is written by Sophie Bishop. Sophie is an experienced construction writer with a passion for sharing insights and her experience within the health and safety sector. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability within the industry and is looking to connect with an engaged audience. Contact Sophie via her website: https://sophiebishop.uk/.

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Technology is crucial in most industries to advance safety and efficiency. The automotive sector is an excellent example of how advanced technology transforms products and, thus, the world. Big data and analytics have become an integral part of it all. So, how exactly has the automotive industry taken advantage of analytics, especially with maintenance and predictive diagnostics? How can using it benefit manufacturers? Let’s find out…

How Did Big Data Analytics Emerge in the Automotive Industry?

Big data is a relatively new concept, but its modern adaptations originated in the 1960s. For example, in 1964, IBM introduced the System/360, offering processors 100 times more potent than their predecessors. This technology is primitive in retrospect, but it was an essential first step for data processing. In the 1970s and 1980s, tech companies improved this technology to include the automotive industry.

By the 1990s, automotive technology producers began using big data analytics for vehicles. For example, global positioning systems (GPS) became more prominent this decade. These devices allowed consumers to use navigation technology well-known in the U.S. military. Many luxury cars came with this feature installed to entice consumers.

While GPS devices are still prominent, big data has improved cars enough to where they can be self-reliant. Soon, automakers will remove GPS devices once autonomous vehicles become widespread. These vehicles know where they’re going and do not need a GPS for navigation.

What Role Does Big Data Analytics Play in Automotive Maintenance and Predictive Diagnostics?

The last two decades have seen incredible growth for big data and its role in the automotive industry. Automotive professionals have used advanced technology for maintenance and predictive diagnostics. Using data helps technicians know precisely what the problem is and the necessary methods for mitigation.

Automakers primarily take advantage of big data analytics through embedded sensors in their vehicles. These devices allow the manufacturers to track cars anywhere in the world and detect where the problems lie. With this information, the automaker can notify the consumer of issues, find trends and develop solutions for widespread problems. Then, they know what issues to correct for future models of the same vehicle.

What software and technologies do automotive professionals use? These examples demonstrate how industry experts use big data for predictive maintenance and predictive diagnostics.

Machine Learning

Machine learning (ML) has become a critical part of the automotive industry because it solves complex problems and creates algorithms. For auto manufacturers, ML has helped technicians predict equipment failures.

For example, automakers use ML to analyze historical data from their vehicles. Their computers use sensor data to detect trends and see what abnormalities led to the issues. Therefore, manufacturers can catch what problems may arise when they see a particular pattern occurring in a vehicle.

Another use for ML is creating maintenance schedules for vehicles. Historical data indicate when owners of a particular model should bring their cars for routine maintenance. The algorithm is intelligent enough to combine the data with driver performance to alert when service is necessary for the vehicle.

Telematics

Telematics is one of the earliest examples of big data in the automotive industry, and it’s become vital for car owners and fleet managers worldwide. Research shows about 80% of Class 8 trucks in North America use telematics for safety and efficiency.

Telematics is essential for maintenance because it monitors vehicle health. These devices often detect problems earlier than the operator can, allowing companies to act swiftly on their machines. Early detection and mitigation save money and improve safety by not putting drivers in harmful situations.

What Are the Benefits of Big Data in Automobiles?

Big data analytics is a win-win for manufacturers and consumers. All parties can have peace of mind knowing their machines are safe and efficient. The following three benefits demonstrate how automotive professionals benefit from big data.

Improving Safety

Cars are essential for daily travel, but they can be dangerous. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) says nearly 43,000 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2022. Reasons for accidents vary, but they can originate from fixable mechanical failures.

Big data analytics decreases the likelihood of these failures by scheduling preventive maintenance and alerting when serious problems arise. Users can know if their brakes, steering wheel or battery needs attention before a catastrophe happens.

Decreasing Downtime

Big data analytics has become invaluable for fleet managers worldwide. The average fleet manager may have 10, 100 or 1,000 vehicles under their wing, making it difficult to track all of them simultaneously. However, advanced data allows them to monitor all the cars and detect trends.

Warning systems send information to the fleet manager, allowing them to act immediately. The modern supply chain demands maximum productivity from fleets, so taking advantage of big data analytics is essential.

Supporting Sustainability

Sustainability has become a significant focus for auto manufacturers. The push for more renewable energy and less waste has led to innovation across the industry. How are they achieving sustainability standards? Big data analytics is helping automakers care for the environment.

Using big data analytics extends the life of cars and reduces the need for customers to consume resources by purchasing cars. Instead, they can keep the same vehicle longer and spend less time at the mechanic.

When cars reach their end of life, many head to the scrapyard. While recycling has improved, parts and pieces still go to waste. For example, the European Union scrapped 5.4 million passenger cars in 2020. Installing telematics devices and using big data would extend their time on the road and reduce waste.

Big Data Analytics in the Automotive Industry

Automotive technology has come a long way and only improves yearly. Modern software allows auto manufacturers to utilize big data analytics with maintenance and predictive diagnostics. With this technology, manufacturers lower the cost for themselves and consumers and make their processes more efficient.

*This article is written by Jack Shaw. Jack is a seasoned automotive industry writer with over six years of experience. As the senior writer for Modded, he combines his passion for vehicles, manufacturing and technology with his expertise to deliver engaging content that resonates with enthusiasts worldwide.

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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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The 2024 forecasts for the oil and gas industry include some conflicting speculation about supply and demand. It’s leading to confusion for U.S. companies… not to mention dismay as people everywhere scowl at the gas pump when they’re filling up.

Reuters reported in August that OPEC+ expects to see supply cuts that impact oil inventories, which will drive prices potentially higher than the $88 per barrel of crude in August 2023, the highest price since January. OPEC+ is confident, however, that demand will rise markedly.

But… the International Energy Association (IEA) doesn’t quite agree with those numbers, noting that the fluctuating economy will impact manufacturing businesses, and coupled with the tsunami of electric vehicles, will shake out in the form of falling demand.

Those clear-as-mud speculations boil down to one thing: Uncertainty is ahead for an industry that has already had its fair share.

All industries have been weathering uncertainty for the past few years, starting with the pandemic and, once we thought we had that handled, continuing with a shaky economy, a cried-wolf recession and ever-rising interest rates, putting consumer confidence on shifting sands.

At USC Consulting Group, we specialize in helping companies through uncertain times by optimizing their processes, becoming as efficient as possible and positioning themselves on solid ground to handle whatever is coming down the pike.

Preparing the Oil & Gas industry for an uncertain 2024

Here are seven ways the oil and gas industry can shore up for an uncertain 2024. Though separate goals, all work together to make companies as efficient and productive as they can be.

1. Reducing costs

Is there ever a year when companies in any industry shouldn’t focus on reducing costs? That’s a given, 24/7/365. But, it’s especially important for oil and gas going into 2024, when the economy continues to be volatile and uncertain. Buttoning up costs is a good strategy for the industry to get through that storm. It’s about optimizing production processes in the field and reducing extraction costs in order to offset costs involved in finding new sites.

2. Managing supply chain risks

After the supply chain bottlenecks most every industry experienced during the pandemic, it’s vital to mitigate supply chain risks. It’s a burr under the saddle of the entire industry. Fluctuating costs and supply uncertainty can impact the entire operation. Oil and gas companies need a little breathing room, predictable lead times and a more secure footing going into next year. Securing your supply chain is one way to achieve that. It can help avoid the market roller coaster we’ve seen in the recent past and may help ease pressure from inflation as well. The bonus here is, it can save about 15% on costs.

Developing a solid risk assessment plan that takes into consideration what’s happening at the supplier level will secure your supply chain and prevent any surprise shortages.

3. Focusing on yield

Maximizing yield, like reducing costs and managing supply chain risks, brings solid benefits in any economy, but especially now. It means making sure extraction techniques are as efficient as possible, utilizing methods like Enhanced Oil Recovery to extract more oil from reservoirs that may have been underutilized, managing those reservoirs carefully and by the numbers, and making sure employees across all facilities are on the same page.

4. Closing the how-why gap

In an organization the front line often does not understand the “why,” and the executives don’t understand the “how.” It means, the top brass do not fully understand how the job gets done and the frontline workers don’t fully understand why the job needs to be done. Closing that “how-why gap” is critical for optimal performance all the way up and down the organizational food chain.

5. Standardizing daily and weekly instructions for front-line managers

Going hand in hand with closing that how-why gap is increased training for managers. Many industries like oil and gas rely on frontline training, but some people would say that supervisors need even more. Training trickles down, but efficiency does, too. And the key to that is making sure everyone, across all departments and facilities, is on the same page, doing the job the same way, with a standard set of operating procedures. It’s a vital component for optimal efficiency.

6. Consolidation and acquisition = increased need for communication

New talent, ideas and perspectives can breathe life into a company. Mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry exploded in Q2 2023, according to Enverus Intelligence Research. After $8 billion M&A in Q1 2023 (nothing to sneeze at) we saw $24b in Q2. It’s in line with increased consolidations, as reported by Forbes, with the goal of lowering costs, raising inventory and in the end, boosting investor returns.

All of that M&A activity can put a strain on employees of affected companies. Especially during this flurry of M&A, it’s important to find solutions to help them with the complexities of combining two “legacy” groups, which have their unique set of standards. Finding ways to combine both schools of thought into one set of “best practices” after a merger is paramount to its success. To learn more about it, read our recent case study: “Creating Harmony When Merging Two Companies.”

7. Performing scheduled maintenance

The goal is zero unplanned downtime. Pros in the industry know that’s not so easy to achieve. It starts with asset monitoring, including wells but also pipelines, processing facilities and other equipment to maximize operational efficiency. Scheduling downtime for maintenance ensures a shutdown, but it also ensures you’ll know when it’s coming and can plan accordingly. Unplanned failures or glitches can be costly problems at best but dangerous threats to workers at worst.

At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been working with the oil and gas industry for decades. If you’re interested in optimizing your company’s efficiency in this uncertain economy, give us a call.

How reliable is your asset maintenance program

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