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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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Last year, the London-based Collins Dictionary named “permacrisis” as the word of the year. It means an extended period of instability caused by an onslaught of seemingly never-ending crises — wildfires, pandemics, hurricanes, floods, inflation, air quality alerts, the highest heat ever recorded in some regions of the world, economic instability, wars… the list goes on. Sound familiar? You name it, we’ve all lived through it. And it shows no signs of slowing down.
In the immortal words of Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live: It’s always something.
The way we see it here at USC Consulting Group, it IS always something. That’s called life. While the world may be going through an unusually rocky stretch, there is no perfect time to be running your business. Whether it’s external crises like the ones we’ve described, or internal upheavals like layoffs, mergers, unforeseen difficulties or the myriad hiccups that can occur, things are going to happen. When they do, companies can thrive, not just survive, with a mix of focusing on process improvements and operational excellence, optimizing your supply chain, and implementing standard operating procedures, along with a dash of the old-fashioned notion that “this too shall pass.”
Here are a few tactics for making sure you’re on solid footing, even during the rockiest of times.
The goal is operational excellence, right? But is that ever truly achievable? Yes, but it can also be a moving target. It means continuous improvements to processes, becoming as efficient as possible. We find that it’s about eliminating bottlenecks, waste and other snags that can impede productivity. Getting the right people in the right jobs and empowering them to get that job done. Developing standards and key process indicators that will tell you when you’re on target and when you aren’t, and using data to “manage by the numbers.”
Optimizing the supply chain: Don’t DRIP!
What’s DRIP? It’s a popular acronym when talking about supply chain. It stands for data rich, information poor. The fragility of the supply chain, no matter the industry you’re in, has become crystal clear in recent years. Optimizing your supply chain needs to be top of mind to make sure you don’t get caught short, and as DRIP suggests, it starts with making sure you’re using data to its fullest. Outdated inventory systems can impede that. Supply, Inventory and Operations Planning (SIOP) is a method we here at USC utilizes that emphasizes inventory as a strategic tool to allow businesses to get a better look at their operations and formulate superior strategy decisions.
SIOP gives you the ability to capture, analyze, integrate and interpret high-quality data, which is the key to staying ahead of the market. The aim is to achieve process automation and glean predictive analytics, which give you a strategic advantage… so you don’t DRIP.
Learn more about SIOP in this free eBook
Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Much is being written in the news lately concerning “institutional knowledge,” and how the loss of it can be devastating to companies. What is it? It’s what’s NOT in your training manual. It’s what the person you think is “irreplaceable” knows. The ins and outs of doing the job that your best people learn through years of experience. When they retire, or leave the company for whatever reason, that knowledge walks out the door with them. That’s why it’s so important to develop standard operating procedures for every job in your company, and write those procedures down on stone tablets if necessary.
When you have those SOPs down, that’s just the first step. Training your people in exactly how to do the job, so everyone across all of your facilities is doing it in the same way, is vital.
Sound like a tall order? It can be. That’s where we come in. At USC Consulting Group, we have 55+ years of experience helping companies optimize their efficiency, ramp up their production, solidify those SOPs and operate to the max. If you’re wondering if now is the right time to hire an operations consultant, download our aptly named eBook, “When is the Right Time to Bring in Operations Consultants?” It’s free, and it will give you more information about how we can help your business.
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The automotive manufacturing industry has been traveling a strange and bumpy road over the past couple of years. The pandemic created a traffic jam in the supply chain. At the same time, demand for new cars dried up. Who was driving? Everyone was at home during the lockdown. And on the heels of that, interest in electric vehicles began to surge. According to research by the International Energy Association, the demand for EVs is expected to rise 35% by the end of 2023 after a record-breaking 2022.
What did it all mean for auto manufacturers? Demand for traditional vehicles lowered as demand for electric vehicles grew, forcing auto manufacturers to do a delicate dance of balancing the type of production they’ve always done with the new processes and systems needed to produce EVs. The moving target of demand coupled with shaky supply brought about inventory uncertainty — how much was enough, but not too much? And then, there was (and continues to be) the labor shortage, with seasoned workers retiring and younger ones not exactly flooding through the doors.
Improving processes is paramount for the automotive manufacturing industry now. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Lean Six Sigma. If there ever was a need for auto manufacturing process improvements like the ones Lean Six Sigma can produce, it’s now. LSS is the blending of two efficiency methodologies, Lean and Six Sigma. It’s a bit ironic, because the Lean methodology, which focuses on efficiency and eliminating waste, was developed back in the day by Henry Ford… or at Toyota, depending on who you ask. It got its start on the auto manufacturing line, with the intent of eliminating the “seven deadly wastes”: overproduction, waiting, transporting, processing, inventory, excess motion and defects. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve added an eighth waste. People. Specifically, not using them to their fullest, not seeing untapped potential in great workers, and not training and developing people to rise through the ranks. Lean is about eliminating waste to produce more product quickly and efficiently.
Six Sigma, the other side of the Lean coin, is about quality control. Minimizing flaws and defects. But it’s deeper than that, rooted in data. The goal is to improve cycle time while eliminating or reducing defects.
SIOP. It’s difficult to achieve careful, accurate planning for the future when the road ahead contains so many bumps. That’s why we take the usual sales and operations planning (S&OP) process to a different level by adding inventory to the mix. The goal is to look ahead, anticipating the inventory you need while also coordinating with sales, marketing, and finance to involve the entire organization in this process. A key to SIOP is using inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues.
Predictive Maintenance. Yes, it sounds extremely basic, but we find that heading off trouble before it starts can eliminate the risk of bogging down your entire production line to fix what’s broken.
Skills Training. Investing in training is playing the long game, but in light of your best people on the line retiring and fewer people to take their place, it’s paramount. Training has advantages in addition to the obvious — your people being more skilled on the job. It also demonstrates in a very tangible way that you are committed to the growth and success of your employees. You gain loyal workers and create a pipeline for advancement. It’s a win-win.
Technology Investments. USC Consulting Group is not about coming in and asking manufacturers to invest in the latest and greatest technology in order to become more efficient. No, efficiency takes harder work than just installing a new machine. However, in some cases, it’s necessary to level up. Legacy technologies don’t have the same features and capabilities as newer models. And in the auto manufacturing industry, you’re dealing with producing an entirely new product with electric vehicles. It may be time to look at your technology and decide if it can take you into the future or keep you in the past.
Doing business in the automotive manufacturing industry is like driving a manual transmission. You are constantly shifting gears to keep pace with traffic – in this case, the consistent change of consumer demand. Operations consulting helps companies improve their processes and be prepared for what’s coming down the road. We help manufacturers become more efficient and profitable in this or any economy.
Is working with operations consultants an untraveled road for you? Please get in touch. We’d love to talk with you about it.
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There’s a popular phenomenon being shared online at the moment: “Instagram vs. Reality.” It’s two photos, side by side. One is doctored and photoshopped and filtered to look perfect. The other is what it looks like in reality. More often than not, there’s a big difference. Perfection is a far cry from reality, and not just on Instagram.
It got us thinking about operational excellence. Some operational excellence consulting firms might tell you their goal is to deliver optimal perfection in which your organization is running on all cylinders 24/7. But in our experience, reality is a lot more complicated than that. We find that operational excellence is a process. And sometimes it’s a moving target. It can change and morph, affected by myriad factors that may be out of your control, like the economy, supply chain issues, hiring problems and snafus, your best leader on the line quitting with a moment’s notice. The list goes on.
As an operational excellence consulting firm, we contend that operational excellence is a process of continuous improvement, not something static and perfect that stays that way in perpetuity. Does it exist? Absolutely. But it doesn’t stay the same.
What is operational excellence consulting?
The textbooks will tell you operational excellence is a process for improving a company’s effectiveness and efficiency — two things we happen to specialize in. The goals of operational excellence consulting read like a playbook of our typical projects: Improving productivity and throughput, reducing waste, focusing on quality and reducing defects, optimizing shifts, updating processes.
Often an end goal of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), operational excellence is a moving target. Striving for operational excellence means continuously improving, rolling with unforeseen circumstances, adapting to ever-changing tides. Here are some effective strategies we’ve honed in the pursuit of operational excellence that you can apply in your operations today.
Strive for process optimization
The cornerstone of LSS, process optimization means finding opportunities to ramp up efficiency, eliminating bottlenecks and waste, enhancing productivity, reducing defects and glitches in both the product and the process, and the whole nine yards of LSS. To read a deep dive into LSS and what it can do for your organization, download our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
Get the right people in the right jobs…
Is everyone from the front lines to the corner office in the right jobs? Assess skills, provide training if necessary and listen to feedback so your team is ready to tackle their roles with a great work ethic and enthusiasm.
…and then empower them to do the job right
Many times, the people who work on the shop floor know a lot more about the job than the people in the C-suite. Give them the power to do their jobs and to act quickly when unforeseen situations arise.
If you’re not already establishing and monitoring key performance indicators and metrics, get on that. It helps your people know what’s expected of them, and helps you evaluate the quality of the work they’re doing. They also show opportunities for improvement.
Hand in hand with KPIs, standardized operating practices and procedures can ensure you’re getting the consistent results you need.
Manage by the numbers
It’s an oft-used phrase here at USC. Decisions need to be driven by data and hard numbers, not what’s “always worked in the past.” The data can tell you where to improve, what’s working and what needs to change.
Keep the customer in focus
Sometimes, companies can get so caught up in process improvements they lose sight of the end customer. By keeping their needs, expectations and wants in the forefront, you can be assured you’re hitting the mark.
Encourage a culture of continuous improvement
Culture change is easier said than done, but it’s a necessary component to operational excellence. Encourage innovation and ideas for improvement, and reward employees for finding ways to do their jobs better.
Above all, remember it’s a process, not a single achievement. Yes, you may have achieved operational excellence… today. What about tomorrow?
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When you hire a consulting firm, you expect recommendations, changes, process improvements and a healthy return on your investment. In short, you want your company to be more efficient and profitable when the consultants walk out the door than it was when they walked in. Right? That should be a given.
But, what happens when the project is finished, when the consultants are not there to guide the process going forward? The answer to that question is process improvement sustainability and is a key element USC Consulting Group specializes in.
The aftermath: Preparing clients for sustainability
At USC Consulting Group, operations consulting is what we do. Companies bring us in to look at their operations with a fresh set of eyes, leveraging best practices we’ve learned in our half century (and counting) in the business. We’re not party to office politics and other company red tape, and as such, we’re able to make recommendations for necessary changes, process improvements, and operating and management system overhauls to get the company functioning optimally.
Increasing throughput and yield, reducing excess costs, identifying and eliminating waste — these are some of our areas of expertise. But, at USC, there’s one thing we DON’T do. We do not set it and forget it.
That’s one aspect of our approach that sets us apart from our competitors out there. We play the long game. We don’t swoop in, offer solutions and swoop out, leaving clients on their own. We deliver results that our clients can maintain. We make sure the positive changes we’ve helped companies enact will stick, long after we’re not walking through the door every day. It’s the whole “give a man a fish vs. teach him how to fish” philosophy. It’s our goal to give clients the tools to keep it going. Here’s how we do it:
1. Employee involvement. This needs to start from Day One. It’s hard to overstate how critical employee involvement is while the project is happening, and after it’s complete. We use “daily huddles” with team members to engage on things like scheduling, production, maintenance, quality, project status and much more. We do best practice skills. We review KPIs. The whole idea is to give team members the tools to continue successful operations and maintain the results we’ve achieved together.
2. Action items. Throughout our process, we will regularly identify action items, steps that need to take place going forward. We’ll get agreement on these and hold people accountable for success. It helps set them up for continued success after the project is finished.
3. Managing change management. We say it often — we can effect all the change in the world. But if we don’t manage that change correctly, none of it will stick. We’ve become experts in effective change management over the years. A few pearls of wisdom we’ve picked up along the way: Operational changes require behavioral changes. Employees, especially longtime employees, don’t necessarily love that. People need reassurance their jobs aren’t disappearing. Also, it’s extremely useful to recruit “advocates” on the front lines who can champion the changes we’re implementing. And it’s vital to be clear on the “why” of any changes put forth. Read more about it in “8 Change Management Best Practices to Ensure Sustainability” on our blog.
4. General training. We develop education and training for “in the field” work for team members, supervisors, leads and managers to support the Management Operating System changes being made by the team as well as supporting behavioral change management — also a critical part of the process. People need to do their jobs differently. Sometimes radically differently. And it can be a stumbling block for employees who may be resistant to change. The training gives them the skills to keep progress going.
5. Lean Six Sigma training. It’s a pretty safe bet you don’t have a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt on your staff currently. No problem. We do. One of the most effective ways to create lasting process improvements out there, Lean Six Sigma is the combination of two manufacturing methodologies, Lean, which is focused on eliminating waste and reducing process lead times and Six Sigma, which focuses on cutting down on defects and improving quality. But it takes a lot of study to get it right. That’s why we choose team members to train in this highly effective tool so our efforts using it to increase efficiency and decrease defects are sustainable. Read all about Lean Six Sigma in our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
6. Toolkit. This is a playbook of what we’ve done on the project, successes we have achieved, steps forward, sustainable practices and more. It’s a detailed, workable plan that outlines how to go forward and build on that success.
All of these tactics work in tandem to ensure process improvement sustainability, so companies remain firing on all cylinders now and into the future. But, that’s not all. We may not be on site every day after a project is completed, but we’re always just a phone call away. We play the long game with our clients and perform audits to ensure sustained results. Setting and forgetting isn’t part of our playbook. Never has been. Never will be.
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Starting a new project is an exciting time for our consultants because it involves deep learning. As we often say, we don’t just swoop in and offer conventional wisdom about how to streamline operations, find opportunities for greater efficiency, increase throughput, reduce costs, limit waste and everything else we do for our clients. Instead, we roll up our sleeves, dig in and get to know the business, the people from the corner office to the production line, and the scope of the job.
An early part of the process is the feasibility study, which typically takes two to three weeks to complete. What is a feasibility study, exactly, why is it important and how do we use it to determine our course of action for the project?
What is a feasibility study?
Simply put, a feasibility study investigates the needs and potential for success of a new project by assessing risks, costs, benefits and outcomes. It’s a comprehensive analysis we do at the outset of any project we undertake. It’s like saying, we’re at point A. What’s it going to take to get to point B? And how best to get there?
Why do we do it?
We perform feasibility studies because no matter how many projects we complete for similar clients, every situation is unique. Every company has its own operations, set goals, strengths, workplace norms, challenges, snags and obstacles to overcome. Even different facilities within the same organization can vary. It’s a key element in our pledge to never provide cookie-cutter solutions. We need to get into the core of a client’s business to see how (and whether) we can help.
Ultimately, it comes down to creating a roadmap for a company’s growth. It’s about looking at how operations run now and how they might be improved, what that change may mean to the company and what it’s going to take to achieve the desired outcome. And remember, it’s not always about challenges, obstacles or snags. Many of our clients want to grow from good to great or build on successes to take them to the next level. A feasibility study is the first step toward us helping them get there.
What does a feasibility study consist of?
In a feasibility study, we start by looking at where we are – the “As Is” current state.
End-to-end process evaluation. We look at client processes, resources, equipment, workflows, production capacity, supply chain considerations, and even scheduling and staffing.
Management Operating System (MOS) review. A solid MOS is a cornerstone for every company. We look at what kind of MOS is currently in place (if any) and how we might improve or implement it.
Data analytics. We’re big proponents of “managing by the numbers.” In this phase of the feasibility process, we look at what those numbers are at the outset of the project to get a baseline to move forward from. We analyze the data and ask questions. Can we improve on it? Are these numbers solid?
Real-time process observations. This involves getting out onto the shop floor and understanding how the job gets done today.
Measurability of operational and financial KPIs. Put another way, this is how we measure success and ROI. What’s it going to take to get to the desired outcome, how much time and effort will it take, and where does the client need to be at the end?
Development of a customized approach for change. The roadmap we talked about earlier? This is where it comes into play. By analyzing all of these elements, we can come up with the approach we will use to effect positive change within an organization. Does it mean new roles and responsibilities on the shop floor? Scheduling tweaks? Planning for an outage for maintenance? All of the above?
Building relationships within the client organization. This is a key element to how we work. Many consultants simply engage with the top brass. While that’s important, we feel it’s just as important to get buy-in from the employees doing the job day to day. They are the heart and soul of a company, and that heart needs to be beating in step with the changes we propose, or in the end, our efforts might fall flat. That’s why we get to know the people on the line early in the process during the feasibility study to establish a rapport with your team. This ensures higher success when the engagement shifts to the project phase.
In investigating those things and more, we come up with operational and organizational improvement recommendations. We identify best practices for moving forward and, just as important (maybe more so), we can see operating gaps and develop a plan for how to bridge those gaps.
With a solid feasibility study, we can move into the implementation phase. All systems are go, and we start enacting the changes side-by-side with your team. It’s a crucial step in creating successful results for our clients.
Interested in learning more about how USC sets the stage for effective process improvement projects? Contact us today so we can learn more about your specific needs.
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We’re celebrating a milestone here at USC Consulting Group — 55 years partnering with businesses around the globe empowering their performance. Our goal is to help our clients drive operating excellence, increase throughput, become more efficient and boost their bottom lines.
We got our start in 1968 when founders Tom Rice and Pat Price founded a fully-engaged operations management consulting firm that strives to impart positive, impactful change to our clients. Back then, we were Universal Scheduling Company, communicating with clients over mimeograph and analyzing their schedules. We’ve grown quite a bit since those early days. Over the years, we expanded into other industries like mining & metals, food & beverage, life sciences, transportation & logistics and more. Our reach opened up to serve companies all around the globe. In 2001, we changed our name to USC Consulting Group to better reflect the breadth of our services and a few years later, relocated to Tampa, where our corporate headquarters is today.
That’s a tremendous growth story that we’re incredibly proud of.
During our half-century-plus in this business, we’ve seen a lot of changes come down the pike. The ups and downs of the economy, employment markets that wax or wane, the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, technology advancements in machinery and tools for businesses we serve, and a whole host of other factors that ebb and flow during the passage of time.
We’ve rolled with it all and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
What has 55 years of consulting taught us?
Here are some of the top things we’ve learned during our 55 years in this business.
Experience matters, but every challenge we tackle for our clients is different. Many consulting firms dole out cookie-cutter solutions. But we’ve learned there is no such thing if you want to find sustainable results. Even if two businesses are in the same industry, they are not the same. We understand companies have unique processes, procedures, management styles, cultures, machinery, employees — you name it. So we go into every project with fresh eyes, knowing that what worked for others may not work again. There are too many variables to apply cookie-cutter solutions. That’s why we start by listening rather than talking to learn each client’s challenges before implementing improvements.
Upper management walking the shop floor is vital. We can recommend operations changes all day long, but the meat of the action happens day-to-day on the front lines, no matter the industry you’re in. If you’re a manager or in the C-suite, it’s so important to get down into the nitty-gritty of how their work gets done. You’ll get a better understanding of your operations, spot trouble sooner and also spot diamonds in the rough for promotion. You’ll hear great ideas to improve operations from the people who are actually doing the job, and when those employees are engaged, it leads to ultimate business success. Read more about it in “How to Increase Employee Engagement and Training to Improve Retention.”
Getting people onboard at the outset is a key element of success. Over the years, we’ve learned not everyone in a company is excited about process or operations improvements. Consultants can be viewed with skeptical eyes. That’s why we encourage engagement with employees at all levels, getting people on board early so employees understand they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Going beyond Lean Six Sigma… Lean, which has been around forever and has recently migrated from the manufacturing floor into other industries (they’re even talking about Lean HR methods) and Six Sigma, a newer technique, are two methodologies for improving processes. Two sides of the same coin, Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing lead times, while Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. The combination of the two produces powerful results. They’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles: Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times. Striking the perfect balance between the two is tricky. It requires training and certification in the techniques. At USCCG, Dr. Frank Esposto is our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality. He is also a certified LSS instructor. Read more about it in our eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?
…but we don’t just set it and forget it. Dr. Esposto says: “When we employ the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help our clients’ operations, we don’t simply do it for them. We train clients in these techniques so they can employ them long after we leave.” That goes for any process changes we help our clients make. It’s not about giving them a fish. It’s about teaching them to fish. That’s how lasting change happens and it’s a key differentiator between us and other consultants out there.
We could go on forever about lessons learned in a half-century plus. But the bottom line is, putting our customers’ needs squarely in the forefront of every engagement, understanding the marketplace and challenges the business faces, and focusing on people and processes will help your business reach a state of operational excellence.
Contact us today and let USC put our experience to work for you.
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If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — and your team is struggling to overcome the challenge, it’s time to bring in an operations management consultant.
Operations management consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. Then, they work with your team to implement positive, impactful changes to help your business strive toward operational excellence.
Why Hire an Operations Management Consultant
Is it the right time to hire an outside resource? Perhaps. Before we can answer that question though, let’s look at the reasons why you would need to bring in some help. While each business and situation is different, we find companies seek an operations management consultant due to one or more of these common reasons:
- Current processes aren’t getting the job done
- You need fresh eyes to assess a situation
- Process improvement expertise
- When you don’t know if it’s time to upgrade assets
- Time and workload snags
- Resistance to change
- Planned shutdowns or outages
- When you need to reduce operating costs or improve throughput and efficiency
Operations management consultants can be the ‘horsepower’ your team needs to overcome these various challenges to achieve improvements quickly and effectively.
Now, for the burning question… When is the right time to bring in operations consultants? It boils down to dissatisfaction with the status quo, problems organizations can’t seem to overcome, and challenges they’re not equipped to solve. But, like many things in life, it’s not that simple.
For that reason, our subject matter experts at USC Consulting Group walk you through the process in the following eBook:
This eBook covers various concepts, including:
- Defining what are operations management consultants
- The benefits of an outside resource
- The best time to bring them in
- Where consultants can help your business the most
If you have questions about operations management consulting and what it can do for your business, give us a call or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want you to be well-informed so you can feel comfortable and confident bringing in some help.
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In the food processing industry, the name of the game isn’t necessarily doing more with less, although that’s a powerful goal. For many companies, it comes down to getting the most out of their raw materials. To do that, it’s all about yield.
It can be a slightly confusing term to those outside the industry, but yield is generally defined as “the amount of usable product AFTER processing raw materials.” There’s a popular meme on the internet right now with the theme of: “How it started. How it ended.” Essentially, it’s “before and after” photos. When you’re talking about yield, the “before” photos might be a side of beef hanging in a cooler, while the “after” photos would be a pound of hamburger packaged and ready to ship to the grocery store. In that case, how it started isn’t necessarily going to be how it ended. In other words, a pound of beef isn’t always going to end up being a pound of burger. The difference is your yield.
Yield is affected by a wide range of variables, and low yield numbers can mean trouble for a company’s bottom line. It’s a common problem, one USC Consulting Group helps our clients with regularly. Let’s look a little deeper at yield, how and why it can bedevil companies, and what they can do about it.
The challenge with yield
Improving yield is the end goal. But let’s start at the beginning. Staying with the beef industry as an example, when companies start with a pound of beef and end up with .8 pounds of burger, that’s an 80% yield. The reasons for that gap become the problem.
Loss of moisture or weight. In processing beef, moisture is lost. It’s just the nature of the beast. That’s why, when you start out with one pound of raw materials you don’t always get one pound of finished product.
MAV. Government regulations give the food industry a little wiggle room between the expected quantity of any given item and the actual quantity. That’s the Maximum Allowance Variance (MAV). No product should weigh less than the MAV, nor should it weigh more than 100% of the MAV. That’s the gray area, or wiggle room. However…
Label weight. Due to government regulations (and good sense) the actual weight of a product — say, that pound of packaged ground beef in a grocery store — should not be lower than the label weight. End users, in this case, grocery store customers, can’t be told they’re buying a pound of burger when they’re really getting .8 pounds or less. Nor should grocery store owners be told by their suppliers they’re buying 100 pounds of ground beef when they’re getting 80. So to hit that MAV sweet spot and comply with label weights, food processing companies commonly…
Compensate. In the case of the beef industry, it means adding a little more ground beef into each unit. To not take the risk of going below the MAV, companies often prefer to run the process at a higher weight than the label. It’s what the industry calls “the giveaway.” They are essentially giving away beef to compensate for the loss of moisture.
Just a little more? How big a problem is this? If a company is processing, say, 30,000 pounds of ground beef into burger every day, adding a smidge into each package can be a very big problem. One recent client of USC came to us when they realized they were giving away over 1.5 million pounds of beef yearly.
This isn’t unique to the beef processing industry. Produce companies can overbag. Companies that process shelf-stable foods can use too much water. The list goes on. But no matter the type of food industry, maximizing yield is about achieving the right balance, hitting the right numbers. Not too little, not too much. Here are a few ways we help our clients do that. Hint: It’s all about efficiency and managing by the numbers.
Operations. Efficiency is the key in any operation, and at USC, we are always looking for opportunities for our clients to improve their processes. Scheduling, the sequence of how the job gets done, and even shift changes can play into efficiency. Creating a solid management operating system that allows you to “manage by the numbers” is vital in evaluating these processes for maximum efficiency.
Equipment. We don’t always recommend the latest and greatest technology. In many cases, it’s not necessary to upgrade. Maintenance? That’s another issue. Machines used to process raw materials into batches need to be at their optimal best. Regular maintenance and monitoring are key. Something as simple as build-up on a machine can lead to overfilling. A processing arm that slows down just a bit can hamper production.
Throughput. One reason for loss of moisture in beef processing is speed, so you need fast, efficient processing. But not too fast, or you can risk issues like bottlenecks in packaging, errors and ultimately waste. The Lean Six Sigma methodology helps companies maximize throughput and eliminate waste while preserving quality.
Yield is a key element to a company’s bottom line. The more efficient, streamlined and effective the operation, the more it allows companies to wrangle yield so it adds to, not drags down, profits.
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