Tag Archives: Skills Development


With a potential recession looming, inflation and interest rates rising, and the post-pandemic surge in consumer confidence slowing, productivity is stepping into the spotlight. Amid all of this economic uncertainty, manufacturers are turning their focus toward their own operations and processes, making sure everything is running like the proverbial well-oiled machine. Lean and mean. As efficient as possible.

We get it. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been helping manufacturers become more efficient and productive for 50+ years. Process improvement is our wheelhouse. We can’t do anything about the economy, but we can help our clients increase their productivity so their companies can be at their fighting best to withstand any economic headwinds that come their way.

In the end, it’s about striking that delicate balance between increasing throughput and maintaining quality. Too much speed on the line can indeed increase throughput, but quality could suffer. So, finding that sweet spot between optimal throughput and optimal quality is the key.

Here’s some of the advice we’ve been giving to our clients to do just that.

Focus on the Five M’s

One of the first steps we take when evaluating process improvements in manufacturing companies is to focus on the Five M’s. Many times we find it all starts and ends with this. It’s a tried-and-true management tool — with some debate as to where and when it originated. And now, people put their own spin on the M’s, as they relate to their own operation. At USC, we call them Machines, Methods, Materials, Measurements and Man and Woman power.

  1. Machines. Evaluate your machines on the line. Do they need maintenance? Do you perform regular maintenance or wait until something is “broke” before you fix it?
  2. Methods. This step involves evaluating the process of getting the job done. Are there any opportunities to make the workflow more efficient?
  3. Materials. This is a big headache for manufacturing today — supply chain issues are messing with the ability to have enough material to get the job done when it needs to get done.
  4. Measurements. Are your metrics and measurements for success and profitability on target?
  5. Man and Woman power. Do you have the right people in the right jobs? That’s the ideal. But increasingly the question is: Do you have enough skilled people to get the job done, or enough people, period?

Focusing on these five elements of your operation can illuminate a host of opportunities for improvement. Let’s look at some of those in more detail.

Schedule regular maintenance

The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not serve manufacturing very well. We recommend regular maintenance. Yes, it causes a work stoppage, but it doesn’t take you by surprise. You’ll know the line will be stopped for a certain amount of time on a certain day rather than having things grind to a halt unexpectedly because of an unknown problem you’ll have to ferret out and fix. It’s also important to talk to your people on the line about the troubleshooting they’ve been using when things go wrong. It could be they’re on to something.

Look at the 7 Deadly Wastes

It sounds rather dramatic, but this is a concept initially pioneered by the Toyota Lean manufacturing model. It’s aimed at identifying and eliminating waste in manufacturing operations. We’ve added one additional “waste” to that list. Here they are in detail.

Examining all of these areas of “wastes” in your operation will help you become more efficient and ultimately more profitable.

→ For more information about Lean, download our free eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?

Upskill Your People

About that eighth “waste.” There may well be hidden potential working on your lines every day that is being underutilized. We see it all the time in talking to frontline workers, who usually know more about the ins-and-outs of the day-to-day than their supervisors do. Is anyone on the line ready to move up? It might take some classes in management training, but so be it. Promotion from within is a powerful motivator for your workforce and in this market, where retaining good people is so difficult, it can be a lifesaver. There’s also another part to this. It’s about not being able to find skilled workers to do the job. This is a big problem for manufacturing industrywide. The solution just might be to invest in training courses for new hires to get them the skills they need.

At USC Consulting Group, we’re committed to helping manufacturing companies improve their processes to become as efficient and productive as possible. In this economy, it’s a must. Give us a call to find out more.

Contact USC Consulting Group

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If you think it’s just newbies on the job who need training, think again. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve learned the importance of training, continuous learning and plain, old reaching higher for people on all rungs of the corporate ladder. Even supervisors and managers. Some people would say, especially supervisors and managers. And it’s not only because training is necessary to get the job done right. It’s also because great managers and supervisors make for happier employees. Supervisor and manager training is one good way to get them there.

We’ve found that supervisor training in management skills development allows managers to learn, grow and master new skill sets. It also allows them to help their employees do the same.

That’s a critical piece of the training pie. Training needs to trickle down. Managers and supervisors are largely responsible for training their staffs, not just in skills for their current job. It’s also important to give them skills development training that prepares them for the next rung on the ladder. It has been proven time and time again that companies that invest in employee training see an increase in morale and motivation to do the job. As the “great resignation” continues on, it’s more important than ever to do everything you can to keep employees happy, make them feel valued, and show them a path forward with your company.

The type of supervisor and manager training that’s right for your company depends on the industry you’re in, the types of jobs you’re dealing with and even the people who you have your eye on for training and development. But we’ve found there are some common components to successful manager and supervisor training that are beneficial to most companies.

A five-step approach to skills development

This process was designed to help companies proactively drive development and establish a cycle of continuous learning. Before you get into the nitty gritty of your training, it’s useful to keep this in mind about process and outcomes.

  1. Focus on priorities. Identify your critical issues and goals.
  2. Implement something every day. Stretch your comfort zone.
  3. Reflect on what happens. Extract maximum learning from your experiences.
  4. Seek feedback and support. Learn from others’ ideas and perspectives.
  5. Transfer learning into next steps. Adapt and plan for continued learning and best practices.

Training tips

When you’re clear about your process and outcomes, it’s time to get down to the actual training. Here are a few suggestions for solid skills development.

Self assessment. A strong way to begin is by asking the supervisors and/or managers participating in the training to do a self-assessment on their strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can create a matrix consisting of the self-ratings of all of your participants. This gives you, and them, a snapshot of the team’s strengths and where they can improve.

Operating system assessment. Taking a hard look at your operating system can uncover some uncomfortable truths, like poor work assignments, recurring problems, the wrong work getting done, and lack of communication about where projects stand. From there, you can work to identify solutions to those snafus, like:

All of this can help identify the root causes of wasted time and resources, positively impacting your bottom line in the end.

Focus on the Five Ms. This is a Lean principle that takes these five Ms to put in place a process for streamlined outcomes in your operations.

  1. Measurements. Are you measuring the right things?
  2. Man (and woman) power. Are the right people doing the right job at the right time? Are they cross trained?
  3. Methods. Are you following best practices?
  4. Machines. Do they need maintenance or upgrades?
  5. Materials. Enough supply? Too much? Disruption causing bottlenecks?

Creating a plan of action

The logical consequence of a plan is action. A good plan for action will include expectations, assignments and follow up.

One powerful component in this part of the process is to enlist the help of your operators. Ask what they like about the job, what they don’t like and what needs to change. Nobody knows it better than the people on the line.

Management skills development

Your managers likely got to that rung of the ladder because they had mastered the “hard” skills of the job — getting the job done right. But what about “soft” skills? More often than not, managers need a little refresher in:

These soft skills will help kick their overall managerial skills up a notch. Becoming an effective leader means your managers need to provide clear direction to employees, lead confidently and courageously, foster a team environment, provide motivation and handle change management like a pro.

If that all sounds like a mouthful, don’t worry. At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been training our clients in management skills development as part of our service since our inception back in 1968. Want to learn more? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to discuss how we can help your supervisors and managers level up.

Contact USC Consulting Group

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