For any Manufacturing Company, the Problem Solving is an important Business Process. The Company needs to give it a high priority and treat it as such. There needs to be specific Structure to handle this important Business Process.
Very few Companies in Indian Manufacturing treat this as an important process. If they do not give this importance, there would be a big adverse effect on the ability of the Company to progress. They would have serious problems with the Customers. There would be suffering on a daily basis for all concerned. This is a major reason for the tensions and stress in every Company. But still Companies are not able to put their finger on this issue and address it squarely.
Let me try and list down the issues that a Company needs to do to address Problem Solving in a systematic manner.
01. Capture all the Problems in a Company:Most of the Companies have records for the Customer Complaints / Rejections and Supplier Quality. They record this in a systematic manner. But they need to do this for Internal Quality Problems too. Usually there will be a bunch of phenomena that keep repeating in the Internal Process. They should record these Phenomena and count each one of them as another problem to solve. It is best if all the Problems so captured get in to ONE Problem Solving Software.
02. Problem Solvers: Every Company should identify Problem Solvers from across the Functions in the Company. In many Indian Manufacturing Companies, the Quality Function plays a major role in Problem solving followed by the R&D Function and Production Function. But it is required for a Company to involve Engineers from Materials, Process Engineering, Plant Maintenance also to be involved in the Problem Solving. The Company should identify the Engineers and designate them as ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’.
03. Develop the Ninjas: There has to be specific Development Plan for the Problem-Solving Ninjas. I covered their Development in a separate article earlier on 10/2/2019. You need to Grade the Ninjas in to Leaders and Members of the Teams. The Leaders would lead a Problem-Solving effort whereas the Members can become members in the Problem-Solving Team.
04. Decide the Problem-Solving Capacity of the Organization: Decide how many problems can each Leader handle at a time. This would decide the Collective capacity of the Organization to solve Problems. A Company needs to boost this up as needed from time to time.
05. Allot the Problems: The Problems that are captured in the ‘Problem Solving Software’ of the Organization needs to be allotted to the Problem-Solving Ninjas by the Software on the basis of a Logic. This would ensure that ALL the Problems are parked with one group or the Other.
06. Problem Solving Methodology: Each Company needs to adapt a Problem-Solving methodology that it prefers. It can adapt a Standard methodology like 8D or formulate its’ own methodology with Best Practices.
07. War Room: Every Company needs to have a War Room for Problem Solving. This is the Room that will host two types of meetings. One is a Review by Management. Second type is the Team meetings of the Teams. Normally a Schedule is kept for each team and every team would meet as per the schedule.
08. Meet Daily: If you want the Problem solving to improve in your Company, then every Team has to meet EVERY DAY for at least 45 minutes. If the teams do not meet and then you expect the Problems to get solved, it is not a reasonable expectation. The Team should meet every day and then solve the Problems. They need to spend as much time as is needed on the Shop-floor for Problem-Solving. This is a Primary requirement.
09. Measures of Problem Solving: How do you measure the success of Problem Solving in your Company? There can be two types of Measures. Process Measures and Result Measures. Result Measures are very clear. That would include your Customer Rejections / Complaints, Supplier Quality, In-Process Quality etc. The Process Measures would include the following:
a. Daily Meeting schedule adherence.
b. On Time Activity. Number of Activities planned vs done on a daily basis.
c. On Time Problem Solving. When each 8D is supposed to be closed and when it was closed.
d. Quality of Problem Solving. The 8D Check List score calculated by the team and certified by the Coach.
e. Repetitive Problems: If the Quality of Problems is good, the problems will not come back.
10. Problem Solving Coach: It would be very much required to have a Problem-Solving Coach who would help the teams to improve the Measures of Problem Solving.
11. Certifying the Problem Solvers: It would be useful to Certify the Problem solvers on the basis of their Knowledge, Skill and Results. The Certification should also lead to Rewards for the Problem Solvers. This would take care of Motivation of the Problem Solvers.
12. Approving Solutions: Company should authorize a few Senior people who would Certify the Solutions being implemented. This would ensure that the Collective wisdom of the Company is at work in Problem-Solving.
13. Use Technology to train the Ninjas: The Experience of the Senior People in the Company should be translated in to ‘Standard Check Lists’ for all known and repetitive problems. Using these Check lists E-Learning programs can be developed to train the Ninjas. For every known Problem, the Program would teach the standard steps that need to be taken to move towards the Solution. This would reduce the time taken to solve the Problem. This is a good way of using the Collective Experience that is available in the Company.
14. Managing the Knowledge Base: The Problem Solving in a Company can create enormous amount of Knowledge on Products of the Company and the Process of the Company. This knowledge needs to be captured in a Knowledge Data base and this Data Base can be used for:
a. Learning from Mistakes in Design/Process
b. Going back to the Solution in case the Problem reappears.
15. Problem Solving Conferences: The Company can think of conducting Problem Solving Conferences where the Problem Solvers from across the Company would converge and present the Technical papers about various issues in the Company and Best Problem Solvers may be rewarded. Usually the Company would invite Technical experts to this Conference to help teams to learn something more.
This way, the Manufacturing Companies can look at addressing Problem Solving as a special Discipline that cuts across Functions and look at developing this Competency in the Organization.
How well are you addressing Problem Solving in your Company?
We have been discussing about preparing for the advent of Industry 4.0 and how Indian Manufacturing Companies can prepare for the inevitable. We discussed how various Functions in a company can get ready for Ind 4.0 situation.
In this article, let us discuss about the Leader of the ‘Future Factory’. What are the Capabilities that a Leader of Future Factory needs to display?
A Future Factory will be characterized by the following:
- Definitely a Less Manpower environment.
- Highly Automated set up.
- Much higher Manufacturing Technology.
- Much higher Capacity in each Factory due to the automated set up.
What are the Competencies required for a Leader of this type of Factory?
I would say, he requires the following Six Competencies:
01. Analytical Capability: The Leader of Future Factory will have to be very comfortable with Data. He should be able to make sense of the Data and should be ready to use Data Analytics to make sense of the happenings around him/her and take actions. The typical situations that require him to show this capability can be as follows:
a. The Online Quality System in the Factory is throwing up a lot of Data about the Process status. The Analytics Software is showing a number of Patterns of Data. The Software is continuously learning (AI) and showing new meanings from the old Data. The Data analysis of last Six months just showed a Pattern that can be a Solution to the Biggest Customer Complaint that the company is having. The Quality Team has to be supported in understanding this data as it is the first time a new sense is being made from the old data.
b. The Zero Break down record in the Factory has to be maintained by managing the various Sub-systems in each of the Machines in the Factory. The Data from monitoring the Temperature, Vibration of various parts of the Machine has to be made sense of and Predictive Maintenance has to be improved.
c. The Software that the New Product Development team is using is throwing up lot of Analytics that can be used to Learn from the Development and apply learnings to the future products.
d. The Problem-Solving Software that is helping the Engineers to solve the Problems is capturing lot of interesting Data. This data has to be used to draw lessons for New Products.
e. Finally, SAP is being used more effectively. The Cost Data is getting generated as per each Activity. This data has to be analyzed to identify Wastes and eliminate them.
There can be myriad more ways in which the Data will be generated and will have to be interpreted.
The Factory Leader does not have to do all this job herself. But, She should be able to give Leadership to her Team to adapt this point of view.
02. System Builder: The Leader of the Future Factory has to be a great System Builder. Wherever he sees a Problem, he has to look at a System solution for it. If he Looks at solving the Problem for today, then the whole System can be short circuited by this problem and the Desired result will not be forthcoming.
Eg. In a Highly Automated Factory, the output from Dust Collector is Designed to be collected by a Pneumatic System and taken to a Dust Storage system. Now, when the Pneumatic System Breaks down due to Dust contaminating all the Seals / O rings in the system, the Factory has to look to alternative System that can withstand the Dust. If temporary solutions are looked at or if the Pneumatic system is kept idle and the factory goes back to manual collection of Dust, then very soon the Manpower will creep in and the inefficiencies will go up.
The Leader has to look at building a System around everything. He should be looking at Killing problems once and for all.
Eg. An Automated System is giving a problem handling some specific parts of the Company. While it is suitable to 75% of the parts of the Company, it is giving trouble handling 25% of the parts of the Company. The efficiency of the system is pulled down. Immediate Solution is needed for this problem. The Company set up a team to solve this problem while not reducing the efficiency of the whole System. Along with this, the Leader has to ensure that the Company learns from this experience and the next Factory has to take care of this problem from word go. The Design team also has to learn from this Process incident and ensure the future New Products are Designed to take care of this manufacturing aspect. The Leader has to ensure this at a total system level.
While these Qualities are required even in a less automated environment, the costs of not doing it are very high and can be lethal in an Automated / Ind 4.0 environment.
03. Avid Learner: The Leader of a future Factory has to Learn on her Feet. This can be a great challenge! The Learning is not just for her. She has to ensure the Learning is there at Organization level.
In the Future Factory, there will be a lot of Data just about everything. There will be Data Analytics team in the Factory and they will be throwing up a lot of Data and Interpretations.
The Leader has to encourage the Team to Learn from this Data. Otherwise there is no use of this Data.
Other than this Learning within the Factory, She also has to Learn from the outside world. She has to understand how the Customer is progressing in his Business and keep shaping up the factory to suit the Customer.
Eg. Customer’s Data Analytics may show that Demand for a particular product may be going up 3 months from now. The Factory Leader has to take this information, deal with it and also ensure that the Sales team is continuously picking up these cues from the Customer and help her shape the factory to suit it.
The Learning also has to cover the Ind 4.0 elements. The Factories across the World would be having new learnings from same elements almost on a daily basis. The Leader has to learn from the information available on the Public domain and she has to participate in suitable events like Technical Symposiums to keep learning from the environment.
Paid Factory Tours, Supplier Seminars, Industrial Exhibitions, Industry association events can be some sources for new Learnings.
Every Leader has to organize her own combination of events that will give her chance to pick up learnings from the relevant environment around her.
04. Integrator: This role can be part of ‘System Builder’ Role. But, as it is a very important function of a Future Leader, this is being discussed separately.
A Future Leader should be able to look at a Quality Problem and link it to the Machine, Manufacturing Process, Maintenance Practices, Improvement required in Design of the Product, the improvement required in designing the next Machine and how the factory has to work in future to avoid this Problem.
This is a very critical ability and not easy to master. It is not required that the Leader should be expert across the Board in all Functions. But, he should be able to see the linkages clearly.
The Future Factory would be working as one unit. The differentiation between one Function and the Other will disappear to a large extent. An Engineer would be required to have expertise across Functional areas as they exist today.
A Leader should be able to mold such Engineers!!
05. Team Developer: Factory of Future will be such that it will work as a unit or fail as a unit. Working partially will be difficult due to its connected / automated nature. One system depends on the other. So, if one System is not working it will affect the other.
The Team work and working as a unit are required much more than the non-automated environment.
The information between the various areas of the Factory has to flow seamlessly and the whole team has to deliver the result together.
Eg. The Shop Engineer (Who will handle Production, Quality, Maintenance) at each stage of Manufacturing has to interact with the Engineers at other stages and also interact with the Data Analytics Engineers (Who will be the new breed in every Factory) to make sense of the Factory performance and take actions on a daily basis.
The Leader of the Factory should develop his Team for a smooth daily interaction and ensure they work as a team.
06. Frugal Engineer: In the environment of highly automated factories, the difference between your Company and a Company in USA/Europe can totally be blurred as both the Companies will be having equally automated factories (may be same supplier of equipment too).
What can be the key differentiator for an Indian Company? If the Leader is a Frugal Engineer, he can help the company not to throw Big money at the Machinery. Spend just as much as is needed. Design the Product with just enough meat and don’t give away more than needed (Russian Designs are clearly out of fashion). If your Company can either make do with 75% of the Automation as in USA and give same output or if you are able to take 25% more output from the same Machinery as in USA, then you can have a leverage over other world Manufacturers.
In Future Factories, your competitor is not just the company in NOIDA. You will have to compete with the one in Detroit too.
India is having a very high number of Engineers. Not many Countries can match us in this. The Leader of Future Factory should be able to use the capabilities of these Engineers to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in efficiency and money for each Rupee of investment.
These are some of the Capabilities for the Leader of a Future Factory! There can be more. Some or all of the above look like they are needed today too.
01. Many Leaders of Today Factories do not have these Capabilities. India is very big and we have too few Leaders with these Capabilities.
02. There is a subtle difference in the same Capability that is needed for tomorrow. I am sure you will notice in the above discussion.
Are you a Leader for the Future Factory?
While Indian Manufacturing Companies are trying to implement Ind 4.0 solutions, one more area that is begging for attention is ‘Production Planning’. The issues with Production Planning are more in Companies that are Assembly oriented where several Parts are needed to make one Assembly.
Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers manage their Inventories very well (?). But, this is more due to their usage of their ‘Volume Muscle Power’ and not due to Excellent Planning. Most of the Component Manufacturers suffer the consequences. Still, the Inventory Management in Automotive Industry is much better than the other industries like for example Capital equipment industry. But, even in Automotive Parts industry the Production Planning problems are quite severe in many Component manufacturing companies.
The Problems that happen are as follows:
- Production does not happen as per plan.
- Shop floor assembles whatever Product for which material is available!
- The Plan is changed several times.
- The Production Capacity is lost on a daily basis or Inventories of unwanted Products piles up as the Shop floor produces something to keep the Workforce Busy!!
There are several reasons for the Production Losses. Some of them are as follows:
- Material Shortages. This is by far the biggest reason for the Production plan changes.
- Break down of equipment.
- People related losses – Absenteeism / Shortage of People.
Material Shortages: Every Company in the Country is looking to improve their Top line. It does not make sense to say that Suppliers are failing on Deliveries. In most of the cases that I have investigated, the problem lies with the Company and not the suppliers. The Production Schedule is changed so many times that the Suppliers have given up on the Original Production schedule of the Company and they wait for the frantic calls of the Buyers to plan their Production! Once a change is made in the Production schedule, it will have a cascading effect on many Materials and therefore Suppliers.
Breakdown of Equipment: As I discussed in one of my earlier Articles, the basic Preventive Maintenance is not being done in many companies. They have to pull up their efforts in this area.
People related losses: The People Policy of Companies is to blame here. Many companies are simply using the ‘Temporary manpower’ concept beyond its’ due. The way the companies are dealing with the People element is giving rise to absolute lack of commitment on the part of the employee force. This is resulting in high Absenteeism and Attrition.
Forecasting: In these companies there is constant fight between Production and Sales on the issue of Forecasting. Sales say they can’t forecast what the Customer wants and Production and Materials say this is the reason for Production Planning Problems. Usually it ends up in dead lock. Many companies have given up on resolving this issue.
Some of the Consequences of this situation are:
High Inventories: Most of the companies that are having the Production Planning Problems are having high Inventories of Raw Materials, WIP and Finished Goods. While they are having Shortages of some materials, in anticipation of higher Production they get many more materials and pile them up.
Losing top line: These Companies also lose at least 10-15% of their Top line every year due to the mis match of their Production and Demand.
Lift your Game in Production Planning
Companies need to understand that there is no Silver Bullet for such problems. Every Company has to find their own solution. But, they can adapt some Best practices.
Forecasting: To address the issue of ‘not being able to forecast the demand of customer’, companies can form a ‘Production Steering Team’ that will have members from Sales, Materials, Production, Quality and so on. This team should meet every week with some agenda. The agenda will have two broad parts:
a) Reviewing the here and now issues with reference to Supplies from Suppliers and Supplies to Customers.
b) They should also review the Forecasting process, look at the Forecasting accuracy for each Customer and see how to address the problems of forecasting with reference to each Customer.
Many Company teams end up doing only (a) above. Looking at Forecasting as a process and improving its’ accuracy is not addressed objectively. When we become aware of the problem and start addressing the reasons for not being able to know the Demand of the Customer, we will be able to solve majority of the problems. I have seen companies improving significantly on Forecasting accuracy once they approach it systematically.
I know some companies who have graduated to understanding the Demand using some Data models and avoiding Forecasting inaccuracies.
It is also good to consider implementing the Supply Chain Management Concepts. Different people handling Procurement, Production Planning, Production, Sales/Customer Management adds up to the problems. The difference in Demand Planning at several stages in the company result in high Inventories and shortage of Materials for Production.
Combining Procurement, Production Planning, Sales / Customer demand Planning, Dispatches in to one function of Supply Chain Management can help in avoiding the differences in the Demand Planning at various stages.
Supplier Engagement: Companies have to work out their own Supplier Engagement models.
Companies need to engage with Suppliers on a regular basis and not just when there are problems. Suppliers also have to be given a safety net that if they plan their Production on the basis of Schedules from Customer and if really the Demand does not happen, the Customer will take care of the Suppliers. They may compensate the Inventory Carrying costs and so on. Please note that a good relationship with Suppliers will pay off on the long term. Many companies are focusing on the short term and trying to make money at the expense of Suppliers. Obviously this will not work and it is not working. Companies can measure the effectiveness of their Supplier Engagement model with the number of shortages that they are having on the shop floor.
Even after a very good Supplier Engagement, there may still be residual problems with some suppliers. These needs to be addressed systematically by categorizing the suppliers in to Red / Yellow / Green suppliers on the basis of the shortages they are contributing. The Reds have to be dealt with by the Procurement team in a time bound manner.
I have seen that this type of focused approach pays significant dividends to the Companies.
People Related issues: Companies need to work out a People Policy in a practical manner. They should have a hard look at their ‘Cheap Labor Policies’ and see whether it is Worthwhile to have such Policies. Every Company should have a sizeable Permanent Work force and they should learn how to manage the ambitions of the Work force. This is the only Solution. Unfortunately, the practice of avoiding Permanence to the Workmen has become a practice. The People on the Shop floor are treated as Dispensable commodity. No wonder that they are also treating Companies as Dispensable! I think the Companies are losing out on Shop floor efficiency / Quality in a big way due to this.
The Cost of ‘Cheap labor / Voice less labor’ practices is being felt in Quality losses, Productivity losses, Customer market share losses by the Indian Manufacturing Companies.
This is not the right practice and we need to have a good proportion of Shop floor employees as permanent. We also need to have ‘Self-Managed Teams’ concept on the shop floor so that the Permanent workmen can manage the smaller proportion of Temporary Labor.
Other Losses: There may be a few other losses that are affecting the Production on a daily basis. These needs to be attended to head on. Companies should stop dodging these issues and they stop behaving as if there are no problems. One example of such a problem is the ‘Fettling’ issue in Foundries. Every foundry loses a significant part of their Top line due to the Fettling issue and still they don’t solve it for decades together. I am happy to note a small percentage of companies who are trying to bring in Robots in this area and solving a very sticky problem of Foundries.
How to leverage Ind 4.0?
Once these Basic issues are resolved, Companies have opportunities to leverage on Ind 4.0 elements to further improve.
The Consumption pattern across Industries is becoming more transparent. Using this data, Companies can understand the Demand Patterns more clearly and be better prepared for the Upswing / Downswing of the Demand.
Companies today cannot leverage on such tools. This is like collecting and understanding the Quality Data much more before you really apply a tool like ‘Design of Experiments’.
The Planning of various resources within the company can undergo a big change. A Machine shop today has lot of Queuing / Waiting problems on a daily basis. Using a SCADA or a Customized Planning solution, the Machine Planning alignment can be improved much more. The main issue in a Machine shop is not Planning alone. When something changes, how do you Re-plan is the issue. This can be addressed by an AI powered Software that keeps learning from its’ experiences and Planning the Machine loading in a Dynamic manner.
Ind 4.0 has many uses in SCM. Monitoring the performance of your Fleet of trucks, Converting your Traditional Kanban in to E-Kanban and many other opportunities are there.
We need a Breakthrough: I notice that many companies are still in the ‘Denial’ status. Companies need to have a longer period outlook and aim at improving before it is too late.
As part of my work, I meet some very senior Consultants across India. I was there at Delhi, NCR Region recently and was exchanging ideas with some very Senior People in the Industry. Each of these people would have touched about 50-75 Companies each. The status across India with reference to Efficiency / Systems is the same. Probably 5% of the Companies may be doing well to continuously improve. Rest are not in good shape. The companies can be classified in to three categories on the basis of their Intent to Improve:
01. Leading the charge: Companies that are aware of Improvement possibilities and those that are striving to improve continuously. This may be roughly 5% of the Indian Manufacturing Companies.
02. Aware but ‘No will’: Companies that are aware that they are not in good position with reference to efficiency and Systems. They have started feeling the heat due to the Low efficiency. The improvement started in a very slow manner. These Companies keep going forward and sometimes sliding back again. This category may be about 15-20% of the Companies that we see.
03. Blissfully unaware: Rest are blissfully unaware of the improvement that they can make. They keep thinking that nothing more is possible and they are doing just about everything. The Knowledge in the Company gets limited due to this attitude at the top. This consists of about 75% of the Companies in India.
The above numbers may not be accurate. But, I am sure they are in the region of being reasonably accurate.
Let us complete the last week’s article. We will have to cover Four more elements that I have identified last week.
04. Who is owning the Quality?
Current Condition: Most of the Companies still have the Quality function handling Quality Control job and struggling to make it to Quality Assurance.
In every company there would be areas that require immediate controls due to the problems that may be there and areas that are relatively stable and are ready for Quality Assurance approach. Both can co-exist. We only have to ensure that the QA works on Assurance all the time and if a Control approach is needed in some areas, that should be done by the Production team.
Every company undoubtedly have a strain on the Bottom line and they try to control the Costs. The Quality Function also would have its’ targets to cut the people. Most of the time the people who are there in the Function do only the Control function and there is no one to lead the Assurance function. The Quality Function in most of the Companies are structured to do the Assurance function. But, they keep doing only the ‘Control’ function and Other Functions like Production, Engineering, Materials etc are simply not participating in the Quality Function.
Lift the Game: The Companies have to ensure that the Quality is owned by all Functions. A Layered Audit approach has to be adapted. The Quality parameters have to be audited by the Engineers across Production / Quality / Engineering / Materials etc. The Layered audit has to be driven by the QA Function. Following the audit, continuous improvements have to be carried out in every area. This should become a way of life.
Each Function has to own the parameters that can be naturally taken care by them. Machine related parameters should be controlled by the Maintenance Function. The Audit also has to be done by people at ALL levels. Right from Plant Head, Functional Heads every Staff member has to be involved in the Audit.
I have seen that once everyone in the Manufacturing Plant starts participating in the Process audit, they start exuding a lot of Confidence. I have seen Engineers responding to Customer Audits in a confident manner. The Process genuinely improves. If those who are responsible for the Shop efficiency are not familiar with the Process on the shop, how can it Improve?
How to use the Ind 4.0 elements: Once the Quality Control Is being owned by everyone, the Quality Assurance can focus on the Assurance element. The Plant Team would be aware of and Confident of the Quality Process in the Plant.
In the area of Quality Control the Machines can be used more intelligently. Many Assembly lines that are being used by Indian Companies have capabilities that can be used to monitor Quality.
The Ind 4.0 elements can be used for Assurance function too. Eg. For No Fault Forward.
- Using Handhelds and making the Quality Data online as explained in the previous article.
- QA team should learn Big Data Analytics to make sense of the Data that would be generated once the Quality Data is made online.
- Using Analytics the Process has to be understood at a Micro Level.
- As we understand the Process at a Micro Level, we strive to control it at a Micro Level.
05. Response to Customer
Current Condition: Response to Customers is needed at least in two situations. When dealing with a New Product and when servicing him with existing Products.
In most of the Companies the New Product Development is not in a good shape. The Product does not get done in time and when the Product is ready the Quality may not suit the Customer. There would be a number of iterations in the Development and the Companies do not seem to improve on this in a systematic manner. Every company needs a good New Product Development System. Again probably only about 5-10% of the Companies may have this system.
While servicing the customer with the existing Products, Company has to deal with Quality Problems reported and the Customer Audit findings that they have to answer. On both these counts, the Companies have miles to go. The Customer Audits are still approached with a huge effort before the audit or total disregard.
Lift the Game: The Response to Customer can be improved in both these areas.
A New Product Development systemhas to be put in place with clear KPIs. The KPIs have to be reviewed in Design and Management Reviews. The Cross Functional Teamconcept has to be driven hard in this area in the Company. Without Cross Functional approach the Company cannot improve the New Product Development. The Employees involved have to be treated as a team and their skills have to be improved continuously. Basics like usage of Design Check Lists and Recording Learnings from Projects have to be implemented.
The Problem Solvinghas to be improved in the Company as discussed earlier. This can help the Company to improve the Quality Significantly.
How to use the Ind 4.0 elements: Usage of Additive Manufacturingfor Proto Development is something Companies are trying out with some good success.
Companies can create Libraries of their Product Development learnings and use Artificial Intelligence to learn from their experiences and improve their Future productswith their Learnings.
The Knowledge Bank from Problem solvingin a Company can also be input for the Design of the New Products.
Using E-Learning and VR for Trainingthe new Engineers that come in to the New Product Development System is something that is very much feasible for all companies. This can save a lot of time for Senior people who spend a good amount of their time training the New comers and guiding them. E-Learning can help you to save on the Senior People time which is a scarce resource.
06. Machine Condition
Current Condition: The Machine Maintenance was discussed in detail in one of my earlier articles. I do not intend to repeat it in this article. But, let us discuss a bit more about Machines with reference to the Quality of Process / Product.
The Machines used for Manufacturing do have big role in deciding the Quality of the Process and the Product. These Machines will have to be maintained with this fact as the background
The Preventive Maintenance in many companies today is not having much Direct link to the Quality of the Process / Product. This is worried about only by the Quality team or sometimes by the Production team. The Maintenance team is not really focusing on the Quality of the Product unless the Manufacturing is stopped due to bad quality. Improving the Machine condition to improve the Quality is not very widely practiced in Indian Manufacturing.
Lift the Game: The Process Capabilities have to be used to manage and Improve the Process. The Machine condition has to be directly linked to the Process Capability. Maintenance team should play an appropriate role in improving the Process Capability. Improving Process Capability may have elements other than Machine. Here, the discussion is limited only to the Machine.
The Traditional Plant Maintenance team has to participate in the ‘Layered Audit’. They will have Check lists that are centred around Machine condition and its’ linkage to Quality.
Many of the Indian Companies are going for Automated machines and Automated Plants. In such a situation the roles of the Maintenance Engineer ,Quality Engineer and Production Engineer gets clubbed in to one. The Engineer who is managing the Automated Plant needs to worry about all three elements.
How to use the Ind 4.0 elements: Today technology exists for collecting a lot of Data from the machine and Monitoring the performance of the Machine at a micro level.
If a Cutter on a Machine tool is becoming blunt, traditionally the Operator would change the Cutter only when it starts producing rejections OR he will change it when he produces a certain number of components that may work or may not work. Now, I have seen some companies put Vibration Sensors on the Tool holder and then measure the Vibration. When the Vibration increases, then they know the Cutter has to be changed. This helps in preventing Bad Quality.
Using similar technology, it is possible to make Digital Twins of every critical machine. This would help Prevent Bad Quality.
There are several more ways in which the Ind 4.0 elements can be used. Using Vision Camera Technology to prevent a wrong Operation by the Operator at the Assembly line.
07. Work Culture: Work Culture gets impacted by all the elements that have been discussed in this article.
Current Condition: Currently the Work Culture in the Shop floor needs a lot of improvement. It is characterised by the following:
- The Engineers hardly do any Engineering related work. All of them do Admin work in terms of chasing for Material from Stores/ Purchase or chasing for People from various agencies. They hardly have time to do any other improvement work.
- While the most Value Adding work is happening in the Shop floor, the focus of the whole company is not on the Shop floor. The Production Supervisors / Managers would be running around to catch the glimpse of the HR Manager for People related issues, Chase the Quality Head for Quality related issues, Chase the Materials head for material that has not come and so on.
Lift the Game: The whole company has to be reoriented to support the Shop floor. Production team has to use Andon signals to indicate the problem that is there on the shop floor and Senior Management should reorient the Respective team to come to shop floor and solve the Problem. The Production team should be engaged in doing Kaizens that will help in Better Quality and Quantity.
How to use the Ind 4.0 elements:
Handheld technology can be used to guide the Engineers in their work. The Routine should be driven by the App on the Handheld.
The Inefficiencies have to be monitored on line, analysed and Prevented. Again, in this case the Manufacturing Engineer should learn about Data Analytics.
Seize the moment: The Indian Manufacturing Companies are under pressure to improve their Top and Bottom Lines.
They need to seize the moment and Lift their game in preparation to the Ind 4.0. The ROI on investment in to Ind 4.0 can be improved if the returns from ‘Lifting the game’ are added to the kitty. For ‘Lifting the Game’ we don’t need much Technology. We need a lot of Will Power and some Vision.
Several Indian Companies are aspiring to use Industry 4.0 elements and they are trying to get the tag of ‘We too are implementing Industry 4.0’. But, as I was mentioning in the last few Articles, we are simply not ready. May be a small percentage of companies are truly there. But, most of the Companies are just not anywhere near to using Ind 4.0.
We have examined the Plant Maintenance area last week.
Let us look at Quality Assurance this time.
Indian Manufacturing Companies are supplying World over and we are generally capable of achieving any level of Quality if we put our efforts in to it. I know Companies that supply to the Best Companies in the World. Usually these MNCs take complex parts from India. As they find Indian Companies accommodating and willing to learn.
But, most of these MNCs also would have experienced that Indian Companies take quite a bit of time to ‘get in to the groove’ or ‘take off’ in supplies. Then, they also have a problem of giving ‘Good Quality consistently’. By the time the Customer heaves a sigh of relief that the Supplies have finally taken over, they will have a rude shock of getting a Batch of Parts that are totally off the Specs. They may notice something going wrong ‘terribly’. This usually shakes the confidence of the Customer.
I have seen that the Companies in India suffer, suffer the Customer and if the Relationship wades through all this and survives, the supplies may really settle down. But, a few hiccups here and there keep happening. The Customer would have accepted it and keep debiting huge costs to the Supplier.
Many Companies in India may find that the ‘Lucrative Business’ that they found in the Western world slowly starts losing money! Many companies would have slowly exited the Business. Very few would fight hard and improve themselves. The Companies that don’t learn, keep having the same experience being repeated with various Customers.
Now, many of these Companies are trying to join the Bandwagon of Ind 4.0. They can’t succeed unless they Re-engineer their processes totally.
Let us look at a few Micro areas within Quality Assurance. We will discuss the Current condition and how they can Lift their Game in preparation for using Ind 4.0 elements.
We will look at the following Micro areas in Quality Assurance:
o Quality Plan Adherence
o Quality Problem Solving
o Employee knowledge and Skills
o Who is owning the Quality?
o Response to Customer
o Machine Condition
o Work Culture
01. Quality Plan Adherence
Current Condition: I have seen that the Quality Plan Adherence in many companies is not in good shape. How much Percentage would you score if you check each line against the Quality Plan that YOU have worked out? My experience is that the adherence ranges from around 30% to 70% when checked actually on the ground.
Those of you who are not able to agree to this should actually go to the lines and check it. If you are really at 90-95%, then you are a minority in the Indian Manufacturing. Congratulations! Keep improving from there!
Why is the Adherence so low in many companies?
Some reasons that I observed are:
a) Does not recognise change: The Quality Plan would not have been updated for changes that are happening on the ground. Resultantly, it becomes a Dumb Document.
b) Impractical load of work: The Inspectors / Operators who are supposed to carry out the Quality checks are loaded very heavily with the work and I found in a few companies that if they have to do all the checks that are prescribed in the Quality Plan, they have to be available for at least 12 hours instead of the 8 hours for which they are available. No one cares about this. Operators simply can’t keep up with the work. They don’t check many of the Parameters. Everyone in the Company would know it and ignore it.
c) Simply ignored: There are many Quality Checks that can be done. But, they are simply ignored. If you ask the concerned employees, they would immediately start doing them.
Lift the Game: The Quality Plans have to be revamped. Recognise what is happening on the Ground. Work out a Layered approach for implementing the Quality Plan. Involve many more people in the implementation of the Quality Plan. Every one working in the Factory should participate in the Quality Plan implementation. Right from Factory Head to the Operator handling the Machine.
The Quality Plan implementation has to be audited by the Quality Team on a daily basis. Some companies have implemented this Layered audit approach in a very nice manner. The results are wonderful. When the Engineers involved control the process on a daily basis, their knowledge improves and they become very confident. I have seen that these Engineers are able to face up to Customers in a much better manner.
How to use Ind 4.0 : Now, we have a very well developed Hand Held Technology available. This along with the connectivity that we have makes it amenable to take the Quality Plan usage online. You can think of having a Mobile Software that will help you monitor the Quality parameters on line. You can trigger Quality check points to various people in the organization in the spirit of the Layered Audit that we spoke about earlier. The Quality Plan monitoring may interact with Bar code technology / Photographs / Video abilities in an intelligent manner to monitor the Process closely.
Once you go on line, you generate enormous amount of Quality data. This needs to be analysed by a full time Manufacturing Data Analytics team.
If you have standardized each workstation properly in the Process, then you can look at using Vision Technology to monitor the movements of the Operator and try to control the Quality at the root.
There are many things that can be done using Technology once you get your Basics in place.
02. Quality Problem Solving
Current Condition: The Quality of Problem Solving in Companies leaves much to be desired. The Problem is at various levels.
a) Not many people are involved in Problem Solving.
b) People involved do not have good Knowledge and Skills.
c) While Management wants Quality to improve, they do not invest in to improving these Skills.
Lift the Game: Formulate a Big group of Engineers in the Company who are ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’ of the Company. Invest in to Training them and developing the Group.
Create a War room and encourage the teams to meet every day for at least 45 minutes to actually solve the problems, for technical discussions etc.
Build a Good Problem Solving Methodology over a period with continuous improvements.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once you have the Problem Solving Methodology working well manually, you can automate it with a Mobile Based Software that will control the Problem Solving across the Organization.
You can use the Video technology to capture the Learning from each Problem that is solved and have a Knowledge Management System in the Company that can be used for Training as well as learning from Past mistakes. Coupled with Artificial intelligence and a good methodology of indexing the Solutions, you may be able to even input the learnings in to your Design process.
You can let your Design process continuously learn from the Problem Solving Process in the Company.
03. Employee Knowledge and Skills
Current Condition: The Companies that give importance to Knowledge and Skills are very few in Indian Manufacturing. Even those companies that are focused on Training are not having laser like focus on Skills with a relation to Results.
The Employees in all areas of the Company keep doing several important works like right from Design of Product to facing the Customer without proper Knowledge of the Products / Processes of the Company.
Indian Companies are still recruiting people without a measure of whether they are needed and why they are needed.
The link between the progress of an Employee in a Company and the Knowledge & Skills that they have is very blurred.
Lift the Game: Companies need to define the Functional and Leadership Skills that the employees need to have. I would recommend a Leadership Model be built for every company based on their own Business scenario and the Values that they want their Employees to espouse.
While the definition of what all is needed can be put in place, every company needs to prioritise the skills that they want to focus on for this year based on the Business priorities.
They need to Train the employees on a regular basis rather than some spurts of Training.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once the Skills are defined, Priorities are decided and Training has started, the Company can look at optimising on the Ind 4.0 elements.
The company can adapt a Blended Training approach where the Face to Face training on short modules is combined with Micro Learning modules using E-Learning.
The Company can get on to a Cloud based ‘LMS’ (Learning Management System) and use it to drive Learning across the organization.
Employees can be Certified for their learning, implementing Projects and getting results by an outside agency.
Using these elements the Company can bring Skills and Learning in to the centre of the way they do the Business.
With this focus, the Employees can certainly deliver more towards lifting the Top line and Bottom line.
We will examine a few more elements about ‘Lifting the Game in Quality Assurance’ in the article next week.
Have you started revamping your Quality System? Small changes won’t do! You need to rediscover yourself !!
Across the world, the Manufacturing Companies are leveraging Industry 4.0 to become more efficient and to deliver more to the Customers. Indian Manufacturing Companies have a long way to go. I heard a Multi-National Company say that they are in Industry 2.0 or 2.5 in India while their Global operations are going strongly towards Industry 4.0. This is the status of many Indian Manufacturing Companies.
To become receptive to Industry 4.0, Indian Manufacturing needs to lift their game in several areas. Majority of Indian Manufacturing seems to be stuck with traditional methods of working. Whether it is handling Quality or Maintenance or Industrial Engineering etc.
Some of the Companies are finding the need to change and adapting better methods. But, still majority of the Companies are still in a very ‘Lazy State’. It is not just about the Staff and their knowledge. It is about the perspective of the Management itself.
The Companies from Automotive Industry in India are in slightly better positioned as far as the Systems are concerned. But, even in this industry I observe that only about 25-30% of the Companies are having Good practices. 70% of Automotive and Auto Ancillary Companies are still working inefficiently.
In the next few Posts, I would like to discuss about a few areas in which the Indian Manufacturing Companies have to lift their game so that they can get ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution!!
Let us talk about Maintenance of Plant & Machineryin this Post.
For ease of discussion, we will address two types of Situations.
I. Where the Traditional Machinery forms majority of the Machines in a company: Most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have Traditional Machines with least amount of Automation.
The Maintenance that happens in many of the Companies is only ‘Breakdown Maintenance’. The whole Maintenance team would be attending to Breakdowns.
The Companies are dealing with:
- Multiple Breakdowns of the same machinery.
- Serious Production losses.
- Preventive Maintenance not happening regularly. (Production does not release the machines for PM!)
- Companies replacing the Machines in frustration and when pushed by the Customer!
- The Spares required are not stocked in many companies. In some companies you have Costly spares that are rusting. You never have something what you want.
Mindset of Maintenance Team in these companies: The Maintenance Team are busy chasing the Breakdowns. They are ready to burst if you just tap them on the shoulder!! They are frustrated with the Multiple Break downs. A good number of them are not ready to listen to any ‘Different approach’ as they are ‘suffering’. Their Bosses are ‘scared to touch’ them as the Basics may suffer!! The Bosses keep humoring the Maintenance team much less challenging them to get to new level!!
Lift the Game
I suggest following steps to lift the Game in Maintenance of the Traditional Plant & Machinery.
01. Strengthen the Maintenance team: If Breakdowns are too many and Maintenance team is under frustration, you can look at strengthening the Maintenance team by a) Training them b) Adding some Young Engineers to the team. Please do not fuss over this. You will more than recover your investment.
Differentiate: Even while having Break downs in a Factory, there will be at least 50% of your Machinery that is simply not having any Breaking down! These are ‘Zero Breakdown’ Machines. This may be due to your pattern of usage or may be these machines are built with generous Specs!! The Machines that have Zero Breakdowns have to be dealt differently. The approach has to be more Proactive to keep them as Zero Breakdown machines for a longer time.
If you don’t differentiate, you would be waiting for them to Break down and only then you will do something! Does not sound alright. Isn’t it?
02. Improving the machines: A proper Study of the Break down data for the last one year will help you understand why Breakdowns are happening and what you need to do to reduce them. The Corrective actions would involve things like a) Taking a few machines for major repairs b) Training users for handling the machines in a better manner c) Training the Maintenance team to reduce MTTR.
The approach here should be that of a Project approach. The Worst 10 machines should get out of the ‘Worst’ List in 4 months’ time! You need to rev up your Engine to get out of a big Pot hole that you got yourself in to!!
03. Lift the Perspective of your Team: You need to Train your Team and take them to companies where the Maintenance Practices are at the next level. This will help them to know about the next level of Maintenance Practices. Otherwise, they may not simply know the possibilities!!
04. Introduce Predictive Maintenance practices: Introduce Predictive Maintenance for machines that do not have Breakdowns. Many companies have belief that they should deal with the Break downs and then finally go on to the Better Maintenance Practices! It is not needed to wait! When you Train your team and take them to Bench Mark companies, the urge to get to the next level will start.
05. Have Targets for progress: Motivate the team and set targets for Reducing Breakdowns as well as expanding the Predictive Maintenance! Please ensure your team continuously visits companies that are doing better on Maintenance. Whether in India or outside!! Seeing is believing!!
II. Where you are dealing with Automated Factories: Many Indian Companies have introduced Automated Machines. Some Companies have set up Plants that are predominantly automated.
The Companies that have some Automated Machines or one/two Totally Automated Plants deal with issues like this:
- In many Cases, the Breakdowns are higher than the Manual machines!
- The Plant is not giving designed output. Sometimes the output is 60-70% of the Standard output!
- There are higher Quality Problems in these Automated machines.
- The Maintenance practices recommended by the Manufacturer of the Machine / Plant are not followed as they are ‘too costly’.
- The Maintenance team is not fully conversant with the Machine/Plant.
This status is not universal. There may be some Companies who are doing well in Automated Plants. But, a great majority of Indian Manufacturing is not in good shape.
Mindset of the Maintenance Team: The Maintenance team is still in awe of the Automated machine. They approach it in the traditional manner i.e Wait till it Breaks down and then attend to it. But, as this is an Automated machine with high output, the losses are higher! The Maintenance team finds out many short cuts with which they can manage the machine. Read it as ‘By passing most of the controls on the Automated machines’.
We keep approaching the Modern Machine with Traditional Mindset. The mis match can not give good result!
Lift the Game
01. Train the Team / Introduce young blood: You need to train your team immediately in Modern Maintenance practices. It would be very useful to introduce Fresh Engineers in to the System and give them bigger role in the Modern Maintenance. They don’t have ‘Experience’. So the acceptance is much easier.
02. Work on the System: In a highly Automated Environment the thin line between Maintenance Engineers and Production Engineers should be wiped out. Both skills are needed in the same Engineer. The Engineer should look at the machine as something that he has to maintain as per some Guidelines. Earlier he only had to ‘push’ the people in the less automated environment to get Production. Now, he has to deal with some disciplined way of maintaining the Machine. His attitude has to become more disciplined!
03. Use the Machine features: Most of the Automated Machines have a number of features that can be used to Maintain the machine. Collaborate with the Machine Manufacturer and use all these facilities.
There can be a number of outputs in the PLC that you can use for a Visual Management of the Machine.
The Predictive Maintenance can be introduced with a combination of Man and Machine.
04. Beats in the Shop: The Engineers should have a ‘Beat’ (Or Route) just like a Sales person in the field. During this ‘Beat’ the Engineer should check various features of the Automated Plant and ensure things are working as they should. The work of the Engineers should comprise of several ‘Beats’.
In a Traditional environment the work of the Engineer is predominantly dealing with the People.
05. Understand the Machine deeply: The Automation and the Automated Machine/Plant has to be understood deeply. How the machine works and what are the indications of the Machine asking for attention.
A Lot of Data has to be collected and the patterns have to be understood.
06. Digital Twins: When you understand your Machine / Plant, then you can take the help of the Industry 4.0 elements and take it to the next level of making a Digital Twin of the Machine. Then, you can predict failures and prevent them much more effectively.
The approaches can differ from company to company. But, some of the fundamentals will remain same for everyone.
We need to find a way to lift our game and graduate to Industry 4.0.
Will your Company rediscover itself during this Industrial Revolution OR are you going to miss it out totally?
There is a good buzz in the Indian Manufacturing Industry now about Digitalization and Industry 4.0. Every Managing Director would like to tell his/her colleagues at the Club about how they are implementing Digitalization in a big way and trying to implement Industry 4.0 and so on.
I hear many Functional Managers also trying their hand at collecting more data from machines. They are not very clear what exactly they want to do with that data. But, they have started a Project anyway.
This same companies are having modern Machine Tools that already collect a lot of data as a routine. Most of this data is not being used at all.
The other day I heard about a Machine Shop Manager who is collecting data about vibration on the tool holder on the Machine tool and trying to decide when to change the Tool. This is a smart local application. This Will definitely help the Manager to avoid Quality losses due to blunt tools running for more than their life.
But, these smart local applications are very few.
Irrespective of what they already have, Managers and Managing Directors across the Industry are in mad rush to get a tag of ‘We are implementing Industry 4.0’.
I see following problems in many of these companies rushing to ‘try Industry 4.0’.
01. Many Indian Manufacturing Companies have not yet implemented the Basic Lean Practices in their Shop floors.
02. The Pull principle is not being used. There are many companies that are still having Batch Production on their shop floor.
03. The Layouts are still archaic that necessitate unnecessary movement of material.
04. I have seen companies allowing excess Production as they do not want their workmen to be idle!!
05. There is no focus on the Skills of the Workmen. With the attrition problem on the Shop floor, this is a serious problem for the industry.
06. I know many companies that have not solved some perennial Supply issues and resultantly produce according to what material is available and not what Customer wants!
07. Wherever the Companies have installed Automated Machines and invested in to Technology, I have seen that the Company is having more problems with the Higher Technology machines. The Quality losses are higher in these machines, they breakdown more and over a period of time many of the wonderful features of these machines are by passed and it is used worse than its’ less Automated cousin that is co-existing.
This is not a complete list of problems. I am not saying there are no Companies that are not using Technology and Lean Principles. But, this is a very small percentage.
I see three issues from this situation:
a) Understanding Lean approach: Majority of Indian Companies have still not understood and leveraged the Lean Principles.
b) People element:We have not understood how to address the ‘People’ element when we bring in higher Technology. We need to help the person involved to ‘Work differently’.
c) Short term approach: We are still looking at this year results and many of us are worried about this Quarter performance and this Month’s performance. We continue to remain ‘Short Termish’!
While this is the status, there are some companies that are waking up as the Market Competition is increasing and they can’t simply tolerate the HUGE inefficiencies on the shop floor.
Every Company has to wake up!! If they are not woken up by the ‘Indian Competition’ then they will be woken up by the ‘International Competition’.
The Other Side
While this is the status of majority of the Companies trying to implement Industry 4.0, the Companies offering ‘Industry 4.0 solutions’ are also in the same Boat! While there are some International Companies like Siemens and a few of Local Companies that have understood how to use Industry 4.0 elements to take their clients to the next level, majority of the Companies offering the ‘Expert services of Industry 4.0’ do not know what they are talking about!
I have personal experience of talking to a few of these experts who have fancy websites calling out the World to implement Industry 4.0 with their help. Most of these Companies have not done anything in this area. Most of them do not know anything about Lean!
So, we have a very dangerous combination of Companies who are not ready for Industry 4.0 but want to implement it anyway! On the other side we have a big contingent of Companies who do not know anything about Manufacturing offering Industry 4.0 solutions. A lot of money is getting wasted around!!
How can we go forward?
It does not matter what the current status of the Manufacturing Company is, if they have understood the need to improve their efficiencies and the power of Lean then we can progress.
I would suggest that these companies take up a Re-Engineering of their Manufacturing that would involve the following:
- Put Three Year Targets like:
o Tripling People Productivity (Blue and White Collar Please)
o Cutting Quality Losses by 75%.
o Cutting Manufacturing Costs by 50%
o Solving 100% of Customer related problems permanently
You can formulate a few more Goals that are relevant to your company.
- Only a BIG target will wake up your Company and your team! You will achieve it!
- Formulate a Full Time Task force which can be filled with Young Engineers straight from College. Bring in technical experts as needed. But, having a positive mindset is more important than the Technology.
- There should be representation from every Function in this Task force.
- Educate their Employees on Lean Principles starting with the Top.
- Recast their Value Stream Map on the basis of Lean principles.
- Resolve the perennial problems like Material Shortages, Bad Sub-Contractors who do not deliver on time and so on, Perennial Quality Problems that have become as permanent in the company as the owner himself/herself!
- Formulate several Projects that should be championed by the Task force with help from the regular Teams.
- On the way at the right time, we should start educating the employees on Industry 4.0 and the Technology that is available.
- Visiting International companies to understand the Lean principles in action or Industry 4.0 in action is a very good idea.
- Implement Industry 4.0 elements as needed to achieve the Three year Goals. Finance Head should ensure that there is no Project that is being done just for the fancy of it. Every Project should pay back handsomely.
When you are achieving some BIG targets in 3 years, that will allow you to spend a good amount of money to achieve it. The problem of how to finance the Industry 4.0 Projects will be addressed.
So, you can turn your weakness of ‘Low Efficiency’ and ‘Not having implemented Lean’ in to something more positive as it would help you to spend good amount of money as you will get the payback relatively easier.
So, when will you start off?
Improve your Profits significantly and become a genuine implementer of Lean and Industry 4.0!!
John reached the office at 8 am itself. John is the ‘Manager – Marketing’ in the Automotive ancillary company. Normally he comes to office at 8.45 am as the office time is 9 am. But, he is very enthu about coming to office on every Monday as he has his Learning hour today. He can access the Learning programs from his home. But, he loves to sit at his desk and complete the Learning for the week undisturbed. His son has grown up. But, still there is some time to go to School. While at home, John loves to play with his son. He was worried his son will disturb him at his ‘most favorite work’.
John logged on to the ‘Learning Management System’ of the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ (whom the company of John appointed a few months back to manage all the learning of the employees). There were Two Micro Learning modules waiting for John. John also took out the Work book that reached him the Friday evening. The ‘Work book’ helps him to write down a few learnings and also do a few exercises.
John started going thru the E-Learning video about ‘Dos and Don’ts while designing the Social media promotion’. These are John’s company’s own Check list of what can be done and what cannot be done while designing the Social media campaigns. This week John has meeting with his vendor for Social media campaign. John is working out the agenda with them so that the Vendor company can go on for the Quarter.
John also has another Learning module about ‘Preparing Marketing Plan using 7Ps of Marketing’. This is slightly longer module. It goes on for 20 minutes. John has to initiate his team to prepare the Marketing plan for the next year. This is a refresher course for John. This module teaches John about ‘Their company’s way of preparing Market plan’. John goes thru this module every year before he starts the Market plan work. It helps him to refresh his knowledge about Market plan preparation. It helps him to guide his team very well.
John could see on his home screen of LMS that he has a few more modules coming up for the next week and the week after. Each week he has to spend about an hour on learning. This practice has started in his company three months back. The E-Learning videos given by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ are quite interesting to go thru. They always build a situation around the learning and render the learning thru an animated video. It is quite fun to go thru the video and learn the concept.
At the same time, the Production Manager of the Company, Vijay was passing through Marketing department. He saw John and stopped for a chat. ‘Hey John I see that you are starting the week with your Learning agenda for the week. Great way to start the week’. John agreed with him ‘Yes Vijay this is my most favorite part of the week’. This month I am expecting to complete my Learning agenda for the Quarter and I will get a Certificate from our ‘Training and Certification Partner’’.
Vijay was happy to hear that ‘Yes John, that is great. I have completed two Micro Modules at home yesterday Sunday. It took me an hour to complete both of them and take the test too. Now I can peacefully attend to the Customer visit today’.
Vijay also has a Weekly learning agenda for himself. He can remember how they had some problem in getting used to this ‘Weekly Learning Agenda’ introduced by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ along with the HR & Operations Head. But, those initial troubles settled down in the first month itself. The Learning was made fun and everyone waited to go thru the Learning modules.
Learning @ the Speed of Business
Exwhyzed Limited, the company of John and Vijay adapted modern learning methods using technology 3 months back. They outsourced the whole Learning agenda in the Company to an outside Partner who are experts in Manufacturing and Learning Methods. This company consists of Manufacturing Professionals who are good at Learning methods. They understand all Business aspects unlike many IT companies who are only ‘techies’.
The new way of learning meant the following to the Company:
- The Training and Certification Company identified the Skills that are needed for every employee. This constituted Functional and Behavioral skills.
- On the basis of the Business agenda for the Year / Quarter / Month, they identified the Learning priorities of the Company’s employees in different functions for the year.
- These Learning Priorities were something that would help employees immediately in handling their Business agenda. They learn and they use the skills immediately.
- The Partner company developed Interesting E-Learning Videos on the specific topics.
- Wherever some very BIG topics are there like Lean Manufacturing, there was some face to face training was there too at the beginning of the year.
- The Partner company set up a ‘Learning Centre’ for the company that had physical facilities for training as well as a few Work stations for company’s employees to take E-Learning Lessons. Whoever wanted to use this facility could come to the Learning Centre. It is like ‘Library’ in the Company. Silent and inviting.
- The Partner company interacts with the HODs and HR every month to understand the Learning agenda for each employee in the Company. Then they populate those Videos in the Learning Management System. They give access to the employees as needed.
- The Partner company’s employees follow up with employees who are lagging on completing the Learning modules and motivate them to complete the courses. There are hardly any laggards as the Learning has become priority for everyone.
- HR has already announced that ‘Skills Certification’ will be mandatory from the next Quarter for every employee.
- The employees can access the Learning modules from their Smart phones too. This made it convenient for the employees to complete their weekly learning agenda. Usually the Weekly Learning agenda does not cross about an Hour.
- The Partner company along with Operations Head monitor the Target achievement of the employees on a monthly basis. The Learning agenda of employees is Fine-tuned on the basis of their performance.
This methodology started working very well in the last three months. This way each employee would Learn for 6-8 days in every year. This is quite healthy to start with. The best thing is, this learning is directly linked to the Results that the employees are producing.
Revolution in the Learning methods
The above scenario may very well exist in many Companies World Wide in next few years.
Today the technology that is available to all of us enables us to do this. The Learning has to become ‘Contextual’ and it has to be given at the ‘Point of need’. This would make the Learning very effective.
The Learning Modules that the company develops would be a one time investment. But, they would be available to the company forever. I suggest an external Partner as this would be a very big change that a company would be implementing, and a Partner initially can help in a big way.
Even today, when an employee is forced to learn about something because he does not know that topic, he takes to ‘Google’. He will try to learn that topic by hook or crook. So, the willingness to learn is there.
Unfortunately, there are somethings that he can not learn from Google. These are typically Company specific Product knowledge, Process knowledge etc.
We only have to create our own resource bank for the employee. Employees are willing to learn on the go using their smart phones or tablets and so on.
This is a very important aspect of Digitalization that a company has to go thru. If you are able to activate your employees and make them more effective at work, the results can surprise you!!
When are you starting off?
In many companies, the cost of White-Collar Staff is very significant. By international standards, the number of staff that Indian Companies hire is significantly high. The Productivity of the Staff in a company seems to be very low. We seem to be throwing ‘Warm Bodies’ at work and problems! More Problems, more ‘Warm Bodies’..
The Indian Companies have been waking up to the higher costs of employees in the past Decade or so. The profits are under pressure. Top line is not growing as aggressively as one may want.
In this situation too, many companies have been addressing the Blue-Collar cost. Companies have been trying to hire cheaper and cheaper labor. I know many companies who try to run the whole Manufacturing Plant with temporary and low-cost labor. Genuine attempts to improve Productivity have not been many. Indian Companies have a long way to go in improving the Blue Collar Productivity.
By Comparison, the White Collar Productivity had been an unexplored area for most of the Companies.
No Standards for work!!
Most of the Companies do not have a Standard for the work of the White Collar Employees. What is the work each Position should be doing and what is the Standard time and effort that each of the work is supposed to take?
Resultantly there is no measure for the work of the White-Collar Employees. When something is not getting done, more employees are recruited. Sometimes having more people will result in more confusion and more inefficiency.
The other side of this continuum is that some companies simply refuse to recruit White Collar Employees or fire who is there. Even this act will not have any rationale. Usually it is the ‘feel’ of the Boss who may just ‘feel’ there are too many people and they are ‘wasting’ their time!
Direct and Indirect Cost of White-Collar Employees and their work
The White-Collar employees are tasked in every company with very important tasks. They decide what Raw Materials have to be purchased, at what cost, how much inventory to keep, what price to sell a product, how to market the products and many other crucial decisions.
So, the money that the Companies spend on the Salaries of the White-Collar employees is only a small proportion of the Total cost. The Cost that this group of Employees can inflict on a Company is huge. They and the work that they do can either make or break the Profits of a Company.
Hence, this category of employees deserve a much higher Quality attention! It is not enough to just focus on Blue collar and drive their productivity !
What needs to be addressed?
Companies need to consider addressing two elements of this category of employees.
01. The numbers in this category. How many people you have and how you can optimize this number? This ensures you spend as little as possible on this category of costly employees. This addresses the Direct cost of White-collar employees.
02. The Quality of the work and decisions of this category of employees. Companies need to pay attention to this as they can inflict a very high cost on the company due to the quality of the decisions that they may take.
Let us address these issues in two or three articles.
Addressing the Direct Cost of the White-Collar Employees
This again can be addressed at two levels. You can improve the Productivity of White-collar Employees in two phases.
a) Multiply the Productivity by applying the Lean Principles.
b) Go to a new level of Productivity and way of working by adapting Technology tools that are available today.
Multiply the Productivity using Lean Principles
I would suggest a methodology to address this area.
While many companies may have KPIs for their Employees and may be some of them are using them well, the Productivity at Task level may still be suffering.
Have a Target: When you start improving the White-Collar Productivity, it is important to have a CLEAR target. I would suggest the target as ‘Avoid recruitment for next one/two years’. Do not start with a target of ‘Cutting 25% of Staff’. This would be like cutting the foot to fit the shoe. While this is so basic and everyone should be knowing, I see many companies just firing Staff to reduce costs!! A Good team is what the Management should be looking to build. They would reduce costs and improve profits!
Log your time: Encourage the employees to log their time and find out what are they actually spending their time on. You can give them Log sheets and ask them to capture what they are doing and to what KPI is it really related to. This effort may give you a long list of activities. Pick the Pareto items for improvement. You need to do this for each Position in the company.
Time Study: Study the specific Tasks on which you are spending significant part of your time. By capturing the micro details of the Task, you can examine the various losses that you have in doing that particular task. Usually you would have very BIG losses.
Identify Kaizens: Identify the improvements that you can do to reduce the time that the task takes. The improvements may involve changing the Work flows, changing the authorizations, improving the ERP features and many other activities.
Carry out the Kaizens: Here, the company has to move with some great purpose. One should not be stuck with some Kaizens that are difficult to implement. It may involve modifying your ERP and modifying your methods. Good amount of ‘Change Management’ is needed here.
Multiply the Productivity
One should aim at improving Productivity by 2-3 times with this methodology. A lesser target will not justify the effort and possibilities that are there in every organization.
Wherever IMA handled this type of Project, the improvement in Productivity was at least twice.
What is critical: Try out in one model area. Take the help of outsiders in this project. An outsider can bring a fresh perspective for this work. But, you should develop an internal team that would focus on Productivity of People forever.
Next Article: We will examine how an Organization can transit in to a New Way of working at the next level of improvement.
In my interactions with about 100+ Companies as part of my Consultancy and Job experience, I have seen many problems related to Lack of Knowledge on the part of Employees in companies. Every company struggles with this problem. Some have identified that this is the problem. Some struggle the consequences without understanding the Root cause. Let us examine a few of them.
Customer facing teams not having the knowledge of Product and Company: Today, we are all losing the people in Sales, Service and Marketing teams quite often. New people keep coming in almost every month! But, my observation is that Companies do not have any tool for teaching these new people or some companies have very ineffective tools. Very few companies (may be 2%) have good systems for teaching them in a systematic manner. Result is that we have loose Cannons going to Customers and promising the sky, moon and the Galaxy whereas the company is here on earth! This is perhaps the most dangerous of all the problems related to knowledge.
R&D Teams working with low / no knowledge of product: The R&D teams also are losing many people every month in most of the companies. Again when the new people come, companies do not teach them about their product or they say they don’t have time to teach them !! Result is that the R&D Engineers are designing the products / parts without understanding the Big picture. This creates more iterations at the best and companies lose big opportunities for optimization of their new products at the worst.
Operators on the Shop floor manufacturing the product without knowing the process: I am sure all of you are suffering with the problem of losing Operators on the Shop floor every month in a big number. Still, very few companies have good teaching methods for the new operators. Some companies have Training schools. But, use very ineffective processes to teach them about the Manufacturing Processes. Result is that the Company loses a lot of People Productivity as new people do not produce at standard rate for quite some time. The Company also loses in a big way in Quality. I have seen many companies who are living with this problem for years without addressing it !! They not only lose money, they lose customer confidence and they lose Top Line !
Manufacturing Team not exposed to Lean: Most of the Indian Companies have Manufacturing Teams who are not conversant with Lean Principles. This problem is there at senior levels as well as junior levels. This results in companies working in a very inefficient way. They use resources at least 2X than what is required. Many companies feel very happy if they can meet 100% of the Customer Schedule. They are not focusing on working efficiently and saving some big money.
The same type of problems are there in Procurement where the teams do not have knowledge of Best Procurement practices, Engineering teams not conversant with Value Engineering principles, HR Teams not knowing about better Training practices, Stores teams not having knowledge of Kanban, Inventory Management.. the list can be long.
Indian Companies are working with lot of inefficiency! We can improve our Bottom line and Top line in a big way if only we can address this problem of Employee Knowledge in respective areas.
Today we have Technology Solutions
Today there is enough technology available for companies to leverage and develop Learning Solutions for the employees.
E-Learning: Using E-Learning, the Knowledge required can be taught to the employees in a systematic and uniform manner. The advantages of this technology are as follows:
a) Make the learning interesting.
b) Make it uniform for all employees.
c) Test the knowledge and certify the employees.
d) Repeat all this at no extra cost throughout the year and beyond.
Virtual Reality: Using 3D and VR, one can teach about Product and Technology. The 3D Videos can help you to give a unique experience to the employees to look at the Products In a Virtual manner, look at them from all angles and understand the small details very well. This technology can be applied using the VR Goggles. This technology can be used in Product technology and it can also be used to convey an Induction program that will take a remote employee right in to the Factory using 360 Degree Video. There can be many more applications to this technology. Augmented Reality is another related technology that is available in this area.
Gaming:Gaming has multiple approaches in Companies. Especially in Manufacturing. Using this, the knowledge can be conveyed in an innovative manner. Gaming can also be used to expose the Employees to different Business Problems in a fun or serious manner. Serious Gaming can be quite useful to companies to enhance Learning.
How can you apply these Technologies?
Develop Solutions: A Company needs to get the Learning Solutions developed as a one-time affair. This is going to take some time for companies to do it. All the Knowledge that is needed for a company may not be available in a documented manner. The Knowledge has to be documented and it has to be used along with the Technology to develop innovative solutions.
Proficiency Levels: The Proficiency levels have to be defined in a Company for Employees at various levels in each type of Knowledge. Product knowledge is needed for an R&D Engineer at the highest level. But, for a HR Executive this may be required at a much lower level.
Learning Management: The Courses to convey the knowledge have to be made available to the employees for learning and certification. This data base has to be maintained using a Learning Management System.
Learning Centers: Learning Centers can be developed with a combination of Physical work benches and E-Learning Videos that help the employees to learn the process theoretically and then apply it on the work bench. One can aim at bringing the new employees to the required Productivity and Quality in the Learning Centers before allowing them to the Shop floors.
Organizational push: While all this can be done, the Employees also have to take responsibility to learn. To ensure this, the Companies can think of making Learning and Certification of employees a mandatory affair. Unless the Employees are Certified, they may not be eligible for participating in the Annual Performance evaluation. This will ensure there is a Pull from Employees for the Learning and Certification.
A Company can revolutionize learning and get tangible results with this approach. I believe Companies should take help from outside to do this. I personally would prefer People with good application knowledge than those who are expert IT People. In this area what is required is the innovative application ability.
Are you ready to take your Learning to a new level ?
What is Critical: To understand the Technology and applying it in a Model area is important to realize the power of this approach.