Grasp control, and find the power to change

Every manufacturer has the same goal of creating a productive plant – and each faces the same hurdles to achieve it.

12/16/2011


Bob Vavra, Content Manager, Plant EngineeringIf it’s true that you can only manage what you can measure, it must also be true that you can only change what you can control. Measurement is finite; it is length and width, time and distance, heat and speed. Control is a much more abstract concept. Change is more difficult because control is more elusive. Yet the ability to grasp full control of your operation gives you the power to change.

So much of what happens in a modern manufacturing plant is absolutely controllable. Yet so much of the time spent discussing the various issues facing American manufacturing are based on things we just cannot control on a daily basis. Trade laws, energy prices, and Mother Nature are outside of your control. You cannot affect political discourse, global monetary policy, or whether your top supplier has had a disruption in service because of any of the above issues.

If you cannot control any of this, the good news is that they are also outside the control of your competitors.

So what’s left? Everything within the four walls of your plant. Everything that happens there, from energy consumption to maintenance strategy, from worker morale to worker safety, is all your responsibility, and it can all be changed. If you have control, congratulations–I’ll welcome your Top Plant nomination next year. And if there are still elusive areas where control has slipped away, this is a good time to get a firmer grasp on the rudder.

Gaining control is not a singular effort by a single plant manager, however. You have to gain the support of your staff and your top management. It’s nearly impossible to improve maintenance, for example, without the commitment of the line workers and the understanding of the front office about how such an effort will save money and improve productivity. The same equations of measurement and management and control and change apply in every department of your organization. The metrics may be different, but everyone is bound by the same basic laws.

And your competitors, whether in Boston, Berlin, Bangalore, or Bahrain, all face the same struggles. Their national rules on safety are different. Their tax structures may be more or less favorable. Their logistics, supply chains, and energy systems are all affected by terrain, transportation sophistication, and capital investment. Inside the four walls of these plants, however, it’s a very similar world. Every manufacturer has the same goal of creating a productive plant–and each faces the same hurdles to achieve it.

You, of course, have a slight edge in achieving these goals. You’re holding it.

This month we shared how one manufacturer grasped control of the manufacturing operation and grew it in the middle of a historic recession. Perhaps the most important part of NACCO Materials Handling Group’s recognition as the 2011 Top Plant recipient is that they seized control of their operation and changed it to meet the needs of their internal and external customers.

NACCO, a manufacturer of lift trucks, increased staff by 40% to fill needs in their growing business, and at the same time increased training for employees. New employees now receive 80 hours of training before being put into production. If you multiply that training by more than 200 new employees, you can see the commitment to training, and to people.

In your efforts to identify areas that need improvement, perhaps the most important point to be made is about people. People should not be controlled; they should be managed. Operational control is about making sure the parameters of your plant are understood. Management is about empowering the people to work effectively within those parameters. That includes, as NACCO showed us this month, giving them the training needed to get individually better at their jobs. This contributes to the entire operation getting better.

Improvement is change. Bettering your manufacturing plant each day, week, and month points you on the path to greater productivity, and greater operational excellence.

I believe it creates one greater benefit as well. When you control what happens inside the four walls of your operation by managing your processes and people effectively, you make all of those issues outside of your four walls irrelevant. That kind of control leads not just to change, but to success.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.