Turck: Better measurement helps clarify operational goals
A clearer focus thanks to KPI has allowed Turck to focus their efforts on ways to improve the company
After 27 years in manufacturing, Chris Kafer has seen a great deal of change. As Turck Inc.’s director of operations, Kafer now must help move the company’s processes forward. He spoke of those challenges with Plant Engineering.
Plant Engineering: Now that the recession is behind us, what are the lessons you learned about your operations, your workers, and manufacturing?
Chris Kafer: The recession displayed for us the need to better understand our operations—better in terms of our costs, capabilities, and resources. We quickly learned better measurements of our performance through Key Performance Indicators enabled us to use that information to focus our efforts on what really made a difference.
We learned our organization is very resilient. Great ideas came from all parts of our team. Everyone was willing to try new things and be creative. This proved to be a huge advantage when our business turned up almost as fast as it had turned down.
PE: Why are you optimistic about your own manufacturing operation?
Kafer: We understand our operations so much better today. We have learned how to concentrate our energies on the areas of greatest potential. We have a much clearer focus on the direction we are going and what we are trying to achieve. There is a confidence in the group that whatever the challenge, we can meet it.
PE: Are you as optimistic about American manufacturing as a whole? Why or why not?
Kafer: I am optimistic about American manufacturing for much of the same reasons. The recession has forced everyone to take a long look at what they are trying to accomplish. This has led to a better understanding of what they are doing, how they are getting it done, and most importantly, why they are doing it. A lot of wasted effort and energy has been refocused in a positive way.
PE: What is the best thing you do in your plant today?
Kafer: The ability to co-mingle standard products with pure custom products. We have found effective ways of building complete custom products in the same facility, with many of the same resources as we use to build our standard products.
PE: What area of your operation are you most proud of?
Kafer: Our people. Our team members bring with them many different stories. They bring an amazing collection of different work experiences, educations, languages, and cultures. Through the desire to do better, support their co-workers, and enjoy what they do, they have found ways to merge all of it into what has developed into an overarching Turck culture.
PE: On the other hand, where do you have the most room for improvement?
Kafer: I believe the area we have the most room for improvement is still the area we have already improved the most: Understanding our operations. With better KPIs and a better understanding of our processes, we are able to make more effective, more targeted improvements. What’s the plan for improvement? We are focusing our Continuous Improvement program on the education of our team members about Lean practices, how to understand KPIs and specifically how they can be applied to our processes. Our people are our greatest advantage and the more insight they have about our processes through good KPIs, communication, and education, the better our collective solutions are to the challenges we face.
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Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.