Building on manufacturing’s progress

Manufacturing is focused on continuous improvement. That quest to do a little better every day is the reason manufacturing didn’t stop at the assembly line.
By Bob Vavra, CFE Media December 14, 2016

Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering. Courtesy: CFE MediaIn publishing, the last really great idea was moveable type. Today, almost 700 years later, print communications really is not much more just people taking that basic idea and refining it and adapting it to changes in customer needs and technology.

Even in the midst of what some call the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" there is very little truly revolutionary in manufacturing. Manufacturing’s last really revolutionary idea was the assembly line. Today, you are as likely to find a robot on that line as you are a human, but the materials still move along, are reformed and combined, and a finished product emerges at the end.

We do a better job today of measuring and managing all aspects of that line, and of its component parts. We know when a line may fail from the data we collect or from a sensor we’ve installed. We can maintain and optimize those machines by acting on the data we collect. The process, however, remains largely the same.

So how do we improve? Not by leaps and bounds, but in small ways. Incremental improvement is like watching an iceberg melt (an apt analogy these days). We cannot see the difference in minutes or days, but observed over a period of time, it is a powerful change that can occur. We have to be patient to see change.

The best practices we offer this year, and the many more great best practices you can find on any topic at plantengineering.com will not transform your plant tomorrow. They will provide fresh ideas to improve aspects of your plant’s operation. Measured another way, what would 2% improvement mean to your company and to your personnel?

Manufacturing is focused on continuous improvement. That quest to do a little better every day is the reason manufacturing didn’t stop at the assembly line. The process of improving manufacturing every day continues in large plants and small. While we may not be able to see what that improvement might look like in five years, we can look back at where we began and where we are to see that progress is being made every day. This year’s collection of best practices builds on that progress.

-Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media.