Empowered workers deliver value
Productivity is not an event; it is a process. Finding better ways to operate your plant is a constant search for the small nuggets of opportunity to improve. Big areas for improvement, like energy management or maintenance strategy, should be fairly obvious. They also tend to be those things which your management team should be leading.
The smaller productivity improvements are things that are often self-evident to your line workers, your union leaders and maybe even your temporary workers. How are you engaging these workers to help you become more productive?
In all of the best practices discussed throughout 2011, it is the practice of investigation and discovery that is at the core of all of them. That can be a singular process that will produce singular results, but those organizations that succeed at it make it a group effort that yields many times more results.
At this stage of manufacturing’s continuing evolution in America, the idea of engaging your workforce should be fully engrained. Yet we hear all the time of manufacturers who have just now discovered the power of unleashing their workforce to drive continuing improvement within their operations.
The idea of continuous improvement has three legs to it. One is equipment. Putting the right tools in the hands of skilled workers will produce excellent results. Putting good tools in their hands will produce good results. It is measuring the gap between what a good tool can earn and what the right tool can earn can be significant.
Another leg is process. A well-designed, well-conceived system, whether it is discrete or process manufacturing, frees workers to use their skills and knowledge to achieve better finished goods. The emphasis is on the end produce because the system is sound and effective.
The third, of course, is people. Where machines operate and processes are executed on, people are variables. They think and see and react and know. It is that knowing that we can tap into better. It is their innate ability to analyze and imagine that is the most powerful tool on the plant floor – and often the least utilized.
Of all best practices in manufacturing, the one we see most often leading to success – defined both in productivity and profitability – is a practice where people are empowered to improve the manufacturing operation. You’re already paying for their presence, and their knowledge really costs nothing more. You’ve changed nothing but the impression that your workers are your most valuable resource.
That one best practice makes all of the other best practices even more valuable.
- Motor circuit analysis, by Tim Griesmer, Allied Reliability
- New enerfy efficiency rules, by Bob Vavra, Plant Engineering
- Designing new SCADA systems, by Fabio Terezinho, InduSoft Inc.
- Delivering warehouse productivity, by Simon Walker, Raymond Handling Solutions
- Palletizing options, by Martin Clark, Intelligrated