It’s a numbers game, but you ought to play to win

We’ve been awfully nosy the last few months. We’ve been poking and prodding you for a lot of information. We’ve asked about how you do your job, how you do it well, what you earn and what you think about the state of manufacturing. We’re different from most of the pundits who comment on manufacturing in that we actually talked to plant floor managers before we offered ou...
By Bob Vavra, Editor January 15, 2008

We’ve been awfully nosy the last few months. We’ve been poking and prodding you for a lot of information. We’ve asked about how you do your job, how you do it well, what you earn and what you think about the state of manufacturing. We’re different from most of the pundits who comment on manufacturing in that we actually talked to plant floor managers before we offered our opinion.

The data we’ve collected has been reported in our Changing Role of the Plant Engineer study in the November issue, and again this month with the 2007 Salary Survey . Put these two studies together and you have one of two things:

1. A fundamental understanding of today’s manufacturing floor, with identifiable trends and benchmarks that any manufacturer can use to assess and improve his operation.

2. Another place to collect dust on your bookshelf.

By nature, we like to keep score in America. We are statistically-obsessed. We poll people on a continuing basis to get their views and breathlessly report our findings with the same level of enthusiasm we give to the football scores. We compare the data to past studies and discuss trends. After you study all the data, in fact, the biggest challenge is to use it in some meaningful way.

For me, the 2007 Salary Survey delivers two major trends: Pay-for-performance in manufacturing is a trend that is here to stay, and plant floor leaders worry that their ability to meet performance goals will be hampered by a lack of skilled workers in the coming years.

We’ve already discussed how we plan to address these trends. The bigger question is, what are YOU going to do with all this information that your peers have provided?

Our role in this is pretty clear. You’ll read more about those topics in our 2008 print issues, online at PlantEngineering.com , and you can hear about them in person at our Manufacturing Summit on March 31 and April 1 in Chicago. Your role is to figure out how these trends and all of this data matters to you as a manufacturing leader.

In short, what’s next?

I think one of the reasons America likes data so much is that by nature, we’re a competitive nation. We’ve elevated sports as a major part of our culture. We like to keep score, and we like to win.

It may not be a game, but manufacturing is a global competition. You need a plan, you need to know what your fellow competitors are doing and you need to be able to assess your progress, constantly. There are plenty of tools out there in the market that help you measure your plant performance on a continuous basis. The knowledge you need to win is at hand.

The competition has begun. Are you ready to play to win?