Are Your Metrics Causing You to Lose Money?

Manuficient - Metrics

As Peter Drucker, one of the founders of the study of modern management, once said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Rather you agree with this statement or not, the practice of measurement, or expressing things, events, and ideas numerically, is only increasing in the way we run our businesses. Metrics are critical to Continuous Performance Improvement since they provide the frame of what exactly we’re working to improve. They also provide us a perspective on things that can be imperceivable through everyday experiences. Lets look at professional basketball for example. Witnessing every game in an NBA season is not only impractical, it’s not even possible for most of the people on earth. However, with a few good metrics, you can get a quick snapshot of an entire season in just a few minutes. This is no different if you’re an executive or manager of a manufacturing company with several areas of responsibility. Without good metrics, your ability to effectively prioritize and allocate resources is severely diminished, if not completely lost. In other words, metrics can tremendously improve management effectiveness.

With that said, metrics can also completely ruin your life if ineffectively applied. As technology continues to make it easier to capture data, more and more metrics appear. But all metrics are not created equal. It takes some skills to design metrics that actually drive performance and provide you with mission-critical information in a timely manner. In the realm of Continuous Improvement, metrics should serve one primary function: provide the timely process feedback needed to drive performance improvement. I often see companies heavily invested in metrics that don’t even come close to doing this. Consequently, these metrics quickly reach a point of diminishing returns and long outlive their usefulness; resulting in dysfunctional organizational behaviors.

The following are a few traits of dysfunctional metrics:

  1. Metrics that systematically exclude improvement opportunities – The way you measure productivity is crucial to how productive you will likely become. I’ve seen cases where efficiencies over 100% were being reported on a daily basis; yet operating costs and lead times were increasing for no good reason. This is a sign that key areas for improvement opportunity are being ignored by the efficiency metric. For example, many companies measure adherence to schedule to gauge their efficiency, which is usually based on the average historical production rates. This metric inherently drives a mentality of “let’s just try not to get worse.” This measure of efficiency fails to reveal opportunities to reduce process waste that could be resulting from planned and unplanned downtime, rate loss, yield losses or others. The gold standard for measuring manufacturing productivity is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). World class execution is considered 85%, which very few factories on earth have been able to achieve. Your metrics should show you how much better you could be and give you some insight into what to do to get better. If a factory is not using OEE, there’s a good chance they could make dramatic reductions in their operating costs and lead times. The best way to implement OEE is to use the Impruver.com. It does a great job of creating shop floor enthusiasm and excitement around your lean implementation and a culture of getting better every day.
  2. Vanity Metrics – These metrics only highlight how well the organization (or the reporting manager) is performing. They are very common and even seductive but have no place in a continuous improvement culture. Their whole purpose is to make people feel good but do not drive any real action or desire to make things better. One example of a vanity metric that I see everywhere is “Days Since a Recordable Incident”. While it’s vitally important to maintain a safe working environment, reporting this metric provides no insight to what specific opportunities exist to make the workplace more safe. As long as the number is “high enough”, everyone gets a pat on the back for not killing themselves today and go on without addressing any of the behaviors or conditions that will inevitably result in someone getting hurt. It also contributes to a culture of hiding injuries to protect the metric. A better metric would measure safe behaviors and conditions against perfection. For example, I’ve used safety audits that evaluate behaviors and working environments for any potential risk, then scores the results against well-defined criteria for a safe workplace. If someone does get hurt, the auditing criteria is modified to safeguard against the conditions that led up to the injury. This is an example of how metrics can incorporate organizational learning. Impruver has artificial intelligence that learns from you as you go. Standard run rates are updated automatically when you exceed the previously established rate for a product on a line. This continuously raises the bar and makes opportunities for improvement more easily identified.
  3. Long Reporting Intervals – Metrics designed for management should help you get better. If you are receiving a report weeks or even months apart, then you may go months before you even realize there’s a serious problem. Sure you can rely on people to be communicative and escalate issues informally, but we all know that this isn’t a reliable way to run a business. As a leader, ask yourself how long is too long before you are alerted of an issue. That should give you some insight to how frequently performance should be reported. The best systems are real-time with alerts for min-max performance thresholds. Other good systems report hour-to-hour at the line level, and day-to-day at the factory level. This allows for quick and resolute action on performance issues as they arise. Impruver automates these processes to ensure that you are the first to know when performance reaches unsatisfactory levels.
  4. Burden of Metrics – High-burden metrics create stress for the entire organization. Burden is considered the amount of time and effort required to acquire data, complete calculations, and report performance. Burden is suffered by the Line Operator who is incurring significant downtime to collect data, the Supervisor who has to constantly double-check and provide feedback to the Operator, and the Plant Manager who is constantly questioning the integrity of the metrics and requiring revisions / explanations. I’ve worked with factories that had Industrial Engineers spending over 20 hours per week collecting data and generating reports. This is a massive waste of time and talent; and very few people on the planet enjoy doing this. High-burden metrics don’t stick. As soon as the pressure lets off to keep producing the data or reports, they will gradually go away. Impruver employs a great data input design that only requires less than one minute per production run input using the plug-and-play version of the system. This not only  engages the line operator with the Continuous Improvement system, it also performs all calculation and reporting functions automatically. The data goes straight from the shop floor to all internal stakeholders instantaneously.

The right metrics make all the difference in running a successful operation. The wrong metrics can send us down a path of dysfunction and actually make us more disconnected from what’s important. Your metrics should help you get better and instill a culture of Continuous Improvement. So to answer the question in the title: no, your metrics aren’t causing you to lose money. Being inefficient causes you to lose money but your metrics aren’t doing you any service if they aren’t giving you complete, real-time, and actionable information.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What is Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation?

Manuficient - Strategy & Implementation

What is Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation?

Manufacturing Strategy

Manufacturing strategy consists of bringing the three primary pillars of manufacturing effectiveness into perfect alignment. The three pillars include organizational leadership, customers (or consumers), and operations execution. Let’s dive into each of these pillars to better assess the role of each in manufacturing strategy:

Organizational Leadership – The role of Organizational Leadership is to first decide who the company will serve and how. There is an art to choosing your customer, which is an optimization of two primary criteria: easy (for the company) to please and happy to pay what the company needs them to pay. Granted your company may not have a tremendous degree of control over either of these levers but getting this as right as possible at the onset primes the company for growth and success. A less than optimal arrangement sets the company up for some painful realities of doing business. Leadership needs to decide if its worth the trouble / effort to keep a segment of customers happy or if it makes sense to simply choose another customer to serve. This has to be weighed along with the company’s mission, financial goals, and other business obligations.

The Customer – The customer’s role in manufacturing strategy is to define when to deliver it, how many to make, what variant to make, and where to put it. Since no one customer can explicitly provide this information for you (unless you only have one customer, ie Walmart), excellent data needs to be collected and used as a guide to understanding these expectations. Customers speak to the manufacturing process in two ways:

1) By pulling their wallets out and making the purchase. This is the single most powerful way that customers communicate. Here is where the data is extremely useful. Ideally, you would be able to capture the entire body of purchasing data within your industry or sector for analysis. This would include not only your own company but your competitors’ data as well. Again, the answers you want to glean from the data are when, how many, what variant, who buys it and where to put it in order to meet or exceed business goals.

2) The other way customers communicate is through feedback. In today’s world, feedback is readily shared through both formal and informal channels. In the information age that we live, there is no excuse for companies to not know, with intimate detail, what their customers are experiencing with the company’s products. This is vital information that needs to be systematically aggregated and used as a critical input to the company-wide continuous improvement processes. The sooner the company can identify patterns in feedback (including feedback for competitors’ products) and get positive changes incorporated into the manufacturing process, the stronger case that company makes to win and keep business.

Operations Execution – Once the customer is chosen and you know how they like it, its the job of Operations to execute to perfection. This means optimal quality, cost, and service levels with perfectly healthy and happy employees on the shop floor doing the work. This means having a robust culture of innovation to not only meet customer expectations but to be able to continuously delight above and beyond the competition. This also means having the agility to change capabilities on a dime to keep pace with changing customer tastes and preferences. And finally, this means leading the way on technological advancement to continuously drive greater agility and perfection in execution.

Implementation

Implementation is the ability to establish absolute alignment between all three pillars mentioned above and taking the steps needed to create perfect synchronization between the three. This is evident when the vision in the C-Suite can be witnessed in action on the plant floor. This is only achievable by establishing and cultivating a culture of problem-solving, and the problems being solved can be tied directly to the results from the aggregated feedback analysis from customers. If the business requires V quantities of W product at X price to be delivered to Y customer by Z time, then perfection means achieving this standard without fail and with outstanding quality. Implementation is engineering the business system to deliver perfection. The implementation process includes three primary steps: assess, design, and test. These steps should be repeated until the business system verifiably delivers to your standard of perfection. Once this is done, you have achieved optimal manufacruring efficiency.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Manufacturing Agility Index: Measuring the Efficiency of Change

Agility

How well does your organization handle change? Is it managed deliberately or do you use a shoot first, ask questions last approach to changes? What is the level of resistance that you face for easy process changes? What about the difficult ones?

Change is inevitable. The only choice we have is to proactively work to change for the better. And if you’re not actively getting better, then you only have one other way to go. Staying the same is just not a realistic expectation. This is the driving force behind the concept of Continuous Improvement.

In this post, I want to introduce the concept of the Agility Index, which is a measure of your organization or factory’s ability to process change. The lower the number, the more difficult change is; likewise the higher the number, the more agile the organization or process. The term Agile in business is much more popular in the world of software development and project management but the concept of Agile Manufacturing is increasing in popularity driven by the realization that markets are demanding greater variety and Agility can absolutely help drive down manufacturing costs. Agile Manufacturing is a relatively underdeveloped discipline that many believe is the next step in productivity to Lean Manufacturing. However, in my view, Lean and Agile are uniquely independent disciplines. Each is more applicable to some manufacturers than others. The goal of each is ultimately improved customer service and retention. Although Agile attempts to help manufacturers break into new markets sooner than competitors to gain advantage.

Agility can be described as the cost of change. Cost can be measured in time, energy, dollars, or even psychological displacement. And since change is inevitable, its in every manufacturer’s best interest to reduce the cost of change – or increase its Agility.

To measure a manufacturer’s agility, you first need to create a scale that measures magnitude of change. There are three factors that are used to quantify the magnitude of a change: Degree of Change, Scale of Change, and Complexity of Change.

Degree of Change: To get the full grasp of agility, you have to first see the business system as a process (or array of processes). All processes have three core elements – Inputs, Process, Outputs (with Suppliers and Customers being conditional factors as in the SIPOC model). Based on these three core elements, there are 4 degrees of change that I’ll go into detail about in a future blog post. The  greater the degree of change, the more difficult it is to implement. At the simplest level, a product changeover would represent a change from the current state to a future state process.  On the other end of the spectrum, a full implementation of a new product line or production plant would be a change in the fourth degree.

Scale of Change: Scale of change measures how many people or assets are affected either directly or indirectly. Some people will have an immediate need to change their behaviors and some will just need to be aware of the change that has taken place. For obvious reasons, the more people affected by the change, the more difficult the change is to implement.

Complexity of Change: This is a measure of how much of a learning curve is needed for the people affected by the change. A future state process that requires one new process step is much easier to implement than a future state process that requires 100 new steps for example. The greater the complexity of change, the more difficult it would be for an organization to implement and return to steady state.

Each of these factors are measured on a scale of 0 and 100% and multiplied across to measure the magnitude of change.

So here’s where all of this matters. One can fairly easily determine how much a change should cost. For example, if all of the waste was moved from a changeover process, it would require XX minutes. However, the actually process it taking YY minutes historically. The Agility score for that type (or magnitude) of change can be calculated as XX / YY. From there, you can actually calculate a savings potential for increasing Agility to 100% for that process.

Based on this information, you can use what is called the Agility Index to determine what the true cost of changes of greater magnitude such as implementing a new production plant would cost due to poor agility and how much could be saved by increasing Agility. Organizations with great agility will have a much lower “cost of change” than an organization with poor agility. Therefore, increasing Agility in the manufacturing environment would be substantially lucrative in many cases.

Good luck with your efforts to increase your organization’s Agility. Feel free to reach out to us if you would like a 50+ point analysis of your manufacturing Agility with recommendations for what could be done to drive improvement.

© Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.