Category: Transition (page 2 of 2)

The Revitalization of Manufacturing in America

The secret to revitalizing manufacturing in America is not a single approach nor is it simple. Globalization of manufacturing and the politics of the 1990’s convinced America we were going to become a service industry. That is only generating lower technical positions at lower wages. We currently speak of bringing back manufacturing into America but we need to realize the status of manufacturing and how to get it back.

The largest obstacle is recapitalization. When manufacturing went global, American companies sold off their capital. We have empty warehouses where companies were in the 1980’s. First, we need to figure out a way to re-capitalize factories. Equipment is not inexpensive and the only offsets that can encourage American manufacturing is profitability or a cost advantage. While we expect business to have intrinsic values, stockholders expect large returns on investments which limits spending. Any capital that you cannot recover in three to five years will quickly be eliminated

Secondly, our technical schools are staffed with people that manufactured products twenty years ago. In the last decade, technology in manufacturing has changed dramatically and what they are teaching is irrelevant to today’s industries. We need to upgrade technical educators. Our tech schools are behind in technology and our educators are out of touch with the newest industrial engineering designs. Our children are taught the simple theories in manufacturing design and we relish the Toyota Way. But the market is changing from waste elimination to increased optimization. Anyone can teach high volume manufacturing techniques but this has become a made to order, customized product world that we live. We need to upgrade our students in the techniques to create profitable low volume mixed model manufacturing. The 1980’s taught us that automation is not the answer to everything. There is a time an situation for that investment but in reality a skilled workforce is more versatile than robots. We created computer programs that have standard work, but we never want to take the time to standardize manual labor. This takes time and cannot be accomplished at a computer and a desk.

Finally, the millennium generation, if given a choice, want desk jobs. They do not want to work in factories as society had trained them to view these occupations as subservient. We need to change our culture. Many manufacturing positions pay better than a college education. It takes less money to educate a skill or trade and everything people learn is pertinent to their trade. We need to observe what society currently endears and respect the trades as much as we do the over educated. This requires a culture change that can be led by politicians and society. We need to embrace those in the trades and create a work place that is significantly similar to the clean environment of an office.

So how do we accomplish these tasks? Here are a few examples.

Create more tax free manufacturing zones

Create tax credits for capital investment

Remove the taxes on exports

Tax the imports based on what those countries tax the US

Add a tax on the imports from countries that show no civic responsibility for the environment

Add a tax on the imports from countries that violate civil rights

Stop regulating the education market and insisting that people obtain advanced education degrees for the trades. They are not necessary and serve no value

States should insist that investment in trades education is given the same funding as academia

Create industrial centers of excellence schooling that honors a voucher system

Start educating our students in the economic advantages of having a trade

Government should recognize and embrace technical excellence with national awards

Create work environments that are worker friendly factories which are clean and ergonomic

Create a government funded board that assists company startups in manufacturing

Re-educate educators and create a qualification testing that equates to a teacher certificate in the trades

Create a tax break for those entering the manufacturing field

Give unused federal lands to the initiation of industrial facilities.

America can revitalize the manufacturing sector but first we need to understand the deficits and real struggles that are involved in its re-establishment. We can accomplish this task, but first we need to create an environment that makes manufacturing in America a financial advantage. IF we want manufacturing to grow , let’s embrace and respect those that are participating in this field.

Lean Practices in the Service Industry

Building a work cell can be confusing and difficult for someone with limited experience. Lets first define a work cell.  It can be a manufacturing cell, a service cell or a retail cell.  Most of what is described in academia is the manufacturing cell.  The rational is that most of academia knows how to invoke the theories of lean manufacturing and the standardization of work.  For the purpose of this article, I will describe some of the well know attributes and theories and how they apply to the service arena.  Lets take an example in the restaurant business.  The work cell can be defined as the person that greets the customer, the taking of an order, and the production of food and the closing of the event.

The hostess commonly looks at a map where table are circled and they determined what is open for seating. They may casually look at server’s load but very little efforts are placed in efficient deployments.  Events that will improve efficiency are the size of the groups seating, the time that the previous party was seated, and finally an estimate on the time term of each seating.  Let me explain the subjective rating in more detail.  If the restaurant is a group of football fans declared by their jerseys, one could assume that in a sports bar or restaurant the term of the seating will be lengthier.  This is opposition to those with a very young child that will probably get restless with too long of a stay.

You can observe how the proper placement of people can result in efficiency. The object of a restaurant process is to turn tables, balance server workload and provide good service.  Assure that a server has a balance of long stay, regular stay and short stay tables.  No one should be sat within the server’s realm within a less than fifteen minute time period.  A server should have a balance of small, medium and large parties. A simple coding of patrons seating with colored markers an erasable sheet will suffice.  The coding does not need to be exact but proper seating will allow maximum seating efficiency.  A simple program can be written for a facility having the logic automated.  This software would ask three questions and place the customers at the tables they will receive the best service.

The taking of the order should be simplified. Most menus are standard and there always can be a preprinted menu list where a server can check off an item and options.  Table orders should always be taken in a specific order, clockwise or counterclockwise, and should always start from a specific point, such as left seat nearest server first.  This allows zero error for interpretation of the order and allows anyone to deliver the food.  In a perfect work every server would have an electronic pad to directly input the order to the kitchen.  However, the cost of implanting this could be more than a facility could afford.

The processing of food should be standardized in some manner so that appetizers do not show up at the same time as the meal or after the meal. In addition, an order should be completed at the same time for a table so that all customers receive product simultaneously.  Order processing can be divided into class of food, processing time, food segmentation etc.  The primary goal is to assure that there is standard work that assures food is delivered for an order at the same time without judgmental interventions. Standard work can be created in some fashion by the preparers of the food and the serving staff.  One of the key initiatives for this effort is the regrouping of the team on a regular timeframe to assure that all staff can contribute to any standard work changes.  Visual systems can be employed to assure that the standard work is consistent and handoffs can occur without continuous verbal communications.

Finally, a series will determine how the food gets delivered to the customer. The delivery should be able to be completed by anyone in the staff as the orders were consistent and systemic to a seating chart.  There are many other details that need to be defined and explained, but the purpose of this paper was to describe how value stream analysis, work cell and flow analysis, and standard work definition can be completed for any industry to improve its efficiency.  Always believe in continuous improvement and hold regular reviews where operators of the cell may give their inputs and receive improved operational methodologies.