Tag: frank rzeznikiewicz (page 1 of 2)

Embrace, Lead and Mentor Your Staff

Mentoring is one of the best tools that any leader can use within the workforce. The benefits are unlimited and the value is unmatched. While this is a time consuming activity for both parties, the long term benefits will create a better leader and an engaged, enhanced, and more skilled workforce. Academia can teach the basics of business philosophy and various modeled techniques, but the inside experience knowledge that education lacks is the understanding of the real workplace. Most textbooks are dated and because the workforce is fluid in their establishment of norms and it is difficult to continually update them properly. In addition, the act of mentoring builds relationships, trust, ethics, and team building virtues.

The mentor benefits greatly from the act. This process allows the mentor to give something back to the organization and the people in the workforce. It reminds the mentor to listen and actually sharpens their communication skill set. Intrinsically, mentoring also builds on the mentor’s self worth as they are usually listened to by the mentoree with enthusiasm. As a leader , the act of mentoring strengthens our interpersonal skills and builds relationships with our coworkers. Mentoring also takes the time to understand details that hinder people’s personal and professional growth. Finally, as we mentor we re-examine parts of our own self as we, as managers and leaders, do not always do what we preach to others. Employees will also include personal aspects of their lives ad that enhances the bond between a leader and their teams.

The mentoree feels valued through the time a mentor spends with them. The exude a self confidence as they go forward. Through the process the mentoree if forced to construct logical communication paths and improve their communication and listening skills. We also bridge the gap for the mentoree regarding conversational methods to speak to management constructively. The mentoree improves their interpersonal skill set and breaks down barriers that may have inhibited communication in the past. The most important factor in the mentoring process is the mentoree begins and continues to understand the organization, goals, culture, and business innuendos that are critical for them to advance.
The process is simple and should discuss some of the following:
Where are you going in your career?
What are your visions as an employee?
What are your aspirations?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses and how are you going to correct them?
Identify their top three goals.

You should make it personal if appropriate. Find out what the employee wants out of the relationship and determine the deliverables of the mentoring process. Set a time and time limit for the meeting and shut off all other communication during this time. Setup a schedule and stick to it. Discuss the options and opportunities for learning and development. Ask for a critique and constructive criticism of the company and its leadership. Most prevalent, break down the conversation barriers and truly embrace their ideas and concerns.

It is the duty of the organization to assure that the mentoring process is active. The top leadership should insist that every manager mentors someone and preferably not in their direct reporting chain. This process shows the entire organization that the organization does care about their development and as the process develops montorees will begin to mentor others. This process develops loyalty and understanding and creates a contiguous positive culture where we foster skills sets and empowerment. Finally, it creates a culture of cooperation and takes communication to new levels. Do not wait for your executives to insist on your mentoring others. take it upon yourself to embrace the process and also seek out a mentor for yourself. Your mentor may not be within the your company as there are times that we want to seek mentors that look at new perspectives. Take the leap and mentor and your will soon see the rewards. Care about your employees and take an active role in their development.

Managing Culture Change

Managing culture changes up and down the organization can be challenging and tedious in a profit conscious environment. As we attempt to change the entire organization and methodologies in production, we encounter many different perspectives and paradigms on the path. Making a change to a leaner more productive environment will incur some costs, interrupt production in small segments, require training of employees throughout the organization, and demand patience from all aspects of the population. As we grow the mindset of the hourly and middle management associates, we must remember the true mission of business is profitability. Upper management and executives must remain patient as any quick changes are usually not sustainable and any long term changes to the business model will take time. The management of change will require a balancing of production’s current needs and the implementation future changes that will enhance growth and efficiency.

A sound plan for implementing lean and improved productivity needs to have a detailed approach. You will need to rely on your most experienced personnel and use them as a sounding board for the changes your want to make to the current model. However, those same employees may resist change as they believe they are operating as effectively as possible. You must share the vision and strategic plan with all levels of the organization and you must brainstorm the shortcomings and roadblocks the company will encounter. Employees at all levels must agree with the need for change and embrace the vision to be the “Best of the Best”. Middle management must allow employees to make decisions and empower them to design their own work areas. While all aspects of the plan may not be totally popular with the workforce, you must gain consensus. As an agent of change, you will need to prevent protectionism from the different internal business sectors. Individuals may resist anything that increases responsibility or work load. You can prevent this by guaranteeing employees that you will be keenly aware of the pain factors in the new organization and any undue workloads will be addressed and compensated with efficiency, teamwork, flexible work schedules and manpower changes.

A major challenge for any transitional change is the ability to manage the “knee jerk” reactions of executives. When profits appear to be affected in a negative manner, many will try to delay, augment, and change the path you have strategically created. You must realize their position and their responsibility to continually turn higher profits. When business markets may slow, cost cutting moves may be necessary. You need to assure that labor and costs associated with the implementation of improvements are not significantly hampered. You must assure them of necessity for improvement and continually communicate your plan, the risks, and the timeline for recovery. No executive will force you to make improper decisions that will stymie long term improvements if they understand what is causing impacts and the duration of them. A change agent cannot be inflexible to executive’s demands and they may have to comprise the length and/or effects of plan. However, a well constructive plan will have those contingencies built into them and therefore the move to a more effective and productive environment will continue. Executives must beware of the miracle promising consultants and those that do not have a plan that fully explains the time elements, support and cost associated with their program. There are many books on the subject and how to implement but most are naïve, unproven, and without the strategy of managing the implementation. There are too many textbooks on the subject and few success stories from following them.

In conclusion, the greatest asset that you can contribute as a change agent is the understanding of the paradigms, the communication of vision and strategic plan, creation of a contingency plan for setbacks and creating open communication to all elements of the business environment. Be patient and do not expect everyone to accommodate your needs. As a leader of change, you must be the most flexible and adjust your plan to accommodate everyone else in the organization. However, do not let your plan be so manipulated that it is not effective. Compromise, embrace your organization, understand their perspectives and meet the needs of the entire company. If a culture change was an simple endeavor, it would have evolved naturally over time.

THE NEW GENERATION OF WORKERS NEED NEW LEADERSHIP STYLES

As we continue to actualize our production or service, we tend to make every attempt to hit our commitments and goals. What makes us unique as leaders is the ability to manage success. There is always a pattern of accomplishing our goals during our careers but we need to reflect on just what we are doing to accomplish those goals. There are several ways of meeting our deliverables and unfortunately we grew up in a society where leadership was recognized for “block and tackle” techniques. This methodology worked in years past and still can yield results on a short term basis today, but there are several elements that limits the success of this management technique in our present culture.

If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed. The mentality of the worker, the philosophy or labor, and the expectations of human resources are different than in the baby boomer days. Today’s workers have evolved, especially with Generation Z . The baby boomers strong work ethic was rewarded by companies by giving lucrative pensions and benefits . Companies revered loyalty and long term employment with one company. As global competition evolved, companies have been forced to pull back on benefits and have learned that employees that switch jobs and companies bring forth new diversity into a workforce. Generation Z functions different as they are social creatures that are flexible in nature and expect flexibility from institutions and companies. They are so flexible that employers are challenged to retain them if demands are too high. They expect instantaneous rewards and recognition for performance. They cannot be intimidated and sometimes can feel entitled to their job. Therefore we cannot intimidate them or insist they work long hours to please the company or their boss. They are now flooding the job market and leaders need to change their style from micro management and a demand persona.

The philosophy of labor has changed. The labor market will soon have more jobs than people as the prior boom generation retires. Labor’s paradigm is changing to one where employees desire constant increases in salaries and benefits and they do not react to an environment where people are expected to be patient for recognition. This requires that management spend a significant amount of time on the recognition aspect of employee management. Leaders must also determine how they can bridge the gap between expectations and business restrictions. There is always a way of managing a company to meet the business’s needs and employee’s expectations. This does require creativity and good communication with the workforce to determine methods that satisfy both criterion. Most studies show that monetary recognition is not the only avenue to engaging and delighting your workforce. Honest description of the business conditions will help employees understand what restrictions exist and the performance necessary to embrace monetary improvements.

Finally, the next generation of workers have different expectations of human resources. In prior work generations, the worker did not engage human resources as deeply as they do today. Human resources was the element that defended them against unreasonable management demands and was a defender of worker’s rights. Seldom did people involve human resources in anything but these matters. Today, human resources is viewed as the element that helps workers remain in a safe, politically correct, and respected workplace. Workers expect that human resources will assure they are continually trained thereby allowing employees to grow in the organization. They are looked upon as the employee’s ally and employees use human resources as a sounding board for both work and personal issues. Human resources’ tasks have grown immensely in the last ten years as they have expectations from the workforce that assimilates both a counselor and personal carrier growth advisor.

In conclusion, our success as leaders is dependent on an engaged, self empowered workforce that is allowed to be creative and involved in determining the business’s future. This workforce is more highly educated and has characteristics that will not respond to older management styles. It is the leaders responsibility to change their tactics and embrace the new workforce’s personality. It is an enriching workforce that will guide us into a better workplace and one that self actualizes itself to a more productive society if we embrace them. Do not rely on the “Block and Tackle” micromanagement tactics as they will eventually fail. Leaders will be more successful if they accept this new generation’s philosophy and work with it to aspire the business to new heights of performance.

Five S Implementation

The 5S initiative is one of the most difficult to accomplish in your lean journey. The efforts to sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and sustain are the backbone of lean. Many companies roll safety as the 6th S, but in reality that is a mistake. 5S is about the lean manufacturing of business. For businesses to treat the safety of employees on the same plane as lean is a critical mistake. In the hierarchy of business and employee needs, employee safety is the most critical and far more important than efficiency and is the baseline of the hierarchy. The emphasis on the 5S is overlooked and considered by many to have aspects that are optional and not necessary for productivity improvements. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sorting is necessary for several reasons. First a sorted facility reduces inventory waste, eliminate the use of un-standardized tools or parts, and eliminates confusion to employees who are at different training levels. It also increases usable space by the elimination of storage for unnecessary items, obsolete tooling, and duplicate materials. Having the correct tools visually noticeable in each workplace allows both the operators and supervisors to realize any shortages that may exist. If you look at effective assembly operations, tools are placed in the proper places before, after, and during production. Have you ever had the home project and did not return the hammer to the proper place at the end of a project? Then in a couple of months when the next project is started you floundered to find where you left that hammer. The same is said for the wrench on an assembly line. After the daily production is complete, if an operator leaves the wrench in an undesignated location, they will have trouble starting the next day’s production on time. Therefore, efficiencies are dwindled from their optimum. Communication between shifts and workers becomes more effective in a well sorted environment and much of the extraneous discussions and frustrations disappear as everything is where it should be located. Finally, a poorly sorted operation effects the quality of product. Tool substitutions are minimized as all the proper tools are always available to everyone. The application of any incorrect parts or subassemblies are eliminated.

Simplifying the operations are key to the lean process. This effort also reduces inventory as designers attempt to use common hardware that is readily on hand. This prevents special orders for unnecessary products. This also eliminates waste due to difficulty in using unique items and improves quality as options for misapplication become more limited. But the simplification goes further than design. It includes the arrangement of the workspace and encompasses shadow boxing tools and standardizing the best tools for the job. The development of simple jigs and fixtures improves the quality of product as a standard method of locating features is in place. Jigs can be designed with the same basics and mere detail changeovers accommodate mixed model production. As a manager, we should also drive the organization to the simplest functionality by reviewing each step of the operations with engineering, operations and quality concurrently. Do not merely accept the design from research and development as seldom is efficiency and productivity taken into account.

Sweep or shine is essential for several reasons. First and foremast is ensures a safer workplace. The cluttered workplace is one that is doomed for trips and falls. Clean and bright workplaces have a psychological effect on workers that is positive and is one where we are proud to employ ourselves. The lack of lighting can lead to poor morale and inefficient work. Shine can also assure that tools are in the proper condition for usage at all times. The lack of lighting also allows undetected visual defects and therefore the bright and shiny workplace is less apt to produce and ship nonconforming hardware. I painted all my machines white in a company. Initially, the thought of white machines that remove metal was frowned upon because it was not sustainable. As each machine showed a leak, the leak was fixed to prevent the need to repaint. That triggered an improved TPM program which reduced downtime by 21%.

The most difficult is the standardization of work. This effort integrates the sort, weep and shine and simplifying efforts. It ensures conditions do not deteriorate to the former state and facilitates the implementation of the aforementioned. The standardization of work ensures that work is performed the same way time after time and integrates an improved quality and predicable delivery plan. It is difficult to create the standardization of work and it is very time consuming. You must segment your workplace into sub-sections so that smaller successes can be declared and celebrated. It is essential that the format for the standardization is easy to implement and that any software you use is ready to use for its purpose. Do not use ad hoc programs as the documentation and implementation is difficult and strangling the organization with complicated programs will exhaust personnel. Eventually, your standard work will allow you to predict how many people are needed to attain takt time for work cells and will assist in allocation of resources necessary to attain customer commitments.

Making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures and installing the discipline to regress requires that all personnel including management pay attention to detail. The consequences of not allowing employees to correct standard work when needed, to clean, sort, straighten the workplace, and allowing an environment of sustainment will deter any advancement of the lean systems your put in place. It will evolve a culture where employees will consider your journey as another program that went to the wayside and will make any revitalization of the effort more difficult.

Getting Your Business Visual

One of the most difficult phases of improving business efficiency is implementing a visual workplace. We have all seen the isolated examples that consultants and academia recite but getting the correct systems in place for your business environment is essential. Do not adapt huge expense in getting the methods in places in their infancy of the conversion, but place simple methods that may require more administrative effort during development. Visual systems tend to evolve as the workforce becomes familiar with them and offer suggestions.
The most important visual systems are ones that show what is expected for outputs. You may want to simply invoke a white board that is updated daily with an indication of what is expected daily. As your system develops, you will include meaningful metrics of performance. This can be, but not limited to, a weekly output, monthly output, year to date outputs, efficiencies, productivity etc. The workforce will tell you what is meaningful to them and that which allows them to know how they are performing. Most industries show do not go beyond monthly information at this stage and save the year to date performance for all-hands meetings. If is essential that the posted information is meaningful. The system should evolve to a visual display of takt time versus performance. There are several digital displays that allow people to hit a toggle a button or switch every time a deliver is made. Either the lead or supervisor in the area can administrate the takt time. This allows a real time display of performance that is accurate to the minute.

Another vital part of the visual system is an Andon light. This is an indicator of two elements. The first is the performance obstacles in the cell. A red, yellow, green light display is easy to understand. A green light may indicate the work cell is on target and all assets are running correctly. A yellow light indicates that takt time cannot be met but all assets are running correctly. A red light that indicates there is an asset problem or material shortage that is slowing of shutting the cell down. The yellow light indicates that manufacturing or industrial engineering needs to speak with the cell for changes and/or resolution. The red should require that management, your maintenance group, or engineering needs to expedite resolution. It is essential that we react to those lights expeditiously because the lack of response will evolve a culture suggesting that the light is not valuable and executing the visual signal is therefore useless. The second type of Andon light is usually used in an assembly environment. This light would be a digital readout of any parts holding up the production of a cell creating delays and wait time. This light requires that communications be made to the cell and timelines associated with resolution be developed. None of these lights should get turned off or returned to green unless the issue is totally resolved or parts are now on hand. These lights should be periodically reviewed by dedicated personnel and certainly reviewed during a daily Gemba walks.

The next part of a visual workplace is a visual workflow. A hospital may put different stripes on the floor so that everyone understands where to go. It also can be signage that shows the steps or stations in a process. This allows everyone to identify workflow and observe any bottlenecks. This is easy to accomplish in a standardized high volume tasking but can be more contrived in a mixed model or tasking flow. However, they are all attainable and easy to implement.

Finally, we need to create Kanbans, Heijunka box or wheels, or other visual signals to accommodate lean pull and overproduction elimination. As we progress through lean, we will continue to reduce inventory and waste through more efficient methods of lean tool usage. There are many other tools and methodologies that can be implemented. Educate your workforce and empower them to implement what is the most effective communication methods for good productive flow and waste elimination. They know the processes and know what will indicate to them their performance. Enjoy the process and admire your workforce’s knowledge of lean implementation. They will make your system successful if you engage and empower them.

The Journey Begins

The challenge of starting systemic productivity improvements in a facility and knowing where to start is not academically taught and is usually based on experience. Consultants my give you a program that it so large to implement that success is limited. When you decide that your company has used all the conventional methods to improve efficiency and productivity and they have “block and tackled” every avenue to increase outputs, what do you do? The answers are not simple but they all follow the same theme.

The first step is stop and look. Let the processes flow normally and look for two types of changes, systemic and points of production. The first type of change is systemic and you must form a three to five year plan and an initial plan. First observe the flow and identify evident systemic gaps. It could be a process, an element of production (i.e. safety, quality), a product flow, the placement of an order, or procurement. The second type of change is individual points of production changes. You must find three to four small areas of change that will be the example for the changes in the future. You must remember that you probably have not changed the culture of the facility and have not communicated well with your workforce. You need to pull ideas out of employee’s heads for understanding their efficiency roadblocks. These small areas of change are critical for changing the culture to one where employees will be your consultants. The quickness and sincerity of your responses to ideas they give you is critical. If you want to improve, you have a wealth of information in your workforce that will provide you success and them with a sense of accomplishment.

Form a plan that employs the overall systemic changes you want in the long term. Take that overall plan and divide it into smaller sequential system changes that will align your vision and your overall systemic change plan. These systemic changes must be ones that are smaller in nature when you begin your journey to change a company. They must be ones that will improve the processes but also ones that have minimal negative side effects within the workforce. You may want to relocate a department to increase flow. You may want to separate processes and remove production delays by segregating workflows to their proper elements.

The first changes you make must be reviewed with your leadership team to attain both consensus and comradely. After that has been accomplished, you must present your long-term systemic change plan and the initial changes to your entire population to explain how your vision and strategic plan align themselves. Remember to speak with anyone that may perceive your changes as affecting them negatively. The worst tactic is to present material to all your people at a group meeting and someone that is affected being advised at the same time. You need to assure that people are not being surprised and not feeling that you did not speak to them to get their inputs. They may not always agree but they will at least understand you motives and expectations. You can never over communicate. Once you have presented the material to all, act on it. Failure to do what you say will create a perception that management does not do what they say they are going to do.

Creating the correct change path is vital. You need to create a few small changes that will support the overall long-term plan. Remember that any huge change usually takes a long time and your employees are watching to see if things are really going to ascend to a better The challenge of starting systemic productivity improvements in a facility and knowing where to start is not academically taught and is usually based on experience. Consultants my give you a program that it so large to implement that success is limited. When you decide that your company has used all the conventional methods to improve efficiency and productivity and they have “block and tackled” every avenue to increase outputs, what do you do? The answers are not simple but they are all follow the same theme.

The first step is stop and look. Let the processes flow normally and look for two types of changes, systemic and points of production. The first type of change is systemic and you must form a three to five year plan and an initial plan. First observe the flow and identify evident systemic gaps. It could be a process, an element of production (i.e. safety, quality), a product flow, the placement of an order, or procurement. The second type of change is individual points of production changes. You must find three to four small areas of change that will be the example for the changes in the future. You must remember that you probably have not changed the culture of the facility and have not communicated well with your workforce. You need to pull ideas out of employee’s heads for understanding their efficiency roadblocks. These small areas of change are critical for changing the culture to one where employees will be your consultants. The quickness and sincerity of your responses to ideas they give you is critical. If you want to improve, you have a wealth of information in your workforce that will provide you success and them with a sense of accomplishment.

Form a plan that employs the overall systemic changes you want in the long term. Take that overall plan and divide it into smaller sequential system changes that will align your vision and your overall systemic change plan. These systemic changes must be ones that are smaller in nature when you begin your journey to change a company. They must be ones that will improve the processes but also ones that have minimal negative side effects within the workforce. You may want to relocate a department to increase flow. You may want to separate processes and remove production delays by segregating workflows to their proper elements.

The first changes you make must be reviewed with your leadership team to attain both consensus and comradely. After that has been accomplished, you must present your long-term systemic change plan and the initial changes to your entire population to explain how your vision and strategic plan align themselves. Remember to speak with anyone that may perceive your changes as affecting them negatively. The worst tactic is to present material to all your people at a group meeting and someone that is affected being advised at the same time. You need to assure that people are not being surprised and not feeling that you did not speak to them to get their inputs. They may not always agree but they will at least understand you motives and expectations. You can never over communicate. Once you have presented the material to all, act on it. Failure to do what you say will create a perception that management does not do what they say they are going to do.

Creating the correct change path is vital. You need to create a few small changes that will support the overall long-term plan. Remember that any huge change usually takes a long time and your employees are watching to see if things are really going to ascend to a better organization. Several small changes will involve more people and therefore can be more effective to promoting a culture change.

In the points of production changes, you must address a process improvement project for each major sector of your business. These should be the result of interviewing the people and finding out parts of their job that are troublesome and hindering productivity. They may not be what you think is of the utmost importance but they are the issues that concern your workforce. Accomplishing these is vital to your changing the overall business and a significant step in changing the culture of your organization.

You must remember that you have probably forced as much change through the organization that is possible by your powering the organization forward. You now must take a different tact. Embrace the workforce for ideas and act on them. Regard safety as not only a benefit to the people and company, but realize an unsafe environment will create inefficiencies. As you work down this strategic path you will enact your vision to actualization and display the correct atmosphere and culture.

Finally it is critical not to make this a one-time event. Continue this philosophy and continue to take small strides that will change the overall effectivity of the business. Embrace your workforce, communicate with them continually, and improve the business one step at a time. The time for larger strategic changes will come with time and may result in reorganization of the business. You will weave in all the elements of a lean environment such as value stream maps, kaizens, standard work and 5S in the ongoing change plans. The overall goal is to create a culture that self-actualizes itself to the best in the business sector.
organization. Several small changes will involve more people and therefore can be more effective to promoting a culture change.

In the points of production changes, you must address a process improvement project for each major sector of your business. These should be the result of interviewing the people and finding out parts of their job that are troublesome and hindering productivity. They may not be what you think is of the utmost importance but they are the issues that concern your workforce. Accomplishing these is vital to your changing the overall business and a significant step in changing the culture of your organization.

You must remember that you have probably forced as much change through the organization that is possible by your powering the organization forward. You now must take a different tact. Embrace the workforce for ideas and act on them. Regard safety as not only a benefit to the people and company, but realize an unsafe environment will create inefficiencies. As you work down this strategic path you will enact your vision to actualization and display the correct atmosphere and culture.

Finally it is critical not to make this a one-time event. Continue this philosophy and continue to take small strides that will change the overall effectivity of the business. Embrace your workforce, communicate with them continually, and improve the business one step at a time. The time for larger strategic changes will come with time and may result in reorganization of the business. You will weave in all the elements of a lean environment such as value stream maps, kaizens, standard work and 5S in the ongoing change plans. The overall goal is to create a culture that self-actualizes itself to the best in the business sector.

This Year’s Production Challenge

The year has begun. There are several things to be considered when setting your strategic plan in place for the new year. What corrections did you need to make in the last quarter to bring in the previous year as a success. Did those corrections simply accommodate your metrics or did they change the business for the better? A simple example is waste control. At the end of the year, did you not scrap out hardware that you should have dispositioned to attain a cost of poor quality or financial number? Were you balancing your scrap rate against an inventory goal and abandoning better business practices to hit a metric? Did you push high dollar products in front of lower revenue ones that your customer desperately needed? All of these practices are a fault of your prior year’s execution of the strategic plan. The problem with the aforementioned is that you are probably having a very tough first quarter. With that being said, you must analyze what did not execute properly that you have to adjust in the upcoming year.

1. Were your goals too aggressive and based off a desire or ones that had a sound detailed plan that was executional? Many times we set our goals off a desire and not as a strategic plan for improvement. If you look at your projected sales for this year, have you detailed the inventory you will need to attain the increased sales goal? Drill down the data to assure that your year-end projections are based off a carrying inventory that will be required for success. Failure to do so will result in a starved inventory for production in the first month of 2018. Assure that material planning is accurate and that you realize the inventory you need for 2018 is in place that does not deficit the beginning of 2018. Realize that in the last quarter of 2018 you must execute your material properly and not delay material receipts again. Detailed and verified inventory plans are required for each year’s success.

2. Waste planning is essential to success. Whether it be productivity, effectively or scrap and rework levels, your strategic plan now has to be compared to what was executed in 2017. When you set your goals for 2018, you must ask whether they were too aggressive or too lax. Did the goals for scrap materialize or did you hold back execution burdening the upcoming year? If you let your business run and execute to normal practices at the end of the year, congratulations as you did not manage the business to metric attainment. Observe those practices that were successful and which ones required intervention. Determine what the product flow actualizes and understand that unless you have a level three plan that is aggressive for improvement, your goal cannot be aggressive for attainment. A detailed plan for improvement is necessary for any step change and that plan must be reviewed with the responsible managers and the executors of that improvement plan.

3. Plan your sales plan off customer demands. You cannot be overly optimistic in creating the annual operations plan. Base that plan and make adjustments off of the market indicators for the industry you are in, firm contracts that are in place, spares sales that are based off of previous years realizations and firm forecasts, and reasonably project any new product introductions. Being overly optimistic will realize a plan that fails and one that is too conservative will starve your business of resources.

4. Develop a production start plan. At the onset of the year, you will be able to project production starts and build in outsourcing and shared resources. You can also deliver a plan that executes the entire year. That plan will require a review and adjustments throughout the year, but you will be able to project resource and material shortages and the risks associated with them. You must finalize your start plan months in advance to set the demand for material, manpower and process capacities. The failure of many production systems is the inability to project a starts plan and executing it appropriately.

5. Review your plans with all levels of the organization. Include the quality, materials, planning, procurement, and production groups. If possible review that plan with the hourly associates that produce the product. They will either validate the plan and attempt to perform to it or they will point out shortages that you may not have realized. Communicate the entire production plan so that everyone in the organization understands where improvements must be made and when resources will be strained.

Make 2018 a business based off sound date and not from opinions or speculations. The success to you year is based off a strategic plan that executes and is measured so short term adjustments may be made accordingly.

Sourcing Decisions – Do You Re-Shore, Near Shore, or Remain Outsourced

The decision of re-shoring work to domestic suppliers and internal to your own operations can be a contrived and convoluted strategy. Many corporations have historically arrived at the conclusion that the short term savings from global outsourcing would benefit the company to extremes that were not realized for extended timespans. In addition, the quality from developing nations and low cost initiatives require a larger infrastructure to support in both the quality and logistic factions. The incurred costs for excessive quality checking and support infrastructure can undermine any potential financial savings and often substantially increase overall costs. Attrition is intensifying offshore, leading to inconsistent and unsettled operations. Combined with a rise in global salary demands, improper offshoring has driven overall costs to an uncompetitive state. This does not translate to a total de-globalization of supplies but has created a multifaceted solution for sourcing strategy. Approximately twenty to twenty-five percent of products that were outsourced globally over the last decade are projected to return to the United States in the next five years. Therefore, there is credence in re-shoring but logic must direct the operation.
There are several steps in the decision process. They include financial modeling, footprint optimization, site selection, production planning, supply chain selection, manpower needs (support and direct labor) and most importantly the implementation of lean. The process is one that will take substantial effort but developing your strategy is the most important faction of your justifications. The process needs to start with an efficiency and cost analysis of products procured and produced. You need to construct a model that takes the cost of the product, the cash conversion cycle costs, the cost of cash velocity, the cost of poor quality and its effects on customers and the required inventory costs that are required to offset longer delivery distance and delays. After that comparison is completed, you need to analyze the impacts of delivery delays and poor quality on customer retentions. While a subjective conversation will occur, there can be a valuable cost associated with outsourced product’s impacts on customers that can be quantified. The analysis will lead you to a pareto analysis of high cost and high pain products that are currently outsourced.

The next step is analyzing the top ten to twenty percent of these products and determining if you have internal capabilities or will need to near source the products. Near sourcing may be more profitable if you do not have the capacity and capability to insource them to your facility. After the pareto is completed, your procurement department must then quote sources for external suppliers and the operations management within your company must analyze the internal production costs. This will allow a full comparison of price. There may be decisions that sway internal or near sourcing that have quality performance indicators in them. You may need to review supplier quality performance and customer satisfaction with peer companies. You will find that companies that are involved in the re-shoring of manufacturing are eager to share the data they have collected. Your internal operations may not be the best answer as your quality performance may be lacking in certain areas. Factor your quality into the equation and determine if you are indeed the best option for production. When all your data is collected you will have a list of products to possibly go forward with for insourcing efforts.

The next stage is the estimation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your plan. This is the risk assessment that accommodates the financial conclusions. Weigh each element and create a numeric score for each category of risk and opportunity. Of course, risk to the customer carries the highest weight and discretion. The cumulative score then can create a cost factor to apply to the financial data. An example of this is a product that is significantly higher cost in the domestic market because of environmental, technical expertise, health and safety risks to employees and regulations, capital re-investment necessity, and supplier developed nuances that you have no knowledge regarding processes. This would carry a higher percentage factor that would be applied to insourced costs.

Finally, create a contingency plan for each part number. Do not assume that the current supplier will provide products expeditiously if you fail in your re-shoring efforts. You must create a sound contingency plan as this effort is not an easy one. You may also want to review your business strategy for a “Made in America” product line and a “Global Product” line. Many initiatives are in place to promote re-shoring efforts and customers may be willing to pay a premium for the “Made in America “line. There is so many intricacies in these decisions that they should be low risk, well analyzed, and be part of an overall vision and plan for your company.

Plan Ahead and Succeed

It is the time to set next year’s goals and expectations. You should not wait until the first of the year arrives and attempt to set the plan and goals for new year. We all have completed our pro forma for next year and estimated our EBITs, but have we created our strategic plans that will yield double digit growth? Estimating the financials for the upcoming year will not suffice and allow success. Below is a short list of initiatives that we should look at for the upcoming year.

1. Set your goals for cost of poor quality. Understand how you are going to measure it. Are you going to include the rework, the loss of productivity due to poor quality, customer returns and investigation costs, and repair costs? Whatever you measure in the upcoming year, assure that you show a reduction and have projects with milestones established to begin in January. Do not set yourself up for the next year by having a bad first quarter and chasing the year’s goals to recover those costs. Make your goal a reflection of projects you will manage and not a wish list. Spell out the plan’s expectations month by month with start dates, cost realization dates, project completion dates, and determine who the leader is for each project. Set your report out dates for the next year and schedule the team’s calendars to assure that teams know when they are going to review projects with the executive team.

2. Create a process improvement team and set expectations. You should know where your efficiency losses are and establish which ones you are going to tackle and the order and timeframe for those projects. Set a reasonable amount of tasks. Many businesses will create a wish list that is too large for the staffing. Scheduling too many tasks for your workforce can only lead to frustration, fractured efforts, and a disengaged workforce. Strategically assign those tasks, determine reasonable expectations, and set a detailed review schedule for the plan’s events on a regular basis. Become involved as a leader because your workforce will prioritize their efforts by the attention and involvement your leadership displays in the upcoming year.

3. Assure that you have an active environmental health and safety plan to improve the safety and ergonomics of your operation. Remember, people want to be treated fairly and they will engage more if you are concerned for their well-being. Strive to improve the ergonomics in the workplace. Recordable and lost time injuries are bad for a business’s reputation and finances, but they also can disengage a workforce quickly. Care about your employees and make it a passion to evolve the workplace to a safer environment. Embrace their concerns as you would your family members. They are your livelihood. If you do not have a methodology to collect the employee’s risks, hold a “stand-down” for four hours to collect ideas from employees. Take those ideas, Pareto them by risk to employees and aggressively burn them down. Assure the plan attacks these on a monthly basis. Form subcommittees to address these ideas. Everyone in the organization can take ownership of a task as safety is everyone’s job.

4. Train your employees early and on a repetitive regular schedule. You should have already met with your employees and determined their training needs. Now you must schedule a plan to deliver on those internal and external needs. Do not leave this as a human resource task. It is a leadership responsibility that our reports are enriching themselves each year. You may want to look at your most unproductive weeks in the previous years and declare them training weeks. This allows you to write off the week from deliveries and profit based on poor historical performance. Typically, the first week of the year, the week of July 4th and Labor Day week are poor performers as the previous quarter has just ended and people include additional vacation days to long weekends. Put training into this week and declare the week as a non-production week. Planning this activity allows customer commits to be maintained by overproduction in prior weeks and planned delivery commits pushed out of these weeks where possible.
5. Create production start plans that are visual and observable to all employees. Plan on Gemba walks daily and review these start plans. These plans are critical to success. If you start on time, you will finish on time. Don’t leave the plan’s execution to the planners and materials department to manage. All directly involved employees must understand the plan, discuss it daily at Gemba walks, and assure that procurement, operations, quality, and the materials department understands when the production starts for every job. This is critical for mixed model production. This plan is should not be in a notebook but must be displayed on some visual system that all employees can monitor. The more visuals you have in your company, the more self-managed it becomes.

Remember that strategic planning will assure 2016 will be better than 2015. Don’t wait until the year begins to invoke the plan as you will have an overly burden the last two quarters of the year. If you have not already shared your vision and plan with the entire organization, do it early in the year

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.