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|The market is increasingly competitive with global and local threats ever pushing companies to improve efficiency. Very few companies can afford to operate below 60% efficiency, and that’s pretty typical of what we see out in the industry. Companies can’t afford to not engage in some form of improvement process, but you already knew that. So why haven’t you started on the path to continuous improvement? Everyone has a reason, typically there is a fear of rejection from the workforce, and we all know that rejection will lead to failure. Do your research, there are ways to enforce buy in. Involve everyone in the process, make it so the process seem like it was everyone’s idea, and not something pushed from above. Above all, take a shot, because inaction won’t help your company stay afloat.|
|The failures in implementation we see are primarily due to human factors, either the staff doesn’t buy into the program or the company doesn’t have a culture of improvement in place. These things can take time. If people aren’t properly engaged early in the process they can build up resentment towards the process, even though it is in essence saving their job. Be inclusive in the process, ask for input along the way and ensure that nobody feels blindsided. Properly implementing an improvement program requires strong leadership, patience, diplomacy, good data and a will to succeed.|
|Good data is a requirement of an effective improvement program. Weather this data is recorded manually or by a fully automated system, if people don’t believe the information being gathered, you will lose confidence in the whole process. An improvement specialist who engages in a project without accurate data is simply shooting in the dark, and those around them that question the person and the process are correct to do so. Good data will shorten the time projects take to generate, give guidance to all levels of change agents, and become a key part of the daily lives of everyone in the plant. The first sign of bad data is an unwillingness to use the data. If your improvement personnel would rather risk creating an improvement project with no data than rely on an existing system, there is a serious issue.|
|Often when we approach an improvement engagement the customer acknowledges that they have a data collection system, then proceed to point us to an archaic database containing raw data. This data is just that, data. Without proper interpretation and then visualization, data can’t be turned into an effective tool for change management. You need tools that can effectively reach all levels with actionable information. For operators this typically means installing dashboards with key metrics in plain sight from all stations. For improvement personnel this means being able to dig endlessly into the historical data and easily report on key metrics while still being able to export to advanced statistical packages such as Minitab. Employees that spend significant amounts of time outside the plant need access to data too. Working with information systems to provide VPN access to data servers and displaying that data on mobile devices such as Android phones or tablets is a perfect way to keep key personnel tuned in to the happenings at the plant.|