The Naughty Baby Bear!
I remember a story told by one of my ex-colleagues.
An R&D Engineer was walking in a Forest. The R&D Engineer was carrying a young Bear which was very naughty, and the R&D Engineer was struggling to keep it in his hands as it was scratching him all over the body! The R&D Engineer could not keep it down as it may escape, and his Boss would take him to task. He came across a Colleague who happens to be a Production Engineer in the same company. R&D Engineer called him out and asked him to hold the Bear while he would go to attend to a nature call. The poor Production Engineer could see that the young Bear was very naughty. But he believed his colleague that he would come back and took the naughty Bear in to his hands. The R&D Engineer dashed off never to come back! The Production Engineer was left to struggle with the Naughty Bear!!
My Ex-Colleague was telling me that this is the way New Product hand over happens in Companies!! You can easily understand that this guy was from Manufacturing side!!
Looking at my experience in dealing with about 40 Companies, I think this is fairly accurate description. No one to be blamed. Neither the R&D Engineer who has to deal with many a Naughty Bear nor the Production Engineer who is not equipped to handle untrained young Naughty Bears.
Simply the system is not there to handle these problems.
Handing over of New Products: A Process that is simply non-existent in many Companies!!
Indian Manufacturing Companies are handling several New Products compared to a decade back. There are more Car Models / Two-wheeler Models / Truck models / Capital Machinery models / Hand phone models / New Foods in the market than ever. Customers are having more choice than ever. All this choice made possible by Millions of Engineers across the Country who are working in Factories producing these New Products.
There are some companies that manage the New Products in a very systematic manner. In most of the cases, these belong to the Automotive industry where the New Product development process has matured more than other Industries. But, even in the Automotive industry I have seen companies that have no or minimal process in the area of ‘Handing over the New Products’ to Production.
We notice several scenarios in Companies regarding New Product Handovers.
01. Customer wants it yesterday: There are situations when the Customer would be sitting in the Company to get the New Product developed. The Company has to respond as the Customer has this urgency. Typically following would happen in such a situation:
a. Product may be developed with Adhoc processes everywhere. May be temporary tooling is used. No manufacturing process is defined. Trials are done right in front of the Customer.
b. Customer closes his eyes to several process violations.
c. The Customer team and the Supplier company team together cooks up a lot of documentation.
d. The Customer tests the Product in a great hurry. Only if very big issues are there, the reworks are done.
e. The Production team has to handle high volumes very quickly in this situation.
f. The Supplier Company would take several short cuts, spends much more money than warranted to meet up with Customer demand.
g. No one even talks about the high Rework / Losses in the Value stream.
h. Everyone is simply focused on the Quantity going out.
i. The whole process is highly inefficient. But, the high Volumes may cover up the losses in most of the Cases.
j. No one would seriously address the situation as the Customer is happy he got what he wanted and Supplier is happy a high Volume Product had been introduced.
k. Production team gets used to ‘handling the mess’.
l. Very often the Process is left in this ‘High Loss’ situation till one day when Customer wakes up and starts tightening up the whole process. Usually this happens when the QA Head changes at the Customer end!!
m. The Supplier would start having high losses due to sudden tightening up of Quality standards. He has no defenses as the ‘unwritten acceptance’ of deviations to Quality standards cannot be quoted.
02. Customer wants it but is not sure when: When there is no urgency for the New Product, the Supplier would push the New Product to the Customer. He would have got it developed in the Company at normal pace. But, the handing over to Production does not happen properly as there is no Schedule from Customer. Usually following types of issues are faced in companies:
a. Production refuses to take charge of the Product as the agreed number of Pilot batches are not done.
b. If even this process of doing Pilot Batches is not there in the Company, then the New Product becomes OLD just by passing of time.
c. When the Customer finally gives schedule for the New Product, no one knows the issues with the Product. Sometimes the New Product Development team would have left the company!
d. The Product would hit the Shop floor and all hell breaks loose.
e. The Product would have Quality problems at every stage.
f. The Manufacturing process is not defined properly as enough number of Products were not produced.
g. The intricate details of Process control / CTQ parameters were never identified.
h. Now, the Company starts learning about the New Product afresh!!
i. The Customer would have several Bad Batches before he can get acceptable Quality and acceptable Quantity.
03. The Normal Course(?!): In all normal Product Development Cases, most of the Companies deal with issues regarding the Quality and Quantity. The Root causes may be lying in following areas:
i. Voice of Customer would not have been collected meticulously. This results in multiple iterations of the Development.
ii. Manufacturing Process is not defined clearly. No one from Manufacturing participates in the Product Development.
iii. The Product Development is handled only by a bunch of R&D Engineers.
iv. The Development team would not have got the Manufacturing facilities to produce the number of Products required to establish the process.
v. Suppliers do not show interest in the new products as the volume is low and it would affect their Bulk supplies!
vi. When the volumes pick up, the Suppliers would start giving bad quality products or the Quantity simply does not take off!
This way, the New Product handing over to Production gets in to serious trouble in most of the Companies.
Most of the Indian Companies are developing more New Products than ever. I would suggest a Solution that I saw working in many companies that I have been involved in. There can be several other solutions. But I believe this can be a solution for situations where you are looking at New Product Development in a big way for sustained periods of time.
Organization for New Product Development
Technology / Product Development / Product Productionising: Companies need to have separate organization for continuously developing the Product Technology to the next level, they also need to have a team for Developing the Products with existing technology and then they need to have a team for Productionising the Products.
Having these three teams would help in giving importance to all three major activities. Otherwise one of these would be a victim to the limited resources that a company would have. A company that is having sustained New Product Development pressure should invest in to this Organization structure.
Full time Organization for Productionising: Now looking at the subject that we are currently dealing with, I would recommend a full-time team for Productionising the New Products.
Normally Productionising the New Products is handled by Part time Production / Quality / Procurement team that never have time for the New Products. They are always busy, and they never give as much time as is needed for the New Product development.
It would be good to get people from following functions and put them in to one ‘Productionisation function’:
- Manufacturing Engineering
- After Sales Service
The members from these Functions should be rotated every 2-3 years. This would ensure that these members retain their Functional Point of view and will not become R&D Engineers in disguise!
There should be a Leader for this Function who should be from one of the above Functions and not from R&D.
This team should physically sit along with R&D Team.
The Leader of this team should report to the R&D Head. Hence the Productionising is taken up broadly by the R&D. But with the support of a FULL TIME team.
Administrative control and Functional Control: When you put together a Productionisation organization with all the functions mentioned above, one needs to recognize the importance of Functional Knowledge / Processes in each of the functions mentioned above. The Functional Leaders should keep giving the Functional Leadership to the People in the Productionisation organisation. If the Quality Engineers in the Productionisation organisation are disowned by the Quality Head, then the same problems will be carried forward as they are in the current situation.
The Quality Head has to define the Systems and procedures for a Quality function while receiving new Products. This has to be followed by the team in the Productionisation team and the Mother function should keep conducting audits to check this situation.
Same is the case for all other functional people in the Productionisation team.
The R&D Head should let this Matrix structure work. If he becomes too possessive of the team, then we would not be having a proper solution to our problems!
Manufacturing facilities: Next problem that many companies deal with is, the availability of Manufacturing facilities for Initial Production.
The Production of New Products can never be at the full speed straight away. There will be some amount of Capacity loss. This is reality and we need to face it. Companies have to decide whether exclusive facilities can be given for Initial Production of New Products or it can be done in the regular Production facilities. Both strategies can be made to work with proper Systems. A Company can chose its’ solution depending on its own situation.
But it has to take a decision. Indecisive behavior of Management in this area can put it back by a few years in New Product Development.
Functions of the Productionisation team: This team would handle following types of activities to ensure smooth handing over of the New Products.
- Voice of Customer collection: As full-time team is there from several functions; the VOC collection would be much more effective with everyone’s point of view coming in.
- Participating actively in the Product Development: As the Productionisation team is full time, they would be participating in the Development actively. This would ensure better attention to DFM / DFA (Designed for manufacturing / Assembly).
- Receiving the Product from Proto Team: The Productionisation team should be very careful and use Check lists to see that Product they are receiving from Proto Team is acceptable to them. Each team has to own up what they need to own up. Right questions have to be asked at the right time.
- Material Planning: The Material planning and availability would improve as the Materials person is sitting within this team.
- Production activity: The Initial Production would be much more effective as the Production people are handling it and issues that are coming out are quickly being attended to by the R&D Engineers. As both Teams have same Boss, the interactions become easy.
- Quality Planning: The Quality Plan preparation can be handled by the Manufacturing Engineering team and Quality team in a seamless manner as they are sitting together.
- Hand over: When the required numbers are produced, the Productionisation team will hand over to the Regular Production with whom they can communicate better as they are one team.
Program Manager: In addition to the structure above, a Program Manager role would help in putting focus right from VOC to Delivery to the Customer. Each Program Manager may handle ‘x’ number of Projects.
This type of Organizational Structure level Solution can work very well for Indian Manufacturing Companies. This can ensure that the New Product Development and handing over to the Manufacturing is given its’ due importance. Especially when more New Products are coming in to Production, if this type of Organizational Structure level solution is not put in place, the Company would be inviting a lot of trouble in terms of unstable Production and unprofitable New Products!
How well are you addressing New Product Productionisation in your Organisation?
For any Manufacturing Company, the Problem Solving is an important Business Process. The Company needs to give it a high priority and treat it as such. There needs to be specific Structure to handle this important Business Process.
Very few Companies in Indian Manufacturing treat this as an important process. If they do not give this importance, there would be a big adverse effect on the ability of the Company to progress. They would have serious problems with the Customers. There would be suffering on a daily basis for all concerned. This is a major reason for the tensions and stress in every Company. But still Companies are not able to put their finger on this issue and address it squarely.
Let me try and list down the issues that a Company needs to do to address Problem Solving in a systematic manner.
01. Capture all the Problems in a Company:Most of the Companies have records for the Customer Complaints / Rejections and Supplier Quality. They record this in a systematic manner. But they need to do this for Internal Quality Problems too. Usually there will be a bunch of phenomena that keep repeating in the Internal Process. They should record these Phenomena and count each one of them as another problem to solve. It is best if all the Problems so captured get in to ONE Problem Solving Software.
02. Problem Solvers: Every Company should identify Problem Solvers from across the Functions in the Company. In many Indian Manufacturing Companies, the Quality Function plays a major role in Problem solving followed by the R&D Function and Production Function. But it is required for a Company to involve Engineers from Materials, Process Engineering, Plant Maintenance also to be involved in the Problem Solving. The Company should identify the Engineers and designate them as ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’.
03. Develop the Ninjas: There has to be specific Development Plan for the Problem-Solving Ninjas. I covered their Development in a separate article earlier on 10/2/2019. You need to Grade the Ninjas in to Leaders and Members of the Teams. The Leaders would lead a Problem-Solving effort whereas the Members can become members in the Problem-Solving Team.
04. Decide the Problem-Solving Capacity of the Organization: Decide how many problems can each Leader handle at a time. This would decide the Collective capacity of the Organization to solve Problems. A Company needs to boost this up as needed from time to time.
05. Allot the Problems: The Problems that are captured in the ‘Problem Solving Software’ of the Organization needs to be allotted to the Problem-Solving Ninjas by the Software on the basis of a Logic. This would ensure that ALL the Problems are parked with one group or the Other.
06. Problem Solving Methodology: Each Company needs to adapt a Problem-Solving methodology that it prefers. It can adapt a Standard methodology like 8D or formulate its’ own methodology with Best Practices.
07. War Room: Every Company needs to have a War Room for Problem Solving. This is the Room that will host two types of meetings. One is a Review by Management. Second type is the Team meetings of the Teams. Normally a Schedule is kept for each team and every team would meet as per the schedule.
08. Meet Daily: If you want the Problem solving to improve in your Company, then every Team has to meet EVERY DAY for at least 45 minutes. If the teams do not meet and then you expect the Problems to get solved, it is not a reasonable expectation. The Team should meet every day and then solve the Problems. They need to spend as much time as is needed on the Shop-floor for Problem-Solving. This is a Primary requirement.
09. Measures of Problem Solving: How do you measure the success of Problem Solving in your Company? There can be two types of Measures. Process Measures and Result Measures. Result Measures are very clear. That would include your Customer Rejections / Complaints, Supplier Quality, In-Process Quality etc. The Process Measures would include the following:
a. Daily Meeting schedule adherence.
b. On Time Activity. Number of Activities planned vs done on a daily basis.
c. On Time Problem Solving. When each 8D is supposed to be closed and when it was closed.
d. Quality of Problem Solving. The 8D Check List score calculated by the team and certified by the Coach.
e. Repetitive Problems: If the Quality of Problems is good, the problems will not come back.
10. Problem Solving Coach: It would be very much required to have a Problem-Solving Coach who would help the teams to improve the Measures of Problem Solving.
11. Certifying the Problem Solvers: It would be useful to Certify the Problem solvers on the basis of their Knowledge, Skill and Results. The Certification should also lead to Rewards for the Problem Solvers. This would take care of Motivation of the Problem Solvers.
12. Approving Solutions: Company should authorize a few Senior people who would Certify the Solutions being implemented. This would ensure that the Collective wisdom of the Company is at work in Problem-Solving.
13. Use Technology to train the Ninjas: The Experience of the Senior People in the Company should be translated in to ‘Standard Check Lists’ for all known and repetitive problems. Using these Check lists E-Learning programs can be developed to train the Ninjas. For every known Problem, the Program would teach the standard steps that need to be taken to move towards the Solution. This would reduce the time taken to solve the Problem. This is a good way of using the Collective Experience that is available in the Company.
14. Managing the Knowledge Base: The Problem Solving in a Company can create enormous amount of Knowledge on Products of the Company and the Process of the Company. This knowledge needs to be captured in a Knowledge Data base and this Data Base can be used for:
a. Learning from Mistakes in Design/Process
b. Going back to the Solution in case the Problem reappears.
15. Problem Solving Conferences: The Company can think of conducting Problem Solving Conferences where the Problem Solvers from across the Company would converge and present the Technical papers about various issues in the Company and Best Problem Solvers may be rewarded. Usually the Company would invite Technical experts to this Conference to help teams to learn something more.
This way, the Manufacturing Companies can look at addressing Problem Solving as a special Discipline that cuts across Functions and look at developing this Competency in the Organization.
How well are you addressing Problem Solving in your Company?
We have been discussing about preparing for the advent of Industry 4.0 and how Indian Manufacturing Companies can prepare for the inevitable. We discussed how various Functions in a company can get ready for Ind 4.0 situation.
In this article, let us discuss about the Leader of the ‘Future Factory’. What are the Capabilities that a Leader of Future Factory needs to display?
A Future Factory will be characterized by the following:
- Definitely a Less Manpower environment.
- Highly Automated set up.
- Much higher Manufacturing Technology.
- Much higher Capacity in each Factory due to the automated set up.
What are the Competencies required for a Leader of this type of Factory?
I would say, he requires the following Six Competencies:
01. Analytical Capability: The Leader of Future Factory will have to be very comfortable with Data. He should be able to make sense of the Data and should be ready to use Data Analytics to make sense of the happenings around him/her and take actions. The typical situations that require him to show this capability can be as follows:
a. The Online Quality System in the Factory is throwing up a lot of Data about the Process status. The Analytics Software is showing a number of Patterns of Data. The Software is continuously learning (AI) and showing new meanings from the old Data. The Data analysis of last Six months just showed a Pattern that can be a Solution to the Biggest Customer Complaint that the company is having. The Quality Team has to be supported in understanding this data as it is the first time a new sense is being made from the old data.
b. The Zero Break down record in the Factory has to be maintained by managing the various Sub-systems in each of the Machines in the Factory. The Data from monitoring the Temperature, Vibration of various parts of the Machine has to be made sense of and Predictive Maintenance has to be improved.
c. The Software that the New Product Development team is using is throwing up lot of Analytics that can be used to Learn from the Development and apply learnings to the future products.
d. The Problem-Solving Software that is helping the Engineers to solve the Problems is capturing lot of interesting Data. This data has to be used to draw lessons for New Products.
e. Finally, SAP is being used more effectively. The Cost Data is getting generated as per each Activity. This data has to be analyzed to identify Wastes and eliminate them.
There can be myriad more ways in which the Data will be generated and will have to be interpreted.
The Factory Leader does not have to do all this job herself. But, She should be able to give Leadership to her Team to adapt this point of view.
02. System Builder: The Leader of the Future Factory has to be a great System Builder. Wherever he sees a Problem, he has to look at a System solution for it. If he Looks at solving the Problem for today, then the whole System can be short circuited by this problem and the Desired result will not be forthcoming.
Eg. In a Highly Automated Factory, the output from Dust Collector is Designed to be collected by a Pneumatic System and taken to a Dust Storage system. Now, when the Pneumatic System Breaks down due to Dust contaminating all the Seals / O rings in the system, the Factory has to look to alternative System that can withstand the Dust. If temporary solutions are looked at or if the Pneumatic system is kept idle and the factory goes back to manual collection of Dust, then very soon the Manpower will creep in and the inefficiencies will go up.
The Leader has to look at building a System around everything. He should be looking at Killing problems once and for all.
Eg. An Automated System is giving a problem handling some specific parts of the Company. While it is suitable to 75% of the parts of the Company, it is giving trouble handling 25% of the parts of the Company. The efficiency of the system is pulled down. Immediate Solution is needed for this problem. The Company set up a team to solve this problem while not reducing the efficiency of the whole System. Along with this, the Leader has to ensure that the Company learns from this experience and the next Factory has to take care of this problem from word go. The Design team also has to learn from this Process incident and ensure the future New Products are Designed to take care of this manufacturing aspect. The Leader has to ensure this at a total system level.
While these Qualities are required even in a less automated environment, the costs of not doing it are very high and can be lethal in an Automated / Ind 4.0 environment.
03. Avid Learner: The Leader of a future Factory has to Learn on her Feet. This can be a great challenge! The Learning is not just for her. She has to ensure the Learning is there at Organization level.
In the Future Factory, there will be a lot of Data just about everything. There will be Data Analytics team in the Factory and they will be throwing up a lot of Data and Interpretations.
The Leader has to encourage the Team to Learn from this Data. Otherwise there is no use of this Data.
Other than this Learning within the Factory, She also has to Learn from the outside world. She has to understand how the Customer is progressing in his Business and keep shaping up the factory to suit the Customer.
Eg. Customer’s Data Analytics may show that Demand for a particular product may be going up 3 months from now. The Factory Leader has to take this information, deal with it and also ensure that the Sales team is continuously picking up these cues from the Customer and help her shape the factory to suit it.
The Learning also has to cover the Ind 4.0 elements. The Factories across the World would be having new learnings from same elements almost on a daily basis. The Leader has to learn from the information available on the Public domain and she has to participate in suitable events like Technical Symposiums to keep learning from the environment.
Paid Factory Tours, Supplier Seminars, Industrial Exhibitions, Industry association events can be some sources for new Learnings.
Every Leader has to organize her own combination of events that will give her chance to pick up learnings from the relevant environment around her.
04. Integrator: This role can be part of ‘System Builder’ Role. But, as it is a very important function of a Future Leader, this is being discussed separately.
A Future Leader should be able to look at a Quality Problem and link it to the Machine, Manufacturing Process, Maintenance Practices, Improvement required in Design of the Product, the improvement required in designing the next Machine and how the factory has to work in future to avoid this Problem.
This is a very critical ability and not easy to master. It is not required that the Leader should be expert across the Board in all Functions. But, he should be able to see the linkages clearly.
The Future Factory would be working as one unit. The differentiation between one Function and the Other will disappear to a large extent. An Engineer would be required to have expertise across Functional areas as they exist today.
A Leader should be able to mold such Engineers!!
05. Team Developer: Factory of Future will be such that it will work as a unit or fail as a unit. Working partially will be difficult due to its connected / automated nature. One system depends on the other. So, if one System is not working it will affect the other.
The Team work and working as a unit are required much more than the non-automated environment.
The information between the various areas of the Factory has to flow seamlessly and the whole team has to deliver the result together.
Eg. The Shop Engineer (Who will handle Production, Quality, Maintenance) at each stage of Manufacturing has to interact with the Engineers at other stages and also interact with the Data Analytics Engineers (Who will be the new breed in every Factory) to make sense of the Factory performance and take actions on a daily basis.
The Leader of the Factory should develop his Team for a smooth daily interaction and ensure they work as a team.
06. Frugal Engineer: In the environment of highly automated factories, the difference between your Company and a Company in USA/Europe can totally be blurred as both the Companies will be having equally automated factories (may be same supplier of equipment too).
What can be the key differentiator for an Indian Company? If the Leader is a Frugal Engineer, he can help the company not to throw Big money at the Machinery. Spend just as much as is needed. Design the Product with just enough meat and don’t give away more than needed (Russian Designs are clearly out of fashion). If your Company can either make do with 75% of the Automation as in USA and give same output or if you are able to take 25% more output from the same Machinery as in USA, then you can have a leverage over other world Manufacturers.
In Future Factories, your competitor is not just the company in NOIDA. You will have to compete with the one in Detroit too.
India is having a very high number of Engineers. Not many Countries can match us in this. The Leader of Future Factory should be able to use the capabilities of these Engineers to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in efficiency and money for each Rupee of investment.
These are some of the Capabilities for the Leader of a Future Factory! There can be more. Some or all of the above look like they are needed today too.
01. Many Leaders of Today Factories do not have these Capabilities. India is very big and we have too few Leaders with these Capabilities.
02. There is a subtle difference in the same Capability that is needed for tomorrow. I am sure you will notice in the above discussion.
Are you a Leader for the Future Factory?
While Indian Manufacturing Companies are trying to implement Ind 4.0 solutions, one more area that is begging for attention is ‘Production Planning’. The issues with Production Planning are more in Companies that are Assembly oriented where several Parts are needed to make one Assembly.
Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers manage their Inventories very well (?). But, this is more due to their usage of their ‘Volume Muscle Power’ and not due to Excellent Planning. Most of the Component Manufacturers suffer the consequences. Still, the Inventory Management in Automotive Industry is much better than the other industries like for example Capital equipment industry. But, even in Automotive Parts industry the Production Planning problems are quite severe in many Component manufacturing companies.
The Problems that happen are as follows:
- Production does not happen as per plan.
- Shop floor assembles whatever Product for which material is available!
- The Plan is changed several times.
- The Production Capacity is lost on a daily basis or Inventories of unwanted Products piles up as the Shop floor produces something to keep the Workforce Busy!!
There are several reasons for the Production Losses. Some of them are as follows:
- Material Shortages. This is by far the biggest reason for the Production plan changes.
- Break down of equipment.
- People related losses – Absenteeism / Shortage of People.
Material Shortages: Every Company in the Country is looking to improve their Top line. It does not make sense to say that Suppliers are failing on Deliveries. In most of the cases that I have investigated, the problem lies with the Company and not the suppliers. The Production Schedule is changed so many times that the Suppliers have given up on the Original Production schedule of the Company and they wait for the frantic calls of the Buyers to plan their Production! Once a change is made in the Production schedule, it will have a cascading effect on many Materials and therefore Suppliers.
Breakdown of Equipment: As I discussed in one of my earlier Articles, the basic Preventive Maintenance is not being done in many companies. They have to pull up their efforts in this area.
People related losses: The People Policy of Companies is to blame here. Many companies are simply using the ‘Temporary manpower’ concept beyond its’ due. The way the companies are dealing with the People element is giving rise to absolute lack of commitment on the part of the employee force. This is resulting in high Absenteeism and Attrition.
Forecasting: In these companies there is constant fight between Production and Sales on the issue of Forecasting. Sales say they can’t forecast what the Customer wants and Production and Materials say this is the reason for Production Planning Problems. Usually it ends up in dead lock. Many companies have given up on resolving this issue.
Some of the Consequences of this situation are:
High Inventories: Most of the companies that are having the Production Planning Problems are having high Inventories of Raw Materials, WIP and Finished Goods. While they are having Shortages of some materials, in anticipation of higher Production they get many more materials and pile them up.
Losing top line: These Companies also lose at least 10-15% of their Top line every year due to the mis match of their Production and Demand.
Lift your Game in Production Planning
Companies need to understand that there is no Silver Bullet for such problems. Every Company has to find their own solution. But, they can adapt some Best practices.
Forecasting: To address the issue of ‘not being able to forecast the demand of customer’, companies can form a ‘Production Steering Team’ that will have members from Sales, Materials, Production, Quality and so on. This team should meet every week with some agenda. The agenda will have two broad parts:
a) Reviewing the here and now issues with reference to Supplies from Suppliers and Supplies to Customers.
b) They should also review the Forecasting process, look at the Forecasting accuracy for each Customer and see how to address the problems of forecasting with reference to each Customer.
Many Company teams end up doing only (a) above. Looking at Forecasting as a process and improving its’ accuracy is not addressed objectively. When we become aware of the problem and start addressing the reasons for not being able to know the Demand of the Customer, we will be able to solve majority of the problems. I have seen companies improving significantly on Forecasting accuracy once they approach it systematically.
I know some companies who have graduated to understanding the Demand using some Data models and avoiding Forecasting inaccuracies.
It is also good to consider implementing the Supply Chain Management Concepts. Different people handling Procurement, Production Planning, Production, Sales/Customer Management adds up to the problems. The difference in Demand Planning at several stages in the company result in high Inventories and shortage of Materials for Production.
Combining Procurement, Production Planning, Sales / Customer demand Planning, Dispatches in to one function of Supply Chain Management can help in avoiding the differences in the Demand Planning at various stages.
Supplier Engagement: Companies have to work out their own Supplier Engagement models.
Companies need to engage with Suppliers on a regular basis and not just when there are problems. Suppliers also have to be given a safety net that if they plan their Production on the basis of Schedules from Customer and if really the Demand does not happen, the Customer will take care of the Suppliers. They may compensate the Inventory Carrying costs and so on. Please note that a good relationship with Suppliers will pay off on the long term. Many companies are focusing on the short term and trying to make money at the expense of Suppliers. Obviously this will not work and it is not working. Companies can measure the effectiveness of their Supplier Engagement model with the number of shortages that they are having on the shop floor.
Even after a very good Supplier Engagement, there may still be residual problems with some suppliers. These needs to be addressed systematically by categorizing the suppliers in to Red / Yellow / Green suppliers on the basis of the shortages they are contributing. The Reds have to be dealt with by the Procurement team in a time bound manner.
I have seen that this type of focused approach pays significant dividends to the Companies.
People Related issues: Companies need to work out a People Policy in a practical manner. They should have a hard look at their ‘Cheap Labor Policies’ and see whether it is Worthwhile to have such Policies. Every Company should have a sizeable Permanent Work force and they should learn how to manage the ambitions of the Work force. This is the only Solution. Unfortunately, the practice of avoiding Permanence to the Workmen has become a practice. The People on the Shop floor are treated as Dispensable commodity. No wonder that they are also treating Companies as Dispensable! I think the Companies are losing out on Shop floor efficiency / Quality in a big way due to this.
The Cost of ‘Cheap labor / Voice less labor’ practices is being felt in Quality losses, Productivity losses, Customer market share losses by the Indian Manufacturing Companies.
This is not the right practice and we need to have a good proportion of Shop floor employees as permanent. We also need to have ‘Self-Managed Teams’ concept on the shop floor so that the Permanent workmen can manage the smaller proportion of Temporary Labor.
Other Losses: There may be a few other losses that are affecting the Production on a daily basis. These needs to be attended to head on. Companies should stop dodging these issues and they stop behaving as if there are no problems. One example of such a problem is the ‘Fettling’ issue in Foundries. Every foundry loses a significant part of their Top line due to the Fettling issue and still they don’t solve it for decades together. I am happy to note a small percentage of companies who are trying to bring in Robots in this area and solving a very sticky problem of Foundries.
How to leverage Ind 4.0?
Once these Basic issues are resolved, Companies have opportunities to leverage on Ind 4.0 elements to further improve.
The Consumption pattern across Industries is becoming more transparent. Using this data, Companies can understand the Demand Patterns more clearly and be better prepared for the Upswing / Downswing of the Demand.
Companies today cannot leverage on such tools. This is like collecting and understanding the Quality Data much more before you really apply a tool like ‘Design of Experiments’.
The Planning of various resources within the company can undergo a big change. A Machine shop today has lot of Queuing / Waiting problems on a daily basis. Using a SCADA or a Customized Planning solution, the Machine Planning alignment can be improved much more. The main issue in a Machine shop is not Planning alone. When something changes, how do you Re-plan is the issue. This can be addressed by an AI powered Software that keeps learning from its’ experiences and Planning the Machine loading in a Dynamic manner.
Ind 4.0 has many uses in SCM. Monitoring the performance of your Fleet of trucks, Converting your Traditional Kanban in to E-Kanban and many other opportunities are there.
We need a Breakthrough: I notice that many companies are still in the ‘Denial’ status. Companies need to have a longer period outlook and aim at improving before it is too late.