People Productivity (19)
People Productivity is one big issue in The Indian Manufacturing! Blue collar and White collar, both need a lot of improvement! A change in mindset is needed in the The Indian Manufacturing and you can Double your Productivities!
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.
Across the world, the Manufacturing Companies are leveraging Industry 4.0 to become more efficient and to deliver more to the Customers. Indian Manufacturing Companies have a long way to go. I heard a Multi-National Company say that they are in Industry 2.0 or 2.5 in India while their Global operations are going strongly towards Industry 4.0. This is the status of many Indian Manufacturing Companies.
To become receptive to Industry 4.0, Indian Manufacturing needs to lift their game in several areas. Majority of Indian Manufacturing seems to be stuck with traditional methods of working. Whether it is handling Quality or Maintenance or Industrial Engineering etc.
Some of the Companies are finding the need to change and adapting better methods. But, still majority of the Companies are still in a very ‘Lazy State’. It is not just about the Staff and their knowledge. It is about the perspective of the Management itself.
The Companies from Automotive Industry in India are in slightly better positioned as far as the Systems are concerned. But, even in this industry I observe that only about 25-30% of the Companies are having Good practices. 70% of Automotive and Auto Ancillary Companies are still working inefficiently.
In the next few Posts, I would like to discuss about a few areas in which the Indian Manufacturing Companies have to lift their game so that they can get ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution!!
Let us talk about Maintenance of Plant & Machineryin this Post.
For ease of discussion, we will address two types of Situations.
I. Where the Traditional Machinery forms majority of the Machines in a company: Most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have Traditional Machines with least amount of Automation.
The Maintenance that happens in many of the Companies is only ‘Breakdown Maintenance’. The whole Maintenance team would be attending to Breakdowns.
The Companies are dealing with:
- Multiple Breakdowns of the same machinery.
- Serious Production losses.
- Preventive Maintenance not happening regularly. (Production does not release the machines for PM!)
- Companies replacing the Machines in frustration and when pushed by the Customer!
- The Spares required are not stocked in many companies. In some companies you have Costly spares that are rusting. You never have something what you want.
Mindset of Maintenance Team in these companies: The Maintenance Team are busy chasing the Breakdowns. They are ready to burst if you just tap them on the shoulder!! They are frustrated with the Multiple Break downs. A good number of them are not ready to listen to any ‘Different approach’ as they are ‘suffering’. Their Bosses are ‘scared to touch’ them as the Basics may suffer!! The Bosses keep humoring the Maintenance team much less challenging them to get to new level!!
Lift the Game
I suggest following steps to lift the Game in Maintenance of the Traditional Plant & Machinery.
01. Strengthen the Maintenance team: If Breakdowns are too many and Maintenance team is under frustration, you can look at strengthening the Maintenance team by a) Training them b) Adding some Young Engineers to the team. Please do not fuss over this. You will more than recover your investment.
Differentiate: Even while having Break downs in a Factory, there will be at least 50% of your Machinery that is simply not having any Breaking down! These are ‘Zero Breakdown’ Machines. This may be due to your pattern of usage or may be these machines are built with generous Specs!! The Machines that have Zero Breakdowns have to be dealt differently. The approach has to be more Proactive to keep them as Zero Breakdown machines for a longer time.
If you don’t differentiate, you would be waiting for them to Break down and only then you will do something! Does not sound alright. Isn’t it?
02. Improving the machines: A proper Study of the Break down data for the last one year will help you understand why Breakdowns are happening and what you need to do to reduce them. The Corrective actions would involve things like a) Taking a few machines for major repairs b) Training users for handling the machines in a better manner c) Training the Maintenance team to reduce MTTR.
The approach here should be that of a Project approach. The Worst 10 machines should get out of the ‘Worst’ List in 4 months’ time! You need to rev up your Engine to get out of a big Pot hole that you got yourself in to!!
03. Lift the Perspective of your Team: You need to Train your Team and take them to companies where the Maintenance Practices are at the next level. This will help them to know about the next level of Maintenance Practices. Otherwise, they may not simply know the possibilities!!
04. Introduce Predictive Maintenance practices: Introduce Predictive Maintenance for machines that do not have Breakdowns. Many companies have belief that they should deal with the Break downs and then finally go on to the Better Maintenance Practices! It is not needed to wait! When you Train your team and take them to Bench Mark companies, the urge to get to the next level will start.
05. Have Targets for progress: Motivate the team and set targets for Reducing Breakdowns as well as expanding the Predictive Maintenance! Please ensure your team continuously visits companies that are doing better on Maintenance. Whether in India or outside!! Seeing is believing!!
II. Where you are dealing with Automated Factories: Many Indian Companies have introduced Automated Machines. Some Companies have set up Plants that are predominantly automated.
The Companies that have some Automated Machines or one/two Totally Automated Plants deal with issues like this:
- In many Cases, the Breakdowns are higher than the Manual machines!
- The Plant is not giving designed output. Sometimes the output is 60-70% of the Standard output!
- There are higher Quality Problems in these Automated machines.
- The Maintenance practices recommended by the Manufacturer of the Machine / Plant are not followed as they are ‘too costly’.
- The Maintenance team is not fully conversant with the Machine/Plant.
This status is not universal. There may be some Companies who are doing well in Automated Plants. But, a great majority of Indian Manufacturing is not in good shape.
Mindset of the Maintenance Team: The Maintenance team is still in awe of the Automated machine. They approach it in the traditional manner i.e Wait till it Breaks down and then attend to it. But, as this is an Automated machine with high output, the losses are higher! The Maintenance team finds out many short cuts with which they can manage the machine. Read it as ‘By passing most of the controls on the Automated machines’.
We keep approaching the Modern Machine with Traditional Mindset. The mis match can not give good result!
Lift the Game
01. Train the Team / Introduce young blood: You need to train your team immediately in Modern Maintenance practices. It would be very useful to introduce Fresh Engineers in to the System and give them bigger role in the Modern Maintenance. They don’t have ‘Experience’. So the acceptance is much easier.
02. Work on the System: In a highly Automated Environment the thin line between Maintenance Engineers and Production Engineers should be wiped out. Both skills are needed in the same Engineer. The Engineer should look at the machine as something that he has to maintain as per some Guidelines. Earlier he only had to ‘push’ the people in the less automated environment to get Production. Now, he has to deal with some disciplined way of maintaining the Machine. His attitude has to become more disciplined!
03. Use the Machine features: Most of the Automated Machines have a number of features that can be used to Maintain the machine. Collaborate with the Machine Manufacturer and use all these facilities.
There can be a number of outputs in the PLC that you can use for a Visual Management of the Machine.
The Predictive Maintenance can be introduced with a combination of Man and Machine.
04. Beats in the Shop: The Engineers should have a ‘Beat’ (Or Route) just like a Sales person in the field. During this ‘Beat’ the Engineer should check various features of the Automated Plant and ensure things are working as they should. The work of the Engineers should comprise of several ‘Beats’.
In a Traditional environment the work of the Engineer is predominantly dealing with the People.
05. Understand the Machine deeply: The Automation and the Automated Machine/Plant has to be understood deeply. How the machine works and what are the indications of the Machine asking for attention.
A Lot of Data has to be collected and the patterns have to be understood.
06. Digital Twins: When you understand your Machine / Plant, then you can take the help of the Industry 4.0 elements and take it to the next level of making a Digital Twin of the Machine. Then, you can predict failures and prevent them much more effectively.
The approaches can differ from company to company. But, some of the fundamentals will remain same for everyone.
We need to find a way to lift our game and graduate to Industry 4.0.
Will your Company rediscover itself during this Industrial Revolution OR are you going to miss it out totally?
There is a good buzz in the Indian Manufacturing Industry now about Digitalization and Industry 4.0. Every Managing Director would like to tell his/her colleagues at the Club about how they are implementing Digitalization in a big way and trying to implement Industry 4.0 and so on.
I hear many Functional Managers also trying their hand at collecting more data from machines. They are not very clear what exactly they want to do with that data. But, they have started a Project anyway.
This same companies are having modern Machine Tools that already collect a lot of data as a routine. Most of this data is not being used at all.
The other day I heard about a Machine Shop Manager who is collecting data about vibration on the tool holder on the Machine tool and trying to decide when to change the Tool. This is a smart local application. This Will definitely help the Manager to avoid Quality losses due to blunt tools running for more than their life.
But, these smart local applications are very few.
Irrespective of what they already have, Managers and Managing Directors across the Industry are in mad rush to get a tag of ‘We are implementing Industry 4.0’.
I see following problems in many of these companies rushing to ‘try Industry 4.0’.
01. Many Indian Manufacturing Companies have not yet implemented the Basic Lean Practices in their Shop floors.
02. The Pull principle is not being used. There are many companies that are still having Batch Production on their shop floor.
03. The Layouts are still archaic that necessitate unnecessary movement of material.
04. I have seen companies allowing excess Production as they do not want their workmen to be idle!!
05. There is no focus on the Skills of the Workmen. With the attrition problem on the Shop floor, this is a serious problem for the industry.
06. I know many companies that have not solved some perennial Supply issues and resultantly produce according to what material is available and not what Customer wants!
07. Wherever the Companies have installed Automated Machines and invested in to Technology, I have seen that the Company is having more problems with the Higher Technology machines. The Quality losses are higher in these machines, they breakdown more and over a period of time many of the wonderful features of these machines are by passed and it is used worse than its’ less Automated cousin that is co-existing.
This is not a complete list of problems. I am not saying there are no Companies that are not using Technology and Lean Principles. But, this is a very small percentage.
I see three issues from this situation:
a) Understanding Lean approach: Majority of Indian Companies have still not understood and leveraged the Lean Principles.
b) People element:We have not understood how to address the ‘People’ element when we bring in higher Technology. We need to help the person involved to ‘Work differently’.
c) Short term approach: We are still looking at this year results and many of us are worried about this Quarter performance and this Month’s performance. We continue to remain ‘Short Termish’!
While this is the status, there are some companies that are waking up as the Market Competition is increasing and they can’t simply tolerate the HUGE inefficiencies on the shop floor.
Every Company has to wake up!! If they are not woken up by the ‘Indian Competition’ then they will be woken up by the ‘International Competition’.
The Other Side
While this is the status of majority of the Companies trying to implement Industry 4.0, the Companies offering ‘Industry 4.0 solutions’ are also in the same Boat! While there are some International Companies like Siemens and a few of Local Companies that have understood how to use Industry 4.0 elements to take their clients to the next level, majority of the Companies offering the ‘Expert services of Industry 4.0’ do not know what they are talking about!
I have personal experience of talking to a few of these experts who have fancy websites calling out the World to implement Industry 4.0 with their help. Most of these Companies have not done anything in this area. Most of them do not know anything about Lean!
So, we have a very dangerous combination of Companies who are not ready for Industry 4.0 but want to implement it anyway! On the other side we have a big contingent of Companies who do not know anything about Manufacturing offering Industry 4.0 solutions. A lot of money is getting wasted around!!
How can we go forward?
It does not matter what the current status of the Manufacturing Company is, if they have understood the need to improve their efficiencies and the power of Lean then we can progress.
I would suggest that these companies take up a Re-Engineering of their Manufacturing that would involve the following:
- Put Three Year Targets like:
o Tripling People Productivity (Blue and White Collar Please)
o Cutting Quality Losses by 75%.
o Cutting Manufacturing Costs by 50%
o Solving 100% of Customer related problems permanently
You can formulate a few more Goals that are relevant to your company.
- Only a BIG target will wake up your Company and your team! You will achieve it!
- Formulate a Full Time Task force which can be filled with Young Engineers straight from College. Bring in technical experts as needed. But, having a positive mindset is more important than the Technology.
- There should be representation from every Function in this Task force.
- Educate their Employees on Lean Principles starting with the Top.
- Recast their Value Stream Map on the basis of Lean principles.
- Resolve the perennial problems like Material Shortages, Bad Sub-Contractors who do not deliver on time and so on, Perennial Quality Problems that have become as permanent in the company as the owner himself/herself!
- Formulate several Projects that should be championed by the Task force with help from the regular Teams.
- On the way at the right time, we should start educating the employees on Industry 4.0 and the Technology that is available.
- Visiting International companies to understand the Lean principles in action or Industry 4.0 in action is a very good idea.
- Implement Industry 4.0 elements as needed to achieve the Three year Goals. Finance Head should ensure that there is no Project that is being done just for the fancy of it. Every Project should pay back handsomely.
When you are achieving some BIG targets in 3 years, that will allow you to spend a good amount of money to achieve it. The problem of how to finance the Industry 4.0 Projects will be addressed.
So, you can turn your weakness of ‘Low Efficiency’ and ‘Not having implemented Lean’ in to something more positive as it would help you to spend good amount of money as you will get the payback relatively easier.
So, when will you start off?
Improve your Profits significantly and become a genuine implementer of Lean and Industry 4.0!!
Organizations suffer in a big way due to the lack of Knowledge and Skills on the part of employees. Very often this suffering is silent, and it is accepted as ‘Normal’. This leads to Companies accepting low skill / low Capability and try to have more people to do the same work. That is a poor alternative and Company suffers more due to higher number of Low skilled employees.
Let us discuss a few examples.
01. Anish joined as Production Manager in the Capital Equipment manufacturing company. He has 15 Years of experience. But he was never involved in Lean Implementation environment. Resultantly he simply does not know where to start in terms of implementation of Lean. The Company seem to throw more and more people at the rising Production. Company seem to lose more as it produces more!! The Company has at least 50% people more than it requires. This is applicable to Blue Collar and White Collar alike.
If Ashish can be taught and certified for his Lean Manufacturing skills, the Company can improve its’ Profitability by at least 3%.
02. Ketan is the Procurement Manager in a Compressor Manufacturing Company. He is not familiar with the Global Sourcing Practices and Cost Reduction. The company is expecting a at least 5% of Procurement value as Cost Reduction from his efforts.
If Ketan can be helped now, the Company can get ahead of its’ competition in the market and capture more market in Local and Global Market.
03. Varsha is the Quality Manager of Automotive ancillary company. She has to deal with Internal and External Quality issues and improve the Quality of Company’s Processes and Products very quickly. The Company’s Customers have given an ultimatum that if the Quality does not improve significantly, they will start looking for alternative suppliers in 9 months’ time.
If Varsha can be helped right now, her company may avoid losing a Big Customer and their Business !
04. Exwhyzed Pvt Ltd is a Electronics Manufacturing Company. It’s Business is growing and it has a lot of problem in retaining the employees. It recruits employees under NEEM , Company Trainee, Government apprentice categories. But, it loses at least 40 employees every month and 40 new employees come in. The losses in terms of Quantity (speed) and Quality are huge.
If Exwhyzed can be helped with Learning solutions, it can improve its’ turnover by at least 20% this year.
There can be many more such situations in Companies that are almost getting accepted as ‘Normal’ and companies are simply not putting up a fight in tackling such situations and trying to skill up their teams.
India is at a very low place on the People Productivity Scale among Manufacturing Nations of the World. We don’t belong there! We are capable of much more!!
Many Indian Companies are trying to implement Industry 4.0 elements. But, you can’t use these modern tools unless you have the Basics such as Lean Manufacturing Practices and Basic Productivity.
Change the Learning Paradigm
Now, Indian Companies need to believe that it is possible to do much more in the area of People Productivity. They have to rise their Targets / expectations in every area.
Bring in a Learning Partner: A Learning Partner from outside can help a Company to rethink its’ strategy in the area of Learning.
A Learning Partner is someone who would have Skills in the area of Manufacturing and Modern Learning solutions.
A Learning Partner can do the following:
a) Evaluate the areas where the Company is currently losing and where it can earn more if the employees are given timely help.
b) Skill up the employees. Here, a Learning Partner may help the Company with Blended Learning. Theory and Practice.
c) Look for specific results in terms of Specific measurable Business Improvement agenda.
d) Keep improving the Learning agenda of the Organization to Proactive from the above Reactive methods.
Today, we have modern tools that can help make the Learning @ the Point of Need and as required by Business exigencies possible. They can generate more results when paired with Traditional Training methods.
Establish the Learning Architecture
As explained in my earlier article, a Company needs to establish some Learning Architecture in the Company.
Important among them is making ‘Learning’ as the Centre of the Organization and the way Business is done in the company!
- It should mandate a ‘Weekly Learning time’ of at least 2 hours per employee.
- Learning should help Employee to deliver a specific result in the next three months.
- Company should adapt Modern Learning methods such as Video based learning / E-Learning / usage of LMS.
- It should reward the employees on the basis of Learning and their resultant Skills.
This is the only way Indian Companies can improve their Profitability and stay relevant in the Competitive International environment!
A Company that focuses on Learning and improve its’ efficiency can graduate to using the Modern Technology in terms of Industry 4.0.
Without Basic Skills of employees going up and without Basic efficiency not being there in the Company, thinking about usage of Industry 4.0 can only remain as a Dream!!
How are Basic Skills of Employees in your Company? Get them Certified by Experts!
Traditionally in Organizations, the Learning Architecture for the employees is not defined well and the only way to help employees learn is sending them to a few Training programs. Even this (sending employees to training) is done only by about 10-15% of Companies that I have come in touch with. Regretfully even now most of the Indian Companies do not look at Developing employees in a systematic manner.
When we studied in Colleges, Schools we would have been put through the paces of Learning in a systematic manner. There was a syllabus and there was a clear target of passing the Course and probably scoring well for the intellectual types among us. But, now in the Organizations, the Learning Objectives are not clearly defined, and the Learning paths are also not defined.
Resultantly, In the case of at least 90% of the Employees the Learning habit has died down. There is no hunger for learning. Employees are just expected to deliver results. The Owners / Bosses are not seriously focused on skilling up the employees and taking more from them. This is not a smart strategy. The result of this strategy is that you keep adding more people to get the work done. I would say that in Indian Companies the Productivity of White Collar and Blue Collar can be multiplied at least from 2 to 4 times if they pay attention to having Skilled employees.
For Organizations to encourage learning and to ensure their employees are continuously learning and delivering more, they need to build a Learning Architecture in their Company. This Learning Architecture is not a ‘Ready solution’ that can be transported to a company and delivered. This is something that has to be evolved.
I have been a Learner in the Manufacturing Industry for more than 3 decades now. I have gone through a lot of Learning in my career. From being an Accountant to managing Technical functions, Business responsibilities. I have been helping Organizations to develop their employees as a Boss and now as a Coach / Trainer. I have learnt a lot about helping Employees to learn in the last 6 years. There have been some resoundingly successful cases and there have been some ‘dud cases’ where I could not deliver. But, the Successful cases have been many. As I learnt the best way to help people to ‘Learn’, I am starting to see an ‘architecture for learning’ developing in my mind and practice.
Let me try sharing this with all of you.
Elements of a ‘Good Learning Architecture’
For an Organization to have Good Learning Architecture, a few elements are needed. This by no means a complete list. I am listing what I have experienced. Do not hesitate to add more by means of Comments.
01. Inclination at the Top: The Top management of the Company should believe that Learning is a foundational process for a Company to be successful over a longer term. They need to believe that ensuring your employees learn continuously is a SMART strategy for a Business.
02. Gentle push to the employees and leaders: An Organization needs to create a gentle push to the employees and Leaders to prioritize Learning. You can do it nicely by motivating the teams to Learn with some promotional measures like Learning Points that will entail you to get more increments. You can also have some hard measures that may make getting Certified for Skills mandatory for employees.
03. Skill Definition: Companies need to have a Leadership Model that prescribes the Leadership Capabilities that the employees need to have at different levels. Companies also need to define the Functional Skills defined for all levels in the organizations. This is fundamental to start learning. This definition is not set in stone. It has to keep evolving as the Organization evolves.
04. Learning Process: The Learning Process of the Employees need to have a few elements:
a. Foundational Learning: Employees need to get some Conceptual inputs for all the skills preferably in a face to face environment. Testing the absorption is important.
b. Reinforcement Learning: Once the Foundation is there, the employees need to Learn contextually and at the point of need using Micro Learning concept. E-Learning modules are a good tool for this purpose. This should be an LMS based learning.
Eg. Once a Team of employees have learnt ‘Assertiveness’ as a skill , they should be asked to log their experiences and they can also be given Micro learning modules on specific topics within Assertiveness as a topic.
c. Application of Learning: Employees should be encouraged to formulate Micro Business Processes that applies the learning in to the Business Process and enriches the Business process.
Eg. A Team of Employees who have gone through a course of ‘Business Communication’ can be encouraged to formulate ‘Guidelines for Business Communication’ for their Company. These guidelines should become a
deeper definition of their Business Process and the Skills that are needed in their company.
Usually the application is measured in terms of a Project that is taken up by employees. But, this may not be sufficient. We need to get more granular about application of learning.
d. Point of need / Contextual Learning: You need to identify the Training needs of your team for each Quarter on the basis of the Targets that they have to achieve. You need to provide the Micro Learning modules to the employees as needed.
05. Coaching of Senior employees: The Senior Employees need to be Coached on a continuous basis. It is good to get external Business Leaders to coach your Senior team. This way you approach it ‘Outside in’. You can then encourage your senior team to Coach the next level.
In the next article, we will explore one or two specific examples of how an Organization can enable the Learning on the go.
John reached the office at 8 am itself. John is the ‘Manager – Marketing’ in the Automotive ancillary company. Normally he comes to office at 8.45 am as the office time is 9 am. But, he is very enthu about coming to office on every Monday as he has his Learning hour today. He can access the Learning programs from his home. But, he loves to sit at his desk and complete the Learning for the week undisturbed. His son has grown up. But, still there is some time to go to School. While at home, John loves to play with his son. He was worried his son will disturb him at his ‘most favorite work’.
John logged on to the ‘Learning Management System’ of the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ (whom the company of John appointed a few months back to manage all the learning of the employees). There were Two Micro Learning modules waiting for John. John also took out the Work book that reached him the Friday evening. The ‘Work book’ helps him to write down a few learnings and also do a few exercises.
John started going thru the E-Learning video about ‘Dos and Don’ts while designing the Social media promotion’. These are John’s company’s own Check list of what can be done and what cannot be done while designing the Social media campaigns. This week John has meeting with his vendor for Social media campaign. John is working out the agenda with them so that the Vendor company can go on for the Quarter.
John also has another Learning module about ‘Preparing Marketing Plan using 7Ps of Marketing’. This is slightly longer module. It goes on for 20 minutes. John has to initiate his team to prepare the Marketing plan for the next year. This is a refresher course for John. This module teaches John about ‘Their company’s way of preparing Market plan’. John goes thru this module every year before he starts the Market plan work. It helps him to refresh his knowledge about Market plan preparation. It helps him to guide his team very well.
John could see on his home screen of LMS that he has a few more modules coming up for the next week and the week after. Each week he has to spend about an hour on learning. This practice has started in his company three months back. The E-Learning videos given by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ are quite interesting to go thru. They always build a situation around the learning and render the learning thru an animated video. It is quite fun to go thru the video and learn the concept.
At the same time, the Production Manager of the Company, Vijay was passing through Marketing department. He saw John and stopped for a chat. ‘Hey John I see that you are starting the week with your Learning agenda for the week. Great way to start the week’. John agreed with him ‘Yes Vijay this is my most favorite part of the week’. This month I am expecting to complete my Learning agenda for the Quarter and I will get a Certificate from our ‘Training and Certification Partner’’.
Vijay was happy to hear that ‘Yes John, that is great. I have completed two Micro Modules at home yesterday Sunday. It took me an hour to complete both of them and take the test too. Now I can peacefully attend to the Customer visit today’.
Vijay also has a Weekly learning agenda for himself. He can remember how they had some problem in getting used to this ‘Weekly Learning Agenda’ introduced by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ along with the HR & Operations Head. But, those initial troubles settled down in the first month itself. The Learning was made fun and everyone waited to go thru the Learning modules.
Learning @ the Speed of Business
Exwhyzed Limited, the company of John and Vijay adapted modern learning methods using technology 3 months back. They outsourced the whole Learning agenda in the Company to an outside Partner who are experts in Manufacturing and Learning Methods. This company consists of Manufacturing Professionals who are good at Learning methods. They understand all Business aspects unlike many IT companies who are only ‘techies’.
The new way of learning meant the following to the Company:
- The Training and Certification Company identified the Skills that are needed for every employee. This constituted Functional and Behavioral skills.
- On the basis of the Business agenda for the Year / Quarter / Month, they identified the Learning priorities of the Company’s employees in different functions for the year.
- These Learning Priorities were something that would help employees immediately in handling their Business agenda. They learn and they use the skills immediately.
- The Partner company developed Interesting E-Learning Videos on the specific topics.
- Wherever some very BIG topics are there like Lean Manufacturing, there was some face to face training was there too at the beginning of the year.
- The Partner company set up a ‘Learning Centre’ for the company that had physical facilities for training as well as a few Work stations for company’s employees to take E-Learning Lessons. Whoever wanted to use this facility could come to the Learning Centre. It is like ‘Library’ in the Company. Silent and inviting.
- The Partner company interacts with the HODs and HR every month to understand the Learning agenda for each employee in the Company. Then they populate those Videos in the Learning Management System. They give access to the employees as needed.
- The Partner company’s employees follow up with employees who are lagging on completing the Learning modules and motivate them to complete the courses. There are hardly any laggards as the Learning has become priority for everyone.
- HR has already announced that ‘Skills Certification’ will be mandatory from the next Quarter for every employee.
- The employees can access the Learning modules from their Smart phones too. This made it convenient for the employees to complete their weekly learning agenda. Usually the Weekly Learning agenda does not cross about an Hour.
- The Partner company along with Operations Head monitor the Target achievement of the employees on a monthly basis. The Learning agenda of employees is Fine-tuned on the basis of their performance.
This methodology started working very well in the last three months. This way each employee would Learn for 6-8 days in every year. This is quite healthy to start with. The best thing is, this learning is directly linked to the Results that the employees are producing.
Revolution in the Learning methods
The above scenario may very well exist in many Companies World Wide in next few years.
Today the technology that is available to all of us enables us to do this. The Learning has to become ‘Contextual’ and it has to be given at the ‘Point of need’. This would make the Learning very effective.
The Learning Modules that the company develops would be a one time investment. But, they would be available to the company forever. I suggest an external Partner as this would be a very big change that a company would be implementing, and a Partner initially can help in a big way.
Even today, when an employee is forced to learn about something because he does not know that topic, he takes to ‘Google’. He will try to learn that topic by hook or crook. So, the willingness to learn is there.
Unfortunately, there are somethings that he can not learn from Google. These are typically Company specific Product knowledge, Process knowledge etc.
We only have to create our own resource bank for the employee. Employees are willing to learn on the go using their smart phones or tablets and so on.
This is a very important aspect of Digitalization that a company has to go thru. If you are able to activate your employees and make them more effective at work, the results can surprise you!!
When are you starting off?
In many companies, the cost of White-Collar Staff is very significant. By international standards, the number of staff that Indian Companies hire is significantly high. The Productivity of the Staff in a company seems to be very low. We seem to be throwing ‘Warm Bodies’ at work and problems! More Problems, more ‘Warm Bodies’..
The Indian Companies have been waking up to the higher costs of employees in the past Decade or so. The profits are under pressure. Top line is not growing as aggressively as one may want.
In this situation too, many companies have been addressing the Blue-Collar cost. Companies have been trying to hire cheaper and cheaper labor. I know many companies who try to run the whole Manufacturing Plant with temporary and low-cost labor. Genuine attempts to improve Productivity have not been many. Indian Companies have a long way to go in improving the Blue Collar Productivity.
By Comparison, the White Collar Productivity had been an unexplored area for most of the Companies.
No Standards for work!!
Most of the Companies do not have a Standard for the work of the White Collar Employees. What is the work each Position should be doing and what is the Standard time and effort that each of the work is supposed to take?
Resultantly there is no measure for the work of the White-Collar Employees. When something is not getting done, more employees are recruited. Sometimes having more people will result in more confusion and more inefficiency.
The other side of this continuum is that some companies simply refuse to recruit White Collar Employees or fire who is there. Even this act will not have any rationale. Usually it is the ‘feel’ of the Boss who may just ‘feel’ there are too many people and they are ‘wasting’ their time!
Direct and Indirect Cost of White-Collar Employees and their work
The White-Collar employees are tasked in every company with very important tasks. They decide what Raw Materials have to be purchased, at what cost, how much inventory to keep, what price to sell a product, how to market the products and many other crucial decisions.
So, the money that the Companies spend on the Salaries of the White-Collar employees is only a small proportion of the Total cost. The Cost that this group of Employees can inflict on a Company is huge. They and the work that they do can either make or break the Profits of a Company.
Hence, this category of employees deserve a much higher Quality attention! It is not enough to just focus on Blue collar and drive their productivity !
What needs to be addressed?
Companies need to consider addressing two elements of this category of employees.
01. The numbers in this category. How many people you have and how you can optimize this number? This ensures you spend as little as possible on this category of costly employees. This addresses the Direct cost of White-collar employees.
02. The Quality of the work and decisions of this category of employees. Companies need to pay attention to this as they can inflict a very high cost on the company due to the quality of the decisions that they may take.
Let us address these issues in two or three articles.
Addressing the Direct Cost of the White-Collar Employees
This again can be addressed at two levels. You can improve the Productivity of White-collar Employees in two phases.
a) Multiply the Productivity by applying the Lean Principles.
b) Go to a new level of Productivity and way of working by adapting Technology tools that are available today.
Multiply the Productivity using Lean Principles
I would suggest a methodology to address this area.
While many companies may have KPIs for their Employees and may be some of them are using them well, the Productivity at Task level may still be suffering.
Have a Target: When you start improving the White-Collar Productivity, it is important to have a CLEAR target. I would suggest the target as ‘Avoid recruitment for next one/two years’. Do not start with a target of ‘Cutting 25% of Staff’. This would be like cutting the foot to fit the shoe. While this is so basic and everyone should be knowing, I see many companies just firing Staff to reduce costs!! A Good team is what the Management should be looking to build. They would reduce costs and improve profits!
Log your time: Encourage the employees to log their time and find out what are they actually spending their time on. You can give them Log sheets and ask them to capture what they are doing and to what KPI is it really related to. This effort may give you a long list of activities. Pick the Pareto items for improvement. You need to do this for each Position in the company.
Time Study: Study the specific Tasks on which you are spending significant part of your time. By capturing the micro details of the Task, you can examine the various losses that you have in doing that particular task. Usually you would have very BIG losses.
Identify Kaizens: Identify the improvements that you can do to reduce the time that the task takes. The improvements may involve changing the Work flows, changing the authorizations, improving the ERP features and many other activities.
Carry out the Kaizens: Here, the company has to move with some great purpose. One should not be stuck with some Kaizens that are difficult to implement. It may involve modifying your ERP and modifying your methods. Good amount of ‘Change Management’ is needed here.
Multiply the Productivity
One should aim at improving Productivity by 2-3 times with this methodology. A lesser target will not justify the effort and possibilities that are there in every organization.
Wherever IMA handled this type of Project, the improvement in Productivity was at least twice.
What is critical: Try out in one model area. Take the help of outsiders in this project. An outsider can bring a fresh perspective for this work. But, you should develop an internal team that would focus on Productivity of People forever.
Next Article: We will examine how an Organization can transit in to a New Way of working at the next level of improvement.
In my interactions with about 100+ Companies as part of my Consultancy and Job experience, I have seen many problems related to Lack of Knowledge on the part of Employees in companies. Every company struggles with this problem. Some have identified that this is the problem. Some struggle the consequences without understanding the Root cause. Let us examine a few of them.
Customer facing teams not having the knowledge of Product and Company: Today, we are all losing the people in Sales, Service and Marketing teams quite often. New people keep coming in almost every month! But, my observation is that Companies do not have any tool for teaching these new people or some companies have very ineffective tools. Very few companies (may be 2%) have good systems for teaching them in a systematic manner. Result is that we have loose Cannons going to Customers and promising the sky, moon and the Galaxy whereas the company is here on earth! This is perhaps the most dangerous of all the problems related to knowledge.
R&D Teams working with low / no knowledge of product: The R&D teams also are losing many people every month in most of the companies. Again when the new people come, companies do not teach them about their product or they say they don’t have time to teach them !! Result is that the R&D Engineers are designing the products / parts without understanding the Big picture. This creates more iterations at the best and companies lose big opportunities for optimization of their new products at the worst.
Operators on the Shop floor manufacturing the product without knowing the process: I am sure all of you are suffering with the problem of losing Operators on the Shop floor every month in a big number. Still, very few companies have good teaching methods for the new operators. Some companies have Training schools. But, use very ineffective processes to teach them about the Manufacturing Processes. Result is that the Company loses a lot of People Productivity as new people do not produce at standard rate for quite some time. The Company also loses in a big way in Quality. I have seen many companies who are living with this problem for years without addressing it !! They not only lose money, they lose customer confidence and they lose Top Line !
Manufacturing Team not exposed to Lean: Most of the Indian Companies have Manufacturing Teams who are not conversant with Lean Principles. This problem is there at senior levels as well as junior levels. This results in companies working in a very inefficient way. They use resources at least 2X than what is required. Many companies feel very happy if they can meet 100% of the Customer Schedule. They are not focusing on working efficiently and saving some big money.
The same type of problems are there in Procurement where the teams do not have knowledge of Best Procurement practices, Engineering teams not conversant with Value Engineering principles, HR Teams not knowing about better Training practices, Stores teams not having knowledge of Kanban, Inventory Management.. the list can be long.
Indian Companies are working with lot of inefficiency! We can improve our Bottom line and Top line in a big way if only we can address this problem of Employee Knowledge in respective areas.
Today we have Technology Solutions
Today there is enough technology available for companies to leverage and develop Learning Solutions for the employees.
E-Learning: Using E-Learning, the Knowledge required can be taught to the employees in a systematic and uniform manner. The advantages of this technology are as follows:
a) Make the learning interesting.
b) Make it uniform for all employees.
c) Test the knowledge and certify the employees.
d) Repeat all this at no extra cost throughout the year and beyond.
Virtual Reality: Using 3D and VR, one can teach about Product and Technology. The 3D Videos can help you to give a unique experience to the employees to look at the Products In a Virtual manner, look at them from all angles and understand the small details very well. This technology can be applied using the VR Goggles. This technology can be used in Product technology and it can also be used to convey an Induction program that will take a remote employee right in to the Factory using 360 Degree Video. There can be many more applications to this technology. Augmented Reality is another related technology that is available in this area.
Gaming:Gaming has multiple approaches in Companies. Especially in Manufacturing. Using this, the knowledge can be conveyed in an innovative manner. Gaming can also be used to expose the Employees to different Business Problems in a fun or serious manner. Serious Gaming can be quite useful to companies to enhance Learning.
How can you apply these Technologies?
Develop Solutions: A Company needs to get the Learning Solutions developed as a one-time affair. This is going to take some time for companies to do it. All the Knowledge that is needed for a company may not be available in a documented manner. The Knowledge has to be documented and it has to be used along with the Technology to develop innovative solutions.
Proficiency Levels: The Proficiency levels have to be defined in a Company for Employees at various levels in each type of Knowledge. Product knowledge is needed for an R&D Engineer at the highest level. But, for a HR Executive this may be required at a much lower level.
Learning Management: The Courses to convey the knowledge have to be made available to the employees for learning and certification. This data base has to be maintained using a Learning Management System.
Learning Centers: Learning Centers can be developed with a combination of Physical work benches and E-Learning Videos that help the employees to learn the process theoretically and then apply it on the work bench. One can aim at bringing the new employees to the required Productivity and Quality in the Learning Centers before allowing them to the Shop floors.
Organizational push: While all this can be done, the Employees also have to take responsibility to learn. To ensure this, the Companies can think of making Learning and Certification of employees a mandatory affair. Unless the Employees are Certified, they may not be eligible for participating in the Annual Performance evaluation. This will ensure there is a Pull from Employees for the Learning and Certification.
A Company can revolutionize learning and get tangible results with this approach. I believe Companies should take help from outside to do this. I personally would prefer People with good application knowledge than those who are expert IT People. In this area what is required is the innovative application ability.
Are you ready to take your Learning to a new level ?
What is Critical: To understand the Technology and applying it in a Model area is important to realize the power of this approach.