While there are some Companies in Indian Manufacturing who have improved the Quality of their Processes to a very good level, still a big portion of the Indian Manufacturing is still in mediocre state. Quality of the Product is something that they have to work hard to attain. I notice following problems in these companies:
01. The Quality Plans are not defined well. Most of the Companies have just one Generic Quality Plan for all products together. This is simply not enough. One needs to go to a Micro level where they see the differences between Products and Processes for them. Broad brushing all the Products with one Plan is not enough.
02. Quality Plans are not implemented well. Quality Plan adherence in most of the Companies is about 30-40% only. Please check the actual situation on your Shop floor with a genuine audit. I am sorry to say ‘Genuine Audit’ as many companies have regular Audits that refuse to acknowledge the actual situation on the ground.
03. Quality Plans are impractical in many cases. The Quality Plans defined are impractical and the number of People checking Quality of Processes is just not enough to actually check the processes.
04. Quality is the job of Quality team only. While lot of word of mouth is happening about Quality being the responsibility of everyone, the actual work in monitoring and improving Quality is being done only by a handful of Junior most Quality Inspectors in most of the Companies.
05. Quantity still occupies most of the mind space. Getting the daily Production still occupies the mind space of most of the Engineers in Production function. The Management focuses on this and this alone in most of the Companies.
06. Quality of Problem Solving is not good. In most of the Companies, the Problem Solving is not recognized as a Skill that can be learnt. There is no training happening on the subject. There is general frustration around that same problems are repeating. But it is taken as a reality that cannot be avoided.
Generally, the medium-term approach is not given for the Quality. It is treated as an essential evil to please the Customers. There are no proactive improvements happening in this field. Only those forced by the Customers happen. This way there is more happening in Automotive Industry where the Customers are generally much more demanding than any other Industry.
In Non-Automotive industry, the status of the Quality is generally not good. There may be a few exceptions. But the Quality Systems in most of the Companies need a lot of improvement.
The Managements treat Quality as a subject that need to be managed somehow.
Set up a Vibrant Quality System
I would recommend two major steps in setting up a Vibrant Quality System in your Company. Maybe you can do lot more. But these two steps can become your Corner stones. You should Disrupt your Quality system with revsiting fundamentals and a good amount of Technology that is available today.
01. Make Quality as the responsibility of everyone
Quality should be the obsession of everyone in your Company. You cannot leave it to the few in the Quality function. Quality Team can co-ordinate the efforts on Quality. But they cannot be the only team who are worried about it.
Quality has to be everyone’s responsibility as everything right from Incoming Material to the Manufacturing Process, the Equipment, Final Inspection everything has to go right to get good Quality.
Rewrite your Quality Plans with the role for everyone in that. All the roles right from the Operator and right up to the Plant Manager should participate in the Quality Checks.
Manufacturing Supervisor’s role has to be rewritten. The Manufacturing Engineer’s role today is filled up with lot of Admin work. This happens as the Plants have not spent enough time in settling down the Manufacturing Lines. There are always problems in the lines on a daily basis. The Problems may be:
- Materials do not come in time. Supervisor chases for this.
- Process is unstable. Supervisor has to work with other functional teams to settle the process too frequently.
- Machines are breaking down frequently. Supervisor has to run around the Maintenance team.
So, you have an unstable Manufacturing and the Supervisor is doing everything other than taking care of the Quality. When Quantity becomes a problem in Manufacturing, everyone will run after only that. Quality takes a back seat. Stabilize the line and make the Quantity as a given. Then, the Supervisor will focus on Quality.
Involve the senior people in checking Quality: The entire Manufacturing team has to be very familiar with the nuances of the Manufacturing Process. When they do not know about the Process, the distance between them and the Operator team will increase.
Normally it is this team who take decisions about the improvements on the Shop floor. They take these decisions without deep knowledge of the Process!!
They will not be able to solve Process related problems; they cannot appreciate the issues on the shop-floor. Make it mandatory for the entire team to get involved in Quality checks, for this they have to study the process closely. When they continuously do this, they become more confident of themselves and they will be able to contribute positively to the Process Control.
Make Quality of Incoming Parts the responsibility of Materials team: Traditionally the Materials team gets the Parts / Raw Material and the Quality Team checks it. There is always a cat and mouse game between the two teams. You need to change this. Give the responsibility of Quality to the Materials Team. Make the Incoming Quality Manager and the team to report to the Materials Head. Let the Materials Head change the culture of his team. Invest into this. It will work.
Connect the dots between Quality and Equipment status: The Quality of the Product has lot to do with the Performance Equipment on which the Product is produced. Yet, the Maintenance team does not do much to control the Quality directly. Whenever the machine totally breaks down, they get involved. This has to change. Identify the Equipment parameters that have impact on the Quality of the Product and give the responsibility of ensuring these parameters to the Maintenance team.
Process Engineering Team has to keep revisiting the Process stability: The Process Engineering team sets the process initially and they prepare the Quality Plan. They will have to take responsibility to keep revisiting it with changes in the Process and maintain the Quality Plan updated. They have to play this role in an active manner.
Many of what I mentioned above are nothing new. But not followed in most of the Manufacturing Companies. Go back to fundamentals!
02. Let your Quality System go Digital and LIVE!!
Traditionally good part of the Quality checks in Companies are off-line. Some of the modern Manufacturing Lines may have controls not to let the bad quality go forward. But most of the Companies do not have an online Quality system.
The Quality Inspectors are checking the process and recording them. The action on the observations is scanty.
You can do the following:
- Go Digital with your Quality System. Develop an App that can capture all the Quality Plans of your Products. This App should be installed on Handhelds and all the Staff should carry the Handhelds that will alert them for all the Quality checks that they should do during the Day. Software are available with companies like Siemens that can cover all this
- Data input should be Digital to the extent feasible. The Input can be taken from the Machine / Gauge, Visual condition to be captured by a Camera and so on. This will ensure the correctness of the data.
- Analyze the Data. When you collect data online, you will collect a huge amount of data. The data will be:
o About the Process
o About the Equipment
o About the People who are collecting the data and so on.
You need to analyze the data and keep making the course corrections online.
- Develop a team of Data analysts: Your Quality team has to learn how to analyze the data and learn from the data. Analyzing the Micro data and making corrections is a skill that they have to learn.
o Example: If they capture the data about various Engineers capturing the Quality data and missing out a few data captures, they should be able to understand the problems in data capture and initiate corrective actions.
o Example: They should be able to look at data of Part dimensions in a machining process and decide when they should change the Cutter so that they can maintain the Process capability.
Just by doing these two Mega changes in your Company, you can build Vibrant Quality Systems in your Company.
Make a change. Do not continue with status quo.
As Leaders all of us Professionals and Entrepreneurs interact with several people in the Business. We need to manage several relationships to succeed at the job. One of the most important relationships is that of Boss and Sub-ordinate. I see several Professionals not being able to manage the relationship with the Boss. I feel this happens to many Professionals at some point of Career or the other. Usually when you become more senior Professional.
Let me give an account of my own experience in my career so far with my Bosses!
Totally Aligned: I have experienced a wonderful relationship with a few Bosses with whom I was totally aligned. The relationship was wonderful. The Boss was appreciating my strengths, I was worshipping my Boss’s Qualities and trying to learn. The relationship was just perfect. I was able to have this relationship at a relatively early stage in my career.
Absolutely no fit: There was this type of relationship with one or two people where there was no common ground at all. My methodology and my Boss’s methodology just did not match at all. The relationship just did not click at all. This happened to me when I was early into the Job as well as mid stage.
Trying to align and give up: Then there was this type of Boss where there were some disagreements, you try to manage them respectfully as you have seen some amount of life. But when it is going on beyond a point, you just give up. This happened after good number of years of experience.
Manage a Respectable relationship: Then, I have experienced a few relationships with my Bosses (Both in full time job and in Consultancy) where there are number of disagreements. But we deal with them respectfully and keep going forward. Looking back, I could do this quite early in my career. Of course I do it day in and day out as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur.
When I look back, I am able to appreciate the point of view of every Boss with whom I worked. I am able to look at the relationship that I had with them from a distance and able to appreciate why some of them worked and why some of them did not. I feel it depends on the stage of your career as well as the Compatibility of the People involved.
Fresher and Boss: In many ways this is a very nice relationship. The Boss does not have any axe to grind as the subordinate is a fresher. The Fresher is also starry eyed and looking at his Boss with admiration. Of course, there are again some relationships where the Fresher and the Boss just do not see eye to eye. In this case the Fresher quickly changes the job.
Growing Manager and Boss: There is that stage in your Career when you start growing rapidly. If you and your Boss are aligned, your Boss may be the one who is helping you grow. But in other cases, the Boss may be very uncomfortable with this guy who seems to be growing in stature every day!
Challenger: Then there is this stage where you may be just as senior and competent as your Boss. You are too close to him for his/her comfort. The relationship will be tense. The Boss would be peeping over your shoulder perennially. Boss may feel that you are a Challenger to his position.
Senior Colleague: Then you would gain years of experience and become a Senior Colleague to your Boss. Technically he is your Boss. But as both of you are senior Professionals, the relationship is more like a Senior colleague rather than a reportee.
With my personal experience of Managing / Mis Managing the relationship with my Bosses in my career and with my experience of watching many Senior Professionals as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur, I would recommend some Best Practices in Managing the relationship with the Boss.
You need to Manage the relationship: First of all we should recognize that there is a need to ‘Manage’ the relationship with the Boss. Many a times you may think that just working with all your heart is what is just needed. Everything else will fall in place. It may not. You need to recognize that your Boss is another Human being with his own imperfections as you have imperfections yourself. When I say you have to ‘Manage’ your relationship, I mean the good way. I am not talking about the practice of just trying to please the Boss. Those who are doing it and doing well do not need to read this article. I can’t add much value to them. Recognizing that there is a need to Manage the relationship is the first step.
If you are not able to agree that you need to Manage the Relationship, then spend more time on this. Talk to your friends. You are welcome to talk to me. You need to be convinced about this basic foundation.
Many a times we may take extra efforts with our Team. But we may feel the Boss has to do it with us and we may just not take any effort to manage our Relationship. But I feel this argument is flawed. At a senior level both the people need to put in effort. The Boss may be finding it difficult to ‘Manage’ you. Give him a chance!
Understanding the Priorities and aligning: Usually after you have put a good number of years in the industry, you would develop your own way of working. If you get a Boss who is able to just leave it to you, then it makes the job easy. But many a times you may have a Boss who is as Strong willed and who is having as much experience as you are. Then it is required to understand his /her Priorities and align with him. It is just fine to modify your Goals and methods of reaching them. Either he listens to you or you listen to him. But if the disagreement is strong, don’t just duck it. Try to deal with it. As Marshall Goldsmith says we have to make peace with the fact that it is the Boss who decides many things around you. You need to accept this fact.
Communication: Understand the amount of Communication your Boss needs. If in doubt, you can ask. But many Bosses may not be able to articulate well about how much Communication they need. For example, I need a lot of communication from my Team. I am happy with someone who communicates a lot with me and then understands what need to be communicated and how. Understand your Boss’s preference. Please note that it is worth doing this.
Reach out to him as a Human Being: Very often you label your Boss with Positives and Negatives at work. You may not see the Human side of him/her. Try to reach out to your Boss to just do that. I have seen many Bosses who do this very well with their Team members. I had a Boss who would invite the team to his home and play a wonderful Host! I could see a very different sensitive side of him in those interactions. Another Boss was very good in feeding people! You would go back home much heavier if you go to his home for Lunch/Dinner! You need to take the same effort with your Boss! It is needed!
Genuine appreciation: You need to give Genuine Appreciation to your Boss when it is due! This is a smart way of letting him know what you like about what he is doing. You may get more of it in return! Without this, your Boss would not know what you like about him/her. Don’t fake it. He/she would know it.
Formal Feedback: Try a formal feedback session with your Boss at least once an year. Sometimes you may need it twice a year. This will work with some Bosses and does not with some others. Where it is not working, look for subtle signals to understand the feedback. It is tougher. But you need to put in the effort. There is a Danger of misunderstanding him/her. Try your Best to validate your understanding.
Learn from your Team’s feedback: Many a times you can learn from the feedback that you may get from your own Team. If you can reflect, you can pick up many learnings. You can look at gap in reality vs your thinking about various team members opinion about happenings in the team.
Managing a Disagreement: With all your efforts too, you would have disagreements with your Boss. Expect them. The problem is bigger if you are expecting a wonderful stain less relationship!! If you are old enough, you would have understood that it is quite okay to have disagreements with your Children and your Spouse. So why you can’t live with some disagreements with your Boss?
When there is a Disagreement, look for what is the Best solution for the situation. Don’t get hooked to your position beyond a point. Take the opinion of various Colleagues. Do not go only to like-minded Colleagues. It is comforting to gang up with similar thinking colleagues. It is important to go to Colleagues who think dissimilar to you in these situations. You need to put effort to understand the other point of view. We need to have belief that the other person is having the Best intentions when he/she is suggesting something. This may be your opportunity to Learn something different.
My own experience of such situations is that when I managed such situations, my learning was wonderful. It took me to the next level as a Professional and as a Human being. When I ducked those situations, I missed out on the Learnings!
We need some Humility!
My experience is that those with some Humility can manage the Relationships much better! Those of us who are still having rough edges find it more difficult to manage relationships. Rough edges (in terms of our behavior) would hurt others and they hurt us more!
One good practice to learn Humility is to have Gratitude.
You need to write down what all you are grateful about in your life. Thank those who helped you to gain in them in your life. Do this every morning. This teaches you Humility! This would totally rewire you if you are sincere to the cause.
With more Humility we would manage our relationships much better. We would understand that taking everyone along with you (including your Boss) is more important than having some Bright ideas in your head and a feeling that your thoughts are superior to everyone else’s. You would become more tolerant to others’ ideas.
Wish you more Harmony in your Relationships! It is needed to reach your Goals!
When you look at a typical Manufacturing Company in India, the usage of IT is very limited. A small percentage of Big companies use IT in an effective manner. While a great majority do not use the Quality, Manufacturing and other Modules in ERPs like SAP even though they would have paid for it and they lie unutilized in their servers.
Resultantly, most of the Important work in Manufacturing happens off line. We don’t try to control the Manufacturing process as it is happening. Most of the controls are off line. We seem to be letting defects / problems happen and then we are reacting.
Can we go more online?
I think we should go much more online than what we are right now. I would recommend using some Apps for specific purposes. I would recommend using IT in two areas to begin with:
a) How Employees Learn
b) How Employees pursue Routine
Let us examine how we can use I.T effectively in these two areas.
How Employees Learn
Objective of this exercise can be to reduce losses on the shop floor and improve efficiency by bringing a focus on to the Skills and Knowledge of every employee in the Shop floor.
Today in most of the Companies there is some focus on the Skills of the Workmen. In most of the Companies this focus is very weak. There is no effort to continuously improve their skills. Focus on the Skills and Knowledge of Staff is much lesser. Only a very small percentage of the Companies the Staff are getting trained in a systematic manner.
We can’t afford this anymore. We need to become very efficient if we want to grow our top and bottom lines. Let us act on this !
I would suggest defining the Competencies that all the employees need. These competencies may cover:
a) Product Knowledge:The employees need to have good knowledge of the Products that they produce.
b) Process Knowledge: The Manufacturing Process and the process in every function can be another focus area.
c) Systems Knowledge: The Systems that the company may be following can be another focus area as this will ensure employees know the way of working in the company. Eg. Manufacturing system, Daily Work Management System , Policy Deployment system etc.
d) Functional Knowledge: This covers the knowledge that each Staff member needs to have respective to her function. Eg. APQP / MSA / Problem solving knowledge for Quality Engineer.
Bring the Training online
You can bring the Training on these topics online by doing the following:
- Define the Training agenda for each employee covering topics from the above 4 fields.
- The topics defined should have close link with the requirement of Knowledge and Skills to achieve the goals for that year / Quarter.
- Divide each of the Competencies in to several Micro Competencies / Skills as applicable. We should go really micro so that the topics become small enough for easy consumption.
- Have Learning hours every week. I would recommend at least 2 hours every week.
- Make the Learning content available on line on the cloud.
- Define Certification Standards for every Micro Competency / Skill in terms of Knowledge, Implementation and Results.
- Certify the employees continuously for the Micro Competencies.
This will ensure that the Employees will have continuous focus on Skills, Knowledge. This will ensure the efficiency on the shop floor improves.
The Training and Development has to be owned by the Functional Leaders. They will be the Sponsors of the Training as they will have to show the ROI.
By bringing focus on Skills and Knowledge, the Functional Leaders can make huge progress on the efficiencies in the shop floor and that will more than pay back their investment on the Training.
How Employees pursue Routine
Routine is something that is not very exciting in a Manufacturing facility. But, without a strong and consistent routine, the heart beat of the facility can not be consistent. Most of the problems that Manufacturing Companies face is usually related to a violation of Routine.
Defects happen as the SOP is not followed, High Break downs of machines happen as the Preventive Maintenance does not happen, New Products do not perform better as the New Product Development process is not followed well. The list can be very long.
Strengthening the Routine in a Manufacturing Company can give very high returns.
If you look at how the routine is being followed now, it is mostly offline.
- Quality System is verified off line.
- Machines Preventive maintenance happens offline.
- The Production Routine of a Supervisor happens offline.
- Safety checks happen online if they happen.
How do we bring the Routine of the Shop floor online? I have some suggestions.
01. Online Quality Checks: Develop a Software that will work on hand held devices (may be smart phones) that can do the following:
a. Trigger Quality checks on the basis of the Product that is running on the line.
b. The triggers may go for People across the hierarchy to take care of the ‘Layered audit’ principles making Quality the Collective responsibility of Employees at all levels and not just the responsibility of that Junior Inspector of Quality on the Shop floor.
c. The Data will be accepted in various ways by the Software:
i. Physical data entry by the person to whom the check is triggered.
ii. A Photographic input for Visual Checks.
iii. An electric pulse from an Instrument having capability to give output.
iv. There can be more ways in which we can collect actual data on Quality.
This will ensure that the Quality System becomes online and the checks that are happening and not happening will be clear. Quality can be controlled online.
02. Online Safety system: Similar to the above Software, one can use the concept for Safety checks too. The input can be similarly taken. In addition to the inputs mentioned above, the CC TVs that are available in Shop floors can be used to identify unsafe acts and alert the concerned employees.
03. Online Maintenance Checks: Again, the approach is same as explained in s.no 1. The Supervisor / Operator will check the Maintenance points on line. The machines that have Breakdowns and Machines that already have Zero Break downs can be treated differently in terms of the checks that you do.
04. Online Assembly line: The Assembly Lines can connected to Internet and following actions can be brought online:
a. Start up procedure. Many of the Start up procedures can be automated where the Software will sense the presence / absence of certain parts / resources. The Pressure in the airline can be sensed by a Transducer and recorded.
b. Running Status recording. The Line may stop for various reasons. The losses may be entered by the operators to ensure we capture the losses. The Software can ensure this.
c. Who is working at the Station. This is quite easily captured by the Software for traceability purposes.
d. No Fault forward. The Defects that can happen at each station can be defined, Quality checks to capture these defects can be available at every station and using a RFID / Barcode system we can prevent a defect going to the next stage.
e. Line Work Management. The Line can display the data on Production / Losses and escalate the information in case of Line stoppages and other inefficiencies.
There can be several more ways in which the work on a Shop floor can be brought online. When we do it, we have tons of data coming up from the shop floor.
Analytics: We need to have our Engineers trained to analyze this Data and take learnings from the data. The learnings may include:
- The Quality checks that are getting missed out and address some practical issues that may be there in carrying out these Quality checks.
- The Engineers who may be missing Quality checks at a certain time of the day and this data can help us to understand the way of working of the Production Engineers and help them to arrange their work much better.
- The Safety points that are getting violated frequently and what needs to be done to avoid these violations.
- The Breakdowns that have relation to running a specific product and specific operation.
- Relating the defects to the people / conditions / time will become easier.
There should be a small team who does these Analytics, takes the learning and does something about it.
When you go online, the Team has to become more Disciplined and more knowledgeable about everything around. The training discussed earlier will ensure this. The Online working will also highlight the absence of Knowledge and Skill of People much more.
Indian Companies have to shift to working Online earlier than what we think.
Are you getting ready?
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.
Several Indian Companies are aspiring to use Industry 4.0 elements and they are trying to get the tag of ‘We too are implementing Industry 4.0’. But, as I was mentioning in the last few Articles, we are simply not ready. May be a small percentage of companies are truly there. But, most of the Companies are just not anywhere near to using Ind 4.0.
We have examined the Plant Maintenance area last week.
Let us look at Quality Assurance this time.
Indian Manufacturing Companies are supplying World over and we are generally capable of achieving any level of Quality if we put our efforts in to it. I know Companies that supply to the Best Companies in the World. Usually these MNCs take complex parts from India. As they find Indian Companies accommodating and willing to learn.
But, most of these MNCs also would have experienced that Indian Companies take quite a bit of time to ‘get in to the groove’ or ‘take off’ in supplies. Then, they also have a problem of giving ‘Good Quality consistently’. By the time the Customer heaves a sigh of relief that the Supplies have finally taken over, they will have a rude shock of getting a Batch of Parts that are totally off the Specs. They may notice something going wrong ‘terribly’. This usually shakes the confidence of the Customer.
I have seen that the Companies in India suffer, suffer the Customer and if the Relationship wades through all this and survives, the supplies may really settle down. But, a few hiccups here and there keep happening. The Customer would have accepted it and keep debiting huge costs to the Supplier.
Many Companies in India may find that the ‘Lucrative Business’ that they found in the Western world slowly starts losing money! Many companies would have slowly exited the Business. Very few would fight hard and improve themselves. The Companies that don’t learn, keep having the same experience being repeated with various Customers.
Now, many of these Companies are trying to join the Bandwagon of Ind 4.0. They can’t succeed unless they Re-engineer their processes totally.
Let us look at a few Micro areas within Quality Assurance. We will discuss the Current condition and how they can Lift their Game in preparation for using Ind 4.0 elements.
We will look at the following Micro areas in Quality Assurance:
o Quality Plan Adherence
o Quality Problem Solving
o Employee knowledge and Skills
o Who is owning the Quality?
o Response to Customer
o Machine Condition
o Work Culture
01. Quality Plan Adherence
Current Condition: I have seen that the Quality Plan Adherence in many companies is not in good shape. How much Percentage would you score if you check each line against the Quality Plan that YOU have worked out? My experience is that the adherence ranges from around 30% to 70% when checked actually on the ground.
Those of you who are not able to agree to this should actually go to the lines and check it. If you are really at 90-95%, then you are a minority in the Indian Manufacturing. Congratulations! Keep improving from there!
Why is the Adherence so low in many companies?
Some reasons that I observed are:
a) Does not recognise change: The Quality Plan would not have been updated for changes that are happening on the ground. Resultantly, it becomes a Dumb Document.
b) Impractical load of work: The Inspectors / Operators who are supposed to carry out the Quality checks are loaded very heavily with the work and I found in a few companies that if they have to do all the checks that are prescribed in the Quality Plan, they have to be available for at least 12 hours instead of the 8 hours for which they are available. No one cares about this. Operators simply can’t keep up with the work. They don’t check many of the Parameters. Everyone in the Company would know it and ignore it.
c) Simply ignored: There are many Quality Checks that can be done. But, they are simply ignored. If you ask the concerned employees, they would immediately start doing them.
Lift the Game: The Quality Plans have to be revamped. Recognise what is happening on the Ground. Work out a Layered approach for implementing the Quality Plan. Involve many more people in the implementation of the Quality Plan. Every one working in the Factory should participate in the Quality Plan implementation. Right from Factory Head to the Operator handling the Machine.
The Quality Plan implementation has to be audited by the Quality Team on a daily basis. Some companies have implemented this Layered audit approach in a very nice manner. The results are wonderful. When the Engineers involved control the process on a daily basis, their knowledge improves and they become very confident. I have seen that these Engineers are able to face up to Customers in a much better manner.
How to use Ind 4.0 : Now, we have a very well developed Hand Held Technology available. This along with the connectivity that we have makes it amenable to take the Quality Plan usage online. You can think of having a Mobile Software that will help you monitor the Quality parameters on line. You can trigger Quality check points to various people in the organization in the spirit of the Layered Audit that we spoke about earlier. The Quality Plan monitoring may interact with Bar code technology / Photographs / Video abilities in an intelligent manner to monitor the Process closely.
Once you go on line, you generate enormous amount of Quality data. This needs to be analysed by a full time Manufacturing Data Analytics team.
If you have standardized each workstation properly in the Process, then you can look at using Vision Technology to monitor the movements of the Operator and try to control the Quality at the root.
There are many things that can be done using Technology once you get your Basics in place.
02. Quality Problem Solving
Current Condition: The Quality of Problem Solving in Companies leaves much to be desired. The Problem is at various levels.
a) Not many people are involved in Problem Solving.
b) People involved do not have good Knowledge and Skills.
c) While Management wants Quality to improve, they do not invest in to improving these Skills.
Lift the Game: Formulate a Big group of Engineers in the Company who are ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’ of the Company. Invest in to Training them and developing the Group.
Create a War room and encourage the teams to meet every day for at least 45 minutes to actually solve the problems, for technical discussions etc.
Build a Good Problem Solving Methodology over a period with continuous improvements.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once you have the Problem Solving Methodology working well manually, you can automate it with a Mobile Based Software that will control the Problem Solving across the Organization.
You can use the Video technology to capture the Learning from each Problem that is solved and have a Knowledge Management System in the Company that can be used for Training as well as learning from Past mistakes. Coupled with Artificial intelligence and a good methodology of indexing the Solutions, you may be able to even input the learnings in to your Design process.
You can let your Design process continuously learn from the Problem Solving Process in the Company.
03. Employee Knowledge and Skills
Current Condition: The Companies that give importance to Knowledge and Skills are very few in Indian Manufacturing. Even those companies that are focused on Training are not having laser like focus on Skills with a relation to Results.
The Employees in all areas of the Company keep doing several important works like right from Design of Product to facing the Customer without proper Knowledge of the Products / Processes of the Company.
Indian Companies are still recruiting people without a measure of whether they are needed and why they are needed.
The link between the progress of an Employee in a Company and the Knowledge & Skills that they have is very blurred.
Lift the Game: Companies need to define the Functional and Leadership Skills that the employees need to have. I would recommend a Leadership Model be built for every company based on their own Business scenario and the Values that they want their Employees to espouse.
While the definition of what all is needed can be put in place, every company needs to prioritise the skills that they want to focus on for this year based on the Business priorities.
They need to Train the employees on a regular basis rather than some spurts of Training.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once the Skills are defined, Priorities are decided and Training has started, the Company can look at optimising on the Ind 4.0 elements.
The company can adapt a Blended Training approach where the Face to Face training on short modules is combined with Micro Learning modules using E-Learning.
The Company can get on to a Cloud based ‘LMS’ (Learning Management System) and use it to drive Learning across the organization.
Employees can be Certified for their learning, implementing Projects and getting results by an outside agency.
Using these elements the Company can bring Skills and Learning in to the centre of the way they do the Business.
With this focus, the Employees can certainly deliver more towards lifting the Top line and Bottom line.
We will examine a few more elements about ‘Lifting the Game in Quality Assurance’ in the article next week.
Have you started revamping your Quality System? Small changes won’t do! You need to rediscover yourself !!
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!!
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.
Ram is the Head – Sales & Marketing for the company and he is in the Weekly review with Manufacturing head. The other functional heads are also there in the meeting. Ram is struggling to get the commitment from Manufacturing head for the deliveries that need to happen in the next week.
Individual Problems and Collective Suffering
The Problems of the Manufacturing Head seems to be unending. There are several Part shortages on a daily basis as the Customer demand is going up without notice. There are Quality problems in the New Products introduced and the Process is not yet stabilized for a big number of Products introduced in to the Manufacturing in the past 6 months. The Machines are having higher break down hours as the Preventive Maintenance is not happening regularly. The list is long.
The Quality Head, Materials Head, Engineering Head spoke about their own problems. All the Problems sound genuine. No one seems to have a good solution with some time lines to implement. The Weekly meeting ended with a few arguments, blaming each other and without a proper solution to the problems on hand.
This is a very common situation in many Manufacturing Companies that I have seen. These weekly meetings go on without end and normally gives the same output as explained above.
What is the solution?
How to ensure a good team work happens in the company and the Customer is serviced much better?
I think the Root cause lies in the way the Manufacturing Companies are Operating. We seem to be pushing the Functional teams away from each other and this is resulting in lack of team work and lack of respect to the internal Customers and bad service to the external customers.
There are five essentials to ensuring good Customer orientation in the company and promote Team work in the company.
01. Stabilize the Routine: If the Routine is well defined and stable, the teams will have less flash points. The Routine in each function has to be defined in terms of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is a continuous journey for Indian Companies as the growth is higher in our companies and things keep changing on the ground every day. A Company should recognize this need and put effort on stabilizing the routine.
02. CFT Culture: The Cross functional Team culture has to be promoted in the Company. Some critical elements in the CFT Culture :
a. Goal deployment: Goals that have to be achieved together have to be deployed to ALL the relevant team members across the functions.
b. Working methodology: The CFTs should have a strong Work ethic and methodology. The methodology should promote a systematic achievement of Goals.
c. Peer assessment: The team members have to be assessed by the Peers in addition to the Bosses. Peer assessment is very powerful and a Group assessment technique has to be used for this purpose.
d. Internal Customer rating: The company can promote the culture of rating by Internal Customers for all the Internal suppliers. This way the Internal Suppliers will get periodic feedback from the Internal Customers and they will have to act upon it.
e. Process based teams: It would be good to seat the teams as per the Process. For example, the team that fulfills the orders of the Customers can sit together in one place. This team may consist of members from Sales, Purchase , Stores, Dispatch etc. This will ensure that the team understands each other and gets formed as a ‘real team’.
03. Functional orientation of Senior Leaders: The Senior Leaders are one of the main reasons why the Silos gets built up in the Companies. The attachment of the Senior Leaders to their teams and to their own Functional Points of view is a big issue. Functional point of view is important. But, the administrative point of view is a daily issue in any company without which the result will not happen. The role of the Senior leaders is to build Functional Competence in the Company. They should allow their team members to work along with the other Functional team members freely. The Senior Leaders should play a subtle role at the back ground to build the Functional excellence. The teams are more than capable of achieving the goals of the Company. If they play their teams too close to their chest, they would be doing a disservice to the company.
The Leaders of the Company have to build this work culture in the Company. The Senior Leaders may need some help in this aspect.
04. Training as teams: If the Cross Functional Teams have to stick together and work together, they have to be treated as teams in every sense. They have to be trained in Leadership skills together as a team. While they may learn Functional skills individually, they have to be brought together as a team for teaching Leadership Skills. This would help in building them as a team. The Training should encourage talking about the working methodology of the team.
05. Assessment and Rewards: The Cross Functional Teams should get assessed as Teams and a good part of the reward has to be given as a team. This would push the team members together. They earn as a team or lose as a team.
A company has to learn the art of getting results from their teams. They can speed up their learning if they go about it in a systematic manner as explained.