Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

One of the most common questions we come across is “How do we engage our workforce”? 

Many companies try to measure how engaged people are but often overcomplicate the surveys.

They create a vast array of questions among many categories which results in a large amount of convoluted feedback. How easy is it to then analyse this feedback? How often does that feedback actually get translated into activity that makes a demonstrable difference to engagement? Or do the actions end up as the most generic of activities that will do almost nothing to meet a specific individual’s needs?

One of the simplest yet most effective surveys I came across was reading the book “First, Break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Early in the book, they detail a simple survey which later became known as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. They surveyed 105,000 people amongst 2500 business units within 24 companies.

The following 12 questions were asked and scored 1 to 5 on “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” respectively.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?  
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? 
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress? 
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow? 

Gallup completed a significant analysis of their findings and found two key results.

The first key finding probably wasn’t surprising, but was nonetheless, important.  Employees who responded more positively to the questions also worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer service. In essence, more engaged employees mean better business performance.

Further analysis also showed that employees rated the questions differently depending on their department rather than the overall company.  The opinions to the 12 questions depended more on the employee’s immediate manager than the overall policies and procedures of the company.

It goes to show how every single line manager and their ability to engage with their team is the key driver of engagement within a business and thus directly linked to performance.

How engaged are your employees? Could you be doing more to support them in the workplace? Do you have effective systems in place for managing performance and developing your team?

LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). A monthly forum for ambitious manufacturing operations professionals concerned with, amongst other issues, engaging their workforce.  The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at www.laurasinternational.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa/

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

You’ve no doubt heard of the 7 Waste’s but What about the 3P’s (Poor Production Planning)- How to self-constrain your factory’s capacity.

Imagine this situation… You have recently booked a family holiday to the South of France. As part of the deal, the travel agent has agreed to organise all the logistics in advance and to confirm details no later than 7 days before the departure date.

You lead a busy life and the day before your trip, you call the travel agent to find they hadn’t arranged anything? How would you feel?

Frustrated? Anxious? Worried? Angry?  These would certainly be some of my reactions…

On the other side of the equation, the travel agent is now in a state of panic trying to make last minute arrangements to ensure your trip goes smoothly. They are no doubt going through similar emotions to you. Worried and anxious about the loss of future sales, revenue, complaints, maybe even bad press…

Now translate this to a manufacturing environment.

You are the customer, threatening to take your business elsewhere if your pre-agreed demands are not met.

The factory management is the travel agent trying to please a customer.

Extrapolate that situation to numerous customers with varied and complex packages (SKU’s).  Add in a sales department, which say all customers are priority yet fail to provide you with accurate forecasts.  Then include your production lines, which are currently going through a period of unreliability.

In the middle is the production scheduler/planner trying to satisfy everyone and cram as much volume into the constrained factory as possible?

It is not unusual to get into a vicious cycle of trying to make a smaller amount of everything, on a more frequent basis than you know is effective and fail to deliver consistently to all customers.  Customer services levels fall, revenue is lost whilst cost to manufacture increases.

Recently I was working with a medium size business that had an increase in demand 30% higher than forecast and became capacity constrained.  Stock levels had been depleted to a minimum and the factory was scheduling on a daily basis with no medium term supply plan. Significant amounts of overtime were used to make up the shortfall and despite this customer service levels fell significantly.

Working with the account managers, planners and schedulers, we created a planning model which scheduled the supply in rolling 6 and 12 week buckets. It ensured products were manufactured in an optimised run order and distinct cycles based on agreed max/min levels whilst accounting for forecast volatility and shelf life. This in turn increased the average run length for each SKU, minimised changeover time and increased the factory’s capacity by 10%.  As a result, when the summer peak production period came around, stock levels were maintained, customer services levels were high and the business was in a more stable position.

If you’re concerned about your factory’s capacity and anxious about ability to meet customer demand.  Get in touch and see if we can support you to deliver improvements. Visit www.li-europe.com and explore whether or not there is a fit for you.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

As I was reading Erica’s latest blog on Cycle Time Reduction, it got me thinking about bottlenecks and the importance of correctly identifying them in your production process.

Why is this important?

I have worked with many organisations that have been disillusioned by previous improvement initiatives. There are a variety of reasons for this but one of the most common is a lack of results despite investing time, effort and money to improve a specific asset in order to increase its throughput.  It takes me to an example I saw within a business recently…

A lot of focus had gone into improving casepacker reliability and whilst successful in improving its availability, the work yielded no overall improvement to the line’s output.

The casepacker had the lowest maximum output of all processes on the line. It was the capacity bottleneck.   Having a process of this nature at the end of the line is not a good example of a balanced line and investing in this is certainly something that should be done. However, should it have been the priority focus?

Not when, on closer inspection, the casepacker was being starved by upstream processes. Namely, bagging machines which incurred a large amount of short stops. These 5 to 10 second stops happened so many times that they were going unnoticed by both operators and managers and were seen as the norm. Yet the baggers were the process with the lowest average output – the throughput bottleneck – causing starvation at the case packer and the lack of output. No attempt to improve the reliability and cycle time of the casepacker would improve line output if it wasn’t being fed with product consistently.

Focusing on the baggers to eliminate the most frequent short stops and ensure the casepacker was consistently fed with product and the line’s output improved by 10%.

A simple observational study of a line to capture process speeds, accumulation points and downtime can point you towards the throughput bottleneck.

Want to know more about the Debottlenecking Method? Get in touch directly to request a Tip Card >

 

 

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Senior Consultant at LI Europe.

StopWatchRecently, whilst running an improvement workshop, there was a delegate who turned up late every day. After a myriad of excuses and some not so light insults from his colleagues, I attempted to get to the bottom of why he was failing to turn up on time. He stated that he doesn’t have enough time to do everything he needs to do in the morning, leaves the house late and thus misses his bus.

I first suggested that he set his alarm earlier in a morning. That did not go down well at all. He craves his sleep and wanted to ensure he was fully rested for his days carrying out improvement activities in the workshop. Then I thought to myself, why not get him try to utilise one of our improvement tools in his morning routine?

Using Cycle Time Reduction (CTR) he would be able to get up at the usual time, complete his morning routine in full, leave the house on time and arrive at work promptly for the start of the workshop. Everyone is a winner!

Firstly, I got him to make a list of all the tasks he completed in a morning, how long each one took, and when they started and ended relative to the time he wakes up.

We then mapped these out visually on a Gannt chart.

I asked him to look for any critical paths i.e. any activity that needs to be completed in sequential order. Once he had identified these, we could look to see if there were any activities that could be completed whilst he was busy with other parts of his routine.

Unbelievably, we found he took his shower, prepared his lunch and then put the coffee machine on to boil. So we looked at how we could reduce the time spent on this sequence and identified an easy 8 minutes he could get back…

By putting the coffee machine to automatically boil ready for the time he finishes his shower, he could shave a vital 3 minutes from his morning routine. Fixing his lunch and packing his bag the night before would save another 5 minutes.

Making these small alterations (and a few others) to his process, our delegate was able to arrive early every day for the rest of the Workshops.

CTR can be used on any manufacturing process (continuous or non-continuous) to reduce the amount of time taken for that process to be completed. For example, it might be used to reduce the time taken for a case packer to complete its cycle or reduce the time taken for a plant to changeover between products. Applying CTR on your production line can provide significant throughput improvements.

It is a simple 3 step process

  1. Define the current cycle
  2. Map the current cycle
  3. Optimise the current cycle

For more on this tool and how to apply it, check out our Improvement Toolkit >

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