Frederick Taylor in the late 1900s was the first proponent of Scientific Management. In the following few decades, he had some visible and very effective assistance from a notable few but not too many other people; in developing the concepts of scientific management. Henry Ford was conspicuously cost conscious, in product design and manufacturing innovation.
Heroes to Industrial Engineers are Frank and Lillian Gilbreath, primarily for their work in time study and work measurement. As we review the writings of Frank Gilbreth literally over 100 years ago, he suggested that a primary tool to improve productivity is to reduce waste. One of the two tenants of the Toyota Production System is, you guessed it, to reduce waste.
Taylor and Frank Gilbreth both started with a stopwatch. After all, arguably the most important question in manufacturing is “how long does the job take?”
Our tool to determine priority also goes back more than 100 years, to Vilfredo Pareto who first quantified that a small number of Italian citizens possessed a large amount of Italian wealth. The concept has been broadened to show that, within a given set of elements, a small number of individual elements constitutes a very large portion of total value. We use the Pareto Principle to find productive opportunities.
Otherwise, until World War II there was little organized recognition of, or progress in, manufacturing productivity. Then because of the amounts of armaments required and a national sense of urgency, productivity which led to output was a focus of manufacturing, often skipping the theory phase and going directly into practice. Some of these oldies but goodies are still around because their value has been proven.
Productivity is measured as output divided by input. Therefore, any action taken to increase output, or decrease input, results in higher productivity.
“Productivity” can relate to any element of corporate activity; direct and indirect labor, overhead, materials, equipment, facilities, services. Direct labor cost is quite often not a large percentage of product cost, but direct labor can a good starting point for productivity improvement, for two reasons: 1) Labor has a cost of its own even if not large, and 2) the major function of labor is to operate equipment and processes efficiently and to optimize their capability; to build the product. So, good idea, let’s produce, providing output on time to meet the market demand. Let’s improve labor and equipment productivity, over a wide range of constituent parts.
The latter half of the 20th century and partway into the 21st have evidenced change on such a prolific scale that that it can hardly be defined. Semiconductors, computers, electronics in general, the space age, the growth of Asia as a supplier of products of all kinds. For manufacturers, evolving computers and electronics and programs have introduced the mechanisms to control production more accurately. A negative is that the rate of technology change that is possible has tended to obscure the crystal ball that tells us what comes next.
With the changes, the worldwide manufacturing arena is not the same as it has been, which suggests that participants in the arena may feel it necessary to make further changes on their own part.
There are very many facets to productivity, and very many circumstances in manufacturing which test the capability of management to optimize productivity. Aha, that means that there will also be very many opportunities for improvement.
And usually in the dynamic world of manufacturing, the most important issues and opportunities have to do with the financial picture. But the manufacturing problem of the day may also be related to labor supply, or to uncertainties in the supply chain, or to the ability to have employees report to work in an environment free of infectious disease. Welcome to the future.
The classic productivity mechanisms for manufacturing have not gone out of style, if anything computer capabilities and electronics have simplified and augmented their use. New concepts are proposed routinely, with broad or narrow application. We have available constructive, productive solutions to a wide range of challenges, in a multitude of industrial settings.
Frank Gilbreth over 100 years ago suggested that a primary tool to improve productivity is to reduce waste. One advantage of our current situation is that several very effective methods with which to reduce waste have been developed. The Pareto Principle zeroes in on the most productive opportunities, to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Any productivity improvement relies on an assumption that is often not spoken. The assumption is that any given project is expected to be beneficial assuming all other factors are equal. And of course other things are never equal; any improvement will be expected to perform within the circumstances of the time however much different from the assumptions. Really useful solutions then will have a short fuse, they will be selected and designed to contribute quickly. A better longer-term solution may be proposed as well but the emphasis will be on rapid results.
Today the situation in international trading is a significant concern. There are mechanical concerns, due to the COVID epidemic; on one hand worldwide demand has been affected and on the other hand individuals are prevented from working; there may be a shortage of oceangoing vessels, or a backup at seaports, individuals may choose to work remotely. There are broader implications too, international tensions and the supply chain imbalances both of which may be short term or longer term.
There is great interest in productivity; of personal productivity, of output in general, and in productivity which targets business and industry. But interest does not necessarily translate into specific practical action.
Work measurement, whether a formal system or otherwise, can be a primary factor in control of labor cost and activity. If measurement is formal, (and continually maintained) then management has an objective knowledge of the activity. But it is not uncommon that production tasks have not actually been observed and measured, that rates in use are from past performance or estimate, or are no longer reflective of actual equipment, methods, materials, specs. In such a case, costs may be incorrectly stated such as production worker pay; manufacturing controls such as scheduling of product or forecasting or number of people required may be off; some Key Performance Indicators that management uses will be incorrect because the value of direct labor content is not up to date.
Are you looking for a program laden with technology or buzz words? This isn’t it. This program, Manufacturing Productivity, zeros in on the heart of manufacturing, namely what happens on the manufacturing floor, the warehouse dock, the machine shop site. To describe production in one word, try Dynamic. The one production constant is change.
In the productivity arena, one size does not fit all. That is why this program offers many differentiated processes; they tend to be straightforward; specialized with a concentrated focus, yet they reinforce one another.
Initially, we will assess as-is conditions to determine just what needs attention, although probably you have an idea already. Prioritize issues, judge resources available, set a plan.
It is likely that individuals with different responsibilities at different organizational levels will attend specific portions of the multi-functional workshops, in relationship to the responsibilities of their specific job functions.
Two prime productivity tools of all those available, are the Pareto Principle and a pillar of Frank Gilbreth and the Toyota Production System, eliminate waste. Pareto tells us that a few factors will contribute the majority of cost; of problems; of opportunity. First then let’s identify, quantify and understand those principal elements in your circumstance. Then we’ll start to eliminate waste in subsequent steps of this program.
Typically, a cost reduction effort targets direct labor. That’s often not the right target by the way, because there are usually larger costs. But labor has a cost even if small, and perhaps more importantly labor operates machinery and processes. We want labor to be productive and effective in order to manufacture your product.
The key tool to achieve productivity, alone and in conjunction with other tools, is work measurement.
Production labor rates may be current, or set years ago or only estimated in the first place. But regardless of their accuracy, they are routinely entered into systems such as standard cost, variance analysis, production scheduling, capacity planning, hiring and training. (Your Key Performance Indicators depend on accurate production rates.) To allow sound management decisions, set production rates on today’s methods from which waste has been removed, (workshop #3) with today’s equipment, specs, technology and product mix.
Workshop # 2 will address work measurement; how to create reliable engineered standards, develop applications and gain benefits. A subsequent workshop identifies placement and use of work measurement data within existing systems.
An early workshop will address production constraints, processes to quantify, relieve, and manage them. The constraints workshop, along with the waste removal one, will provide rapid attention to central manufacturing concerns.
One workshop will focus on Outcomes; not just output but also timing, quality, product mix. We will discuss reporting, keeping the score, and which modifications and extensions are possible.
A common interruption to production has to do with batch sizes and product changeovers. A workshop will be dedicated to minimizing the number of batch changes in the first place and expediting the changeover process.
One workshop will address the specific subject of formal cost reduction throughout an organization, offering a wide range of possibilities. A workshop will offer processes of plant layout, flow, and space utilization because arrangement of people, materials and equipment is at the very heart of business productivity, in an organization of any size; engaged in just about any endeavor.
Work measurement can be effective in indirect labor operations of maintenance, materials handling, and quality control. One workshop will address these procedures and processes.
A workshop will summarize the multitude of productivity techniques and theory available, both modern and the golden oldies. As you choose to fit your objectives and cost structure, consider also your organization’s culture and capability.
The final workshop will address the accomplishments of the preceding sessions. Come join us.
The following list represents the Key Program Objectives (KPO) for the Appleton Greene Manufacturing Productivity corporate training program.
Manufacturing Productivity – Part 1- Year 1
Month 1: Situation Assessment
Workshop 1: Baseline assessment of the as-is situation.
The client will have received in advance a list of as-is assessment questions, and may well suggest others. The questions address a wide variety of manufacturing circumstances, because productivity is affected positively or negatively by many different factors. There are two primary objectives; one to collect information about today’s status, but also to learn what are considered to be the more important issues. Maybe even some that are not on the list. For instance, within any group of people familiar with operations there might be common consensus about particularly troublesome operations. Be sure that the subject is identified and discussed.
Or, which equipment is the most expensive, the one you would least like to replace? Refer also to reports and KPI’s to highlight issues.
Consider not only direct operations but also support, laboratory, testing, inspection, material handling, changeover, maintenance which delays product delivery. Very early on and continually remove any potential stigma from this analytical exercise. This exercise is merely to identify the fact, not to cast any blame at all.
During the body of today’s workshop, a knowledgeable representative of the client will provide responses to the questions raised. These responses to the as-is assessment, and the ramifications of the answers, can then be the focus of discussion.
This workshop will offer perspectives of the primary management concepts from which the program and the various processes are founded.
As the manufacturing productivity process is constructed around work measurement, the client is requested to suggest which internal department, existing or to be established, will perform work measurement activities.