Human Factor Productivity Improvement

ISE Magazine July 2019 Volume: 51 Number: 7

By Saso Krstovski

Manufacturing operations are consistently seeking methods to increase productivity, the mea-sure of how efficient manufacturing systems are to produce the required output.

As organizations update their equipment and processes, levels of productivity between com-petitors converge. Equipment manufacturers share best practices for equipment functionality and workflow design be-tween competitors. Most new equipment purchases will have the same efficiency built in and therefore the gap between organizations becomes minimal.

One area where organizations can grow to increase productivity is in the workforce. Every manufacturing system has certain noise factors that hamper productivity. These conditions create decision crossroad points that require human intervention. Strategically addressing these noise conditions can significantly improve overall effectiveness and productivity.

This article presents four key phases to improve organizational workforce effectiveness and efficiency. It focuses on the development of employees to manage conditions that could reduce productivity levels. These phases show the gradual transformation of key employees and ownership transfer to the workforce. This requires a paradigm shift from traditional approaches.

These methods, if applied, will gradually provide a culture change within the organization. This change allows employees to feel valued and see how their actions contribute to the organization.

As key individuals are embraced, it will motivate others to accept and assume ownership. Progressively, a majority of the workforce will adapt and productivity levels will steadily increase.

Utilizing these methods will allow organizations to sustain production levels. It affords necessary workforce development to handle special cause conditions encountered in the manufacturing system. Sustainability and consistency eliminate shifts in production levels and enable true bench-marks.

Once levels can be sustained, additional actions can be implemented to increase production levels. Having a sustainable system provides immediate feedback and validity on improvement efforts.

Phase I: (Develop) tools for analysis

Phase I is the foundation for successful implementation. The development of tools and training is critical. This focus requires an evaluation of current system tools and the employees’ understanding of available tools and usage.

To be effective in the performance of any objective, proper tools are required. Typically, management believes all necessary tools and information are available to the staff to perform its tasks. A deep dive of what is available and their ease of use will reveal many gaps. Available data need to be validated for accuracy.

Also, systems might require modification to allow team members quick access to needed data. The focus needs to center around what information is needed to make rapid decisions and resolve concerns.

This phase requires a two-step approach. First, all necessary tools are available for data analysis. The next step is training team members on the use of data and how to perform the analysis. Below outlines three areas of focus for this phase to ensure future success.

  • Solution matrix. A solution tree diagram outlines steps for root cause analysis.
  • ABA process (i.e., flipping of suspect components). How to conduct component swaps for “is/is not” diagnostic of concerns.
  • Training. A strategic focus of available tools and how to properly use them to resolve issues by determining a root cause.

Phase II: (Uncover) key personnel to inspire, convince and grow

Phase II is very critical and will require significant efforts by management personnel. The leadership abilities of the management team will need to excel during this phase. Management needs to uncover a few key potential candidates to engage in resolving problems. This phase focuses on the observation of all team members and the recruitment of allies.

Below is a list of potential actions to employ during this phase to inspire, convince and grow team members.

  • Communicate findings to the team. Focus on individuals who show interest and might even challenge you.
  • Show results of findings and effect. Engage members and explain concerns and findings; continue to observe re-actions and feedback.
  • Display impact of their input. Ask for suggestions and act upon them, then provide feedback addressing success and failure.
  • Incorporate a competition among team members (challenge). Humans are competitive creatures and pro-viding competition engages sideline employees.
  • Recognize (management, supplier, etc.). Recognition requires careful planning and strategic implementation. If overused, its effect is minimized and becomes a barrier to gaining support from additional team members.

Significant successes should be recognized and focus should come from peers. Senior management’s recognition is viewed by individuals as a job requirement and not genuine. Another very effective recognition I discovered is supplier recognition of team members.

When a team member discovers a defective supplier part, arrange for the actual supplier to visit the employee at the work center and provide feedback directly.

Phase III: (Leverage) team members to resolve key issues

Once key individuals are discovered in Phase II, management needs to spend additional time with specific team members to explain the process and different resolution strategies. Work on simple concerns that have a high success rate with the team member to gain confidence in tools and abilities.

Let team members lead the resolution. Management should gradually distance itself and let team members resolve concerns on their own. Praise key success and advise on failures. The goal is to have engagement and to transfer ownership to the team members.

Phase IV: (Expand) continuous improvement

Any process without continuous improvement will result in stagnant growth. The success of this implementation will be defined by:

  • Team members sustaining a system without any guidance
  • Team members attacking issues immediately
  • Team members attracting new allies
  • Team members developing additional tools

Continue to monitor team performance from a distance and engage when attention drifts away. As new allies are recruited, restart these phases for a solid foundation to success.

The above steps provide a foundation for success. Keep the focus on creating an effective team and making decisions based on data. Decisions made at the lowest level provide ownership and team members will continue to adjust to ensure the success of business objectives. This is a cyclical process and requires monitoring and continuous input from all levels of organization for sustainment of success.