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Manufacturing Excellence through Measurements

The term ‘Manufacturing Excellence’ is not new for anyone. Most of us use this phrase during our professional meetings, and when a boss proudly discloses that his team has attained quite a bit of it, every member of his team in the audience freezes a reason of his own for such attainment. Strangely, the reasons in the different minds are divergent, inconsistent and sometimes unusual. Everyone believes that the supermarket is a success just because of his own shop.

Rightly so, Manufacturing excellence has got “n” number of definitions and still every exposition of it true.  This makes the term a bit confusing. But each aspect of it is needed to be learned to enable an organization to sustain manufacturing excellence.

What are these aspects?

The answer to this question is “All aspects connected to the business”.

Yes, all aspects connected to an organization lead to manufacturing excellence. These are like nerves in a human body. Even if one doesn’t work properly the body fails to perform in a manner it is expected to perform. Human bodies can, however, sustain life for several years inspite of this debacle but business organizations do not last long for sure.

In the series of our discussions on manufacturing excellence, we will touch all these aspects one by one in a language which would make every one of us wake up and work for the results.

Let us today begin with achieving manufacturing excellence through measurements.

There is a popular saying that “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

How true is this!

Absolutely true.......

But still in eagerness to complete a job we set out to sail without measuring the speed of the winds.

This brings in the importance of measurement. If you want to reduce the specific power consumption to lower your manufacturing cost you will need to know not only how much do you consume as a whole but also the break-up of the power consumption in each unit operation of your manufacturing process.

If you need to curtail your ever-increasing water consumption you need to install meters at all effective locations after re-designing the layout of the water pipelines which can facilitate such installations to give you the correct measurement at all times.

Unfortunately not all things can be measured as directly as we see in cases of water, power or the raw materials consumed. Some of them are intangibles.

Human skill is one of them. It cannot be metered unless your process is such that a material is transformed into a finished product single-handledly enabling you to count the output per person. This doesn’t happen in industries.  Always a team is involved in manufacturing and therefore unless you have the skill to measure the skills of the people, you cannot proceed to enhance them.

Measuring human skills is essential for an organization because it is the human skill which can really catapult a company to greater heights inspite of all the talks we have on automation. As a matter of fact, even automation requires human skills, to begin with.

But even before we set out to formulate our innovative methods for measuring human skill we need to realize that in every organization every single operation carried out to fulfill its objective is as important as the air needed by every one of us to survive. In short, all operations are equally important and require equal attention to attain manufacturing excellence.

This is an important facet in manufacturing excellence because on most occasions we deliberate with such single-mindedness that we all arrive at an easy, quick, better-looking solution to improve productivity in one focused part of the process. We agree to changes pertaining to it which look easy to perform. But at the same time, we fail to identify the adverse impact of those improvement proposals on some other unit operation which is being carried out somewhere else in the process set up, and which is monitored by a person who has a lesser say in the decision making.

And even if such an error is identified we tend to go by the “Ostrich approach”. We bury our heads or turn away from the issue, scared that our own idea would then be thrown in the dustbin and that we would lose an opportunity to get a pat on our back.

The net result is back to square one with an added issue to dealing with those who then focus their energies on hiding the facts. 

There are many such examples.

We may decide for automation of the machining section of the process keeping ourselves alien to the fact that the packing is being done manually and the increased products from the automated machine would accumulate and become substandard when not packed timely. It can be vice-versa even.

We may opt for the state-of-the-art reactor equipment without realizing that there is a lack of adequate storage system for maintaining the right purity of the starting material for it.

We may plan to install precision instruments without recruiting the manpower skilled enough to maintain those costly instruments.

The list is endless. These can make the system turn from bad to worse unless the slide is arrested. And one easy way of ceasing it is by implementing an effective method for measurements.

Human skills can be measured by:

  1. Regular 360 degrees appraisals where-in questions are adequately framed so as to separate the wheat from the chaff.
  2.  Intelligent questioning while a person is undergoing the training.
  3. Observing the ability of a person in making use of his knowledge at the shop floor.
  4. Doing Right – The First time: How much a person succeeds in this.
  5.  Result giving capacity, both in terms of quantity and time.

The need of the day is to devise systems for measurements. Unless you are able to measure you cannot improve upon it.

Having effective measurement systems of all aspects of your manufacturing business is the first step towards achieving Manufacturing Excellence.

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  • comment
    Saravjit Singh

    Sad to say, during my Consutancy and Training work, when I visit engineering enterprises in India, I find that most of them are not using MSA and SPC. How do they expect to graduate to manufacturing excellence?.

  • comment
    Sangeeta mathur

    As a home maker I can see this measurement excellences in food making,baking, garment constructing, drawing and if it creates wonders at home level , how much important they are at industries to get excellent manufacture is well understood..

    • comments
      Saravjit Singh

      Yes! Measurement is essential in a whole lot of activities everywhere. Good housewives know this and use measurement in a whole lot of activities: laundry (measure the detergent to use per wash), cooking (measuring ingredients) etc. Without measurement a lot of things can go wrong - Quality of food will suffer, clothes will not get washed properly, there will be wastage and more. Engineers should learn from what is being done at home and thoughtfully apply measurement at the workplace. Otherwise they can expect the wrath of disgruntled customers due to poor quality and lots more..