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Step 2: Road to 2030 – Building the Glass Factory

Road to 2030- Building The Glass Factory

Step 2-Pilot Program

Manufacturing has produced prosperous lives for generations in every Wisconsin community - rural and urban, and to-date remains central to our state’s identity and economic success. But we are at the dawn of a major shift in the manufacturing world, fueled by technological advancements and a decrease in available workforce. It is no secret that Wisconsin’s small- and medium- sized manufacturing facilities need to rapidly adjust to keep up as this shift is already underway at large-scale facilities.

The major challenge arises because the Wisconsin workforce is expected to dwindle from 3 million able bodies in 2022 to 2 million able bodies in 2030, yet economic demand in 2030 will still require the equivalent of 3 million bodies. For Wisconsin companies to survive and meet demand they will have to become 30% more efficient. This is accomplished by understanding inefficiencies in the production process, empowering employees to think proactively, and utilizing simple yet necessary additive manufacturing practices.

This article marks the second in a five-part series which will be published in the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin’s newsletter providing insight into The Glass Factory, an innovative approach to help small- and medium-size companies navigate the forthcoming workforce challenges.

Glass Factory (noun)- Transparent manufacturing when viewed through the eyes of the customers, employees, and supplier, therefore enabling increased efficiencies.

Is your company ready to try? - Let’s prove this out

Last month we launched this series with Step One of the Glass Factory - assessing shop utilization. Shop utilization is best defined by Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). To understand this, you can assess the available working hours (Uptime x Speed/part x quality per part = percent out of 100). The easiest way to improve this percentage is to create an actionable plan built off data from your facility’s existing production. This baseline data is absolutely paramount to improving efficiencies.

For companies that have not yet assessed daily production rates, the first step is setting up a low-risk pilot program. This involves implementing sensing equipment that provides data on machine productivity via sensors which will help you understand where your inefficiencies lie. This simple and affordable step will measure how much your equipment is being used per day, in parallel with normal production procedures.

Step 2- The Pilot Program

At certain points, your employees can be strapped for time, so the purpose of using automated sensors is to keep monitoring as simple as possible and ensure minimal additional work (if any) is required from the operator. Your pilot test will begin by focusing on the most highly utilized equipment because past performance will be an indicator of future outcomes.

Pilot Programs start with a bare-bones minimal investment of a few recording devices to establish a baseline working rate of your equipment which runs in parallel with your normal production. In the example of brake presses, the number of strokes per day will be measured. After 1 month of daily data gathering, an average can be established across all machines.

“What if my shop is dependent on customer orders? Some days I’m scrambling to keep my guys busy, and other days we run a second shift just to keep up.” This is understood, and even welcomed - for a few reasons. The law of averages will paint a picture of what you complete over a calendar year. If your top line revenue was $6M, does it mean that revenue was generated during feast weeks? What’s the potential gain if the famine weeks are also productive?

You will be amazed at what this data will show. At the end of the one month trial the data can then be analyzed and you will have the information you need to improve processes. The data will show you where and how time is being used. By establishing a baseline (say, on average, each press should yield 1,400 strokes per day) we produce a daily feedback loop on how that work center actually produced. If, for example, one day was 250 parts short of the quota, we can more quickly understand why the inefficiencies happened, instead of running financials at the end of the month.

What about big brother? Quite the opposite. People want to know how they’re doing. Data collection is all around us - from our daily health trackers to large-scale delivery services such as Amazon. It is time we utilize this critical asset to help our small- and medium- size manufacturing facilities thrive through the upcoming workforce and market challenges.

What’s Next? Step 3 - Employee Education

In next month’s article we will discuss the next step in the Glass Factory approach, which is employee education. Incorporating your team into the learning process will knock down the silo mentality and create a culture of curiosity and proactive thinking. Education will also empower the team to be a part of improving manufacturing efficiencies. With empowerment, profitability will continue to rise.

Join us next month to learn more about Step Three of the Glass Factory approach, which is employee education.


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