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Step 3: Road to 2030 – Building the Glass Factory

Road to 2030-The Glass Factory

Step 3- Education

Everyone is afraid robots are going to take their jobs.

The reality? Over the next 10 years we will lose over 100,000 able-bodied people from the workforce, yet our manufacturing needs are expected to increase by 30%. If our Wisconsin manufacturing facilities are going to make it, we need to change… and fast.

The only way our small and medium-sized manufacturing facilities will triumph is by embracing technology to understand inefficiencies in the production process, empower employees to think proactively, and utilize simple yet necessary additive manufacturing practices…. otherwise known as, the Glass Factory.

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

This article marks the third 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.

Empower teams to think proactively

In this step, we start talking more about your greatest asset–your people, and how they will need to grow and change with your company, just as you will, in order to be successful through the technology and workforce challenges threatening your company over the next 10 years.

In part one and part two of this series the last two months, we discussed how companies can assess production improvement potential via the Glass Factory approach. To recap, step one of the Glass Factory helps you understand how your company measures productivity by looking at overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The number must be clearly defined in order to understand what your improvement goals are. If you can’t definitely say how your company measures productivity, then it’s time to run a pilot program, Step Two of the Glass Factory approach. This involves implementing sensing equipment that provides data on machine productivity, which will help you understand where your inefficiencies lie. This simple step will measure how much your equipment is being used per day, in parallel with normal production procedures.

That brings us to Step Three. After demonstrating through your pilot program that you can drastically increase your production capacity by identifying the source of your inefficiencies, you can scale this throughout your entire facility, which is when you will really start to see the financial payoff. The way you do this is by first getting your team involved.

You will only be effective in your process improvements if your whole team understands the benefits that will arise so they will embrace the transition.

That’s why it is best to get your team involved early and often. The better they understand what the future holds, and the threats you are facing, the more they will be driven to improve their core business competencies and internal processes. You will do this in two ways. First by sharing information about where your company is going and WHY the change is critical to the company’s financial success, particularly amid the forthcoming technology and workforce challenges. As you communicate about the future of the company, they need to understand the context of the workforce challenges over the next 10 years, as this will help them understand that their role will become more valuable, and thereby will increase their loyalty to your company. To put it bluntly (as you should to your employees,) 100,000 people are leaving the Wisconsin workforce every year for the next 10 years. We physically do not have enough bodies to backfill that attrition and meet the rising manufacturing demands. We need to embrace technology as we change, and we need our employees there alongside us. You may lose employees who are not willing to grow along with the company. With strong communication on your end, the employees who are willing to grow, will rise to the challenge. These are the employees you want by your side.

The second way you will get your employees involved in this process is by giving ownership and responsibility related to improvement of processes. The employees you have will be continuously upskilled to meet the demand of technology implementation, and will thereby be making more money and delivering more value. By giving your people ownership and responsibility along the way, they will begin to think more proactively about challenges that arise, and will be empowered to develop solutions along the way.

The Glass Factory is a change agent like any other new process, but there will likely be resistance, as employees may feel uncomfortable with their work being monitored. This is why they need to understand the benefits to them directly. Take the example of a weld cell. When comparing beads laid per minute, robots and humans perform the same. Time is made up between sparks, as robots move much faster and can weld in a plethora of different configurations. Therefore to understand their jobs aren’t going away, welders can be shown how welding will evolve. For instance: designing a four robot weld station managed by one operator. The new job of this welder? Utilizing their skillset to continuously monitor and tweak all four of their robots to ensure optimal welds based on subtle material changes, temperature, humidity, etc. The result is 4x more parts with the same amount of people. Your company’s profits increase, and the skills and salary of your employee will as well. Share this with them clearly and directly so they know your goal is that their professional skills will evolve as the company does.

In Conclusion

The end goal of this education process is to break down the silo mentality within companies. When employees understand where the company is headed, as well as the integrated nature of different roles moving forward, they will be able to maximize their potential and continue to make proactive decisions rather than reactive.

When the vision of our world is explained to the team, they will see the light at the end of the tunnel and will buy into this process. Doing so will position your company for maximum profitability, while maintaining the best and brightest of your biggest asset - your team.

Next Month - Step Four of Glass Factory: Abolishing Ambiguity

With vision explained and the team empowered, it’s time to scale the pilot program and deploy the same practices throughout the facility, which will help you understand exactly where your inefficiencies lie. The goal of Step Four is to abolish any ambiguity in your production facility. You will come to understand exactly how your system is performing, and how you can reallocate brainpower to design solutions, rather than losing steam speculating where your facility is losing profit.


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