Industry Week recently ran an article titled “The ‘Soft Side’ of Lean” that suggested: “Companies may be losing half their potential savings from lean programs when they overlook the need for leaders who are capable of implementing continuous-improvement plans.” Based on a McKinsey Quarterly report published in November, “From lean to lasting: Making operational improvements stick,” the article went on to point out, “that many companies focus on the ‘hard’ operational tools, such as just-in-time production, but often ignore the ‘softer side,’ characterized as the development leaders who can ‘link and align the boardroom with the shop floor.'”
One of the “characteristics of leaders the McKinsey authors say are critical to gain buy-in from employees and attain maximum results,” the “six habits of lean leaders” if you will, is “a focus on operating processes. Senior managers should demonstrate the importance of the process using visible activities and make standardization a habit. As an example, a chief operating officer may conduct regular shop floor visits and quality assurance checks to review milling-machine operating processes and reinforce standards with workers.”
Indeed, a real-time data collection system that provides job tracking and shop floor control can help companies maximize their savings from lean programs. That’s because shop floor management software can help management bridge the divide between the boardroom and the shop floor.
Indeed, such an outcome is key to improving a company’s floor performance, customer responsiveness, and, ultimately, its bottom line.
How can such shop floor management technology be leveraged to implement and derive full benefit from lean manufacturing? Lean manufacturing “strives to reduce inventory through better communication about production processes and their inherent problems and by tapping into the knowledge of [shop] floor personnel to make them part of the solution,” THE FABRICATOR reported a few years back.
To effect such an atmosphere within the organization, implementation of an electronic floor system can successfully move a company toward lean manufacturing. “A floor information system can help manufacturers move forward with lean concepts of identifying problems, following the flow of parts, and measuring changeover times,” THE FABRICATOR pointed out.
That article went on to report that in order “to truly contribute to lean manufacturing, [shop] floor information systems should provide the following” features:
1. A shop floor management solution should be accessible to everyone involved in the organization. “All [shop] floor employees have access to the system and are empowered to identify problem situations.”
2. A shop floor management solution should employ a just-in-time (JIT) approach. “A just-in-time production approach is dynamic and reactive to customer and [shop] floor demands.”
3. A shop floor management solution should afford tracking capabilities. “Changeover times can be tracked to specific assets and employees.”
4. A shop floor management solution should offer process improvement. “Opportunities for process improvement are identified and recorded.”
5. A shop floor management solution should exact better communication. Shop “floor personnel have access to communications such as e-mail when appropriate.”
6. A shop floor management solution should reveal useful and relevant data. “Operators can access data through electronic, paperless display of electronic image and video documents.”
7. A shop floor management solution should encompass quality checks. “Quality checks are captured electronically in real time so that employees can be alerted to nonconformance conditions.”