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Five Habits of Manufacturing Managers 2018

Create regular thinking time
Operations and manufacturing managers are time poor. They’re often so involved in the responsive day-to-day that very few create space in their diary to think. They have KPIs for continuous improvement, but are limited in their capacity to point their curiosity in new and potentially impactful directions.

Make the habit: To allow yourself thinking ‘space’, book an hour of time a fortnight to read industry news, or analyse your shop floor data in a new way.

Connect to the customer
The production cycle is a continuous loop with no end: meeting KPIs; solving production issues; managing staff; maintaining plant equipment. There’s rarely time for internal collaboration, let alone consulting with the customer.

But connecting with the customer will help you understand their pain points, desires, new focus areas, future plans, and company updates. This information can be used to improve production.

Make the habit: Attend industry forums, organise informal client lunches, and talk to customer-facing employees in your organisation. Aim to do at least one of these per week. Understand customer pain points so you can prioritise improvement activities around these.

Make opportunities to ‘kill two birds with one stone’
In any task, project or strategy, it’s possible to hit multiple outcomes with a deliberate approach. It’s more time efficient and effective. Rather than just following the structure of a done-to-death process, look at it and ask, ‘what multiple objectives can we achieve if we tackle them together?

For example, implementing a continuous improvement process like 5S might aim to achieve ‘less waste in production’, but if you deliberately aim to achieve ‘greater engagement with the team’ and ‘staff training and empowerment’ as outcomes you might go about it differently. You might create a goal, and delegate key staff to take ownership of the program or take turns in reviewing its success. This would also increase the chances of program success through staff engagement.

Make the habit: Whenever you begin a new initiative, think about how you can use it to achieve more than one objective.

Create opportunities for everyone to contribute
Getting bogged down in urgent tasks can stop the important things like incremental improvements, from being addressed. That’s where your staff can come in.

Many of the best ideas come from employees, and higher levels of staff involvement will get the greatest buy-in for change. What’s more, it can also boost company performance.

But how do their ideas get through?

Make the habit: Make it easy for improvement suggestions to be fed back into the system through an improvement suggestion program. For it to success ensure you recognise suggestions, show the business is acting on some, reward winning ideas and provide safe place for employees to give feedback.

Empower staff to be innovators
Employee’s performance and enthusiasm for change will determine the company’s success. And, as the baby boomers start to retire, manufacturers face a key challenge in educating and developing the next generation of skilled workers in digital manufacturing.

Spend some time developing your production staff to offload some of the day-to-day burden and save the business time and money. Empowered staff are more proactive, make the right decisions independently, problem-solve and champion change programs.

Make the habit: Some actionable ways to empower employees are to allow paths to promotion, provide relevant training, facilitate peer-to-peer training, involve employees’ in decision-making and strategy, and design job roles for autonomy and play. For a detailed guide read: Automation training: How employee empowerment can maximise productivity at your plant

Making it a habit for 2018
All the good intentions in the world don’t make habits.

While everyone has a different method of making something ‘stick’, we suggest choosing one or two of these habits to focus on for 2018. Even the smallest of actions every week will build the habit until it becomes ingrained.

For more best thinking

In the end, companies with skilled staff who drive change and continuous improvement will be the most competitive and able to react quickly to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Giving your team adequate training is part of being an effective manufacturing manager. See how SAGE worked alongside Coca-Cola Amital to do just that.

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