Toward Zero Blog

3 Life Lessons to Get Started with Continuous Improvement in Manufacturing

Perhaps the hardest part to get started with continuous improvement is figuring out how and where to start. Change is hard, especially where teams are concerned, and the thought of stumbling at the outset is scary. One continuous improvement (CI) launch in particular comes to mind when I think about the ups and downs of this kind of initiative. Nearly two decades ago when we were first formally launching CI, our team had many conversations that seemed to go in circles. We also received lots of advice — mostly about which tool to embrace first, such as “start with 5S, it’s the foundation.” Why was there so much confusion around something that was to bring clarity to the business? The biggest thing I’ve learned since those early projects is that companies often make things harder than they need to be. But that’s not all I’ve discovered along the way.

Savvy Manufacturer: Making Manufacturing Performance Gains Stick

If your manufacturing business has ever survived a crisis — supply chain disruption, market demand fluctuation, distribution problems, or perhaps even a natural or economic catastrophe — it had an uncommon opportunity to shine through the adversity. More importantly it gives you a chance to learn from the outcomes generated by the organization’s responses to the disaster.  We don’t know any that are eager to flush it all away — not just the performance gains, but the opportunity to do even more with the unexpected wisdom.

Three Steps to Improve Production Scheduling

Production scheduling in manufacturing is complex; it’s difficult to produce a production schedule that is both achievable and meets business requirements.  Have you ever been part of an organization where the production planner’s life seems like groundhog day?…Every day, that person adjusts and re-issues the master production schedule?  If so, you probably saw lots of frustration and people continually scrambling — not just the shop floor and other internal operations teams, but also suppliers and customers. Operations has to readjust crew and equipment plans, suppliers have to rush orders, and customers often receive less than what they need.  Many organizations look squarely at the production planner to fix the issue.  The reality is that production scheduling isn’t just about production planning software; a cross-functional approach is required for success.

Is Your Production Scheduling Process Helping or Hurting the Shop Floor?

A lot of companies wonder why the production schedule gets off track, and why there’s so much angst between production planners and shop floor people.  “This production schedule is ridiculous!  We just ran that last week!  What are they thinking in the office — do they even have a clue?”  Those are statements I've heard more times than I'd like to admit, and it's tough to hear.  People with these (and similar) comments are clearly frustrated and fatigued by the situation; they are simply tired of it!  Fortunately, there are lots of ways a manufacturer can create alignment and balance between shop floor staff and production planners.

Discovering Lean Tools and OEE

Not everyone in manufacturing roles has a lot of experience with Lean or OEE.  In fact, here we are nearly 40 years after OEE was first described in Introduction to TPM: Total Productive Maintenance , and people are still asking how to calculate OEE.  Everyone has a story about how they learned about OEE and Lean, including me.  What’s fascinating is that despite all that’s been written on these topics, manufacturing companies still struggle to capture significant value from Lean tools and OEE calculations.

Mirror Image: Manufacturing Execs, Private Equity Firms Both Seeking Value Creation

It doesn’t matter if it’s a manufacturing company looking for an investment partner, or a private equity company looking for an investment in the manufacturing sector.  Either way, it takes an expert in manufacturing enterprise operational excellence to identify, quantify, and prioritize operational improvement opportunities to deliver high ROI.

MES Failure not Predestined: ISA Framework Simply Exposes Organizational Fault Lines

Recently, the Toward Zero team examined some effects of organization culture on manufacturing execution system (MES) decisions.  In response to our article, “MES Tug of War: The Battle Continues,” Farukh Naqvi succinctly lays out ISA’s ongoing work to develop a framework and methodology for “solving conflict among the three diverse stakeholders” of an MES effort.  While the ISA-95 framework delivers perspective on system integration and the thousands of actions and data points throughout a manufacturing enterprise, it also inadvertently reveals the need for enterprise-wide cross-functional collaboration.

Six Culture Toxins that Cripple Operational Excellence Efforts

After working with many organizations it has become very apparent that desired cultural change is a result of good change management and organizational design. Equally, most of us would also agree that successful change can only happen when the majority of employees rally and cooperate to effect those changes ― cultural improvement is a result of these interdependent efforts. With today’s press to modernize manufacturing ― through digitalization, data capture, and a focus on operational excellence ― every company must get the change management and culture pieces of the puzzle exactly right if they want to achieve the promise of sustainable performance improvement, competitive advantage, and financial gains.

Exploring Catalyst to Reduce MES Risk

Take any hundred companies who are exploring the deployment of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), follow them through 5 years, and here's what you'll find:

1 2

3 Life Lessons to Get Started with Continuous Improvement in Manufacturing

Perhaps the hardest part to get started with continuous improvement is figuring out how and where to start. Change is hard, especially where teams are concerned, and the thought of stumbling at the outset is scary. One continuous improvement (CI) launch in particular comes to mind when I think about the ups and downs of this kind of initiative. Nearly two decades ago when we were first formally launching CI, our team had many conversations that seemed to go in circles. We also received lots of advice — mostly about which tool to embrace first, such as “start with 5S, it’s the foundation.” Why was there so much confusion around something that was to bring clarity to the business? The biggest thing I’ve learned since those early projects is that companies often make things harder than they need to be. But that’s not all I’ve discovered along the way.

Savvy Manufacturer: Making Manufacturing Performance Gains Stick

If your manufacturing business has ever survived a crisis — supply chain disruption, market demand fluctuation, distribution problems, or perhaps even a natural or economic catastrophe — it had an uncommon opportunity to shine through the adversity. More importantly it gives you a chance to learn from the outcomes generated by the organization’s responses to the disaster.  We don’t know any that are eager to flush it all away — not just the performance gains, but the opportunity to do even more with the unexpected wisdom.

Three Steps to Improve Production Scheduling

Production scheduling in manufacturing is complex; it’s difficult to produce a production schedule that is both achievable and meets business requirements.  Have you ever been part of an organization where the production planner’s life seems like groundhog day?…Every day, that person adjusts and re-issues the master production schedule?  If so, you probably saw lots of frustration and people continually scrambling — not just the shop floor and other internal operations teams, but also suppliers and customers. Operations has to readjust crew and equipment plans, suppliers have to rush orders, and customers often receive less than what they need.  Many organizations look squarely at the production planner to fix the issue.  The reality is that production scheduling isn’t just about production planning software; a cross-functional approach is required for success.

Is Your Production Scheduling Process Helping or Hurting the Shop Floor?

A lot of companies wonder why the production schedule gets off track, and why there’s so much angst between production planners and shop floor people.  “This production schedule is ridiculous!  We just ran that last week!  What are they thinking in the office — do they even have a clue?”  Those are statements I've heard more times than I'd like to admit, and it's tough to hear.  People with these (and similar) comments are clearly frustrated and fatigued by the situation; they are simply tired of it!  Fortunately, there are lots of ways a manufacturer can create alignment and balance between shop floor staff and production planners.

Discovering Lean Tools and OEE

Not everyone in manufacturing roles has a lot of experience with Lean or OEE.  In fact, here we are nearly 40 years after OEE was first described in Introduction to TPM: Total Productive Maintenance , and people are still asking how to calculate OEE.  Everyone has a story about how they learned about OEE and Lean, including me.  What’s fascinating is that despite all that’s been written on these topics, manufacturing companies still struggle to capture significant value from Lean tools and OEE calculations.

Mirror Image: Manufacturing Execs, Private Equity Firms Both Seeking Value Creation

It doesn’t matter if it’s a manufacturing company looking for an investment partner, or a private equity company looking for an investment in the manufacturing sector.  Either way, it takes an expert in manufacturing enterprise operational excellence to identify, quantify, and prioritize operational improvement opportunities to deliver high ROI.

MES Failure not Predestined: ISA Framework Simply Exposes Organizational Fault Lines

Recently, the Toward Zero team examined some effects of organization culture on manufacturing execution system (MES) decisions.  In response to our article, “MES Tug of War: The Battle Continues,” Farukh Naqvi succinctly lays out ISA’s ongoing work to develop a framework and methodology for “solving conflict among the three diverse stakeholders” of an MES effort.  While the ISA-95 framework delivers perspective on system integration and the thousands of actions and data points throughout a manufacturing enterprise, it also inadvertently reveals the need for enterprise-wide cross-functional collaboration.

Six Culture Toxins that Cripple Operational Excellence Efforts

After working with many organizations it has become very apparent that desired cultural change is a result of good change management and organizational design. Equally, most of us would also agree that successful change can only happen when the majority of employees rally and cooperate to effect those changes ― cultural improvement is a result of these interdependent efforts. With today’s press to modernize manufacturing ― through digitalization, data capture, and a focus on operational excellence ― every company must get the change management and culture pieces of the puzzle exactly right if they want to achieve the promise of sustainable performance improvement, competitive advantage, and financial gains.

Exploring Catalyst to Reduce MES Risk

Take any hundred companies who are exploring the deployment of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), follow them through 5 years, and here's what you'll find:

1 2