In the manufacturing industry, communication is the key to running an efficient and productive production line. The communication shouldn’t stop at talks of safety and workload, however. Manufacturing stakeholders need to make important data points and metrics available at every level of the manufacturing process, from the plant floor and beyond, by following these simple steps:
1. Define goals and key metrics
Determining company-wide objectives, as well as the goals of different manufacturing process stages, is the first step towards defining key metrics. Start by quantifying what you want to achieve and changes you would like to see. After that, analyze each phase of the production process and determine which information different teams need access to. Each goal should be aligned with the company’s larger objectives and follow the S.M.A.R.T. framework:
- Specific: Clearly defined and identifiedMeasurable: A quantifiable measurement of success
- Achievable: Goals are realistic, but aspirational
- Relevant: Focused on the results, not just the activities
- Time-based: Linked to a timeframe to create urgency
Keep in mind that this is not a one-time process – your first time defining metrics will not be your last. You should adopt a continuous improvement methodology and continue to refine your metrics according to the results and feedback from your employees. You may find that certain metrics are more helpful than others in the effort to achieve your goals. While metrics will vary by company, here are a few examples of key manufacturing metrics to get you started:
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): Assesses total production availability, performance, and quality to indicate the overall effectiveness of a piece of equipment or production line.
- Manufacturing Cycle Time: The total time from the beginning to end of the production process.
- First Time Through Yield (FTT): Measures efficiency, quality, and skill.
- Capacity Utilization: The percentage of used capacity compared to the available manufacturing capacity.
2. Design a strategic communication plan
The next step in the process is to figure out how you’re going to communicate the information you’ve uncovered. Take your audience and their environment into account when brainstorming the different ways of providing information to them. A manufacturing plant is a noisy, hectic workspace where paper documents can easily get misplaced. It’s also unrealistic to think that there will be time to have constant meetings to go over quotas, goals, and metrics. Instead, you need to have a digital solution that displays live updates that are easy for employees to see throughout their workday.
Data visualization works well in a manufacturing environment for a few reasons. Visual data reports are easy to digest and intuitive – the observer can see issues and potential problems as they are happening. Data visualizations are also more efficient than non-visualized reports, as visual data is processed more quickly and more effectively than spreadsheets. You don’t have to spend time searching for important trends, relationships, or correlations in the data. Finally, digital data reports are very accessible, regardless of where you are or what time of day it is. Dashboards can be displayed on computers, phones, tablets, or even television monitors.
3. Encourage participation and engagement
Encouraging participation and engagement is considered by many managers to be the best way to foster proactive, efficient, and valuable employees. Dashboards are a uniquely powerful tool in this effort. Providing reporting tools that are easy to interact with allows employees at all levels to gain further insight into important metrics. Employees can drill down and see how their performance affects the production process.
There will be varying levels of participation in this initiative, depending on the type of employee, but it’s imperative to emphasize the importance of this data. Ask yourself:
- What do I want my employees to get out of this dashboard?
- Why do I think this is important for them to know?
Being able to verbalize the method behind your plan is crucial. Most importantly, give your employees the opportunity to provide feedback. You may even want to offer incentives for employees to bring any anomalies or problems to your attention when they notice them on the dashboard. It can help you make important revisions in the future, whether you want to change your metrics or the method of communication.
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