Consistency, Compliance, and Capacity: Improving Bottom-Line Productivity

Consistency, Compliance, and Capacity: Improving Bottom-Line Productivity

 
 
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There are three manufacturing automation Cs: Capacity, the absence of down-time; Consistency, the requirement that all production machinery operates within specific parameters; Compliance, the need to meet or exceed regulatory and internal process, safety, and product standards. These are the three essential elements of modern manufacturing operations. Although modern manufacturing is often assumed to take place in the absence of manual labor and the human element, almost every manufacturing company ultimately relies on its workers contributing their knowledge, observational skills and prompt action to ensure maximum production up-time and product quality without sacrificing safety or compliance with safety, regulatory, and internal standards.
 
The number of staff at most manufacturing and processing facilities has shrunk over the last decade due to a greater focus on automation and the retirement of seasoned workers while the operations workload has remained constant or even grown. This situation has left plant operations management with a smaller, less experienced front-line workforce with an overwhelming reporting workload.
 
This overtaxed workforce lack the intimate knowledge of the processes. Instead automation processes are monitored to allow them to take consistently effective and timely corrective action when presented with unusual conditions during their data collection and observation rounds. Manufacturing companies take full advantage of their human capital to keep things running smoothly and profitably.
 
Providing front-line workers with training and reference materials representing the accumulated best practices of the organization is one way to impart the knowledge needed to take the best actions in the field. Front-line plant floor workers by definition do not typically sit behind a desk. To be effective they need the ability to react appropriately as they perform their rounds in the field, without relying on supervisors and desk-bound reference documents to assist in their decision-making process.
 
Mobile technology – smart phones and hand-held computers – hold enormous value in providing workers with decision support at their fingertips and a simplified error-free method for collecting and submitting observational data to decision makers and back-end systems. Mobile technology helps fulfill the promise of integrating the human and non-human elements of monitoring and controlling a manufacturing operation.
 
With this in mind, a growing number of companies now are employing innovative mobile technology to achieve uniform best practices by field workers, faster, error-free data collection during rounds, and electronic reporting and analysis in a fraction of the time that traditional methods permit. The expanded capability for gathering, analyzing and reporting data, in turn, is creating new opportunities for performance improvement for these companies. Field intelligence about key operational performance indicators is finally becoming actionable, and this has important implications for many kinds of businesses.
 
Nearly three-fourths (74%) of manufacturing workers reported in a national survey that their job is very stressful. Stress is the leading cause of disability in the manufacturing workplace, costing employers billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.
 
Given the bottom-line impact of stress on the plant floor to the executive suite, more manufacturers are implementing regular massage for workers as a measure to reduce the physical and mental effects of stress; the result is reducing burnout and stress related diseases, and increasing productivity.
 
The impact of production automation on organizational performance isolated four key dimensions: operational performance, labor management effectiveness, workers' well-being and remuneration. On the whole, automation was perceived to have resulted in greater improvements in operational performance and workers’ well-being than in labor management effectiveness and workers' remuneration. However, there was a statistically significant correlation among all four dimensions of organizational performance.
 
Vincent Monforte, LMT and creator of the VTouch Method (www.VTouchmassage.com), noted that, “Companies that understand lean manufacturing principles quickly grasp that stress is costly and wasteful. By offering massage therapy to employees goes far beyond a perk, and increases employee health, productivity, and morale."
 
The results of regular massages at the workplace provides quantifiable and immediate results — the employees experience stress reduction and greater satisfaction with their jobs.
 
The manufacturing marketing research division of TR Cutler, Inc., sponsored the national survey of more than one hundred U.S. manufacturers; all show that massage improved bottom line of employers. The study found that after twelve weeks, 269 employees who had once-weekly, 45-minute massages in the manufacturing workplace had dramatically better productivity, reduced absenteeism, included far fewer doctor visits, than a control group of 250 employees who did not receive the massage therapy. The massaged group experienced reduced stress and improved performance, while the control group did not. Using electroencephalograms (EEG), researchers measured alpha and beta waves in both groups, and found massage recipients to be more alert. Stress hormones in the saliva of the massaged group were lower than in the control group. The massaged workers completed math problems in half the time as normal and with half the errors they had before the massage. The math skills of the control group did not improve. The massage recipients verbally reported they were less fatigued and more clear-headed.
 
Precise data regarding the number of manufacturers, industrial and distribution operations offering massage therapy onsite is not available, however many industry leaders including Boeing, Apple Computer, PepsiCo, Sony Music and United Airlines have realized the efficacy and cost-benefit of providing massage.
 
The VTouch Method specifically addresses the sources of physical stress and contracts with manufacturers and other industrial organizations by scheduling massage appointments to accommodate the shift schedules. Monforte noted, “The benefits of a therapeutic massage in the workplace are dramatic. This systematic approach relieves physical problems associated with repetitive tasks, while balancing the effects of stress and reducing tension headaches as well as anxiety levels, and allows the employee to avoid stress related diseases and dysfunction.”
 
By triggering a stress free response there is an improvement in immune system function, which reduces absenteeism, one of the most measurable economic impacts on the manufacturing sector. In the national survey, absenteeism was reduced by more than 50% among those receiving weekly massages. The savings to the manufacturing organization was 1000% greater than the actual cost of the massages, which averaged less than $4000 per month. 
 
Diane Lippman, a Master Six Sigma Black Belt personal productivity expert, and workshop leader recently commented that, “Workers need to realize how much time they waste. Time cannot be managed, only behavior. Manufacturers are paying the price for disorganization, unclear goals, too many personal phone calls, disjointed processes, no routines, poor planning, procrastination, lack of focus, lack of training, junk e-mail and other distractions.  These activities are stealing productivity hours from most manufacturers and working in that paradigm is an absolute breeding ground for stress.”
 
Monforte’s organization works with companies to provide measurable impacts along with unique certified VTouch Method massage therapists specifically trained and assigned to impact the efficiencies achieved through stress reduction. Monforte noted, “Just as lean operations call for continued process improvement, stress is wasteful element that can be dramatically reduced. The role of massage in reducing stress provides a direct pathway to improved quantifiable productive metrics. Evaluating the cost of stress via lost productivity will drive more manufacturers to offer experienced professional massage solutions which can quickly stop the wasteful time hemorrhaging.”
 
Author Profile:
 
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc, (www.trcutlerinc.com). Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand five hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is also the developer of lean technology C.E.O (Continuous Experiential Optimization). Cutler can be contacted at [email protected].