Too often, we see manufacturers make the same mistakes, time and time again. These mistakes are not limited to one type of industry, size, or revenue – they’re largely universal.
When these mistakes are made over and over, productivity and culture suffer. Employees aren’t engaged. The mistakes permeate the success of the company. It’s important to acknowledge that while problems occur and mistakes will in fact be made, there are steps manufacturers can take to make improvements.
In this blog post, we’re going to dissect the top 8 mistakes we see manufacturers make and what could be done differently. We promise, your culture, productivity, and bottom line will benefit.
1. Assuming Everything Will Run Perfectly 24/7
Problems will arise, the machine will break down, and for lack of a better word, shit happens. It simply never works the way you’ve planned. Sure, you could have a plan, but nothing ever goes perfectly. That’s not how life works, and it sure as hell isn’t how manufacturing works.
Perfection doesn’t exist.
As a manufacturer, you should understand the variance and problems that could arise. Then, factor those into the work you’re doing and work to eliminate them. (Use this motivation to acknowledge where improvements can be made.)
2. Expecting the Schedule to Run According to Plan
The root of this problem ties back to assuming everything will run perfectly 27/4. When you do this, you’re immediately behind. You’re behind schedule before you’ve even started. This is obviously not how manufacturers want to start their days, and it creates even more chaos in the plant.
It’s important for manufacturers to create a schedule that accommodates demand, while also understanding that it will need to be altered and modified as things fluctuate. Simply importing a strict, non-negotiable production plan isn’t enough. Manufacturers need the ability to get control and modify the schedule as things arise, as they often do in the plant.
3. No Visibility into the Plant
This all goes back to a lack of planning and assuming everything is going to be perfect. When you’re constantly scrambling to catch up, you’re not going to be able to understand what’s happening now or plan for the future. You already know you’re behind and you’re doing everything you can to get the product out the door on time. A lack of visibility isn’t beneficial to anyone.
But, not surprisingly, there’s a better way. Manufacturing productivity software like Mingo gives manufacturers the ability to understand problems and schedule accordingly, creating visibility and a clear path to producing to schedule, on time. It provides visibility while also providing an analysis of what happened and why to make further improvements.
4. Embracing a “That’s Just How It Is” Mentality
Unlike the first three, directly relates to the culture of the company. Improvements can and should continuously be made, but much of this starts from the top of the ladder, at the management level. Just because a process has been done that way for 25 years does not mean there aren’t improvements to be made. Culture and continuous improvement start at the top.
We talked about this a lot with Allison Greco, a recent guest on Zen and the Art of Manufacturing podcast. She specifically speaks on how to have influence without authority (aka employees who may be lower in the organizational chart but want to initiate improvements) and how you can improve things without management support.
5. Discrediting the Problems Your Employees Face or Not Listening to Their Opinions
This is a big one. You cannot ignore your employees. They have valuable experience and insight into what’s going on in the plant, every single day, and more often than not, they can provide advice on how to improve processes and eliminate problems. (Remember, just because something is “the way it is” does not mean it has to continue being that way.)
If you don’t listen to your employees or simply ignore the problems they’re trying to bring to your attention, well….. you’re going to lose valuable employees. They’re going to find another company that values their opinions which leaves you with a position to fill. That’s a huge loss for you.
6. Not Working Together
Siloed teams aren’t effective. People should work together to solve problems because at the end of the day if a problem is solved, it creates a flow throughout the entire plant.
7. A Lack of Training or Continuing Education
This is a huge no-no. You cannot expect your employees to know everything, even if they’re seasoned employees. Routine training and education are necessary to not only improve skill sets but to create a culture of ongoing learning and improvement.
Companies should, at the very least, have a detailed plan on how to train new employees. To enhance the company culture, even more, set up resources for continuing education. Maybe it’s a conference or simply creating a book club (which we did at Mingo, so if you need advice, reach out to us!). With more resources at their fingertips, employees will not only feel better equipped to do their jobs on a daily basis, but feel empowered to speak up, make improvements, and overall, feel more confident in their roles.
8. Not Focusing on Culture
Okay, so by this point, there are two main problems – expectations on the floor and a lack of culture. Both are vital to the success of a company, yet we cannot stress enough how important culture is in a manufacturing environment.
If you think you’re lacking in culture, start with the basic things. Maintain respect for your employees, better understand and document processes and capabilities, list out areas for improvement, be open and transparent about what’s going on in the plant. Stuart Fergusson, Director of Solutions Engineering at Fiix Software, a Rockwell Company, and another recent guest on Zen and the Art of Manufacturing Podcast explains how to create a healthy culture. While an emphasis on maintenance, he provides strategic tips on improving culture as a whole (his advice is not limited to just maintenance; it’s universal.)
What’s Stopping You From Improving?
What we’ve learned from talking with industry experts on the Zen and the Art of Manufacturing Podcast, reading The Toyota Way and The Goal in our book club, and simply observing lean processes is that you need to get to the root cause. When the root cause is found, problems can be fixed, and processes are improved. So, how do manufacturers find that problem?
Start with taking a hard look at your company. Do you make any of these 8 common mistakes? If yes, develop a game plan for correcting the mistake(s). Take action. We promise everyone can improve… it just takes decided effort.
It’s clear that when manufacturers avoid these 8 common mistakes, productivity, efficiency, and the bottom line improve. Employees feel empowered, valued, and are more likely to take extra time, beyond required job duties, to learn about and improve manufacturing processes.
The company as a whole is more likely to absorb lean principles, 5s, and standardization, and become a world-class manufacturer. Together, the floor will become a better working environment.
On the flip side, if manufacturers continue to make these mistakes, well, there’s no question employees will quit and find better opportunities. No one will blame them because the company didn’t improve. The bosses may even be surprised to receive resignation notices, but they shouldn’t be. They’re running an inefficient, poorly supported plant. Resignations will become a common trend.
If you find yourself relating to any one of these 8 mistakes, will you take the steps towards improvement?
The moral of this story is don’t be the company making these detrimental mistakes. Value and educate employees who simply want to succeed. Take our advice and learn from what we’ve written here. Make your company the type of place an employee wants to work and wants to improve and wants to succeed. Your bottom line will thank you.