Boosting Shop Floor Confidence With Lean Manufacturing Technology

Shop floor managers are taught from early on that believing in themselves is an important trait in their personal success-and in instilling that same belief in their team members. In these troubled economic times, however, self-assuredness won't buy you as much mileage as it used to. At least that's the conclusion of a recent Birmingham Post article titled "Confidence can take those on factory floor only so far."

Citing the case of an expensive, elite British car design that is actually built in Austria and has become "the first vehicle from the luxury carmaker to be made outside the UK," the report ends on an enlightening note:

To some extent the market runs on confidence - whether it's from consumers or from producers - once people start to think things are going to be all right, they soon will be.

But ultimately confidence can take you only so far.

It's all very well talking about the green shoots of recovery; what the people on the factory floor will want to know is when they are going to grow into something.

While they wait out the recession, shop floor managers might want to nip this uncertainty in the bud with a technological confidence booster. A real-time data collection system that provides job tracking and factory floor control can give them the tools they need to maximize their operations-and hopefully keep their manufacturing in house so that their employees don't lose out to lower cost-of-living workers elsewhere in the world.

By helping them get in touch with the factory floor, a lean paperless manufacturing execution system can assist shop floor mangers in increasing performance, delivery time and profitability-and what could be more confidence building than that? Indeed, the factory floor innovation such a system provides can bring about the lean manufacturing measures that are so vital in a global economic downturn.

Lean manufacturing is the key to improving a company's floor performance, its customer responsiveness and, ultimately, its bottom line. Why then aren't more firms implementing such an approach? Because they fail to understand what such an implementation takes.

A real-time data collection system utilizing touch screen capabilities takes the guesswork out of lean manufacturing. In fact, it provides the visible feedback and floor level management...the very foundations for lean manufacturing.

What then can your company do to make the correct moves towards lean manufacturing? One of the obvious, but often overlooked, tools is information from an electronic floor system. A floor information system can help manufacturers move forward with the essential lean concepts of identifying problems, following the flow of parts and measuring changeover times. Today's manufacturing companies have the opportunity to improve on lean concepts with information systems that can be married into a lean process improvement program.

With information systems, the analysis of the factory floor processes and the flow of parts, sometimes referred to as a "current state map," are visibly tracked throughout production. If a company is going to take action to improve the manufacturing process, then why not make the flow process visible and available all day to all of the employees? Therefore, improvement will be ongoing goal for both the management and the floor workers-and one that ultimately leads to firm-wide confidence.

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