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Key Performance Indicators and How They are Used in Manufacturing

Monday, June 6, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

If, like me, you work in manufacturing, you may have a lot of questions about BPM, or business process management. To learn more about performance analytics in manufacturing, keep reading.

Performance Analytics in Manufacturing

It may go without saying, but performance analytics are extremely important in manufacturing. While analytics may be important for any serious business, especially ones dealing with large quantities, they are arguably the most important in manufacturing circles, as having a large amount of data is essentially a requirement for manufacturing businesses, especially those that don’t want to go bankrupt.  Poor analytics can result in a loss of profits, or worse- so it’s fairly important for manufacturers to perform thorough business process management in order to stay on top in their business.

A key part of proper business process management (BPM) can be found in using KPIs, or key performance indicators.

KPI-webWhat are KPIs?

A KPI, or key performance indicator, is a term used in business process management to describe how well a business is accomplishing its objectives. KPIs can factor into multiple parts of the business, and there are hundreds of popular models to use for them- in general, however, it’s important for businesses to actually use the analytics available and take actions based on them.

Different KPIs work for different types of businesses, and too many businesses are working with the wrong KPI, or simply not taking action with the data that KPIs should be giving them. This is poor business process management. In order to help you avoid this, I’ll identify popular, key KPIs and what they mean.

Examples of KPIs

  • Cycle Time. Cycle time is the time from the beginning to the end of a business process. This can apply to an entire operation, or simply one cycle of one- cycle time is used to separate the duration of a process from the run time of a process.
  • Yield. Yield is the income made from an investment. In manufacturing, this is referred to as Throughput Yield, which is the number of units coming from a process divided by the number of units going into it. In short, your yield is what you’re getting from putting in your time, money or resources into something- is it worth it?
  • Throughput. Throughput deals with the productivity of a person, machine, process, etc over a certain period of time. Throughput can be measured however you like, but popular measures are usually hours or days, as opposed to larger periods of time, which can be harder to pin down.
  • Uptime and Downtime. Uptime is when your equipment is working optimally and as expected. Downtime is when this equipment does not work- whether for maintenance or due to failure. In general, downtime is something you want to avoid if possible, but it’s also an inevitable part of business- it’s important to factor in downtime when measuring the productivity of your business and its employees.
  • Cost per Unit. Cost per Unit measures the total cost per unit, and is measured by adding the fixed and variable costs, then dividing those costs by the total units produced. Measuring costs per unit is a vital KPI for most businesses.

All of these KPIs, and more, are used in manufacturing, as well as many other businesses being run all over the world. To get the best out of your business, you too should be using KPIs and other performance analytics in order to measure your business’ productivity- failure to do this can be disastrous, especially in today’s fast-paced economy.

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Security & Privacy in the Digital Age

Monday, April 11, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

security-and-privacy-in-the-digital-age-webThe digital nature of today’s world has impacted all aspects of daily and professional life, including everyday operations within the manufacturing sector. From 3D printing to a new social media emphasis in B2B marketing, all aspects of manufacturing are quickly changing. One of the most recent and most concerning shifts involves security and privacy, with manufacturers increasingly finding themselves at risk of security breaches. A report from PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO survey found that digital technologies ensuring enhanced cybersecurity were deemed among the most important tools of the mobile age by 78 percent of CEOs.

Enhancing security and privacy is no easy task, especially given the rapidly-changing nature of the digital landscape and the swiftness with which hackers adapt to new security protocol. However, there are several steps manufacturers can take to minimize security risks. A few key approaches for enhancing security are detailed below:

New Technology and New Security Risks

The increased integration of advanced technology into everyday products is a boon for consumer engagement and satisfaction, but it is accompanied by numerous risks that were, at one time, nonexistent. Manufacturing.net highlights in-vehicle WiFi as a prime example of this problem. Drivers continually demand in-vehicle connectivity, but this opens up these businesses to a whole host of hacking risks. There is no easy solution, but careful consideration of the risks that may accompany a new product or feature is a good start. From there, manufacturers can implement controls designed to minimize the potential for future hacking.

cloud-security-webSecurity and the Cloud

Cloud technology has greatly enhanced mobility within the manufacturing industry, but the security and privacy risks that accompany this approach to data storage should be of great concern to manufacturers lacking advanced security systems and protocol. At minimum, all information stored on the cloud should be accompanied by several layers of protection, including firewalls, secure OS, and audit trails. Physical security protocols must also be considered, with potential safeguards including CCTV surveillance, several points of automated authentication, and the use of guards at all access points.

Intellectual Property and Inside Breaches

Intellectual property is one of the biggest areas of vulnerability for the average manufacturer. Although the potential for outside security risks should be carefully monitored, many manufacturers are at far greater danger of inside security breaches. Thus, it is important to assess how much access various individuals have to sensitive information. A variety of controls and layers can be implemented in order to minimize the risk of inside security issues.

The exciting opportunities of the digital age are, unfortunately, accompanied by numerous security risks. There is no way to completely eliminate these hazards, but the potential for security breaches can be greatly reduced through the implementation of enhanced physical and cybersecurity systems.

 

Sources

Forbes.com – Article

Manufacturing.net – Article

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Women in Manufacturing

Sunday, February 28, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

women-in-manufacturing-webEven though there has been considerable progress in labor force participation especially when it comes to women in manufacturing, I think the percentage of women drops significantly as you look higher in the manufacturing ranks. Despite concerted efforts among co-operations, overall this picture has not improved for years. It is clear that women are over-represented in among unpaid home workforce and informal sectors across the board.

In the USA for example between 1970 and 2009, women went from holding 37% of all jobs to nearly 48%. That’s almost 38 million more women in the workplace. Without them, the economy would be 25% smaller today. McKinsey & Company (2011) argue that this is equal to the combined GDP of Illinois, California and New York. It is important to remember that an expanding workforce and rising productivity are two most important factors that drive GDP growth.

According to McKinsey & Company there are factors that limit women’s rise to the top in certain corporations. These are the need for personal achievement, more money and recognition just like men. Lack of role models, exclusion from the informal networks not having a sponsor in upper management to create for them opportunities is also an obstacle.  The assumption that women cannot handle certain jobs at the same time attend to family responsibilities is another limiting stereotype that managers use to deny women opportunities. Lastly women have their own limiting beliefs that hamper their development- such as waiting to attain more skills or just wanting to be asked.

Advantages on having women in the workplace

According to Zeneger Folkman, a corporation that researches on leadership, women in the workplace do rate higher than their male colleagues on 12 out of 16 characteristics required in manufacturing. Women significantly outscored men in taking initiative and being result driven. Below are additional areas showing why keeping a woman in the work place is being smart:

  • Women will often chose to remain in certain jobs when efforts are made to make them feel valued professionally.
  • Unlike men, women value the prospect of pouring their energies into making a difference and working closely with colleagues. They never want to give away that satisfaction for anything else.
  • Women are naturally good at listening than men. This is one vital skill that is critical in managing people if managers need to optimize productivity from employees as well as keep customers. According to Dr. Susan Sherwood, this is so because women are more discussion oriented than men who more often than not just want to take action. Men tend to communicate through activities rather than conversations.
  • Women are better listeners than men, and this is exactly the skill that women in manufacturing need to manage the workforce and clients. This is imperative because workers want bosses in who are willing to listen, feel and act from a knowledge point of view. This way they know that their challenges and grievances are being handled better.
  • Women are also better at consensus building unlike men who are would like to give directions. The obvious male dominated commanding leader  that runs from top to bottom is being phased out by women in the workplace who are willing to listen more. Female leaders are more likely to lead through influence that comes as result of building supportive relationships.
  • Women being mothers are traditionally more likely to be more tolerant with their employees than men. They are less likely to jump into instantaneous conclusion or make decisions too quickly or take action too soon. When people wait they will make more informed decisions.

Bottom line – A healthy workforce is a blended workforce where the right people are placed in the right positions.

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Meeting Expectations in a Challenging New Market for Light Fixtures

Monday, December 21, 2015
posted by IMT-Webmaster

meeting-expectations-in-a-challenging-webIn a world of social media and instant sharing, new trends and styles spread like wildfire through the internet. For this reason, it is important for those who work in metal manufacturing to be up to date on the latest and greatest in terms of style, effectiveness, and quality.

Any interior designer will say, lighting is the key to tying a beautiful room together, and whether that lighting is custom done or simply just something unique that can be found in a store, it’s sure to be a very important aspect of a room, that touches everything. Of course, at the center of every creative lighting fixture is a precise, well done piece of metal manufacturing. Truly the heart of any light fixture, among other things, masterful metal working. Of course, manufacturing said lighting fixtures can be a challenge. It’s hard to balance beautiful and trendy design with sustainability and business figures. For this reason, a proper metallist is needed, not just one who is able to fill an order quickly, but one who is able to be precise, and able to share a vision to meet a specific goal or trend. Creativity is not something that many people think of when the words metal fabricators are spoken (I know in my case it isn’t), but this is something that very much needs to happen in our modern day. Interior design is nearly a hobby, and there are countless blogs, Facebook groups, or Pinterest pages dedicated solely to perfect and modern interior design. These trends and styles spread through the populous very quickly, and for this reason, people who sell products meant to be used in interior design need to be up to speed with them.

Sourcing a metal manufacturing job can be a tough choice. International work can be cheaper, but at the same time it takes additional time to be completed and shipped. when working on the bleeding edge of unique and decorative designs and lighting fixtures, it’s vastly important to find a group which understand and work in mind with the needs of home decor specialists and enthusiasts. Effectively, if there is a need for vast amounts of creativity and attention to detail and trends, a domestic manufacturer such as Kryton Engineered Metals is the choice. People who care about getting things done right the first time, and in time to ride the wave of trends that can come and go so quickly in modern home decor.

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Why it’s important to keep American manufacturing IN America

Monday, November 23, 2015
posted by IMT-Webmaster

made-in-america-webOne of the largest trends recently being brought to light in the American manufacturing industry is the process of reshoring. The reshoring initiative aims to return manufacturing operations back to the United States, after previously having moved them to another country.

The desire to keep manufacturing jobs here at home has been reticently shared throughout the industry for some time, but most industry leaders simply found the cost benefits of outsourcing jobs to other countries too rewarding to pass on. As the industry has adapted in many ways, however, the pros-and-cons of outsourcing are now being measured much differently.

Millions of American manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade due to outsourcing. Low wages and tax advantages overseas made the transition seem obvious to big-time suppliers who would simply be able to produce much more for much less. What wasn’t figured was the cost of quality.

Quality is literally everything to manufacturers both local and global. Being unable to properly monitor and guarantee that eachquality-control2-web and every finished product is of pristine quality is a cost that can compound quickly. Simply put, any time an error must be corrected it creates a cost that would not have been in play otherwise. And, when it comes to weighing cost versus quality, the answer is becoming more and more obvious to manufacturers.

Growing energy and transportation prices have also lead many industry leaders to rethink the cost benefits of outsourcing. Keeping production at home significantly reduces the cost of delivery and distribution, and also better meets the needs of modern consumers. As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations. Whether individual shopper or major bulk buyers, people expect short delivery windows and achieving this is much easier for manufacturers when less distance is involved.

Also, STEM’s place in modern manufacturing creates a wider skills gap and calls for a larger variety of abilities not yet utilized in the industry. Proper education and training of prospective manufacturing professionals is vital to the industry’s future, and proximity plays a major role in this learning. Separating manufacturing and development with long distances can stymie the transfer of training and knowledge among a company’s employees. Extreme distances also create problems for startup companies that rely on quick turnarounds when experimenting with new prototypes. In an industry that advances quickly, and moves quickly in general, learning must also happen efficiently.

maunufacturing-jobsA final benefit of reshoring efforts, while hard to quantify, might be the most important factor. Local craft and the connection that consumers feel with homemade products has become highly important. Local manufacturers play a large role in the growth and success of their local communities. Siemens, a global manufacturer of products in multiple industries, suggested earlier this year on social media platforms that every job in manufacturing creates roughly 2.2 jobs in other sectors. Manufacturing has a positive, multiplying effect on local communities and society as a whole. It’s important that these positive effects are felt right here at home.

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