Trusting the Process: Improvement in Manufacturing
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published August 19, 2021
Nearly every business wants to improve. To do that, it takes strategy, planning, and testing before taking successful action. When manufacturers understand the process of performance, it helps to meet customer needs and expectations. Process improvement has additional benefits and solutions. Kelley Pernicone of North American Coating Laboratories in Mentor, Ohio, talks about process improvement for the #USAMfgHour chat on Twitter.
Oftentimes, in manufacturing and other industries, changes and success are based on measurable data and observations. The steps toward those changes are called process improvement. Process improvement has several methods, names, and definitions. Some of the most popular methods are:
- Six Sigma
- Lean manufacturing
- Total Quality Management
What does process improvement mean to you?
“Changing the way a process is completed to make it more efficient, safer, and more cost-effective,” said Julie Basello from Radwell International in New Jersey.
“Process improvement is taking everything that you do and incrementally making it better over time. Consistent improvement,” said Dan Bigger of Custom Profile in Michigan.
“It means doing things you always do, but finding better ways to do them (faster, easier, less trouble, etc.),” said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic in Wisconsin.
“Looking at every aspect of a process flow and removing waste and implementing improvements,” said Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis Online in the United Kingdom. He suggests FMEA: Failure Mode Effect Analysis.
“Six Sigma and Lean to streamline projects and processes to increase efficiencies,” said Gina Tabasso of MAGNET, Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “I work in marketing; so, in the past, I did Six Sigma projects such as increasing editing efficiency by using InCopy over paper or PDF edits and vendor quotes to decrease printing costs, increase quality, and decrease turnaround time.”
“Improving upon a process that may or not be successful,” said Kati McDermith of IndustryNet.
“We began implementing 6S practices this year,” said Didion Orf Recycling in Missouri. “At this early stage, it signals the potential for a company to become more efficient, cleaner, and free of the organizational clutter that was holding them back.”
According to Pernicone, “Process improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes! We participate in process improvement to better serve our end-users (most of the time that means the customer)!”
What are the benefits of process improvement?
“Reducing costs, waste, & lead times. Team member engagement,” said Bill Garland, a manufacturing champion in New Mexico. “Missteps and mistakes generating lessons and a better attempt the next time. Learning more about the people & our instructions. For many on my team, process improvement was the first taste of leadership!”
“One of the many benefits is productivity,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing in California. “The more efficient your processes are, the less time it takes to complete a task. This saves time, reduces cost, and increases revenue.”
“Less waste, more efficiency, cost savings, improved speed of production,” said Radwell.
“Better results, less waste, faster processes, reduced costs, safety, knowledge,” said Bigger.
“Efficiencies, ease, less waste,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“Save time, save money, increase efficiency and production,” said Tabasso.
“Those are some good ones! They lead to happier customers and typically increased sales,” said Pernicone.
“Heightened efficiency and cleaner workspaces. (And a great opportunity to give credit to your employees via social media posts!),” said Didion.
“YES! Definitely an opportunity to include and recognize teams,” said Pernicone. “There are a few benefits! Improved morale, better efficiency, faster lead times, better customer experience, and lower-end cost."
Who is responsible for taking part in the improvement process?
“I'd say everyone who works in a company is responsible for taking part in improvement processes because they can happen (and should happen) in every department,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“Everyone? Each individual has a different way to contribute,” said Rusine.
“Ideally, you get everyone on board,” said Manufacturer’s News in Illinois.
“Anyone impacted by or involved in the project. I don't need to call in C-level or a customer on a Six Sigma project to decrease marketing material printing costs,” said Tabasso.
“We use RACI to help us determine levels of responsibility for process improvement (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed),” said Erin Courtenay of Earthling Interactive in Wisconsin.
“This is an excellent approach,” said Pernicone. “EVERYONE! Each person on your team has a role in process improvement!”
Tips for Improvement
How can you empower your team to participate in process quality improvement?
“You make them feel capable and confident,” said Rusine. “You can empower them by giving them opportunities to give input on how the company can improve its processes.”
“I think showing great leadership and building trust is important in any change,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois. “Having your people trust that in the leader is step one and from there, it should be easy to get people to buy-in.”
“Show past successes,” said DSI/Dynamatic. “I have found that when people see proof that improvements work, they're more interested in tackling them.”
“Two-way (or more) communication and feedback channels,” said Chase Bodor, a marketing professional at Plastics Plus in California. “Giving your team the opportunity to give, receive, record, and act on feedback is one powerful and cost-effective way to improve processes.”
“This is another easy one. Just listen to your people,” said Bigger. “They are the ones working the process and are the best one to give an idea on how to make it more efficient.”
“Your teams are your best resource and successful leaders listen to their teams! You got it, Dan. It's another easy one,” said Pernicone.
“Conduct a survey or poll to check their insights on your current processes,” said VirtuDesk in Washington. “You can also set one-on-one meetings or group meetings and ask them what their thoughts and ways are on how you can improve them. More heads are better than one.”
“Help them to see how it will positively impact them and make their job easier in the long run,” said Tabasso. “We also made it part of our goals and reviews. These projects were a requirement from the top down. I had to do four per year.”
“Give team members buy-in into the process and into the results--also include people who will be directly impacted by the process,” said Radwell.
“Absolutely this,” agreed Didion. “And making sure they receive recognition for the work they've done.”
What are some of the drawbacks to process improvement?
“I'd say the biggest is: investment,” said Bigger. “Investment in time to review, update, gain feedback, action plan. Then investment into what you many need to improve: equipment, software, etc.”
“Fear is the greatest enemy of change. If you fear everything, you can never move forward,” said VirtuDesk.
“Upfront time investment, people are resistant to change, often they ‘just want to do their job,’” said Tabasso.
“Are you sure you want to open that Pandora's Box? But seriously, a really good question... too easy to bandwagon on things like process improvement,” said Earthling Interactive.
“Time is the biggest drawback to process improvement,” said Pernicone. “It can be difficult to wait to see results of changes made. There can also be some initial incurred costs! You can get so caught up in improvement that you are over processing! Remember to set up checks for yourself to ensure activity is helpful/beneficial!”
Why should you spend time on process improvement?
“Spending time on process improvement has a host of quantifiable and qualitative measurements of which is customer satisfaction,” said Felix Nater of Nater Associates Security Consulting in North Carolina.
“Investing time saves time and money in the long run, and you should want to have an attitude of continuous improvement in all areas of your life,” said Tabasso.
“Any time spent will reap gains eventually. It is all about getting better at what you do. You cannot get better with no effort. Practice, practice, practice,” said Bigger.
“You should spend time on process improvement to save time, develop better systems, and increase your business productivity,” said VirtuDesk.
“In the end, process improvements should save you time, money, energy, etc.,” said DSI/Dynamatic. “Ultimately, they should improve the productivity of team members involved. Who wouldn't want to work more efficiently?”
“Process improvement is worth the time investment,” said Pernicone of NACL. “The goal of process improvement is to serve your end-user/customer. Your activities that serve that goal are always worth it!”
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.