Workloads are growing, talent is retiring, replacements are often not as skilled as those they replace. Expectations from senior management are growing, yet the resources required to maintain the status quo, let alone improve, are harder to obtain. Prices across the landscape continue to rise. We are asked to do even more with less. Many leadership teams urge Digital Transformation, yet not enough are leading from the front to identify ways to truly improve and transform operations.
Attempting to throw technology at a problem rarely solves the problem, at best it simply shifts the focus to the next weakest link in the chain. Eli Goldratt introduced us to his “Theory of Constraints” in the bestselling manufacturing novel, “The Goal” decades ago. While some have fully embraced the vision, many more continue to struggle, moving from one fire to the next. When times are good, although not ideal, businesses can survive. In our current state of “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” (FUD) it seems like the burning fire will consume us.
There is a path forward. It will impact your organization from front line operations and maintenance all the way to the C-suite. While it is simple to start, it does require discipline and a commitment to focus beyond the quarterly results. Knowing precisely what is wrong with equipment creates a level of empowerment that opens these possibilities. In a recent article, we discussed five benefits of data-centered reliability. Now let’s focus on the impact at different levels of the organization.
Maintenance and operations receive a critical mutual benefit, an accurate picture of equipment performance, issues that require resolution, and a clearer picture of when equipment can be taken offline for maintenance to maintain optimum performance. Given a past where this has been difficult to envision, let alone execute, will help make decisions more transparent for all personnel in the plant. An additional benefit for the plant manager and operations staff is they’ll be able to better plan and execute their production schedules. Greater visibility into uptime and performance also enables a reduced need for last minute overtime or bringing in additional staff or contractors to catch up after either unplanned downtime or a planned outage that took too long because maintenance didn’t have a clear picture of the issues they would face when repairing the equipment.
Sales and marketing have the confidence to position products with greater confidence that plants will be able to deliver on time and in the right quantities more often. Also, what sales and marketing team wouldn’t like to have more to sell in certain markets? The newfound availability means they can seek out additional new customers or offer greater quantities of products to existing customers because their maintenance and operations colleagues are keeping the lines rolling with high quality goods. Being able to keep your word on timing, price, and quantity are all great benefits for sales and marketing teams to foster trust in their client relationships.
Human Resources, Human Capital, or People organizations are always looking for opportunities to reduce turnover, retain knowledge, and create a competitive advantage to recruit the best talent available. In certain manufacturing verticals turnover at the plant level can be very high. We’ve worked with some companies with upwards of 40% year-over-year turnover on the floor, which means constant recruiting and training costs. It also means fostering institutional knowledge is more challenging. Having plants that are functional and not fire drills helps promote retention. Being able to let incoming personnel know that you have an efficient plant which means they can work their shift and go home with less chance of an incident can be a hug recruiting tool.
Sustainability is top of mind for many companies. The ability to produce goods faster and better helps drive those goals. We don’t have to give up the third side of the triangle here, because producing better and faster ultimately is cheaper. For sustainability professionals, having equipment that runs properly means it will consume less electricity, which means it has the potential to lower your carbon footprint. Also, with increased quality you’ll almost assuredly see decreases in scrap, re-work, or other areas that impact run times, raw materials, and inefficient shipping due to product delays. These impacts to Scope 2 and 3 emissions will help any sustainability leader move the needle toward stated goals.
While each of the areas described has a positive financial impact for the organization in their own regard, within the C-suite the impacts create significant hard and soft savings. Manufacturing plants contain millions in assets and inventory, yet they’re often not treated as well as they should be given the direct impact they present with revenue and profit. When you factor in capital expansion projects that are often undertaken because existing capacity is maxed out, when in many instances there’s a significant hidden plant, these benefits run deep. With publicly traded companies, given the current climate of many institutional investors, showing a commitment to ESG, net-zero, etc., there’s demonstrated ways to show a commitment to a purpose driven organization for your colleagues, and improved financial returns for shareholders.
The “Power of Knowing” your assets and the roadmap to safeguard them to improve across maintenance, operations, HR, sustainability, sales, marketing, and finance is available and attainable. Hopefully, seeing the impact will drive a desire to embrace proven methods that will improve a variety of aspects in your organization. Treating it as a journey allows you the opportunity to consistently improve, delivering added value daily to your internal and external stakeholders.