Achieving productivity growth for Manufacturers

In the Australian media last week, there was a request from Prime Minster Mr Rudd’s chief of staff, Jim Murphy  asking the heads of the top 100 listed companies what “suggestions that you have for improving competitiveness and achieving strategic productivity growth”. From a TXM perspective we are always engaging with companies around this question and have found there are a few key simply strategies that Australian companies can undertake improve competitiveness and productivity.

One of these key strategies to achieving improvements in productivity can begin by creating a culture that is focused on taking daily step towards improvement goals “continuous improvement followed by more continuous improvement”. A long time ago a great Toyota Sensei repeatedly demonstrated to me one of the greatest secrets in manufacturing…  Manufacturing is about doing simple things exceptionally well. By applying continuous improvement methods any process or assembly task can reach exceptional levels in productivity.

How can you reach exceptional levels in productivity?  Start by asking work teams about their issues arising from the last shift and then use this information to develop local actions to improve these issues each day. For example, ask simple questions. What are the top reasons for downtime? Which is the most likely cause? and What actions can be taken now?

Continuous improvement is more than asking questions, it needs a strong foundation that is;

Help the work teams answer the questions. Coach them. Motivate them. Make it a goal to help them focus in a positive way – provide training to fully increase their skills, knowledge and abilities.

Not all actions will result in positive improvement outcome, however that is fine. The aim of continuous improvement is to actively learn and to allow the small wins to add up over time.

Ask for specific numbers. If production is “OK today”, what does that mean? Excellent manufacturing is very precise, so be accurate with any data.

It’s always possible to improve every machine, if you can afford to replace it with a newer, much faster machine, but what can be accomplished by the end of the next day? Ensure that daily actions have clear goals, are achievable and have defined deliverables.

Committed to results:
When a team agrees on an action, write it down and follow up to ensure it’s completed and understand the effects of the action.

By committing to a path of continuous improvement all Australian manufacturers can achieve great improvements in productivity.