It’s the small interruptions to your manufacturing workflows that can combine over time to slow things down and affect your bottom line. As technology evolves to improve manufacturing processes, companies are tasked with finding the right technology to solve the interruptions. The closer you look at your processes, the more of a challenge it is to set priorities for addressing issues. Taking into account that most companies have fixed budgets for process improvements, the question becomes, “What do we focus on first?”
In a 2021 episode of the Forging Manufacturing podcast, Rob Shaddock discussed dividing large manufacturing problems into smaller pieces and using a creative approach to solve them.
But creative problem solving is tricky in a budget-conscious industry where equipment and machinery often require large capital investments. High-level decision makers decide what the company can and will invest in. Therefore, decisions need to be based on and supported by data. Unfortunately, the decision makers may not always know which metrics are most appropriate. This makes priority ranking an inexact process. There can be short-term and long-term benefits – and tradeoffs – with any solution.
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As we experience with life in general, sometimes it’s not easy to choose the right options. Every company has its method for setting priorities, whether that is based on return on investment or another metric.
If your underlying data is poor, your prioritization process will not produce sufficient solution options.
One creative way to solve problems is small-scale testing to gather the right information. If you put a series of small changes into place, you can see how they incrementally address the larger problem. Higher quality data can be gathered through this process, and it can better inform you – and leadership – on what to focus on first and the steps needed to proceed.
Another creative and practical gage for determining priorities may be the number of people who want to see a particular change. When your suggestion box accumulates requests for a particular change, the urgency of solving that problem may increase. Those suggestions may come from people working on the production floor, who are usually the best observers of process. They can be effective change agents. Leaders setting priorities can benefit from insights from the floor.
Brainstorming gets the creative juices flowing. When you bring people together to brainstorm solutions to a problem, it improves the company culture and develops ownership by everyone involved. In the book “The Art of Innovation,” Tom Kelley makes the point that companies “can deliver more value, create more energy and foster more innovation through better brainstorming.”
Enthusiastic participation from staff members will more likely happen if you can capture their imagination. If they are invested in solving a problem, they will chip away at it until it is solved. Even better, if they catch a vision, some people are willing to invest extra energy and time in helping improve a particular process.
Offering a comprehensive array of manufacturing solutions, the experts of Applied Software are focused on making you the problem-solving champion at your company. Contact Applied Software today.