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There has been a lot of buzz around Industry 4.0 and the next industrial revolution recently. Certainly, the technology advancements are promising and have the ability to make our operations more reliable and repeatable. There are watchouts that we should all be aware of as we take on some of these projects to assure that they do not fail like other similar initiatives have in the past. To do this you must evaluate your Operations holistically. People, Process and Systems.
1. People and capability - Always start with an evaluation of the People on your team. Do they have the right capability, and do they have the right resources to get the job done? Have we set the right expectations, so they understand what winning looks like? Are we empowering them to make decisions, and do they feel safe to escalate issues before they become larger problems? This is where the work starts, no matter what we do, if our people don’t have the right tools to get their job done, adding more systems may create more problems, not less.
"The software alone won’t solve your problems; you have to have solid processes and great people first"
2. Automating bad processes will not solve your issues. First you should evaluate the Operating model of the organization and is it effective in empowering your team. Do you have the right meeting cadence to review performance, identify future issues, take action to change the outcomes, and escalate issues that can derail our objectives? Making sure there are owners to each of the processes, and they have an objectives to deliver.
3. Systems can help improve good processes but automating bad processes can make things worse.
When I started at Ventura Foods, we launched our Lean Operations initiative; we call it our Edge Operating System. It is the blocking and tackling of our Operations team. Making sure we have the right Operating Models for what our operations team at every level do every hour, every shift, every day, every week, every month, and year. We instituted a standard set of KPI’s to review at every level of our operating model. We trained our teams on the process and set their expectations on what they need to deliver in the model.
Once our processes were established, that’s when we turned to technology to turbo charge our process. We worked with RedZone to model our Operating Model in their platform. RedZone helped us democratize the data by giving our frontline operators and supervisors the information they needed in real time at the tips of their fingertips. Now our Supervisors know exactly where to focus. Our operators are empowered in the platform to communicate with Supervisors and Mechanics when they have issues. We can leverage mobile technology to share pictures and communicate in real time. RedZone is connected to our equipment so that we know when we are meeting expectations or if they need attention. Our quality checks are now paperless, and our Supervisors and quality teams can react quicker when our quality starts to drift. Operators can log into their machines and review the chat function to identify any issues that were occurring on the previous shits.
By putting the right processes up front, assuring our leadership where trained and had the right expectations, then turbo charging their performance through the use of technology we quickly over delivered the Return on Investment that we expected from the implantation of RedZone. I use this as an example of understanding how to leverage these Industry 4.0 technologies to assure you meet the business cases. The software alone won’t solve your problems; you have to have solid processes and great people first.