We’ve often been on factory tours, noticed copious amounts of paperwork and clipboards, watched operators scribble down values for a whole range of things such as downtime, critical control points (CCP), tests for check-weighers and metal detectors, only to ask our host, “What do you do with that information?”
Invariably the answer is along the lines of “Nothing. We keep it in case of an audit.”
In other words, data collected for data’s sake.
Surely if a CCP is out of range, wouldn’t it be better to know, in real-time?
Our experience has shown that a large majority of manufacturing businesses are unfortunately ‘driving blind’.
To use a metaphor, it’s a bit like driving a car with the windows blacked out, no dashboard, the view in the rear view mirror where you were a month ago, and the boss in the passenger seat asking, “Are we there yet … are we there yet ..”
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
– H James Harrington, Quality Guru & Author
The first step to being able to measure anything is to actually be able to see it! We come across many manufacturing businesses where simple yet fundamental measurements are not measured at all, simply because the information is not visible.
Or if they are by using a paper-based system and spreadsheets, the business knows the collected data doesn’t present a true, accurate and timely view.
To us, Visibility means being able to see the information, when and where it’s needed, contextualised for the specific audience and in as near-to-real-time as possible.
Visibility into the manufacturing process provides insight into the production supply chain which affects the ability to track and trace, as well as record its genealogy.
Inaccurate views of production lead to inventory errors at both ends of the chain: raw materials and finished goods. Any MRP process running on incorrect stock levels creates orders for products that are out of sync with what customers need.
And so the business chases its tail …
This leads to either stock-outs (poor customer experience) or over-stock, which unnecessarily ties up working capital.
Providing visibility into the very workings of your processes is possible, so that at any time, you can see what’s happening where, when and by whom, and be notified of deviations.
Data visibility is fundamental in supporting a culture of continuous improvement.