Top Manufacturing Trends To Watch For In 2018

The world is changing, and 2018 is likely to become the year the manufacturing industries adopt many of the innovations and trends once confined to the novels of Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke. It seems that the future has finally caught up with us; changing the way we work, communicate and manage our businesses.

Manufacturing is thriving in North America – offering employment to over 12 million full-timers, having brought in $6 trillion in nominal gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Technology is already playing its part in making our factories more efficient, cost-effective, safe, and easier to manage. The move towards greater automation is the unavoidable flow of change.

We’ll be exploring the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), robots and automation, 3D printing, intelligent decision-making and inbound marketing in this article; posing the question of how these revolutionary innovations and trends can transform our manufacturing processes.

New technologies are offering new modes of product development, innovations in operation and a revolution in how we serve our customers.

But adoption of such technologies isn’t without its challenges: we may struggle to upgrade our legacy systems, keep hold of workforce talent, and handle the vast quantities of Big Data that is produced by such developments.

Here are some of the answers to the questions that these changes inevitably present.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The term “Internet of Things” refers to the cyber-connected world – our heating can speak to our smartphones, our washing machine can order our washing-powder, and the refrigerator can fill itself with food.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) therefore, means that our machines will communicate with us (and to other devices), providing us with data that we can use to apply efficiencies; making production more productive.

The first thing that people often say is that their machinery is too old, and it would be entirely unrealistic to upgrade – there’s not a computer-chip on the whole floor, they whisper. While this is arguably true in many cases, it need not be a barrier to installing the IIoT on the factory floor.

Inexpensive machine monitoring sensors can be easily attached to old-school analog equipment: connecting devices with software applications, which enable manufacturers to gather information, so that they can come to real-time decisions, based on accurate real-time facts.

IIoT functionality can facilitate inter-machine communication – logging production stats, and even monitoring equipment and production lines for safety; identifying any problems that may occur.

IIoT can track work quotas and determine optimum times for equipment maintenance, ensuring the longevity of your machines.

IIoT will, ultimately, revolutionize the factory floor, helping it to be a safer, more productive environment.

Robots

Automation is nothing new in manufacturing – machines have been completing technical and repetitive tasks for decades, and are due to become more in demand in 2018.

International spending on robotics is predicted to reach $67 billion by 2025, with almost a third of that being allocated by the manufacturing industries.

Robotic automation will help manufacturers to achieve work of high precision, productivity, and safety. Robots can work in hazardous and inhospitable environments, tackling the challenges that human workers would rather avoid. With the advent of voice and image recognition, robots can integrate into the workplace, duplicating complex human tasks with high levels of consistency.

Robots are already busy at work on the floors in the healthcare and food manufacturing industries, as well as tackling the jobs that are too dangerous for humans in our ever-growing world of mitigation. Environments that require clean rooms (such as in pharmaceutical plants) and lights-out facilities will operate around the clock, with robots at the helm.

Robots can take the humdrum, repetitive tasks; providing new pathways for our human workforce, creating new and different jobs. Forrester Research estimates that 15 million new jobs will evolve over the coming decade thanks to the opening up of the industry that robotics and automation will provide.

Augmented Reality

It might sound like a gimmick on a smartphone, but AR is set to change the way in which we develop new products – testing different manufacturing scenarios before a product goes into full production.

AR tools can simulate the production phase, drawing attention to potential problems which could halt production. It will help to ensure that the manufacturing process produces precisely what you hoped to create.

AR can also help with inventory tracking, worker training and provide insight into a company’s optimal operational standards.

3D Printing

Again, what might seem like a short-term trend, provides a unique, low-cost method of creating prototypes. 3D printing is already an indelible part of many manufacturing businesses, but 2018 will see more companies adopting these machines to improve their product development practices, resultantly bringing new products to the market more quickly.

The applications for 3D printing are broad, offering significant implications to high-volume production lines, in the creation of a full spectrum of devices, from toys to medical devices.

Intelligent Decision Making

 

Machine monitoring brings with it enormous volumes of data that requires processing for it to be significant.

The success of machine monitoring is in a company’s ability to translate that data into significant indicators of a production’s output.

Trying to track too much information is counter-productive, so companies such as FreePoint can offer complete solutions for discerning, communicating and controlling processes, so that you can make decisions that have a positive impact on the production floor, in real-time.

Inbound marketing

The days of the flyer, the trade ad, attending trade shows, and sending out direct mail aren’t entirely defunct, but they’re certainly on the wane.

Original content on websites, social media engagement, and search engine optimization are all low-cost ways of communicating your marketing message to the masses.

Online marketing is all about engagement – attracting potential customers through original content and encouraging interaction. It can be quantifiably successful, undoubtedly more so than old-school leaflet drops.

To conclude

The internet hasn’t just changed the way we communicate, socialize, and consume our entertainment, but it is having an impact on how we run our businesses.

Perhaps this all sounds a little too much to take on-board all in one go. And this is where the experts at FreePoint Technologies can help. We have a range of solutions that can help drag your manufacturing business out of the 20th century, and into the new, exciting world of 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Keep Employees Happy and Productive

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a happy workforce is a productive one. Just throwing money at them, to contradict the late, great Jane Austin, doesn’t maketh perfection in marriage. “Employee engagement” might sound like business speak, but the story, in reality, is very different.

Money, of course, is everyone’s motivation for going to work. Raising wages will make everyone better off, but it doesn’t keep the job interesting, and it’s often just not possible. And a wage rise doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in productivity.

Keeping the workplace interesting, rewarding and challenging is a way of keeping your employees happy and productive, and will help you keep hold of your staff.

Diane Bazire (BDC Business Consultant) claims that financial award alone is not enough to keep employees engaged. Establishing non-monetary rewards to reinforce a financial package, however, can help create an environment of happier, more engaged and more productive workers. By implementing her suggestions, she has observed that absenteeism reduces, and the work environment becomes a more positive one.

Bazire, as part of her report, identified some key areas that could help increase employee engagement, keeping the workforce happy and, most importantly, productive.

Recognition and Appreciation

Recognition of contribution is a powerful motivating tool; recognizing that the efforts of everyone within the work-chain is valuable and working towards a team goal.

Bazire says, “A thank you is worth its weight in gold.” Perhaps that’s a little simplistic on its own, but it’s certainly a positive starting point.

She suggests a number of recognition tools – Employee of the Month, or Employee of the Year, help to frame the individual within the context of the team, while recognizing a specific contribution, encouraging friendly competition between colleagues.

Additionally, a simple “thank you” card to the team or to individuals is an effective means of showing gratitude, as are being recognized and congratulated in front of colleagues.

This comes with a caveat, however. Ensure that the prize doesn’t always go to the same person, even if they are the highest performer. It could have the opposite effect on the rest of the team, potentially leading to alienation of the top performers.

Aim for transparency, objective feedback and fairness to ensure that you are not favoring some employees over others.

Offer the opportunity to make a difference

You’ll achieve higher levels of employee engagement by listening. Being part of a team, where an individual’s voice is heard, is one of the critical ways of strengthening your employee’s sense of belonging. The workers who operate the machinery are likely to have ideas about how to improve productivity, so listen to their suggestions and make efforts to implement them.

Bazire suggests running contests. Perhaps ask your workers to find the most creative way of recycling the packaging that the company usually throws away – the employee with the best idea could get an extra day off.

Listen and identify the issues that your employees are passionate about, and aim to resolve them.

Continuing educations and training

If an employee feels that there are progression possibilities within the department, it can galvanize their determination to move on. Regardless of sector, offering the opportunity for continuing education is highly motivating.

Courses, seminars, and coaching sessions give employees the feeling that they can better themselves and develop within the role. Investing in technology courses will keep your workforce current in the field.

Flexible schedules

A little flexibility and understanding that employees have lives outside of the workplace goes a long way when you’re trying to motivate a team, and improve productivity. Offering telecommuting opportunities, personal days if possible, and the occasional reduced working week provides a feeling of balance between work and personal obligations.

Job rotation

Doing the same job, day in, day out, gets boring. Offering secondments to other departments or varying job roles on the factory floor keep the brain active and can strengthen the company as a broader team.

There’s often a danger that “them in HR” (for example) don’t know what it’s like to work on the floor; so give each department the opportunity to try out each other’s jobs, to find an understanding of each other’s roles.

Small gestures

Recognizing employment anniversaries or achievements go a long way to highlighting an employee’s contribution. Gift certificates, gas cards, and other gifts are inexpensive ways of rewarding employee engagement. Or perhaps you could even offer an employee the president’s parking space for a week. These gestures don’t have to have a financial figure attached to them.

Bear in mind that gifts are taxable if they exceed $500 a year (check your local tax office for specific details), so non-cash rewards are certainly worth considering.

Team-building activities

Team-building doesn’t have to mean making a bridge out of paper, or making a raft out of old tin cans. Social events are a great way to galvanize a team – organize get-togethers and group outings so that everyone can get to know each other outside of work.

Sports days or events are good ideas. Sponsor a local sports team that your employee’s children play for.

However, remember that “extra-curricular” social events aren’t going to be everyone’s idea of fun. Respect those that don’t wish to take part, ensuring that they aren’t alienated from the group.

And finally

Being attentive and flexible don’t need to cost money, but are key approaches to improving employee engagement. This is all about soft-skills, essentially – making your people feel like they matter.

Of course, everyone would like a pay-rise, but it’s not always possible. Making your employees feel valued, and like they’re positively contributing to the team are essential employee engagement tools.

How To Prevent Downtime and Keep Your Machines Running

Downtime can cost your business thousands of dollars an hour, so it’s essential that you employ preventative measures that ensure that you make the most of valuable production time. While there’s a distinct need to maximize output from our machines, there’s equal value in ensuring that your production schedule isn’t pushing your plant too hard, and you are doing your best to prevent downtime.

There are many ways of securing a perfect symbiosis between efficient production, machine maintenance, and planned outages. While it may seem counter-intuitive to plan outage time to increase productivity, well-scheduled and planned maintenance pays dividends to the yield of your factory floor.

A highly trained work-force is the essential, direct link between worker and machine, but many problems can occur in the mechanical workings of your machinery that are easily missed.

Machine monitoring systems provide an efficient way for us to understand what is going on underneath the hood so that we can minimize unplanned machinery outage on the factory floor.

Machine monitoring can identify a problem before (or as) it happens, helping to avoid expensive damage, putting the machine out of action for an extended period.

Incorporating maintenance management practice is the best way to minimize and prevent downtime. Here are some tips on how to embed them into your factory floor:

Predictive Management

The Right-On Time strategy (as explored in our article “5 Lean Manufacturing Techniques and Benefits”) is all about pushing your machinery only when required.

Use your task-force’s skill-sets in combination with performance data derived from machine monitoring systems, maintenance history, and work projection schedules, to make informed and timely decisions regarding the most efficient times to maintain equipment.

Of course, it doesn’t mean closing down production of the entire factory all at once – it’s about identifying when the natural downtime occurs, and making it time-effective.

Identify trends from your machine monitoring data to recognize problems before they occur. Look for patterns – perhaps a specific electrical cable requires replacing every couple of weeks. If you know it’s going to fail, pre-empt its replacement, rather than letting it fail and slowing down your processes.

The critical concepts of predictive management require collating information from all available sources to recognize patterns in equipment depreciation. Understanding your data can help to determine appropriate corrective actions, at opportune times for your business. Use that data to help identify root causes of persistent problems.

Employees working to prevent downtime freepoint technologies

Being proactive rather than reactive puts you in a stronger position.

Preventative maintenance

Incorporating maintenance tasks into everyday schedules is an excellent way of avoiding unplanned downtime. Basic tasks such as cleaning, routine adjustments, and lubrication can become a part of a well-trained workers’ daily ritual.

Machine monitoring can help you record machine run-hours. Use this data, in combination with expected lifespan projections from manufacturers, to recognize when parts are likely to break down, such as bearings, shafts, sensors, gears, pipes or electrical cables.

Good training practices

A highly skilled workforce who are empowered to make decisions is a valuable practice resource in the effort to reduce and prevent downtime. If your people are well-trained, they’ll be able to recognize potential errors in operation, but most importantly, a well-trained staff-base will use your equipment correctly. Misuse is one of the most likely causes of downtime on the factory floor, so a trained workforce is an effective, safer one.

Employee trying to prevent downtime freepoint technologies

Recognizing common red flags is the difference between a quick maintenance task and a lengthy outage crisis.

Lubricate

Machines with moving parts require regular lubrication. High-quality oils may have a higher upfront price tag, but are more likely to benefit your plant in the long-run.

Clean

A scheduled and documented cleaning and maintenance program will help minimize wear and tear on machines, and extend the life-span of your equipment. Machine monitoring systems can help to recognize problems before they occur – so can simple scheduling.

Machine monitoring, in combination with effective cleaning and maintenance practice, is the best way to reduce costly downtime on the factory floor.

Remember, that being proactive is much better than reacting to a problem once it’s happened. If you have a big job that’s going to require constant work-hours, making sure that your machinery is in tip-top condition will boost productivity time.

 

 

7 Keys To Boost Your Workplace Culture

According to a recent survey of workplace culture carried out by Gallup, manufacturing has the lowest percentage of positive employee engagement in the US; falling well-short of the national average. There’s a reason why our employees are bored, disengaged and unmotivated, so it would be remiss of us to dismiss the importance of excellent management in turning those frowns upside down.

Engagement is the key word, here. And we can’t expect our employees to engage more if we aren’t prepared to make some changes ourselves. Engagement is a two-way street – so how do we cross that road together?

How do we improve workplace culture to ensure that the front line is at its most productive?

Employee engagement

A disengaged workforce is an unmotivated, unproductive one. Disengagement spreads quickly, but, thankfully, we can steer the workforce back onto the rails of engagement.

A good manager is a great observer – looking out for motivation killers and addressing them. Negative colleagues; lack of organization; lack of opportunity poor communication; the feeling of unimportance – all classic downers that can be successfully addressed and balanced to remedy a struggling workplace culture.

FreePoint’s black-box technology offers an excellent method of engagement by gauging productivity, but it won’t boost productivity unless your people managers encourage joint ownership of productivity data. Information made available for all to assess their own productivity is empowering.

Gamification


Almost 80% of the learners/workers say that they would be more productive if their university/institution or work was more game-like.

FreePoint has an array of gamification packages that motivate the workforce by placing them in control of their productivity. Giving employee’s ownership over their own assessment, reinforced by positive management, is a great way to engage a worker.

Gamification involves reward-systems, making quantifiable tasks more engaging by focusing an employee’s productivity against norms of their performance, and the performance of their peers. This helps people to recognize where they can improve, giving them a gauge of their progress in the context of the workplace, focusing on progression rather than stagnation.

Create accountability

By putting the worker in control of their productivity, we encourage accountability. Great managers help their teams to homogenize, with the recognition of how each role contributes to collective success. By identifying underperforming employees (and, indeed, managers) and enabling them to take ownership of their development with your support, you can fix broken cogs that prevent the entire factory from turning.

Communicate


Forty-six percent of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next.

There is nothing more disempowering than expecting everyone on the shop-floor to just get on with it, without providing context. Motivated employees are conscious of the role they play in the bigger picture, and it’s essential that each cog in the wheel is given equal importance and reward – even if that reward is just recognition of a valuable job well done. Without effective communication, the workforce will struggle to meet goals or even function. Employees should understand the hierarchy and expertise within the company, and who they can contact to voice concerns.

FreePoint’s Shiftworx Standard package provides a central focus for sharing and disseminating business-crucial information in real-time, via a variety of communication strategies including through apps and smart devices.

Make People Feel Important

A motivated workforce is one that recognizes the value of an individual’s contribution. In manufacturing, this is often overlooked, resulting in a culture of disenfranchisement and indifference. We can change this by helping employees recognize that their role is an invaluable part of the complex infrastructure that completes the manufacturing process.

Bring customers to the plant so that they can meet your employees. Share how your product helps the client. And let the client express their appreciation to the people who make things possible. Night shift employees can feel separated from the core of the working community, so try hosting breakfasts, so that the two shifts can meet, amalgamating the work-force along the way.

Making your employees feel valued doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s often down to good management practice, recognizing that everyone counts.

Set standards by having diligent management practicing what they preach – nobody wants to see a lazy manager reaping the benefits of a hard-working team.

Set clear goals and provide feedback

2 employees displaying a collaborative workplace culture

All businesses share a primary goal: Success. Goal settings, aligning and tracking those goals through actions and results are critical to greater business execution…and, as a result, greater success.

Setting reasonable and achievable goals is a great way to focus an employee’s energy on succeeding. But make sure it’s achievable – otherwise, you achieve the adverse, and they’ll feel like they’re failing.

Positive feedback is an essential factor in humanizing your management team – if the focus is on negative feedback, your employees will come to resent your input.

Reward with praise and use gamification so that employees can gauge their progress.

Use technology responsibly

The use of tech doesn’t just mean having computers and an internet connection in the office. It’s about enabling employees with solutions to improve their productivity. You can automate communications to trigger once a milestone has been reached, and collaborate with your staff through discussion forums, such as Asana and Yammer.

Consider whether home-working is appropriate, or teleconferencing can bring down costs where travel is too expensive and time-consuming.

Getting your task-force to respond to their mobile phones, however, isn’t just an excuse to invade their personal time, remember. Other industries are guilty of this, and we should try to avoid it in manufacturing. Respecting each other’s work/life balance is important.

So, there you go – 7 ways in which you can turn a negative workplace culture into an environment of sharing, rewarding and, most importantly, productivity! If you are interested in learning more about how you can engage and motivate your employees on the shop floor, read more on our blog, or reach out to us today. We love chatting with manufacturers about how they can improve the productivity of their people and their process!

The Effects of Big Data & Being a Data Driven Company

You could say that the business world, from the perspective of those who run it, is about facts and figures, or in other words, big data. Perhaps more specifically, efficient businesses gather information from many sources to provide an overview of process and manufacturer health.

When you collate data from your customers, from your staff, from your machinery, from your supervisors etc.— all to gather a lucid perspective of how things are – you gather lots of information. Also, your data might be more than text documentation – it could also include video and audio.

Welcome to big data.

 According to Watford Technologies 2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today.

Huge data sets are useless unless there’s a way of analyzing it for trends, patterns and associations – most importantly, in relation to human interactions and behaviors that affect your business efficacy for the positive and for the negative.

Storing all of this information is one problem, but making sense of it requires a dedicated solution.

The Future of Big Data

The fact of the matter is that the data mass is growing exponentially. The volume, variety, and velocity of data stored globally is literally inconceivable.

Big Data FreePoint Technologies

In 2008, Google was processing 20,000 terabytes of data (20 petabytes) a day.

This seemingly insurmountable problem, however, offers up a wealth of opportunity. If logically organized, analyzed and managed, big data provides invaluable insight into our customers and our business operations. The bottom line is that it’s not how much data you collate – it’s about what you do with it.

With the savvy application of your data, you can identify where cost savings are possible and how you can organize your employee resource more effectively. You can even identify which data sources are the most valuable and relevant to your practice.

Data collated can be used to help develop new products, optimize your existing ones and help you make business-critical decisions that are right for your business need and based on real-time revelation.

What is a Data-Driven Company?

A data-driven company doesn’t just collate data – they refine it into actionable insights that drive business-critical decisions. A CEO may make a decision based on gut instinct and that, of course, is a valuable resource if the decision turns out to be correct. In the past, they may have made decisions and looked for evidence to support it afterward – that’s a risky strategy.

Facebook big data applications freepoint technologies

Facebook stores, accesses and analyzes 30+ Petabytes of user-generated information.

Data analytic engines can help reinforce that gut-instinct with immediate access to the facts so that decisions can be fortified by evidence before changes are implemented.

A data-driven company makes summative information available to everyone who makes value-added decisions – not by inundating with confusing and potentially contradictory information; or by providing canned reports that are out-of-date as soon as they’ve slipped out of the printer – but by providing access to analytics that are relevant now; monitoring the pulse of the business and nursing it back to health.

How Machine Monitoring Can Help

Machine monitoring is just more data, of course. However, FreePoint Technologies don’t just create the data – they offer solutions that make sense of it, in a meaningful way that helps organizations improve productivity and employee engagement.

Industry 4.0 (or the “smart factory”) is all about machine-to-machine communication, producing data that provides fact-based real-time clarity of your bottom line, whilst allowing employees to measure their own activity.

In 2015, there were about 15.4 billion connected devices

Our Shiftworx service translates actionable information from the data that our machine monitoring hardware provides. It shares it with the people that can make a difference, right there and then. It allows you to store and organize your data, making it easily accessible via real-time reports that can even be used to create your own apps; engaging your people by sharing meaningful and actionable real-time information about the things that affect them.

If information means something  – we can help you make it do something.

How Manufacturers Can Recruit Millennials

The key to engage with and recruit Millennials is to consciously create and acknowledge value. The widely recognized trait of the Millennial generation is optimism, but with a fairly healthy sprinkling of cynicism.

They want to feel that they’re making a difference – they are keen to give, but they want to be able to see the fruits of their labour. So, in terms of the manufacturing trade, where skills are employed to create truly tangible “things”, there’s actually a really natural affinity.

We Need a Perspective Shift

But, it’s equally clear that manufacturing in North America suffers from an unfashionable, tainted reputation, associated with the dirty and dangerous workplaces, the injuries and the short life expectancies of employees of the past.

Millennials don’t want to work in dingy, badly lit workshops with no Health & Safety precautions – they want to feel that they can do a great day’s work in a safe, clean environment, where they are part of a process that benefits them and the world around them.

Manufacturing is Not Low-Skill

There’s also the incorrect perception that manufacturing is low-skill and low-prestige. Education over the past twenty years has largely valued educational aspiration toward continued education and into white-collar roles.

But that simply doesn’t fit everyone. Many youngsters are more kinesthetic than cognitive – they work with their hands, rather than numbers. And these kinesthetic youths are the ones we should aim our recruitment campaigns towards.

Factory image freepoint technologies

Long Term Careers

But how do we change the deep-set perceptions that manufacturing isn’t a great trade? Manufacturing offers a great, long-term career.

When the average lifespan of employment for a Millennial stops at 3 years, it presents us with an opportunity to reflect. Why is that?

Perhaps employees of all ages just want to feel that their contribution is valuable. And this opens up a massive opportunity for us to attract new workers by offering a trade that can help a person thrive, rather than chew them up and spit them out.

FreePoint

And this is where FreePoint can come into the equation.

Our technology can help an individual directly observe the impact that their contribution is making to the workplace. By collating statistics, our black box technology can show how much of the day is productive. And how, by using their skills, they are using their time to produce something positive for themselves and for the wider community.

Gamification

FreePoint has clear gamification and incentive possibilities. Millennials, as we all know, are tech-savvy. They spend a huge amount of their time in front of screens, playing games. They monitor the number of steps they walk in a day, they log their health statistics, they share their day using social networks and they find new ways of meeting each other.

Parents often say that this tech obsession is unhealthy, but it actually makes them great employees – they enjoy monitoring themselves and seeing positive outcomes.

FreePoint Technologies Gamification Recruits Millennials

Quality and Production

The data collated through FreePoint can be used to incentivize quality and productivity. But be realistic with your expectations. One of the most unattractive traits of modern employment (and likely the reason for the short lifespan of most employment) is the squeeze on the human resource – the unrealistic targets and the resultant penalizing if targets are not met.

So, if you can create an environment where an employee values quality AND productivity, then you’re heading in the right direction to attract the new generation into manufacturing.

Quality, Value and Contribution

Why should we change? We’re the ones offering the opportunities? They should change to meet what we need of them? Well, that isn’t really working, is it?

If we genuinely want to attract the next generation and recruit millennials, replacing the roles made vacant by the retiring Baby Boomers, we need to move to a more holistic outlook on how we run our workplaces. 

The keywords, here, are quality, value, and contribution. Everyone wants to feel that they can contribute – young or old. But if a contribution is gone unrecognized, then the value is lost.

FreePoint can help to physically represent an employee’s actual contribution to the workplace and, as long as that contribution is shown appropriate appreciation, you’re onto a winner.

Change How the World Views Manufacturing

Have open days at your workshops and factories. Invite communities in to witness the amazing skills of the talent pool that you already have. Show people that manufacturing is high-tech, high-skill and totally worthwhile. 

Show them where your products started – as a pile of things – and how the talents of your workforce forged those into items that add self-esteem to the manufacturing task force and positive contribution to the community.   

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5 Ways to Increase Productivity on the Manufacturing Floor

An on-going concern for plant managers and production floor supervisors is productivity. Regardless of the size of your business, determining how to increase productivity is essential to enhancing gross profits and maintaining competitiveness. Productivity on the manufacturing floor depends on a combination of efficient employees, equipment and processes.

Here are five ways to increase productivity and stay successful on the manufacturing floor:

Manage Expectations

It is not always employees fault if they are not performing at their highest. At times, managers or supervisors have set expectations unrealistically. Maybe they have been given unachievable deadlines and impossible production targets. When there is not enough motivation and too much work, a worker’s natural response is dissatisfaction. A dissatisfied employee can never deliver his/her hundred percent.

Communicate

A worker’s relationship with his/her supervisor or manage does affect performance. It’s not that bad relations cause bad results from workers. The fact is that when there is lack of communication, there is lack of trust. Always communicate with your workers and give them a sense of being a valuable part of the company.

communication icons freepoint technologies

Invest in a Monitoring Software’

ShitfWorx black box

One of the best ways to keep production high is by installing machine monitoring software on the floor. Monitoring software collects real-time data from the floor machines and workers and displays them to on a dashboard and in reports. With modern software tools like FreePoint’s machine monitoring software, even the employees can have a look at their performance indicators in real-time. This gives the machine operators a sense of competition and enables them to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Stay Organized

FreePoint Technologies Calendar SchedulingWhen there is clutter, there is confusion. The distraction that arises from clutter can be detrimental for a manufacturing floor. Sometimes, the plant floor requires nothing more than a proper organization to give its best. Put the required materials and tools in their places, so they can be found instantly when needed. Furthermore, have the important documents available in an organized manner. These documents could be anything from a manual to help workers fix an issue with the machine to policies that have to be followed on the floor.

Invest in Continued Education

The modern world has made it quite easy to obtain education for skillful workers and add more to their repertoires. Just like IT professionals, the workers on your floor can also obtain education while on work to become even more valuable assets for your company. Rather than hiring new people and risking the learning period, let your existing workers be a part of the training to get the hang of the ever-changing modern manufacturing technologies.

Are you interested in exploring how you can increase productivity on your shop floor? Reach out to us today, one of our representatives would love to walk you through how machine monitoring can supercharge your factory!

Gamification: What is it & How is it Used in the Workplace

Do you have a strategy to motivate your workers? Are you worried about your production floor’s productivity? Do you find it difficult to stimulate your workers and ignite their passion to get the best from them? The best way to overcome these challenges may be to incorporate gamification within your workplace environment.

The best thing about gamification is that it is more about psychology and less about technology – it mentally convinces your workers to be at their best. It achieves those results through real-time monitoring and data reporting, rewarding employees for their work, developing a strong sense of competition etc. The result of gamification of the workplace results in behavior change—something most plant managers and corporate executives find impossible to accomplish.

What Is Gamification?

FreePoint Technologies GamificationSimply put, gamification is the introduction and integration of gaming mechanics in the existing system of a business to keep its employees engaged and performing at their peak performance. In most cases, businesses don’t have systems in place to motivate their workers to be at their best at all times. Even if they do, most of the old methods have become futile due to their outdatedness and redundancy. The thrill, fun, engagement and competitive elements of games are infused into the existing workplace in the process of gamification. The motive behind doing so is increased efficiency, productivity and worker engagement.

Examples of Gamification in the Workplace

Gamification is becoming a more acceptable concept as more and more businesses understand and find value in it. There are several examples of how some of the biggest businesses in the world are incorporating gamification into their system. For example, Google makes use of a travel expense game which is designed specifically for employees who have to do a lot of traveling. As they continue to keep track of their expenses on a business trip, they are encouraged to spend less than the amount that has been allocated for the trip. Every penny they save on the trip is then given back to them in their salaries or given out to charity if they choose to do so.

Salesforce is another great example of how to use gamification perfectly to reach the desired results for your business. Introduce Nitro to the Salesforce platform, and you have prepared the perfect place for your sales team to find motivation and perform at their best. They get real-time data about their progress and are rewarded for their performance while also appearing on a leaderboard just similar to what happens in the games.

With FreePoint’s machine monitoring software, many different elements of gamification are involved such as real-time data on worker’s progress, scores, and achievements. With uptime, downtime and error codes being reported constantly and consistently, and accountability being a part of the process, workers naturally become more engaged in their work and operate at a higher level.

Benefits of Gamification

One of the main benefits of gamification is that it provides workers with real-time data—an element of all addictive games. Furthermore, it introduces accountability to workers and brings a healthy sense of competition. Gamification also makes it fun for workers to perform at their peak abilities. Not to mention, if rewards are tied to great performance, gamification can be the “game changer” for small and large enterprises.

Speak with one of our representatives today to learn more about how machine monitoring can help incentivize your workforce.

What Makes FreePoint Technologies Unique?

Just like any other product or service, there are multiple companies that provide machine monitoring solutions which provide a way for manufacturers to track machine outputs. However, just like with any other product or service, not all solutions are created equal. FreePoint Technologies has been able to consistently beat out competitors by providing technology that can connect to any machine, deploy in a single day, and costs less.

In this blog, we are taking the opportunity to highlight the areas that make FreePoint Technologies unique and why we are continually being selected as manufacturers’ preferred machine monitoring solution.metal case freepoint solutions getfreepoint.com phillips screw heads mounting holes grey and white gradient background i/o freepoint technologies

1. The Ability to Connect to Any Machine

Our patent-pending technology allows us to connect simply and non-invasively with all machines, regardless of brand, type, complexity or age. Along with the 1914 Vertical mill we have connected to the internet, here is a sample of several of the machines we’ve connected so far:

  • CNC Routers
  • Sands
  • Grinders
  • Clampers
  • Lathes
  • Mills
  • Saws

The simple notion of connecting to any machine gives us a huge advantage over competitors that are limited to only being able to connect to new/specific machines. What does this mean for our customers? They don’t have to wait to purchase the newest machinery in order to start monitoring and improving their machining processes.

2. On-Premise or Cloud Stored Data

storage in the cloud freepoint technologiesWhen it comes to storing the data collected from the various machines, we give our clients two options; storing the data locally on their premise or storing it in the cloud. While both ways have different advantages, we make sure you are able to store and view the data the way you prefer.

Users can then access the information from various devices including their phones, tablets and computers. This makes it extremely easy to access your machines’ output information wherever you are.

3. Deploys in One Day

FreePoint Technologies is the only machine monitoring software that can be deployed in a single day. Installation of ShiftWorx takes around 3 hours per machine and immediately after it is installed, it starts collecting data. This provides tremendous value to our clients as the sooner they have key information from their machines, the sooner they can make better decisions based on that data.

4. Advanced Reporting

The reporting available from our machine monitoring software is simple to read, yet contains all the key information a machine operator would require. It features various reports on OEE, part count, downtime, job reports & more. All the information can be seen in real-time so operators and managers can quickly identify any issues that may arise.

5. Dedicated Team of Developers & Support 

Customer Support FreePoint TechnologiesWe have a team of 10 developers that continually work on creating new features for our software that better service our customers. We constantly take the feedback given from our clients and integrate their ideas into our updates. Our large development team also means that should support be required, we have the resources and manpower to fix the issue in an extremely timely manner.

6. 90-Day Trial Period

If all of the previously mentioned features didn’t convince you to use our machine monitoring software, our 90 day trial period should do the trick. For all new clients, we offer a risk-free trial period to try our software. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, we will refund your investment. As a testimony to our machine monitoring solution and the service we provide, as of this date, we have not issued a single refund.

To learn more about FreePoint Technologies or to schedule a call, email info@getfreepoint.com.

5 Reasons Your Operator’s Performance is Slipping & How To Fix it

If you have a manufacturing business, you have to put in extra efforts to increase the performance and productivity of your workers and machines.

You need to look for ways to gauge and monitor the performance of your team. In addition to motivating them to work more productively, you also have to find out the reasons they are not giving their maximum performance. Here are the 5 signs/reasons your machine operators are not giving their best.

1. They Aren’t Properly Trained

When you hire workers, you have to ensure they know how to operate the machinery they will be working behind. If they don’t have the knowledge, you will have to provide them the training for operating a particular piece of equipment. If you see that your operator is taking too much time doing simple things, this is a clear sign he/she is not fully trained to operate the machine.

2. Your Machine Software Is Not Advanced

When you see that your operators are giving their best, but your productivity is still low, this could be a sign that the technology and software on the machine is outdated. For example, it might be missing the profile feature where it creates profiles to load certain settings with the tap of a button. Invest in better machinery.

3. Your Machines Aren’t Properly Maintained

If you have just installed advanced software on your machines, but the productivity hasn’t seen any boost, it could mean that your machine isn’t adequately maintained. Machines that are used frequently need to be thoroughly maintained, they need to have a change in parts and components. An inadequately lubricated machine can also have performance issues.

4. Your Operator Is Just Not Paying Attention

Sometimes, it is just the operator who is not interested in working. Maybe the operator is not happy with his work or he may be going through a difficult time in his life, it could be something personal. Repeated and prolonged downtimes are signs that your operator is deliberately delaying everything to find excuses for not working. Have a heart to heart with your employees.

5. You Don’t Have Any Accountability Mechanism

Do you have some software or tool to know the cause of unnecessarily long downtimes and low performance? When there is no accountability or a mechanism to hold people accountable, you can expect performances to be low naturally.

The point is, there could be a plethora of factors hampering your productivity. Your job is to find out what the problem is and fix it without delay. That’s where our Machine Monitoring Software comes into the picture. With this software installed on your machines, you will be able to collect detailed performance data of your machines. This data will be revealing enough to tell you who or what is causing any sort of downtime. You will get detailed reports on your machine’s runtime, downtime and part count.

In addition to giving you a detailed insight of your floor’s performance, it also helps your employees stay productive and efficient. With this software, they are able to monitor the performance of their machines in real-time and fix the issues that come up. Once there is proper check, monitoring, and accountability, you will see your manufacturing business flourish.

When you combine FreePoint Technologies machine monitoring hardware with our visualization software, you can exponentially increase both productivity and employee engagement.

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