How Technology is Transforming Manufacturing

By nature of the industry, manufacturing has always been an early adopter of new technologies as and when they happen. We’re seeing some amazing innovations enter the arena that are revolutionizing our processes to increase efficiencies, and employee engagement.

There are often countless micro-protocols to navigate within many factory processes, and it’s these disparate operations that lead to inefficiencies: unnecessary procedural repetition, unplanned outages, and employee boredom.

Lacking a universal vision of factory processes can lead to the failure of the entire operation if just one element becomes unexpectedly interrupted. Perhaps a machine breaks down because it hasn’t been correctly maintained, halting the entire operation; or one device begins to over- or under-produce. New technologies provide an overview of the whole process so that that maximum output can be consistently achieved.

So, here’s a precise of how technology is transforming manufacturing from an industry notoriously caked in grease, dangerous processes, and meaningless, repetitive human tasks; to a safe, attractive employment environment, creating new possibilities for people and efficient processes that exceed what you thought previously impossible.

Automation

Automation is nothing new in manufacturing – it’s been around since the industrial revolution. The first round of automation was met with massive swaths of protest, resulting in groups such as the Luddites setting out to smash machines introduced into the textiles industry in the 19th century. The fear was that machines would claim jobs from the workers – and to a certain extent, they did. But as with all change, people get used to the idea, and automation slowly became an integral aspect of the industry.

The latest innovation in manufacturing has been around in industries such as car building for years: robots. Again, we face the habitual fear that robotics diminish opportunities for human workers, but in actuality, human labour often seizes the opportunity to move into other areas of the same business, presenting scope for career development.

Humans are still much more adaptable than robots, so people will always be the essential cog in the wheel.

Repetitive tasks are being outsourced to robots who can perform them more safely and more consistently than humans, but, for the time being, humans are still a valuable resource.

The Benefits of Robots

Of course, robots don’t need to take breaks, and never have to take an unscheduled day off because their child is sick. They can work consistently all day through and, as long as they’re regularly maintained, are reliable and efficient.

By 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. (International Federation of Robotics)

Automation is great for repetitive tasks – robots drastically increase efficiency. Administrative duties are frequently reassigned to automation, often outperforming humans in rote tasks, making essential back-office roles more effective.

Artificial Intelligence

Processing power is doubling each year. Quantum technology continually diminishes the size of computer chips and processors, so the potential for calculation and prediction has accelerated way beyond previous expectation.

The AI market will grow to a $5.05 billion dollar industry by 2020. (The Motley Fool)

Back in the 90s, Ray Kurzweil predicted that computers would become artificially intelligent by the year 2045, stating that to simulate the human brain you’d need around 10 quadrillion calculations per second (cps). Kurzweil is well-known for the accuracy of his technological predictions – however, he massively underestimated the rate of advancement in AI. The fastest computer currently on the planet can handle 33.8 quadrillion cps, meaning we’re progressing at an unprecedented pace.

So, AI in manufacturing is an inevitability.

Regardless of the nature of your manufacturing business, data is the driver that helps to increase efficiencies. Data can facilitate a universal overview of your entire process infrastructure, ensuring that you make thousands of micro-efficiencies. Companies that embrace this big data aspect of their business are inevitably the most successful because they have an accurate understanding of their productivity efficiencies.

AI algorithms can help create efficient factory plans with profound insights into inefficiencies that are literally invisible to the human eye. A single process might be tightened by a millionth of a second, which might not sound like much – but when you consider how many milliseconds could be saved per hour, per day, per month, per year – it begins to account for big savings.

Machine monitoring

Machine monitoring is the more human approach to improving efficiencies in manufacturing businesses. By providing a universal vision of the entire factory floor, machine monitoring creates data that is immediately actionable by humans, relying on their unique ability to weigh up the options and make informed decisions.

Machine monitoring effectively networks your entire factory machinery to a single interface that provides real-time analysis of productivity, helping humans identify potential problems with processes before they happen. The data produced by machine monitoring systems helps to keep the workforce engaged in their activities by providing an accurate data depiction of their productivity, and keeping them aware of their contribution to the overall process.

So, yes – technology can be a daunting prospect, but there’s no stopping it. To embrace it is to take control of it, and to take control of it in the early stages is to create a safe working environment for everyone, and options for people to find opportunities in other areas of the business if their job is replaced by a machine.

Machine monitoring systems offer one of the most versatile of all the new technologies because it creates co-dependency between man and machine; rather than simply surrendering to our more efficient, tireless digital counterparts.

 

[Infographic] Top 10 Reasons It Is Great To Work In Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a great place to work. As an industry, it contributes significantly to Canada’s GDP, which brings wealth to the nation. It’s one of the largest sectors in North America, which means that manufacturing is here to stay; with careers that could span a lifetime and offer strong remuneration that could offer stability and a pension.

Manufacturing accounts for almost 11% of Canada’s GDP, bringing in, on average, $174 billion per year. Canada’s manufacturing industries export more than $354 billion in products per year, representing 68% of the entirety of Canada’s merchandise exports.

Manufacturing is strong: employing 1.7 million people in full-time, well-paid, quality jobs.

If you’re considering your career options after high-school, there are few industries that offer better career progression, pay-scale, and stability than manufacturing. If you’re great with your hands and a lover of technology, manufacturing offers you an exciting world of opportunity, while contributing something positive back to society.

Be the first to use the newest technologies, and become part of an industry that creates products that make everyone’s lives easier, more convenient, and more accessible.  

There are lots of reasons why it’s great to work in manufacturing. We’ve asked the people who work in the industry for their insights.

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How Manufacturing Is At The Cutting Edge

The world of industry and technology are merging and expanding exponentially, forming a connected network of people and machines that maximize productivity, innovation, and possibility. For those of us in the manufacturing industry, we’re living in amazingly exciting times, but it’s certainly not without the fear that we might get left behind.

Moore’s Law is the belief that the processing power of computers doubles every two years. But recent advances in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality have progressed with such processing power to literally blow Moore’s Law entirely out of the water.

Woah! Slow down

All this progress can feel a little intimidating, to say the least. But there’s a huge amount to be excited about.

The “inter-connected factory” is a conduit between our existing manual (and digital) machinery and the productivity of our people. Through machine-monitoring technologies, these innovations provide real-time oversight of the entire manufacturing process that helps us to increase productivity and efficiency in a way never before possible.

Let’s Put This All Into Context –

First, we had steam and the first wave of mechanization. It was met with initial panic because it was believed that the machines would put workers out of work. Whole gangs of Luddites gathered together to protest and smash up the machines. Nonetheless, progress overcame, and human labor found new roles within the same industries.

Next came electricity, assembly lines, and the advent of mass production. Machines became more powerful, able to produce more, with higher efficiency, and in new ways. It was met with initial panic because it was believed that it put jobs at risk. But, again, industry adapted, and human resources were redeployed in new areas made possible by the new paths that those innovations had forged.

Then came computers and the introduction of robots onto the production line. Again – met with initial panic that humans were going to lose out.

There’s a Pattern

So, there’s a pattern, here. And it’s understandable.

But manufacturing has always embraced change, and has always been at the cutting edge when it comes to the application of new technologies. And as technology frees up human resource, we find new ways to re-deploy the unique skills and talents of the workforce.

Utilizing the Unique Skills of the Workforce

Where machines have made production more efficient, human labor has become more valuable in skilled areas; employing potential, rather than just headcount.

Machine Monitoring

Machine monitoring is the next leap forward in mechanization, unifying repetitious machine-driven processes with the workforce while creating a monitoring system that consolidates human and mechanical processes together in a data-center that provides a real-time window into the productivity of your factory.

Machine monitoring is compatible with old-school, manual machinery and up-to-the minute networked machines alike. It creates a digital infrastructure that connects real-time production efficiency with the needs of your customers, helping you to avoid the big 7 (or in our case 10) wastes of manufacturing. It helps empower your staff by allowing them to monitor their own productivity, and gamify their work-day to add a little competitive spirit into their daily role.

Machine monitoring provides you with a real-time oversight of the entire production line – letting the machines tell you when they require maintenance; recognizing areas in production that are over-producing or under-producing; and using the interchangeable skills of the workforce to keep production at maximum potential.

And the future?

The future never stops, of course. And manufacturing will continue to evolve, finding new ways to employ the unique talents of the individuals we employ.

The truth of the matter is that to stay current, you need to look ahead – and consider human and machine as allies. The evolution of production is something to embrace, to protect the jobs and the securities of those we employ.

FreePoint Technologies has a comprehensive suite of machine monitoring technologies that help you stay at the forefront of manufacturing innovation.

 

Why Employee Engagement Matters in Manufacturing

The term “employee engagement” might sound like just one more inaccessible management consultant’s buzzword but, in actuality, the importance of positive employee engagement certainly can’t be overstated. Companies that fail to take employee engagement seriously often suffer from poor productivity, worrying staff retention, and weak profit margins due to fast staff turnaround and disenfranchized people functioning at minimum velocity in under-valued jobs.

What do we mean by “engagement”?
Engagement is about focus, presence, enthusiasm, and, perhaps, most importantly, purpose. If you can provide reward in ways additional to the obvious financial, some surprising things will happen.

Job satisfaction is that intangible product of a positive environment that might surprise and enthuse when present, but certainly dishearten when absent.

Engaged people naturally go above and beyond what is required of them because they feel a part of something important; they want to contribute to the bigger picture; and they can see how the end product benefits society in some way (perhaps by just making everyone else’s lives a little easier, or more pleasant). Engaged workers feel included, and they feel valued, so they repay you in dedication, loyalty; all with the unifying power of the positive person.

Some facts
It’s estimated that over 25% of all workforces are subject to reduced staff retention, and a third of those are amongst the most talented, motivated employees (under the right conditions). It’s a commonly recognized belief that nurtured talent thrives, while ignored talent and enthusiasm diminishes.

A piece of research carried out by recruitment website, Glassdoor, concluded that 54% of currently employed individuals felt confident that if they were to quit or lose their job, they’d be successful in finding a comparable job within six months.

If employees know that there’s something equivalent or alternative just around the corner, then we have to make the manufacturing industry an engaging employer who trains, invests, and retains their most valuable resource – their people. In short, if you don’t make the workplace a satisfying, rewarding, and engaging place to work, you’re going to lose your staff. Or continue to achieve low or mediocre productivity.

So, how do you keep hold of your most talented employees? And how do you nurture the dedication and enthusiasm of the rest of the workforce? Everyone deserves to feel valued, so here are some tips on methods to keep your workers happy and engaged.

So, how do you engage your staff?

Recognition
A bit of civility doesn’t cost a penny, but it could surprise you. Words of encouragement and appreciation go a long way in nurturing a positive working environment. It’s said that “a thank you is worth its weight in gold” and it’s undoubtedly true that verbal recognition for a job well done is a great morale booster.

A “thank you” card might feel a little “soft-skill” but who wouldn’t appreciate a personal note from their boss recognizing their contribution? A team night out can help amalgamate a disparate workforce, as long as it remains optional and there is no sense of social rejection for those that choose not to attend.

Opportunity
There is very little in life guaranteed to stultify more than repetition and the prospect of eternal, monotonous servitude. Engage your workforce by listening to them and involving them in change. Workers who operate machinery, for example, are most likely to have lucid, valid perceptions of how to improve productivity, so invite and listen to their suggestions. But listening isn’t enough – make efforts to implement the improvements that they have instigated and credit them for their input.

Training
Enthusiastic individuals who have proven their mettle on the work floor should be offered opportunities to develop, and training them in new roles (or offering secondments to other departments) is a great way to reward dedication. Of course, not everyone wants to progress, and this should certainly be respected if they’re performing well in their current role.

 

Likewise, forcing the workforce to carry out training courses that feel irrelevant or counter-intuitive to their current role can be disenfranchizing.

Flexibility
Everyone has a life outside of work and accommodating people’s family lives goes a long way to garnering a positive working environment. Flexibility goes both ways, of course, so if you can help your workers when they need time off to attend something important, they’re going to be much more likely to go out of their way to help you out when you most need them.

Employee engagement tools
Machine monitoring is an employee engagement tool that doubles as an efficiency monitor. Machine monitoring hardware is compatible with most analog and digital machines, so adopting this technology costs much less than you might think.

metal machining industry. Worker or service engineer operating cnc milling machine at factory

In essence, machine monitoring software collects efficiency data that can help improve productivity and increase employee engagement by putting the individual in control of their daily activity. Data collated from machine monitoring can be used to justify incentives and reward the most hard-working, while giving those who might naturally sit in the background to recognize that greater contribution brings better rewards.

Machine monitoring introduces gamification into the workplace as a means of incorporating data into productivity. You can encourage a little friendly competition into daily production by recognizing the best performers and the best improvers; all backed up with a transparent, irrefutable data stream.

Contests
Running contests on the shop floor is an excellent way of engaging your workers; encouraging a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie if the contest requires teamwork.

There are lots of ways of helping promote a positive working environment with engaged employees who are likely to go the extra mile for you. Most require a just change in culture as opposed to a financial investment, so can you really afford to deny your workforce the opportunity to fully engage with your workplace?

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Top 10 Reasons It Is Great To Work In Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a great place to work. It’s an industry that satisfies those who enjoy “doing”, and it’s one of the largest sectors in North America. Manufacturing employs 8.7% of the population in the USA and accounts for almost 11% of Canada’s GDP.

There are lots of reasons why it’s great to work in manufacturing. We thought we’d do a bit of research to find out what people who work in manufacturing think about manufacturing.

 

1. It’s exciting

Manufacturing covers a wide array of industries – it’s difficult for people not to find it interesting. Manufacturing spans some of the most interesting high-tech industries, such as aerospace, food technology, machine monitoring, and pharmaceuticals. Not everyone gets the opportunity to tell friends about their day-job, but when you’re working on the latest developments in aerospace, people want to listen.

 

2. It’s safe

To the contrary of what’s widely believed, the days of workers crammed into darkened sweat-boxes, handling dangerous chemicals and machines that would gladly rip off a limb are now, mostly, resigned to history. Things have come a long way. Robots, machine monitoring, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and automation are all employed to ensure that the workplace is a smart and safe one.

 

3. You’re creating tangible things

Manufacturing is all about producing things which go on to help people live their lives. And there’s very little that’s more satisfying than seeing the fruits of your labor and saying “I made that”. Workers in manufacturing are responsible for bringing products into stores, and maybe even set pieces into blockbuster movies. If you work in a bank, you shuffled some numbers today – and those numbers got shuffled by someone else. Manufacturing produces tangible products.

 

 

4. There’s a career path

There’s more to manufacturing than fabrication and welding – although, these days, these are highly skilled roles. Automation has taken a lot of the dangerous, repetitive work away from the factory floor, leaving many specialized tasks behind for talented individuals.

As the baby boomers retire, there are opportunities in leadership, as well as opportunities in sales, business development, marketing, product research and development, and HR. Manufacturing can provide stability and life-long career paths.

 

5. The Cutting Edge

Manufacturing has always driven innovation: 3D printing, the IIoT, drones, robotics, for example. We adopt new technologies before they become widely available on the consumer market, so we get the opportunity to use and perfect the development of these cutting-edge technologies. It’s a great reason to get up for work in the morning.

 

6. Contributing

Manufacturing makes a significant contribution to home and global economies, as well as puts food on the table at a local level. With a substantial contribution to GDP, manufacturing helps raise the standard of living for workers and consumers, while lubricating the economy. We’re also producing products that make lives easier, so not only is the contribution financial, but we’re adding to the quality of life for millions of consumers.

 

7. There’s a need

There’s a huge skills gap in manufacturing. In 2011, the National Association of Manufacturers identified that there was a 67% deficit in available, qualified workers. That means that there’s a huge opportunity for training, and for those hoping to develop life-long skills. The world of work has become transient as our economies have shifted to a service-based focus; the “job for life” in those industries has become a thing of the past. But manufacturing is here to stay and needs skilled workers, especially as the baby boomers are retiring, leaving huge gaps in the workforce.  

8. Diversity

With the massive demand for skilled people, there’s a huge array of career progression opportunities in manufacturing. The image of repetitive production lines and grubby overalls is not the new norm. Of course, those roles are still available for those who want them, but technology has stepped in, leaving wider possibilities for skilled workers. It’s not all shop-floor working; there are opportunities in prototyping, product development, as well as the many office and marketing roles.

 

9. You get paid!

Manufacturing offers competitive pay and benefit packages. There’s a higher percentage of workers in manufacturing with retirement plans, in comparison with other private sector industries. And there’s often a good range of health care benefits available, and on a more generous basis than in other industries.

Pay, on average, is higher for equivalent roles in other industries.

10. New skills

As manufacturing adapts to new technologies, so do the roles. There’s a distinct push for people with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills, as machines require programming and new software needs development.

Companies are struggling to recruit people with these skills; partly because it’s not widely understood that these skills are required. But for highly qualified, technical specialists, manufacturing offers excellent potential for a great career.

So, there you have it – ten reasons why it’s great to work in this exciting industry. If you’re interested in getting involved, speak to your local careers advisor, or approach your local manufacturer directly and let them know what you have to offer them.

If you are already in the manufacturing industry and what to improve your productivity, reach out to us today.

 

2017 Manufacturing: A Year In Review

The political landscape of 2017 has been a portrait of peaks and troughs. Brexit in the UK presents potential possibilities for trade deals with the US and beyond, and (love him or hate him) President Trump’s tempestuous first year in office was preceded with promises to rebuild North America’s industrial sector. Whether his ambitious promises yield fruit is yet to be seen, and it’s rather too easy to get lost in the crowd hysteria that big change conjures. However, significant transformation brings significant opportunities, and in the manufacturing sector particularly, we’ve seen increased adoption of digital technologies, harboring a new dawn in manufacturing processes.

In the same way that the Industrial Revolution had a major impact on manufacturing and society, digital transformation within manufacturing houses is set to change the way we produce and cater to our customers. Not since Henry Ford developed mass-production manufacturing have we seen changes like those that 2017 has exposed us to; but “digital” represents a move away from mass-production, toward a leaner, less wasteful, bespoke, and customized production approach.

However, only 5% of manufacturing executives are satisfied with their existing digital strategies, or even recognize the importance of this digital revolution. Digitization helps to overcome the “Seven Wastes” of lean manufacturing by making more affordable the bespoke production approach; as opposed to over-producing, under-engaging employees and keeping customers waiting while we produce against demand.

Internet of Things (IoT)

At the heart of the change in manufacturing processes in 2017 was the implementation of IoT processes, providing live reporting of incremental production data, defect and damage.

By effectively connecting our analog (and digital) machines to monitoring networks, companies have found an essential, competitive edge in consistency, efficiency, employee engagement, and instant visualization of project progress; yielding benefits to the manufacturing process and to the customer, as the price of wastage drops as a result of digital monitoring.

Industry 4.0 and mass customization

Scary as it sounds, Industry 4.0 presents a reverie of the interconnected factory, and this has developed exponentially in 2017. Machines are online and capable of making decisions.

Now, don’t run for the hills, here – this is good! Industry 4.0 presents a hybrid approach of actual and virtual content-producing warehouses, freeing up workforce to focus on mass customization which can directly react to consumer demand.

IoT and Industry 4.0 are developing the way we interact with our customers post-sale, by providing immediate and consistent support online.

Machine Learning

AI is nothing new – IBM’s supercomputer defeated the world’s best chess player over ten years ago, after all. Advanced algorithms are collecting data on the factory floor, performing skilled labor, and predicting consumer behavior, so that we, the manufacturer, can better cater to their needs. Smart factories can increase production capacity by 20% by gleaning live information from integrated IT systems. And FreePoint Technologies can help!

Quality becomes more consistent as machine learning determines the factors affecting service and quality of product.

Growth

Manufacturing continues to be an essential contributor to Canada’s GDP; providing 1.7 million quality, well-paid jobs, and contributing over 10% of Canada’s overall GDP (around $174 billion).

The manufacturing industry, therefore, has massive potential for strengthening Canada’s economic future. We have the skills, innovation and exports of more that $354 billion each year, which represents 68% of Canada’s entire merchandise exports. Competition is healthy and success breeds success: where our industry grows, we attract new investment.

Growth is dependent upon continued innovation, and the more we adopt new technologies, the more our healthy manufacturing sector continues to grow.

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Top 10 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

As a quick, whistle-stop reminder, Lean Manufacturing is a concept developed during the 1990s – at the time, referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS). It sets out to clarify the processes within the manufacturing timeline that add value, and eliminate the processes that inhibit it.

TPS identified the “seven wastes”, which we’ll be exploring in this article. But it doesn’t stop there – we’ll be examining some additional areas of waste that affect the factory line.

TIM WOOD

The TPS “seven wastes” are easily remembered via the acronym – “TIM WOOD”

Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-Processing, Overproduction, Defects

What is Waste in Lean Manufacturing?

Waste is anything that adds no value. When your production line follows a large number of processes, it’s inevitable that, over time, elements of that process develop that hamper the efficiency of the build. This costs the manufacturer money, which, in turn, gets transferred to the customer.

Eliminating waste is an essential component in a company’s ability to compete; while helping increase profits.

Your customers expect timely delivery, consistent quality and the right price. So, streamlining your processes to remove waste is essential.

1. Transport

Unnecessary transportation of goods within a factory-line is the product of a variety of problems: poor factory-floor layout; complex handling systems; large batch sizes; storage in multiple locations; and over-production. These all result in unnecessary transportation.

The movement of materials from location to location is a waste because it adds no value. You need to pay people to move materials, and the maintenance of vehicles is costly. A poor floor layout can increase the distance between operations, resulting in delays in processing and expensive transportation costs.

2. Inventory

Inventory costs the manufacturer money until it has been sold on to the customer. Every finished product or material component require storage space; waiting on the shelf to be sold.

Large amounts of inventory increase the chance of transit damage and cause delays in transportation.

3. Motion

Unnecessary motion occurs where movements by either man or machine are not as small or as simple as they could be. It could be that your engineer needs to bend down to pick up heavy objects multiple times throughout a shift – this puts strain on their back and could be eliminated by merely feeding those materials at waist-height, rather than on the floor.

This is all common sense because even robots will wear out eventually.

4. Waiting

A sloppy production timeline results in unsynchronized activity, causing waiting within the production process. Idle time occurs when interdependent procedures are not in synch:  operators are kept waiting, or work slowly to accommodate slack cogs in the wheel.

5. Overproduction

Overproduction breeds waste! It results from producing more product than your customer requires.

This causes storage problems from unnecessarily large batch sizes, and an inability to respond to customer need.

If your customer wants 150 pieces of x and 12 pieces of y, but you already have 700 pieces of y and only 10 pieces of x, then your customer is going to have to wait for your to produce to their requirement.

Streamlining your processes to meet customer need means that product is sent directly to the customer, in a timely fashion (and not stored).

6. Over-processing

Over-processing occurs where elements of your manufacture don’t add value. Painting of unseen parts of the product; cleaning or polishing beyond required levels: these are manifestations of over-processing.

Aim to process to the degree that is useful and necessary.

Over-processing is generally caused by a lack of standardization, unclear specifications, and inconsistent quality acceptance standards.

7. Defects

Defective goods are the most apparent waste. While faults can never be eliminated entirely, you can reduce them by implementing poka-yoke systems (processes that help equipment operators to avoid mistakes).

This requires thorough documentation of processes and standardized training so that everyone follows a standard set of operations to achieve a uniform result.

8. Wasted Talent

If an employee is simply moving materials or equipment from one place to another (transportation), then that person’s talents are being under-utilized.

Non-utilized talent equally refers to management’s ignorance of continuous improvement feedback that comes from those operating the machines. If management fails to engage with talent, it’s considered a waste in lean manufacturing terms.

9. Ineffective Performance Measures

Machine monitoring is a valuable resource for transitioning a process to lean manufacturing. By obtaining an accurate data-reflection of current processes, you can identify waste.

You can also empower the workforce by providing the ability to monitor their own performance and recognize productivity norms, while rewarding uniform, standardized working practices.

10. Poor Supplier Quality

No production process can overcome an unreliable supplier. If you need materials to produce, then you need to be able to rely on your suppliers to make sure your processes are as efficient as they can be.

Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, but if your suppliers are continuously letting you down, it might be time to look elsewhere.

To Conclude

Your workforce is your business, and making sure that they’re productive is more than continually watching over them. Listen to them, because they will have the first-hand experience of any problems on your production line.

Eliminating waste is about examining your existing processes, and empowering operators to help you streamline the factory floor.

With machine monitoring and our ShiftWorx Platform, we allow companies to measure and record granular production information right off the plant floor, from any machine, in real time. Not only does this help eliminate waste, it engages your employees with actionable data.

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How To Recruit Top Manufacturing Talent in 2018

Can’t fill those empty shifts? Perhaps you have permanent roles for the right people, but you just can’t recruit the right people?

Manufacturing is one of the longest-standing industries, yet we struggle to recruit top talent to fill our highly specialized jobs. Whether it’s finding casual labor to fill open shifts or hiring talent for permanent roles, the manufacturing and logistics industries are struggling to find the right people for the right jobs.

You’re not alone if you’re struggling to recruit.

So we’ve compiled a list of suggestions from some of the top people in the recruitment industry, to help you find the top manufacturing talent in 2018.

Social Media

Social media is the principal means of communication for millennials, so becoming familiar with Facebook and Twitter is the way to capture their imagination, and find new talent.

The key to a successful social media campaign is engagement – just posting one-way pictures and videos don’t demand a physical response. Run competitions, quizzes, get people to apply for jobs on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, and you’ll find that the freshest talent will come to you. Offer your existing employees bonuses or perks if they share your posts with their friends and followers.

Facebook advertising is cheap and can be directly targeted so that the right people will see your post.

Explore Playbuzz for ideas for engaging online quizzes and games.

LinkedIn is a networking platform for professionals, so it’s a rich resource of existing talent. You’ll be able to see people’s CVs and get in touch with them directly. Everyone is flattered by head-hunting, so don’t overlook it as a method of recruiting top talent.

Go to where the talent is

Creating partnerships with local schools is a great way to “go to the talent.” Your local community is the key, so make sure that your business is visible, with a favorable image.

Develop a positive image

One of the significant problems facing recruitment in manufacturing is the perception that the workplace is dangerous, dirty, noisy, poorly lit, and a purgatory of unskilled, repetitive tasks. If you can help to change that perception, people will come to you.

Obviously, the first thing is to make sure that your workplace isn’t dangerous, dirty, noisy and poorly lit. Have open days, where the local community is invited in to see how things are done. Present the workplace as a laboratory for commerce with a skilled, dedicated workforce, and perceptions will change. And so will the empty mailbox.

Offer incentives

Strategic employee referral programs are an excellent way to find new talent. Incentivize your existing workforce to help you find new talent – for every employee that gets taken on, as a result, offer a reward.

Be clear

Nobody’s impressed with business speak, so avoid jargon and keywords when you’re putting your job spec together, especially if it’s a job that you’re offering training for.

Clear language gives the impression of transparency, while overly technical business-speak can trigger suspicion. If the job role is for a cleaner, don’t advertise it as a Habitat Contaminant Removal Executive, because they’re going to be disappointed when you hand them a bucket and a mop on their first day.

Gamification

This is a methodology to employ after you’ve recruited, but if you introduce it onto the floor now, you can use it as an enticement for new talent.

Gamification is a motivational technique that introduces gaming mechanics into existing business processes. It’s a way to engage and incentivize the existing workforce, using machine monitoring technologies to facilitate self-assessment, gameplay, and target setting; by putting the employee in charge of their progress.

Training

Metal worker teaching trainee on machine use

The potential for training is enticing for potential new talent – conscientious workers always welcome the development of new skills. If you can present progression opportunities, you’re going to attract top talent, because top talent is ambitious.

Courses, seminars and coaching sessions are great ways for the company to come together to share skills.

Investing in existing employees is a sensible approach to enticing new employees to the fold.

Building a team

A supportive team is a valuable resource for any business, but if you can demonstrate an existing support network to potential employees, then new talent will come.

Developing a positive workplace culture is important – you get more out of your existing employees, who will, in turn, invite new people to the team.

Social events are good team-building activities – team quizzes, sports events, days out. It definitely doesn’t need to be that whole “build-a-bridge-out-of-3-sheets-of-paper” type situation. And social events don’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s just a way of showing some appreciation for hard work, and it will repay you in dedication and drive.

Flexibility

Work/life balance has been shifting over the past decade, in favor of work over life. However, a little appreciation of an employee’s home life goes a long way in creating a culture of goodwill, which will be repaid with flexibility and hard work from your employees.

Develop your workplace culture

Developing a positive workplace culture is one of the most significant ways that you can make the workplace an inviting place for top talent.

The problem with top talent is that they’re sought after – not just by you, but by everyone.

Making changes in your workplace to create a positive culture is your way of ensuring that they choose you – as much as you choose them.

Help recruit the right talent by having a modern, innovative workplace. Bring your shop floor into the 21st century with machine monitoring technology.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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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