Reliable Manufacturing: Discovering and Filling the Gap

In today’s manufacturing environment, America and the world seem to be determined to become “reliable.” There are all kinds of catch phrases, programs and classes dedicated to making your assets and your processes more reliable. “You need better rounds.” “You need better tools.” “You need better…” so, what to do?

There has been an awakening in Manufacturing America. We have awakened to the realization that there is a real shortage of skilled and engaged workers! Who will make our parts, pieces and materials? Who will maintain our assets? Who will operate our machines? Can we survive? Can America continue to hold onto its current manufacturing strength without further erosion while positioning itself to grow its economic, industrial and manufacturing strength?

These are tough questions. A large part of this answer lies in how Manufacturing America defines reliability or Reliable Manufacturing. What do you want out of your plants? What do you expect out of your people? Reliable Manufacturing will only come through understanding, acceptance and support with the entire organization or from the “top to the shop.”

How do you get an entire organization in phase with one another and all pulling in the same direction? First, you have to instill pride back. Not a selfish kind of pride that gets in the way of growth but, an essential pride for your work that has been missing from the plants of America for a while now. When did it become less than noble to be a “factory worker”?

Probably about the same time we stopped calling technicians tradesmen and craftsmen and started calling them mechanics and wrench turners. Probably about the same time we began to automate our processes, we decided not to spend time and money training machine operators. In maintenance, we bought laser alignment systems and stopped teaching alignment principles. In operations we got a computer and stopped training on “Audible, Visual and Tactile” methods of machinery inspections. A quarter of a century later, Manufacturing America has awakened to a world where the next generation is not interested!

Where factory workers have been robbed of their pride and workmanship and where these fine folks no longer feel like an integral part of the organization! The necessary and required essential skill sets have not been developed or, in some cases have been forgotten and the motivation for the day is to get to the time clock and get out of there!

Is this where we’re at? Is there no coming back? We have to get our pride back! We have to get our ownership back on the floor. We have to catch up with “on the floor” hard skills qualified training and we have to understand that accountability and responsibility are not bad words! We have to make heroes out of those who turn out precise and timely work.

Manufacturing America must provide the training for these required skill sets to shore up the skill gaps of both operators and technicians, so that confidence in workmanship returns and people can be proud once more to be a maintenance technician or a machine operator.

So where do you turn for that kind of training? Well, quite frankly there are plenty of places that provide “training” classes, but you must find a partner that has the resources to become fully involved with you. When training the most seasoned workforce you must have a partner that “has been there, done that”. Consider that your skills training partner must have compassion. Compassion such as only a person that has lived that life can have for those that seem to have lost the respect from a public, that have the opinion, that only those with a sheep skin hanging on the wall can add value to a work place. Only those that have “walked the walk” can have compassion for those that were never properly trained to be effective and efficient at what they do. The partner must also have extreme competency, because only those with the necessary technical experiences can understand the challenges of a world that is far from perfect, a world where making lemonade out of lemon peels is an everyday task. A world that has a lot of dark corners, oily floors and screens that leak black liquor down your neck while you’re attempting to replace the belts!

The first challenge for our leaders of the manufacturing world is to explore and discover the current state of affairs so that they can better understand where they need to be in the future. Next, the skills and competencies of the operators and maintenance technicians must be assessed to identify the gaps and begin to plan the path forward.

As an example, ask:

  • Technicians to describe their current method of ensuring, that the correct key lengths are installed in couplings, to help maintain the balance of rotating assemblies.

  • Operators, to describe what the difference is between cavitation and recirculation within a pump and what causes each.

Another challenge is to recognize the gaps in the effectiveness and efficiency of your current work systems and processes for planning, scheduling, work execution, and the tracking of your precision maintenance efforts. Your current work systems and processes must be assessed in this manner so that necessary adjustments can be made and measured for sustainability.

Your training partner needs to be able to assist you with this process. Your training partner also needs to assist you to define the purpose of the work, with specific and terminal objectives that match what is being taught. This is necessary to ensure that real deliverables can be applied in the field. Your training partner must be able to educate and bring leadership on board with what will happen within specific training events and how they must “sponsor” this work. Together you must be able to track the correct measures and metrics that reveal progress so that profitable results are recognized from these efforts.

The people who operate and maintain industry and manufacturing machinery want to stand tall, they want to be “pros” in all that they do. These fine folks provide the services, pieces, parts, materials and skill sets that make the world go around! How great they perform, determines each industry and manufacturer’s ability to compete within an international marketplace. We all recognize the need to return to greatness within our process and manufacturing industries with an improved and sustainable focus. We also know that when we get back there, you can bet it will be on the backs of our skilled craftsmen and machine operators! Let’s assist them to be “best-in-class” at what they do! Let’s drive forward and get the pride in workmanship back to the shop floor!

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