Last week, we talked about the laws of physics and motion. No matter what industry you’re in and even if your entire team sits at individual workstations all day, your team and your product are in motion. From the shelves of inventory and raw materials to final inspection checks, things are moving. And you want them to keep moving as fast as they can safely, productively, and at the highest level of quality.

And it’s not easy to balance those three things.

Last weekend, there were people in all kinds of neighborhoods and cities that ran weekend competitions – marathons, half marathons, 5Ks and 10Ks. For them, the balance of speed and productivity is critical, too. If you go out too fast, you check the speed box, but as the legs (and mind) begin to wear, productivity may lag. The propulsion from one foot to the next (yes, you push, not pull in running) starts to decline as you get tired and the quality of your stride suffers.

So, too, the shop floor.


How do you measure motion in the shop?

We covered the traditional three buckets last week – people, materials, and information. These three things are what, categorically, make your product move. Each one is a balance in safety, productivity, and quality.

We talk to manufacturers all the time who feel that their teams are struggling with productivity, but don’t exactly know where the issue is or how to identify and solve it. This is completely understandable. If you know that things are moving (you can see that with a quick walk around), then should you assume that work is productive? Not a chance.

Motion should be measured based on the amount of work that’s required to do the job but no more. It should be a measure of efficiency that does not sacrifice quality. It’s really hard to know what an acceptable time to complete a job could or should be if you don’t have measures on what’s really going on. To uncover a few common issues, we’d ask a few questions of your team, including:

  • How often do your operators wait for materials, information, work center availability, or prior steps to be done?
  • Which operator is the best at each step in your process and how do you know that to be true?
  • How often do you complete studies in work center efficiency or time jobs?

We have a whole litany of questions we want to know to uncover the first pass of efficiency gaps in your process(es) and identify specific issues with motion in your shop but that should get you started thinking.

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how do you know what tool is right?

Similar to prior areas we’ve discussed, motion has to be done just right to make it both rapid and accurate. There are a few things you’re going to want to know about the tool you’re looking at (or currently using) to see if it will help you. Here’s a list of starter questions you can ask a vendor:

How does your product (tool) show me:

  • Time spent on a job
  • Time spent on a step of a job
  • The fastest operator on a particular job
  • The most accurate operator on a particular job
  • Performance of a job over time

These five parameters are fairly typical for a shop. The tool you’re using should be able to provide these for you without specialty programming. Is this something you can see right now in the product they have? Is it something you have to program/customize yourself?

A note here on custom reports as a means to report on items like those above – beware of the painfully configurable tool. Software tools that let you build as many reports as you like and custom report on any parameter you wish are often noted by purchasers, after the fact, as “painfully configurable.” There is a lot of power there, but only if you have the absolute time to devote to doing all the work.


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We favor a built-in approach. Look for a tool that has the information you need readily available. There will, no doubt, be specific measures that are important in your shop based on what you make and how much you make of it. Identify those metrics that you track on a board or in a printed report now that you want to track naturally in the manufacturing software tool that you choose and be sure to ask about them.  

In the meantime, we’ll continue to push forward with our purchasing series, helping you identify the best ways to determine the right tool for you.

We’ll continue to explore this next week as we talk about the way that a manufacturing software tool should help you to rein in the chaos and get more work done.



Anxious to get the information faster? Engage with us for a Process Gap Analysis of your shop. We’re only an email away,

Contact CIMx Software to see how a Manufacturing Execution System can improve production control for you.

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