This was a question that I posed in a Linkedin group recently. Within a few days there were 31 replies with some excellent comments and suggestions.

I found several things significant in the replies.

  • They described many tools people are using to manage manufacturing facilities.
  • They showed there is great diversity in the tools that are being used.
  • They showed that almost everyone felt timeliness of the information is important.
  • They showed little to no use of an integrated solution of automated real-time intelligence.

This leads me to believe that the best tools for managing operations in manufacturing are yet to come for many people. In the meantime, look over this excellent list of tools that were suggested. The real-time, web based solution that you implement today must perform these roles – only faster, easier and able to be shared in the right form by all.

A former Director of Manufacturing:

  1. Have no more than 5 metrics (explain them to all the people and why they are important) reduced to the lowest common denominator,
  2. Visualize the metrics on a board in the sections responsible,
  3. Measure all metric each day and hold people accountable,,
  4. Post updates each week,
  5. Celebrate when you hit milestone,
  6. Insist on the 5S mentality
  7. Know what you are talking about when speaking to Theory of Constraints and lean and MAKE sure that your team leaders understand them
  8. Use the six sigma tools to produce data and work to the data to solve problems.
  9. Turn everyone into process engineers and put someone in charge of documenting and teaching the new processes.

To this others added the following:

  1. Add a clear operational definition of the metric
  2. Make sure the calculation of metrics are known and understood
  3. Post them Daily and talk to people about the metrics. They are important.

A Facility Manager:

  1. A Plant Model in a spreadsheet – enter the schedule and let it calculate Machine and Department Hours, Direct Labor Hours by process, Raw Material requirements, Put Up/Packing Material Requirements, Waste and so on.
  2. Labor Variance Report
  3. Inventory Reports

Project Manager:

  1. TPM, Kaizen, KPI Dashboards, Performance Management, Asset Management , OEE, Workflow Automation, 6 sigma, Preventive Maintenance, Employee alignment & Inspirational involvement
  2. Reduce non-value added activities
  3. Standardize work

A Consultant suggests:

  • Business Awareness – asking the right questions.

A Plant Manager described his system:

I use metrics that coincide with standard work and Takt, avoid metrics that promote a PUSH system. Kan Ban of supplies to support each cell, or manufacturing unit.( manage your working Capital), with focus on reduction. I use hourly reporting at each machine center/cell, and address variations from standard work as they happen, I do not believe in variance reports and reviewing after the fact, you do not have accurate information at that point, and tend to lead to finger pointing. Continue to change the process as you uncover wastes, to bubble up new wastes. Work towards 1×1 flow, and you will manage your operations.

Lean Consultant 1:

  1. Lean Principles
  2. Safety
  3. Risk Management

LEAN Consultant 2:

  1. Understand Process flow
  2. Work to reduce or delete work that does not add value

Marketing Person:

  • Labor Optimization

Consultant 3:

  • ERP System

Director of Engineering

  • Visual management aids such as signal lights in work cells, process storyboards, Kanban cards, etc

BTW: I highly encourage you to join either or both of these new Linkedin Groups:

Southeast Manufacturing Operational Excellence

Manufacturing System Evolution


Kevin Totherow is a Business Development Manager of MES for Schneider Electric and a consultant for helping manufacturing clients manage their operations better. Kevin has been a controls engineer, consultant and president of Sylution Incorporated. He can be reached at (864) 252-6819 or by email at

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