Manufacturing process standardization can help improve employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction in your company.
Most organizations look for ways to improve their processes that drive outcomes such as growth, profitability and customer loyalty. That external view influences how they create and evolve the way they work and what they offer.
However, with our tight job market and cultural drive toward automation, companies now look inward to define relevant outcomes and tackle significant challenges, such as employee experience, recruitment, satisfaction and retention. This is especially true of manufacturing companies.
Manufacturers’ problems start with attracting enough employees. Our culture’s general emphasis on traditional, four-year college degrees and the liberal arts close many people’s minds to careers in manufacturing. At the other end of the spectrum, the manufacturing workforce is aging: One study found that the skilled workforce will shrink by 2.7 million people over the next two years.
Companies must quickly onboard those who do make it to the shop floor so each person gains confidence in their role and career path. As they grow with the company, they will face other challenges, from globalization and automation to changing customer needs and expectations. Employees nearing retirement age often cite these growing pressures as reasons to get out earlier rather than later.
As a manufacturing leader, you can ease the minds of employees at all levels by introducing manufacturing process standardization that restores their sense of control and autonomy. The result drives employee satisfaction up, which helps both recruitment and retention.
Best of all, process standardizations’ positive effects are not limited to manufacturing — virtually any industry, from healthcare to high tech, can achieve these.
Achieve the Advantages of Standardization in Manufacturing with Operational and Process Excellence
One of the essential practice areas we address first when starting work with a client is operational and process excellence. Simply put, operational and process excellence is a discipline of discipline. People need discipline to go beyond “the way we’ve always done it” to “how we must do it now” — and they need discipline to avoid deploying new technology into processes simply because it is new.
However, manufacturing process standardization is worth the effort because it makes the pursuit of operational excellence easier. It sets limits on what needs to change and the tools to use while providing the direction that changes must go toward:
- Enhance employees’ experience by letting them know exactly how you measure their work
- Improve financial performance by identifying and eliminating redundant work
- Enable business agility by establishing processes that are easy to repeat and apply to new challenges
- Meet customers’ needs by including the right customer data in your processes
- Create visibility and transparency by having established, consistent processes everyone can see and understand
- Provide scalability by knowing where to insert new processes or delete old ones to meet new business requirements.
Our first step is to evaluate the ideas the company’s leadership team has already considered and implemented. We then focus on standardizing key processes, targeting those processes where multiple individuals do the same kind of work. You can simplify virtually any process, providing benefits for both the employee and the company. However, homogeneous processes benefit even more when we implement a level of standardization.
Process standardization usually occurs once we determine a future state based on data analysis and team discovery. Processes designed to meet the customers’ needs have the best chance of success through standardization — but you first must gather the right customer understanding data to know what those needs are. The reason is simple: Non-value-added tasks cause delays, quality issues and adherence problems.
Locking in the Best Process
We use two main process standardization techniques: standard methods and mistake proofing.
- Standard Method – Standard method means selecting one way to perform an activity, then having all employees use that method. We usually document the standard approach in work procedures, which becomes incorporated into company policies.
- Mistake Proofing – Error or mistake proofing involves detecting the possibility of a mistake in the processes and then removing the ability of that mistake to occur. Once you determine a standard process for doing so, you determine how best to make those changes permanent and lock in the new way. Using mistake-proofing techniques within the future-state design provides greater returns and discourages returning to the “old way.”
For example, consider the process of manufacturing a computer chip. The chip starts as a wafer of high-grade silicon. The first step is to cut the wafer down to the shape and size of the chip. A skilled employee can do this, given the right equipment.
Next, however, someone must apply the chip’s specific circuitry. If a human completes this task, this exacting and delicate process would be more prone to error, leading to unhappy employees, management and customers.
Instead, the company could use a robot to apply circuitry, greatly decreasing the possibility of error. They document the process that now includes the robot, becoming the new standard method of producing the chip. Employees become more satisfied by removing the burden (and risk) of this work so they can focus on other steps in the process, and everyone enjoys the benefits of a higher-quality product.
Think about other industries that could benefit from this standardization approach. Surgeons increasingly use robots to perform delicate brain surgeries, for instance, and insurance companies use robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning to streamline repeatable but complex calculations. Operational and process excellence offers all business sectors virtually limitless opportunities to improve employees’ experience, company profits and customer satisfaction.
Conclusion: Looking Ahead
Monitoring specific metrics around employee churn is straightforward. What’s more rewarding to watch, yet harder to measure, is employee happiness. Having standardized manufacturing processes in place helps each employee understand how they can succeed in the company and grow in their career, which means more freedom and income the longer they stay. Providing clarity around the role at each step of a process and the exact process details for each role is one way we build on the organization’s vision for reducing churn and creating a productive manufacturing environment — or any business environment.
If you’re considering enhancing your employees’ experience or company’s vision for training, consider some of our other resources for weaving in operational excellence tools and methods to build success quickly. Our process and capability assessment provides a quick look into your world if you prefer an outside perspective to help you develop your vision.