So, you’re running your manufacturing floor in the dark: 4 steps to enlightenment

by 23 Nov, 20206 min read

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If you don’t measure it, you can’t expect to improve it. Your production operators are a wealth of information. Harness their wisdom.

At the peak of his powers, would Usain Bolt have trained without a high precision stopwatch? Or would Lewis Hamilton have won seven Formula One titles without monitoring his car throughout the races? Absolutely not! Then why run the manufacturing floor without good data?

Peter Drucker, the famous business consultant, is credited with saying “what gets measured, gets improved”. In other words, if you don’t measure it, the opportunity to improve something remains hidden, and inefficient work practices get baked into how we do things.

Running a manufacturing floor that is heavily reliant on production operators is challenging. Doing it without good data is almost impossible. Here are 4 steps to getting the insights you need to run a more productive and efficient business.

Select the critical processes and set targets

Monitoring every process on the manufacturing floor is overkill, particularly if you have a diverse range of manual and semi-automated processes. Measuring every process will just lead to too much data…analysis paralysis. Choose wisely. Select the processes that will dictate how well the manufacturing floor is running; critical assembly processes, critical inspection processes and end-of-line packaging processes are a great place to start.

Once you’ve identified the key processes, set realistic targets so that you can tell, from the start, if they are performing well or not. If the operators are clear on when they are falling behind target or when defects and downtime are higher than expected, then they will know the right time to ask for help.

In addition, if you are hitting targets much too easily or not coming close to hitting them at all, then don’t be afraid to adjust them. Just bring the production operators on the journey with you.

Capture the basic data as accurately as possible

Whether you are managing a highly automated manufacturing cell or a labour-intensive assembly line, you must clearly define how data is captured from the process. In automated lines you may have the benefit of machine sensors to describe how well the equipment is running. In manual assembly, on the other hand, it’s not so easy to quantify how well the processes are performing.

In saying that, you do have one very powerful “sensor” at your disposal; the production operator. In fact, they have 5 senses that they use every day to build products and to observe everything that goes on within and around their process. They are a wealth of information, when it’s harnessed correctly.

If you track output, defects and downtime properly, then you are well on the way to better understanding your processes. Make it as easy as possible for the production operators to log this information and you will avoid missed schedules, delays in solving problems and confusion over why targets are not met. Collecting the data through an app-based platform, like Kt-Pulse, takes a lot of the guesswork and manual input out of the process.

Visualise the data in a way that everybody understands

Visual management is a key component of lean manufacturing. The more visible you make the information, the quicker you can convey the right information to the right people and improve response times to issues.

Conveying the data through numbers and colours makes the important information stand out much more clearly than written text. The gold standard is the 1-3-10 rule…

  • within 1 second, you should know if performance is on target or not
  • within 3 Seconds, you should know what the problem is, if not on target and
  • within 10 Seconds, you should know what to do next, to focus on fixing the problem

This is difficult in manual assembly environments, where data is typically shared through checksheets, whiteboards or clunky spreadsheets. These are time consuming and cumbersome methods to maintain and therefore, the information is often delayed in getting to the right people. Visualisation software, like Kt-Pulse, automatically displays the data on easy-to-understand dashboards, which frees up your resources to focus on running the manufacturing floor.

Have a clear plan for how you use the data

Visualising the information is critical to monitoring the manufacturing floor. But acting on the data is where the magic happens. Follow these basic rules and you will transform how your manufacturing floor reacts to problems…

  • Put an escalation process in place and teach everybody how to use it. This will drastically reduce the impact of downtime
  • Run short, sharp team meetings every day to discuss and agree priorities, based on the manufacturing data
  • Foster an environment where problems are highlighted, not hidden. This will ensure that the most critical improvement projects are delivered first
  • Realise that you can’t solve everything at once. Focus on solving one problem at a time, preferably starting with the biggest

Request a free demo

If you’d like to see for yourself how Kyzentree’s software, Kt-Pulse, can help you to monitor and improve your manual processes, book a one-to-one, no obligation consultation today and we’ll showcase the benefits to you


Anthony has over twenty years’ experience in various roles within the manufacturing sector. He has primarily worked in manufacturing operations that rely on people working with their hands, fixtures and semi-automated equipment to produce discrete goods across a range of industry types. With a background in lean manufacturing and six sigma principles, he has a passion for looking at challenging manufacturing environments and working with cross-functional teams to transform them into safer and more efficient work spaces for all concerned.