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Sex and the Facility

OK, so is the “X word” in the title just a cheap ploy to get your attention? Not really, we are naturally attracted by things that are considered “sexy”. What could be less sexy than a PCB manufacturing assembly shop-floor I hear you think?  Let’s put aside right now those childish innuendoes that many a young engineer like myself, once upon a time went through as a rite of passage, such-as, “make sure that you keep your tools in your hand at all times”, “focus on your mounting performance” and “make sure you parts are always clean”. These may have been funny, at least to manufacturing engineers (perhaps you had to be there), but these hardly qualify as sexy.

Sexy then, on the shop-floor, is what? Say I put myself into the various key roles on the shop-floor. For me, sexy is all about having the right tools. No, we’re not back to the childish innuendo.  The “buzz” (I mean the job satisfaction), I feel comes from two areas; firstly knowing that the manufacturing operation is running as well as it possibly can be, exceeding the expectations placed upon it, and secondly, where a problem comes up, knowing that it can be dealt with such as to avoid any loss, which in my mind, is turning a problem into an opportunity, a potential for improvement. The “buzz kill” is when the unexpected happens; fire–fighting mode ensues with lost money seemingly dripping off the end of the line.

In the years BC (before computers) the tools were your eyes and ears, a keen sense of communication and a great deal of walking. Little tricks such as for example using your finger to check for dust on materials in the warehouse gave you a very physical feedback of speed of inventory turns.  In the years following, AD, (Anything Digital), we saw the introduction of computers which came to replace the “old fashioned” industrial engineering and management styles. This brought us great ways to proportion responsibility, “ownership”, blame etc. just by continuously analysing the computer collected data, which gave us reports that increasingly illustrated problems that had happened, losses suffered and money that we could never get back. Is this an improvement on what we had before? We are paying good money for many systems simply for them to keep tell us what we have already lost. Not sexy!

I don’t care then for these kinds of computer systems. What I want as any member of the manufacturing team is a way that supports my daily “buzz”. I want to be in control of what I am responsible for, to see what is going on and avoid problems, to discover opportunities to improve ahead of time. And I’d rather not do all the walking, but what can you do?

As well as gathering all the data, making all the reports then, “it” is also necessary to continuously turn the data not only into accurate and timely information but also into value, in sync with all aspects of the shop-floor operation itself.  “It” is then the new eyes and ears of manufacturing, guiding and managing critical user operations, managing lean material flows, managing and guiding supporting “human” tasks just as they are needed, looking ahead, predicting and recommending what actions to take and now to avoid problems later on.

What is “it” then? Enter Valor MSS suite, built on this proven dynamic industrial engineering and management technology like a form of DNA. Having this visibility, management and control, seeing opportunities rather than problems, the sheer value of continuous accurate input into the key management decision making processes, “Sexy”?  This is all getting very interesting…..

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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