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Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow


5 Steps To Using KPIs And Dashboards For Problem-Solving On The Shop Floor

Mar 14, 2016
By: Mark Stevens

Manufacturing organizations are providing employees with a variety of business intelligence platforms and analytics dashboards. The basic idea is that the data empowers workers to identify issues and solve problems as they occur on the shop floor. But the usefulness of these dashboards depends on the relevance of the data they present and whether that information eventually becomes meaningful actions.

When you're giving people key performance indicators (KPIs) to track on their dashboards, for example, those KPIs must be relevant. The metrics need to be important and impactful for the person, as well as believable and in motion.

Here are five steps that help ensure the right people in your organization are getting the right information at the right time.

1)  Leverage the technology and tools: The planning and design of an analytics dashboard is the key to its usefulness. Think about the dashboard in a car: The driver interacts frequently with measurements that change, such as the speedometer, gas gauge and tachometer. The dashboard context isn't an appropriate place to track things that change very slowly. You would have little use for a rust meter, for example.

Similarly, when monitoring KPIs on dashboards, it's best to track measures that you're able to track as they move around. The dials, needles and graphs you're using must be constantly in motion and highly visual. When people look at symbols, lines and graphs on a dashboard, they want to be able to understand and see trends at first glance, with the fewest clicks possible. If you have to click two or three times to find out what you're looking at, you have a poor dashboard design.

2)  Learn to analyze the data:
Once you've chosen relevant measures, presented them in a visual format and started adding them in slowly, the next step is to teach users the basics of data analysis. Make sure users understand the meaning of a shift and a trend, and the upper and lower control limits of what you're trying to achieve. In order for employees to take appropriate corrective actions, they first need to be able to tell when a KPI is going beyond acceptable limits Ñ and what problems it could indicate.

3)  Find the root cause:
Your dashboards indicate you might have an issue, but why is this issue occurring? To understand that, you need to employ problem-solving techniques that get at the root causes of what's happening.

A good place to start is with "the 5Ms and 1P." Ask yourself whether the problem is being caused by materials, measurements, methods, machines, Mother Nature (the environment) or people. These questions give you a different perspective for problem solving and help you categorize a previously vague problem.

4)  Find the solution: Once you go through the problem systematically to uncover the root cause, you're in a great position to propose potential solutions. If you follow these techniques on a repetitive basis, you eventually become more skillful at solving the problems at the root and moving those KPI metrics back in the right direction.

5)  Capture the corrective action:
People tend to talk a lot without actually doing much, so the last step of this process is very important: capture the corrective action and keep this information visible. Going through the root-cause process takes discipline; once you've identified the solution, make sure to determine the appropriate action, identify who is going to do it and their timeline for completion.

Too often, the people responsible for creating these dashboards would rather just pour on more data than pare it down to the most useful, actionable information. That's a big mistake. You can't just pour in everything and expect everybody to absorb and use all the data without becoming frustrated and overwhelmed.

Instead, it's best to give people measures to track, one handful at a time. Once the person has absorbed and used those three, four or five measures, you might think about adding more.


Mark Stevens
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