Manufacturing Tomorrow


Shop Floor Optics: How Data Empowers Supervisors and Improves Employee Engagement

Aug 20, 2018
Manufacturing and Distribution

How Data Empowers Supervisors and Improves Employee Engagement

By Clare Witte

In manufacturing, productivity is a foundation of profitability. Keeping employees engaged and motivated to perform at their best in a manufacturing setting requires more than a yearly review based on observations and standardized forms. The most effective supervisors invest in their workers daily by providing relevant feedback based on real-time data.

Equipping employees with objective metrics and the information they need to solve problems on their own is the key to improving morale and empowering and motivating them to perform their jobs successfully.

Accurate, real-time data also empowers supervisors to assess equipment performance and materials handling, provide coaching and, just as importantly, praise and reward workers for a job well done. Let’s take a look at how Shop Floor Optics and the data it provides makes this all possible.

The Key to Generating Useful Data

Extracting data from equipment is nothing new for most manufacturers. Historically, however, there’s been a disconnect between man and the machine. While a production manager could pinpoint a machine malfunction, they had a hard time addressing production variances between shifts or individual operators. Systems of the past not only provided inadequate metrics to help maximize capacity and cycle times but also were costly, took months to implement and weren’t user-friendly.

Shop Floor Optics can be easily installed within hours, saving time and money, and making it possible to analyze and quickly leverage historical and real-time data. Affixed to the machines, simple smart boxes connect them to the cloud and compile metrics that are then gathered into an easy-to-read-and-use dashboard display that is visible to all — meaning everyone is empowered to affect outcomes.

Supervisors can learn more about their employees’ most productive work settings by analyzing downtime, setup time and cycle times. In return, employees can use the information to adjust processes to create the most productive work environment available.

How Shop Floor Optics Data Reveals Employee Efficiencies

A machine will typically have an established ideal run-time for each function, and each CNC operator is expected to run it within those times. Using a dashboard drill-down, supervisors can access data based on each machine and shift. They can observe when a cycle started, its duration and its expected completion, and they can then compare results with ideal cycle times and averages to measure performance. In the example below, operators are performing well with a 33-second cycle time:

Measuring Performance of Cycle Times

Based on this feature, shop floor supervisors can analyze why the actual median cycle time is significantly below the expected time and have an engaging and encouraging conversation with the team to talk about their improved machining processes. Using the information, supervisors can then help other operators improve their processes, as well as commend those responsible for demonstrating how it can be done.

Improve Productivity With Data

At times, the data displayed on the dashboard may reflect undesirable results. When this happens, supervisors can have an objective, two-way conversation with CNC operators and ask questions related to the data, such as: What can you tell me about the machine and the operating procedures? Are operators using standard protocols or deviating from them? Is excessive machine error downtime causing the anomalies in the data, or is it only happening during a particular shift or with an individual operator?

These questions can lead to more in-depth conversations about how processes may impact tool life. If machines are running too fast or are being used improperly, that could cause undue wear and tear. Additionally, if it’s revealed that operators are manually performing a function, such as reaching in to grab a finished part rather than allowing the machine to extract it, safety becomes a concern. The data can help reveal whether operators are taking safety precautions before running a machine.

When the dashboard reveals excessive downtime, rejected parts, longer-than-normal setup times and unplanned errors, supervisors can use that data to help determine if operators need more training, whether the below-average numbers are due to machine errors, or if other factors, such as slow material delivery to a station, is the cause.

A real-time dashboard provides supervisors with insights into an entire shop floor’s operations so that accountability and affirmation can be placed where due and an action plan can be implemented based on objective data that empowers others to excel.

The Bottom Line: Data Improves Employee Morale and Retention

While some see data as an impersonal computation, forward-thinking supervisors and business owners see it as a vital tool for enhancing employee engagement because conversations, improvements and praise can be based on facts rather than on opinions. Because shop floor employees can decipher the dashboard data on their own, they feel empowered to impact results positively and voice their ideas freely. Their insights can be leveraged to help coworkers and the company succeed. The sense of being a valuable contributor to success is a significant factor in job satisfaction and employee retention.

Employees aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the use of Shop Floor Optics data. The more efficiently and accurately your operators can produce your goods, the more likely you’ll delight your customers and keep them coming back.

Learn more about the benefits that Shop Floor Optics can bring to your operations. Reach out to one of our experts today for a complimentary assessment and demonstration.

Clare Witte was an intern at Wipfli through the summer of 2018. She returns to Drake University to finish her degrees in Accounting, Finance and Information Systems and plans to graduate in May 2019.

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