What Is Productivity?

From my newsletter a couple of weeks ago.

What is productivity in this age, not only in manufacturing, but also in knowledge work? Do the old rules still apply? And, above all, how can we bring humanity into the workplace?

Seth Godin has written many books worth your time reading. His latest book, Song of Significance, is packed with thoughts that both inform and prod into action.

His themes according to my reading include bringing humanity into the workplace, doing work that is significant, meaning creating meaningful change.

My wife was discussing Facebook and other social media and why they all keep developing ways to capture your attention–not always in a good way (seldom in a good way). She asked why they do it. I told her it was to maximize income. It has nothing to do with serving people. In fact, people are their product. They sell people’s attention to advertisers.

Godin responds in this book as he has consistently in his books on marketing that the goal is providing useful goods and services to people. You win by serving.

I told my wife that in my career I’ve been in numerous meetings where the subject is how to increase sales. Only a few were about how to create a better product for our customers and prospects. One consumer products company I worked at for about a year 40 years ago still has product recalls. I’m not surprised. The culture hasn’t changed (even though the name has) in all this time.

Culture defeats strategy.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about productivity. Industry pundits have bemoaned that productivity as defined classically (output per hour worked) has not grown. You can define productivity in manufacturing by how many widgets per hour. But even there, perhaps they should look at how many good widgets per hour.

But for knowledge workers (whose number can and should include trades people as well as desk workers) how do you define productivity when so much work involves working with other people? And generating good ideas? And developing good ideas into businesses. These things are not instantaneous rates of change. Trash the calculus and look at statistics as a model.

Get this latest Seth Godin book. Read it, then read it again. Mark it up. Keep it on your desk.

You can check out my thoughts on recent Siemens Digital, Hexagon, and Honeywell Process conferences on my business blog. For my thinking on personal growth and development, check out this website.

Productive or Effective?

Some economists and journalists looking for a passing story bemoaned statistics revealing a lack of productivity increase over a stated period of time.

Is this really a problem?

Whatever your job, whether in a business or church or other organization, do you feel that you have productivity metrics?

  • Number of meetings attended
  • Number of memos sent
  • Number of articles written

Maybe what is more important is fewer meetings that actually accomplish an objective. Maybe it is effective communication that clearly explains or motivates change. Maybe something written with more depth and less gloss.

Are you working on a really big and juicy problem? Those take time to solve. That may not look good on your productivity chart. It may be really important work.

Authentise Releases Threads to Spur Agile Engineering Collaboration

I’ve discussed digital thread technology and use a couple of times this month. Here is a company called Authentise for whom this is a specialty. They say that its new Authentise Threads product provides unique work thread collaboration that empowers R&D and industrial engineering teams to flexibly speed up, track and integrate product development. I named my new website 10 years ago The Manufacturing Connection because I saw that the future was not simply automation but connections of many types. Here is an example.

Andre Wegner, CEO Authentise, outlines that “despite the noise about the need to be more agile, it’s clear there’s a relative lack of software solutions available today to support R&D, industrial engineering and manufacturing to actually accomplish this. If the definition and simulation of product and process is digital, then there’s no reason we cannot adopt similar processes to those pioneered in software and move at digital development speeds.”

Authentise Threads sits alongside existing engineering and project management systems to provide key features such as:

  • Cross Functional Work Thread Collaboration. Create, search, follow & link shared work threads across engineering teams and partners with real time structured communication, chat & notifications.
  • Shared information, knowledge, experience, resources and context. A shared repository of all the key data, resources, goals, metrics needed for work thread execution
  • Collaborative Digital Decision Making. Formally track and manage workthread efforts, insights, actions, decisions, resolutions, and more.
  • Continuous learning & improvement. Share full history & traceability of work, discussions, issues, decisions, actions, metrics, all with full context. 

Authentise Threads delivers value immediately. The R&D organisation of a leading surgical robotics company was up to speed in less than 30 minutes. Within 2 weeks they were seeing a 1.5x ROI on their investment, tracking 100% of their R&D decisions digitally, while saving 150 hours and 20 meetings across a distributed team including external partners. They doubled the effective size of their team.

Since starting at Singularity University in 2012, Authentise has focused on providing flexible, data-driven workflows in the most agile manufacturing and engineering settings. Its tools help manage the order to part process by connecting to machines and providing operators with digital tools to enable traceability, repeatability and efficiency on the shop floor. Initially focused on the additive manufacturing sector, it now has clients such as Boeing, 3M, and Danfoss, who have seen savings of up to 95% with 6x ROI in the first year.

Why Ditch Paper Processes?

Some writers expound upon autonomous—machines and processes that run themselves, machines and processes that are self-diagnosing and self-healing, elimination of humans from manufacturing.

I disagree (or my favorite phrase from my high school years, “I beg to differ.”). We should be enhancing the human-to-process or human-to-machine collaboration. In so doing, we should be enhancing the role of the human. Promoting collaboration, creativity, ideas, innovation that only comes from thinking humans.

At least by 1995 I was configuring ways to propose to my customers ways to replace paper-based production and maintenance systems with digital equivalents. So, when a PR person sent a product release with the title “Why Ditch Paper Processes?”, I was transported Forward to the Past, so to speak.

The company is Beekeeper, a Swiss-based company founded in 2012 to enhance the experiences of the front-line worker. They have released a new maintenance workflow product. Here are some points:

  • Paper processes slow workflows down and increase disruptions.
  • Sharing information with the team is difficult when it’s kept on a sheet of paper. 
  • Facilities teams need continuity of workflows from one shift to the next which is difficult when information is siloed and fragmented on multiple pieces of paper.
  • Poor maintenance management can lead to more downtime, higher repair costs, and loss of productivity.
  • Companies that rely on paper documentation and manual maintenance and inspection workflows grapple with data accuracy, problems with efficiency, and information accessibility. This impacts consistency and safety, can lead to more errors, and eventually impact a company’s productivity and revenue. 

Beekeeper’s Maintenance and Inspections is a mobile-first solution for paperless workflows for frontline teams. 

By switching paper workflows to digital ones with the Maintenance and Inspections package, frontline workers can: 

  • Decrease downtime and disruptions
  • Stay compliant with easy tracking and automatic documentation
  • Ensure maintenance tasks are completed correctly and consistently to reduce the frequency of accidents, repairs, and unplanned breakdowns
  • Shorten the time between detecting and fixing potential hazards and the amount of time it takes to fix the hazard/time to resolution
  • Optimize your maintenance management process to reduce overall maintenance costs and enhance workplace safety
  • Use real-time checklist tracking so everyone knows jobs completed and issues addressed to avoid redundancy
  • Upload images to Beekeeper of maintenance issues or repairs for documentation
  • Enable managers to easily assign and track tasks
  • Have immediate access to all resources they need to complete tasks
  • Report safety hazards right away 
  • Save time and reduce miscommunication with smart management software. Automatically translate all content into your employees’ preferred language.
  • Get up-to-the-minute data on who is reading your posts, message delivery confirmation, and employee engagement statistics to improve manufacturing processes.

Industry Reimagined 2030 Releases Research on The State of Lean Manufacturing

US manufacturers have been moving the actual making of products out of the country for many years. This, of course, is a concern for this country. We’ve seen Germany and Italy and China aggressively move to strengthen manufacturing in their countries. Only recently has there been a concerted effort to bolster manufacturing here.

I’m an internationalist on the one hand, but each country owes it to itself to have solid manufacturing. I wondered a long time ago about the future where we would be required to import products needed in an armed conflict. Well, many organizations including this one are working to restore America’s manufacturing prowess. Making Lean Manufacturing more widespread is a good start.

Industry Reimagined 2030 just released its research report “The State of Lean Manufacturing.” The report aims to vastly increase company adoption by equipping practitioners, external experts, and educators with compelling facts and insights to make Lean highly relevant, friendly, and compelling to the interests and concerns of mainstream manufacturers.

Lean Manufacturing continuously eliminates waste, bottlenecks and improves customer value through employee engagement and utilizing data-driven tools. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents reported productivity gains over 40% without intensive capital investment. Yet only 10-15% of U.S. companies systematically use Lean and reap its competitive and financial benefits.

Lean solves many problems

  • raising the level of production capability and worker productivity without intensive capital investment; 
  • competing against lower labor cost countries; 
  • creating an engaged workforce; 
  • building a problem-solving culture; 
  • truly benefitting from advanced production technology and Industry 4.0; 
  • becoming agile and resilient in responding to disruption.

Industry Reimagined 2030 surveyed three hundred manufacturers on the performance gains in ten manufacturing areas. The survey included both measurable and qualitative responses. Gains were cross-analyzed by a variety of demographics. The survey prompted respondents to provide personal views on gains and the ways in which Lean was implemented both initially and over the longer-term. Sentiment analysis was performed.

Outliner Application–Personal Productivity

I like to use outlines to organize longer papers or presentations. They also can be good task lists. I’ve yet to use one that fits my needs. Dave Winer has written a couple—he’s the RSS developer and developer of the first blogging tool I used back in 2003 called Radio Userland, as well as the early developer of outlining tools. His just don’t fit my workflow. I’ve tried OmniOutliner, but I find it hard to write in and export to either Microsoft Word or my blog.

I wrote a long presentation last week, about 6,000 words, using a new application called Bike. It’s developed by Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software. I’ve also used his text editor, Write Paper, which I like. He has another app called Task Paper which I tried but it didn’t really fit my unique needs.

If you like outlining or are curious about organizing your thoughts, try Bike. It’s good.Oh, it’s a Mac app. It harkens back to a Steve Jobs thought about computers as a bicycle for the mind.

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