Ten input points to


Industry Briefing Note from MCP Consulting Group Ltd.

John Saysell, Head of Business Development, at MCP Consulting Group Ltd., offers an insert into how staff motivation and development can increase output.

10 input points to help increase output

Efforts for continuous improvement are often thwarted by the lack of training.

Many organisations still fail to realise that their process equipment and machine operators are their most valuable assets. Efforts for continuous improvement are often thwarted by the lack of training, as well as the understanding of the interests and needs of the operators who are often moved from process to process and are just expected to sit, push buttons and ‘leave their brain at the gate.’

I offer these suggestions, based on my own experience from across UK manufacturing, as an insight into how staff satisfaction can be improved and output increased.

  1. Safety is not an Option – Reliable operation depends on safety. If equipment is not safe, then it cannot be reliable. I have seen plants where the pressure is on to keep equipment up and running. Corners are cut with overridden guard safety switches and with operators picking up dropped packages and hand stacking whilst a robot is still in operation. It is important for all staff to understand that cutting corners put personal health and safety at risk. Isolation procedures were developed for a reason.
  2. Insist on Relevant Competence-based Training – In my experience, when people know why they are required to do certain tasks they are much more likely to carry them out. Formal, ‘hands-on’ training is vital for an operator’s understanding as to how their equipment works, the performance standards they are to meet and how to troubleshoot everyday problems. Operators who are not formally trained are much more likely to suffer an injury or fatality on the job. Operators need to read the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), see how it is done properly, practice and then be assessed doing the job. Operators then need to be signed off and re-assessed at intervals.
  3. It’s Not Musical Chairs! – Of course, it is necessary to have a few people who can operate more than 1 or 2 machines; these are your team or line leaders. But, the theory that one needs to train all operators to run every piece of equipment is misplaced. Asking operators to swap machines on a regular basis makes no real sense. Firstly, it’s not safe! And secondly inexperienced operators and automated machinery do not go well together, shutdowns are more frequent. This is not to say that sensible job rotation is a bad thing, giving added interest to the working day.
  4. CILT. Cleaning. Inspection. Lubrication. Tightening.

Cleaning is not a Dirty Word – Efficiency is underpinned by clean machinery and a tidy workplace. Operators must be inducted into effective cleaning regimes both before and after work and given the time and products to carry this out. Pride comes from a clean and tidy line. If the operator starts off in a messy and dirty environment that can set the tone for his or her time on that production line.

Inspection – Cleaning is a precursor to Inspection. I’m a keen cyclist. Many is the time that I have been cleaning my bike that I’ve noticed loose spokes or cracked hubs or cranks. Much better to notice them in the comfort of your backyard rather than have a mechanical failure 50 miles away from home! It’s the same with your production plant. If you catch potential catastrophic failures in during a shutdown or cleaning window it is much more time efficient to get the spares in and plan the repair rather than have a breakdown when a customer is waiting for product. Inspection is more than visual. It includes using all senses to notice, record and notify failures and potential failures.

Lubrication – The three golden rules of lubrication are that you need:

  • the right lubricant
  • at the right time
  • in the right amount

With the correct training, against SOPs, operators can carry out a high proportion of lubrication tasks from the maintenance plan.

Easy to follow visual tools should be used to distinguish different types of lubricants to ensure the right lube is used for the application. Marking minimum and maximum levels of oil gauges and colour coding grease nipples are other visual techniques that can be used.

OAC programmes represent a significant financial investment and commitment by all stakeholders, so senior management support is crucial to success. If this initiative fails it is more difficult to get the buy-in for the next one.

Tightening – Following on from the structured Cleaning and Inspection routines, the need to tighten various fasteners and fixings may be identified. Ideally, the tightening will be carried out using a calibrated torque wrench to the right torque on an SOP.

  1. Don’t Give up on Root Cause Analysis (RCA) – Some operators and technicians are sceptical about RCAs. They see them as a tick box activity to satisfy management. RCAs’ bad press is often due to a rushed process with trigger points being set too low. Team leaders should understand the need for good RCA and see it is carried out effectively and followed through. In many organisations, the completed RCA ends up gathering dust on the engineering manager’s desk with an engineering solution. This is frustrating for all parties. In some organisation, RCAs are numbered. At the end of each month, it is up to the manufacturing manager to explain the status of all RCAs carried out in that period. It’s about having an RCA process.
  2. Bring Accuracy to Product and Size Changeover – Of great relevance to manufacturing is product changeover. Many companies find they struggle with product changes. The machines and operators can only perform accurately when given accurate data. The use of poka-yoke (mistake proofing) jigs and templates will go a long way in reducing the cycle time for product change and improve precision.
  3. Get Involved in Operator Asset Care (OAC)* – Involving operators in OAC takes their effectiveness to a new level. OAC is all about production and maintenance working as a team. A lead operator from a food company who had participated in Failure Mode Effects and Criticality analyses for critical machines on his line stated that now he understood how the equipment was designed to work and why it was critical to inspect and record key metrics on each machine. When people understand why they need to carry out monitoring and maintenance tasks, they are much more likely to carry them out to the right standard.
  4. Benefits come from Good Data – Complaining long and often about the problems machines are having and expecting management to do something about is a lost cause. To effect change at management level you need to bring data to the table. Operators are surrounded by useful data which can be recorded. Underpin your complaints by driving change through data-supported decisions.
  5. That SOP is there to be Followed –  Instil into your operators that the SOP is there to be adhered to ensuring the equipment is fit to start, perform a product change or shut down. The checklist was created to ensure that jobs are done in the correct order, to the right standard, maximising safety and productivity.
  6. Respect your Operators – Looking after your operators will pay off in terms of job satisfaction and productivity. The best equipment operators enjoy their work, they see the value in what they do, they feel valued and more often than not, they have valuable ideas on how to improve both processes and equipment.

*OAC is best sustained when it is part of a structure and has a roadmap clearly planned. An Operator Asset Care programme is based on the principle that the people operating production equipment, on a daily/regular basis, are the ones most capable of improving equipment reliability and performance. Their understanding of the process and their feedback can be a valuable resource for the continuous improvement of manufacturing performance and reliability. It can also relieve the burden on technicians who can then spend more time on Continuous Improvement, planned and predictive maintenance activities.


Process & Control  October 17 – MCP Europe feature is on page 23.