It’s nearing the end of January, so how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Not the ones about losing weight or drinking less. The ones about your business.
If you did not make any, there is still time, and I have some suggestions. The first three come from EU Automation and the fourth is mine.
1. Improve your supply chain. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic stressed supply chains worldwide. It is a good time to take a hard look at yours.
The supply chain suggestions from EU Automation include eliminating single-source dependencies; adding local and regional suppliers to your approved list; and investing in inventory management solutions that provide visibility and insight across all nodes of your supply chains.
2. Produce sustainably. Everyone, from consumers to your suppliers, is paying more attention to the sustainability practices of companies. Good sustainability practices can improve your public image and save money in the long run by using less energy.
Most companies are already following some sustainability practices, but consider making a list of what you are doing and the additional good practices that are within reach. EU Automation suggests improving your plant’s energy efficiency by installing variable-speed drives and optimizing your HVAC system.
Another suggestion is to get employees involved. Nominate a sustainability champion who can provide feedback on how the company is progressing towards its goals.
The circular economy may seem like an abstract idea today, but it is going to become more important in manufacturing in the years ahead. Incorporating sustainability thinking in everyday operations is a great place to start.
3. Automate routine tasks. Automation helps you cope with production surges, facilitates social distancing, replaces humans in repetitive or dangerous tasks and maximizes plant productivity.
EU Automation suggests investing in advanced robotic solutions that are within your budget, researching which robot or cobot is best for your application and establishing specific key performance indicators for each proposed application.
Don’t forget industrial cleaning robots. A year ago, a cleaning robot was probably little more than a novel idea, but today they are an interesting consideration for keeping your plant safe.
You can read more about how automation promotes worker health and safety in our upcoming February cover story.
4. Train, train, train. Assess your overall training program, then determine if every employee is getting adequate training to do his or her current job and next job.
In pre-COVID days I had an opportunity to visit a successful processing plant every month. One thing that stood out is that every good plant had a training program, and the best plants had the best training programs.
I recall a Tier 1 automotive supplier that surprised me by saying everyone in the building — including the receptionist, payroll manager and accounts receivable clerk — had to take a basic injection molding course. The explanation: We are an injection molding company, and everyone needs to be familiar with what we do.
That same company had an impressive list of people who took the self-paced courses available during every shift to gain skills for the jobs they really wanted to do next. I am certain training played a significant role in that plant’s low employee turnover rate and high productivity.
New Year’s resolutions for your company can pay off by the end of the year, but you need to start now.
Ron Shinn, editor