March 20, 2014 / customer delivery, lean manufacturing, production planning
There is no question that lean techniques have changed the face of manufacturing. Kaizen programs, 5S, value-stream mapping, and other lean strategies have rendered impressive results in high-volume manufacturing plants around the world. However, not every lean principle is an off-the-shelf solution for operational efficiency. This is especially true for high-mix, low-volume manufacturing environments.
Machine shops that cut metal are often juggling multiple jobs—many of them custom and almost none of them the same. Production requirements, lead times, and due dates can vary, which makes forecasting and traditional lean concepts difficult to apply. That’s not to say, however, that high-mix operations can’t get lean. As the following examples demonstrate, lean and other improvement techniques can be modified to increase efficiency in even the most customized job and machine shops.
- Improve where you can. According to the book, Made-to-Order Lean by Greg Lane, the primary focus for high-mix, low-volume operations should be “eliminating non-value-added activities and instituting improvements on the most repetitive jobs, a strategy that gives you more time to produce your low-volume work.” In other words, get lean where you can and as much as you can. This video posted by Modern Machine Shop describes the lean journey of a job shop that only produces hundreds of parts per month. While it wasn’t able to apply the entire lean philosophy to its operation, it was still able to implement some principles and has seen significant results, including increased sales.
- Identify patterns to optimize flow. At first glance, most high-mix machine shops appear very complex. However, as the job shop owner quoted in this Modern Machine Shop article discovered, almost every operation can be broken down into a few standardized processes. With the help of a software tool called the Production Flow Analysis and Simplification Toolkit (PFAST), the shop owner was able to evaluate and simplify material flows in order to develop part families and machine grouping. As a result, the shop was able to organize parts into process families and implement hybrid cells to streamline routings, fundamentally transforming the shop’s business.
- Reduce work-in-process. As described in this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, a common workflow pitfall of a high-mix operation is cumbersome production planning and variability, which can cause machine shops to scramble day-to-day, minute-to-minute and just barely meet order deadlines. An in-depth article from The Fabricator describes how two managers addressed this issue by adapting another improvement principle called the Theory of Constraints (TOC). Using the drum-buffer-rope concept and a tool called the Velocity Scheduling System, the companies featured in the article were able to reduce the amount of work in process (WIP) on the floor and, as a result, improved productivity, delivery time, and cash flow. You can read the entire article here.
While high-mix, low-volume operations certainly present a unique set of production challenges, these case studies reveal that there are several strategies managers can put in place to reduce waste, optimize flow, and improve productivity. It may take a little research and some creativity, but leading-edge machine shops are finding that in today’s competitive market, the benefits are well worth the investment.
March 15, 2014 / benchmarking, Cost Management, human capital, KPIs, lean manufacturing, overall equipment effectiveness, productivity
Most companies that have adopted lean manufacturing strategies know the importance of measurement. When a metal-cutting operation can quantitatively assess their performance, it can start to make significant improvements and set realistic goals to stay competitive. It also allows them to benchmark themselves against other industrial metal-cutting organizations. However, metrics are only meaningful if they are tied to strategy. That’s where key performance indicators (KPIs) come into play.
KPIs are the measurements selected by a company to give an overall indication of the health of the business. KPIs are typically dominated by historical, financial measurements, but most experts agree that they are more valuable if they also include operational measurements. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds and takes careful consideration.
Case in point: Over the last several years, it has been popular for manufacturers to us overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as a KPI. However, this blog post argues that OEE is not a KPI that should be measured at a company or plant level. In the blog, the author states five reasons why OEE is not a good KPI, including the fact that it is not comparable between different pieces of equipment and/or different locations. Instead, he suggests OEE should be used as a way to help identify and eliminate waste in front of a process, line, or equipment.
Although the “right” KPI will vary by organization, there are a few simple guidelines managers should follow to determine the most effective performance measurements for their metal-cutting operation. Below are a few strategies to consider:
- Plant-level KPIs should align with business objectives. According to this article from Control magazine, managers should begin by making sure plant-level KPIs line up with corporate goals. Is your company focused on growth, or is the goal to maintain existing customers? How does your KPI tie into those goals? As the manager quoted in the Control article states, a good KPI should consider the manufacturing side and business side of an operation.
- Keep the list short. If every KPI should help drive strategic intent, the list should be intentional and concise. As stated in this column from IndustryWeek, managers that measure too many things aren’t really measuring anything. While it is okay to add to your list of KPIs, as the IW author states, be sure to go back and edit the list to make sure each KPI works toward the overall company strategy. This helps maintain focus.
- Make it a team effort. KPIs must mean something to everyone in order to be effective. This means communication is critical. Key personnel and supervisors should understand what the KPIs are, why they are important, and how they are measured. Without explanation, team members can get frustrated, especially if goals aren’t being met. Managers can also take it one step further by defining employee goals in terms of organizational KPIs. According to this article from Mind Tools, this is the critical link between employee performance and organizational success. For more information on how to link KPIs with employee goals, you can read the full Mind Tools article here.
March 10, 2014 / human capital, lean manufacturing, quality, Safety
Over the last ten years, the term “efficiency” has moved beyond an industry buzzword to an industry expectation. Most fabricators have incorporated some form of lean principle into their operation, and those that haven’t are starting to consider it. In today’s market, only the “leanest” survive.
What many managers may not realize, however, is that lean processes can make jobs highly repetitive. As pointed out in this article from Industrial Engineer, this often eliminates critical rest time for employees. “The repetitive jobs take their toll on employees as stressful postures and high forces are repeated over and over throughout the day,” the article says. “In the long run, the financial savings from the productivity gains and quality improvements are used to pay for the higher cost of workers’ compensation claims.”
This is why many leading fabricators and other industrial metal-cutting organizations are incorporating ergonomics into their lean processes. Strategic equipment placement and improved ergonomics not only keep employees safe and healthy, but they are key aspects of high productivity and optimized workflow. The fewer times an operator touches a material, the fewer chances for injury and human error, both of which contribute to productivity.
Here are just two examples of how ergonomic improvements can make a difference in an industrial metal-cutting operation:
- Earle M. Jorgensen Company (EMJ), a metal service center featured in this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, recently performed an in-depth ergonomic study at one of its metalworking facilities. With the help of a third-party resource and input from its shop floor employees, the company made several changes to the shop floor to eliminate unnecessary handling and transportation of material. Ergonomic improvements ranged from repositioning band irons to adjusting the height of staging tables. By optimizing the workflow, the company has seen a reduction in employee injuries, improvements in operator efficiency, and increased output. EMJ has also seen an increase in shop floor morale, as operators feel they are playing a critical role in helping the facility succeed.
- SIGCO Inc., a glass and architectural metal fabricator featured in Assembly Magazine, made an investment to replace the traditional jib cranes and hoists workers were using to move 500-pound products. According to the article, the operations manager acknowledged that each piece of new equipment cost less than an average worker’s compensation back-injury claim—an indication that it was well worth the investment.
To read more about the impact lean manufacturing processes can have on employee health, check out this article from the Safety Daily Advisor. While being “lean” may be expected of today’s manufacturers, as the article warns, fabricators need to be sure they aren’t becoming anorexic.
March 5, 2014 / customer service, product liability, quality, supply chain
When most managers think about quality, they tend to think about their internal operations and the competency of their staff. And, yes, quality control is largely based on the processes that managers have put in place to ensure that tolerances are met, cosmetic expectations are achieved, and errors are kept to a minimum.
However, it is important for managers to remember that quality begins with the supply chain. As echoed in this paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT), product liability and traceability continue to be huge concerns for metal service centers, and mix-ups can be both expensive and dangerous. For this reason, it is critical that operations managers track the quality and accuracy of the material coming from the mill. By taking the time to confirm what is coming in the door, metal service centers can confidently supply products that are both accurate and fail-safe.
There are several tools today’s manufacturers are using to manage supplier quality. This blog from LNS Research lists several that could be useful, including supplier risk scorecards and document management. According to an article from Quality Magazine, these tools not only help manage supplier quality, but also keep the line of communication open. When failures do occur, the magazine suggests that manufacturers include suppliers in the process of determining the root cause of the issue. Instead of pointing fingers, the article says that manufacturers should use the opportunity to work closely with suppliers to strengthen quality processes so the same mistake doesn’t occur again.
Close supplier relationships can also help improve quality before errors occur. For example, this white paper from LIT discusses the role band saw manufacturers can play in optimizing processes and making sure manufacturers are getting the best possible results out of their equipment and industrial metal-cutting tools. By utilizing value-added services from trusted suppliers and making them more of a partner, service centers can improve quality and productivity—both of which impact the bottom line. In fact, this is one of the key principles on which the quality management system standards of ISO 9000 standards are based.
Quality can’t just be one aspect of an operation. As the Quality Magazine article confirms and as many leading companies have found, quality needs to be engrained in every aspect of an operation, starting with the supply chain.
March 4, 2014 / employee incentives, human capital, optimization, training
For the last several years, most metals companies have been investing in technology to improve productivity. And as the industry tries to deal with the skills gap, that trend will likely continue. In fact, a report from Fabricating & Metalworking expects 2014 to be the year of “unprecedented automation.”
However, industry leaders also realize that automation isn’t going to be the panacea for their workforce challenges, nor is it the only way they can optimize their operations. A growing number of manufacturers are finding that plant floor workers can play just as much of a role in improving efficiency and, if leveraged correctly, can be more of an asset than a cost.
According to this article in The New York Times, a few years ago, motorcycle manufacturer Harley completely redesigned its production system around this concept. The company built a brand new plant, but instead of relying on robots to ramp up productivity, the well-known brand put its value in its workers and the problem-solving skills they brought to the table.
Of course, Harley is a custom, unionized shop. Can the same hold true in a high-production metal-cutting environment? A recent column from IndustryWeek says yes. As evidenced in the winners of its Best Plants Award, IW says that leading manufacturers—both union and non-union—are investing in their plant floor production staffs and are seeing positive bottom-line results.
Here are a few metals companies that also finding that to be the case:
- Yarde Metals, a metal service center based in Southington, CT, has found that employee incentives can pay off. According to a case study from the LENOX Institute of Technology, Yarde has instituted a bonus system that provides operators with financial compensation when the company does well. To keep operators up to date on performance, managers post daily scorecards next to the time clock that lists productivity stats and other key operation metrics. Greg Sioch, lead foreman of the facility’s plate department, says the system has been very successful and that operators are used to getting bonuses. “Everybody knows that if you don’t send out a good product, you are going to be held accountable for it and it is going to ultimately affect the bottom line for everybody,” Sioch said.
- According to the Modern Metals 12th Annual Consuming Industries Survey, several fabricators, service centers, and metals OEMs are investing in internal training and education programs to combat the growing void of qualified workers. Safety, forklift, first aid, lean manufacturing, and operational training are just some of the programs being offered. In the article, “A Mixed Bag,” the magazine quotes one fabricator as saying that it plans to hire unskilled labor at lower rates and increase their pay as they learn skills. Another fabricator tells MM that it pays for any education relating to the metal industry and that it also offers apprenticeship programs.
To succeed in today’s competitive market, metalworking executives need to optimize all aspects of their operations—and that includes their human capital. Whether it’s incentivizing employees to keep quality high, leveraging their problem-solving skills to improve productivity, or providing them with the training to acquire the skills required in today’s automated plant, it pays to value your operators. Like Harley, metals companies have a choice: They can either treat their plant floor operators as costs, or they can turn them into valuable assets.
February 25, 2014 / Cost Management, preventative maintenance
In today’s competitive and unpredictable market, managers need to approach cost strategically. While several reports are forecasting a forging industry upswing in 2014, both in the U.S. and globally, many forges remain cautiously optimistic about the market and, as a result, are continuing to watch their costs.
According to the “2014 Business Outlook” from Forging Magazine about 41% of the forges the magazine polled said their capital spending totals will be “about the same” in 2014 as they were in 2013. Another 34.5% of forges indicated their spending total would increase in 2014, and 24% said that spending would decrease, according to the report. The annual business survey also revealed that most new investments would be financed without new debt, and about 12% of respondents said they were hoping to actually reduce their debt levels in 2014.
There are several ways today’s forges and other industrial metal-cutting companies are proactively approaching cost, whether that means cutting back on spending or improving efficiency. Below are a few best practices to consider:
- Proactive care of equipment. Machine downtime is expensive, both in terms of repair costs and reduced productivity. As described in the paper, Top 5 Operating Challenges for Forges That Cut and Process Metal, consistent general maintenance and preventative maintenance programs can help executives better manage costs. On a band saw, for example, low coolant levels can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which typically cost about $1,000 each. By instituting regular coolant checks as part of a preventative maintenance program or daily operator checks, managers can eliminate this unnecessary maintenance cost, as well as the time needed to replace the band wheel.
- Strategically consider repair over replacement. When downtime does occur, plant managers are often left with the decision to repair or replace equipment and parts. This article from Reliable Plant discusses the benefits of repair and, specifically, outsourced repair services. Another article from Plant Services magazine discusses a decision tool called equivalent annual cost (EAC) that can be applied to the repair-versus-replace question. According to the online magazine, “EAC allows engineers and operators charged with optimizing the left side of the balance sheet assets to speak a common language with managers, who tend to see the right side of the balance sheet liabilities and equity.” You can read more about the EAC tool here.
- Manage Inventory. In today’s “lean” culture, everyone knows that waste is a huge “no-no” and that many times, high inventory costs and abundant scrap can be a sign of root-cause operator quality issues and inefficiencies. That’s why many best-in-class industrial metal-cutting companies have started to adopt the “pick for clean” method in their operations, choosing to use remnants first and striving to keep scrap and inventory levels low. A column from Manufacturing.net also poses some important questions managers should be asking: “How much does it really cost to make your products quarter after quarter? How are you using your space and your facilities to best maximize productivity? How is too much inventory during slower seasons and lack of inventory at busier times weighing you down?” In the end, better inventory management often leads to better cost management.
February 20, 2014 / customer delivery, value-added services
In today’s competitive landscape, many industries are finding that enhanced customer service is becoming more important than ever. Companies like Amazon are raising the bar on what customers should expect from a service provider, whether that means Sunday deliveries or using the latest technology to improve the purchasing experience.
Not surprisingly, the so-called “Amazon effect” has found its way into the manufacturing world. In a recent blog post, supply chain consultant Lisa Anderson says she has seen this first hand with all of her manufacturing and distribution clients. On-time deliveries, she says, are no longer enough. Today’s customers are looking for suppliers that can offer faster lead times and value-added services that will benefit their bottom line. Sound familiar?
Anderson goes on to suggest several ways manufacturers can provide Amazon-type service in their own operations. From same-day delivery to collaborative programs, she challenges manufacturers to think outside their service “comfort zone” and consider new ways they can add value to their customer relationships.
What does this look like in a machine shop environment? What services can you add? The answer to that will vary based on the needs of your customers, your budget, and simply put, your willingness to change. Adapting to customer needs is critical in today’s unpredictable market, but as the landscape gets more competitive, anticipating customer needs can give your shop the edge.
Below are examples of three shops that decided to enhance their current services in some way. While each company took a different approach, all three have found that value-added service has been beneficial to both their customers and their business.
- D&J Technologies, a machine shop featured in this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology [LINK], recently decided to bring nickel-plating services in-house. Previously, the company had to send parts out to be plated and then wait for their return, which made it difficult to guarantee on-time delivery of the finished part. By bringing this service in-house, D&J was able to provide its customers with an additional service and speed up the delivery process.
- WSI Industries, a contract shop in Monticello, MN, offers its customers several services that go beyond manufacturing precisely machined components. Featured here as one of Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Top Shops of 2013, the company also provides assembly, component testing, and inventory management to enable daily delivery of sub-assemblies to customers when required. This, the article says, has elevated the shop from a mere vendor to a valued partner.
- O’Neal Manufacturing Services, a Greensboro, N.C-based contract metal manufacturer of fabricated metal components, has found that in some cases, meeting customer needs requires investment. As described in this article from Modern Metals, the manufacturer realized that in order to land a huge project, it needed to upgrade its flatness capabilities by modernizing its processes and investing in a new piece of equipment. Using traditional methods, the article says that the flattening process would have taken 30 minutes. However, with the new machinery, the flattening process was reduced to just 45 seconds—an improvement that made all the difference in winning the project, according to the article. In addition, the article said the company expects its enhanced capabilities to open up new customer opportunities in other market segments.
February 15, 2014 / productivity, skills gap, training
At this point, most industrial metal-cutting executives are aware that the manufacturing industry is facing a tremendous workforce challenge. A widening skills gap is threatening U.S. businesses at large, and, according to Forbes, even the best firms are feeling the effects.
For manufacturers, the issue is two-fold. First, skilled production workers are one of the largest workforce segments facing retirement in the near future, which will have an impact on the number of experienced workers on the shop floor. In fact, recent reports say the mass “boomer exodus” has already begun.
Meanwhile, the current talent pool isn’t what is should be. Streamlined production lines and more process automation have changed the nature of manufacturing work, and the incoming generation of workers lacks the skills and technical knowledge required. What’s worse is that most young workers aren’t interested in working anywhere near a production line.
All of this is especially disheartening at a time when many companies are trying to bring manufacturing back to the United States. Industry associations like the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and major players like GE are attempting to get ahead of the problem by working closely with universities and government bodies to provide the necessary training and education to encourage students to pursue careers in manufacturing. And while these types of initiatives are certainly encouraging—and necessary—what can manufacturers do right now to help close the skills gap within their own operations?
For many companies, managing the skills gap will require changing the way they train and maintain talent, whether that means beefing up training programs or rethinking their employment strategies. This will mean different things for different companies, but here are a few of the talent strategies being used by some forward-thinking manufacturers:
- Develop existing employees. A recent article from Modern Machine Shop argues that your current employees are likely your best means of developing new skills. Just like existing customers are often the greatest source of new business, the underdeveloped potential of existing employees could be your greatest source of new talent. Huntington Ingalls Industries, a shipbuilder featured here in IndustryWeek, has found that investing in leadership training has made a huge impact within their operations. Specifically, the manufacturer has focused on leadership training of foremen in particular, which has made it easier to get the rest of the line workers on board. As a result, the company has been able to maintain its quality goals, even with a fairly inexperienced staff.
- Consider new employment options. In the war for new talent, a lot major corporations have started to offer flexible work arrangements—an option that doesn’t quite fit with most manufacturing jobs. Or does it? This report from McKinsey & Company suggests that one way for manufacturers to deal with the loss of skills and institutionalized knowledge of retired workers is to offer them part-time employment options. According to the report, this is a common strategy used by Toyota Motor in Japan, which “aggressively recruits” its retired employees for half-time roles at the company and its affiliates.
- Leverage multigenerational strengths. According to Modern Metals, by 2020, companies will be challenged with balancing five generations in the workplace—a task that, at face value, appears to be a human resources nightmare. However, MM suggests that when managed correctly, a multigenerational workforce can actually be an asset. For example, as this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology explains, while younger, less experienced workers may lack industry knowledge, they are typically more technology savvy and more willing to embrace new techniques. Seasoned workers, on the other hand, may be resistant to both change and technological improvements; however, they typically have a vast amount of experience and loyalty and may be able to mentor new employees. When leveraged appropriately, companies can use this diversity as an opportunity to improve operations and create new and innovative solutions to traditional problems.
The skills gap is a daunting issue for sure, and there is no “silver bullet” solution. However, manufacturers that fail to tackle this challenge now will find themselves facing bigger problems in the future. The next generation of manufacturing may offer a new set of talent challenges, but as proactive companies are finding, it also presents a new set of opportunities.
February 10, 2014 / bottlenecks, lean manufacturing, productivity
When operations gear up for the day, most fabricators have one overarching goal—to move as much metal as possible. Huge volumes, continuous sawing, and quick turnaround are characteristic of most of today’s fabricating operations, and that means there is no time for bottlenecks, errors, or other unexpected events.
To keep saws running, studies suggest that getting ahead of production hiccups is key, either through continuous improvement initiatives or predictive operations management. However, when you are in the midst of the day-to-day grind—sometimes churning out thousands of parts per week—finding the time to identify bottlenecks and assess processes is a very real challenge.
But here’s the good news: Continuous improvement doesn’t have to be complex to have an impact. While you may not have the extra hours or resources to implement an aggressive lean program, there are some simple tactics fabricators can use to improve the efficiency of their metal-cutting operations.
One Day at a Time
According to Leanproduction.com, one of the most powerful ways to reduce down time is to identify and fix one problem each day. By making small, incremental improvements, the article says that companies have seen their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) improve by 10% or more when managers consistently apply this strategy over a period of three months.
The key, the article points out, is to ask three simple questions that lead to one very specific action or change that can be made on the same day. The first question is based on information you gather from the plant floor that identifies a loss. The second question is designed to get the team to focus on pinpointing the biggest loss or easiest “win.” The final question should push the team to decide on a specific action that will reduce the loss. You can read more about this strategy and see some sample questions here.
Ask Operators for Input
A magical thing happens on the shop floor when an operator or process area becomes committed to their operation and, more importantly, takes pride in hitting productivity and quality goals. This type of employee “buy in” can have a substantial impact on efficiency. As any management expert will confirm, employees tend to support what they help build, which is why more and more manufacturers are actively including operators in improvement initiatives. No one knows your workflow better than your operators, so why not engage them?
What areas slow them down? What changes do they suggest to make processes safer and faster? Then, when appropriate, follow through on some of their suggestions. This tactic not only helps improve operational efficiency, it also shows operators that they are a critical aspect of the company’s success.
Learn from Mistakes
While no one likes to admit their mistakes, ignoring failures or pretending that they didn’t happen only increases the chances of recurrence. As one fabricator states in this white paper from LENOX Institute of Technology, managers need to document mistakes so they can learn from them. When bottlenecks or failures occur, it is worth the time and effort it takes to get to the root cause of the issue so that it never happens again.
In fact, an interesting editorial from Manufacturing.net goes one step further and says that companies may even want to consider trading failure stories with other manufacturers. “Oftentimes, manufacturing feels far too siloed, every company is struggling within its own four walls,” notes Joe Hans, managing editor of Manufacturing.net. “There’s a lot that could be learned if companies began to not only fix downtime, but take advantage of its instructional moments, and then share those with others.”
February 5, 2014 / continuous improvement, resource allocation, Safety, training
One of the most common pain points for metal service center executives is allocating resources in the most efficient and economical way. From a strategic standpoint, it would be ideal for managers to make continuous changes within their operations, in terms of both equipment and human capital resources. However, budget and time constraints have made that a challenge for many industrial metal-cutting operations.
As stated in this article from McKinsey Quarterly, most executives find themselves stuck in the trap of allocating resources the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Specifically, the management consulting firm states, “Every year, they turn the handle on the same strategy-development, capital-planning, talent-management, and budgeting processes, and every year the outcome is only marginally different from the one they reached in the previous year and the year before that.” Alternatively, McKinsey suggests that managers who refocus these processes have an opportunity to deliver different results.
A separate article from Manufacturing.net goes one step further and says that 2014 should be the year that executives dump all “tribal knowledge”— the tendency to do things simply because “it’s the way we’ve always done it” — and start using actual facts and data to make decisions. “The bottom line in today’s mobile-enabled, hyper-connected world: Companies that continue to rely on tribal knowledge and myths alone are falling further behind enterprises that are dealing in reality and actionable fact,” the article says.
Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at how you are distributing resources within your metal-cutting operation. Do you find yourself using the same resource allocation strategies you have used for years? Are you using facts and hard data to make those decisions? Are those decisions improving efficiency? And, last but definitely not least, do you know what other metal service centers are doing?
A recent white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) lists several ways leading metal service centers are choosing to reallocate their resources to improve efficiency. Below are two examples from the paper that show how technology investments like software can pay off:
- One metal service center developed an internal software system to automatically track the number of square inches processed by each saw and each blade. At any point, the manager can go to a computer screen, click on a saw, and see how many square inches that saw is currently processing and has processed in the past. This has allowed the service center to easily track trends and quickly detect problem areas. According to the company, the technology upgrade helps keep equipment continuously running, which has made it a worthwhile investment.
- Another service center is using technology to close an operational gap between its order-tracking system and sawing equipment. Historically, employees would input order information into the company’s system, print out a report, and deliver it to the operator. The operator would then have to reenter the data into the sawing equipment. By developing a communication bridge between the saws and the computer system, the company no longer needs to enter the same data twice. This has reduced the chance of human error and eliminated an unnecessary production step and, as a result, has improved efficiency.
Of course, managers can make other, non-technology related investments in areas such as training and safety and also get a high return. Every operation is different, with its own unique strengths to build on and weaknesses to improve.
The first question managers need to ask themselves is whether or not it is time for a change. Are you making strategic, proactive decisions for your industrial metal-cutting operations, or are you simply doing things “the way they’ve always been done?” As suggested in the McKinsey Quarterly article, today’s unpredictable market requires managers to be more agile in all of their business decisions, including resource allocation.