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Struggling to standardize your production processes?

by / Tuesday, 02 December 2014 / Published in Latest posts, VisualFactory
VisualFactory Manufacturing Execution System, YMB Consulting

What do companies overlook the most in their continuous improvement efforts?

It’s easy, standardizing their processes. I’ve seen a lot of companies that fail to understand the importance of standardizing their processes; after all, how can you improve your productivity, reduce your defect rate or implement a continuous improvement program if everybody does everything differently.

However, there are many companies that understand the importance of standardizing their processes, but establishing standard processes is only the start. How do you make sure that your employees actually follow these processes? Most processes are documented in work instructions created in Microsoft word or excel, which creates work instructions that are not very easy to read or to update. My biggest professional frustration has been investing tons of manufacturing engineering hours in the creation of these types of work instructions to have our assembly staff completely ignore them.

Over the years, I have found that the biggest problems with these work instructions are:

  1. The work instructions themselves are not consistent: Have you ever had to get everybody in your manufacturing engineering department to write work instructions the same way? Well I have, and it’s pretty close to impossible. This causes confusion and frustration on your production floor, and is a major contributor to process variation and defects.
  2. The work instructions take longer to read than the cycle time of the assembly: In simple assemblies, I have found that it actually takes longer for the worker to read the work instructions, that the actual cycle time allowed for the assembly. Does that make any sense?
  3. The work instructions are not up to date: In many cases workers find better methods and simply implement them, since creating and maintaining work instructions take so long, they are not always updated. Engaging workers is the foundation of lean manufacturing and process improvement, but when these new methods are not documented and not used by everyone, then the benefits are small.
  4. The work instructions contain too much text: It’s simple, most people are visual, when you flood them with text you are confusing them. Employees will often ask another employee for help or call engineering for support. Did you try to figure out how to build that last dresser you purchased, or did you read the work instructions? Did it take you longer to understand the work instructions than it did to build the dresser?
  5. Reading while working is hard: Have you ever tried to read a map when you’re driving? Well reading a work instruction when you are assembling a product creates the same problems. Nobody uses maps anymore, we mount a GPS to our dashboard which gives us the information we need, when we need it.

These problems are the main reasons why I started looking for a work instruction software that could help me and my customers. VisualFactory is the only solution that I found that address all my concerns with traditional work instructions and also records all the production data I need to prioritize my process improvement efforts. VisualFactory is a visual paperless work instructions software, that acts like a GPS for manufacturing. Production workers only see the information they need, when they need it. VisualFactory also captures the time for every step of the process and documents problems as they occur, providing you with a solid foundation for process improvement.

How do I get my staff to follow work instructions?

VisualFactory will only show your employees the information that they need to know, when they need to know it. In the same way that a GPS tells you when it’s time to turn, your staff will simply follow along and only worry about the step that they are on. Since VisualFactory uses pictures and action icons for each step, the word count is lowered which makes the instruction easier to understand. Unlike traditional MES systems (Manufacturing Execution Systems), this will give your company the additional benefit of standardizing your manufacturing process.

How Do I improve my productivity?

When you start using VisualFactory, you will be able to review the amount of time every step in the process takes, which will prioritize your improvement effort on the steps that take the most amount of time or that have the most variation. VisualFactory will also allow you to keep track of which staff is certified or trained to do each step of your process, the system will not allow a worker to start a task if he isn’t approved to do so.

How do I reduce my defect rate?

VisualFactory has a module that allows your production staff to record problems as they are happening and forward them to your support departments to get resolved. The system will then update your production dashboard to visual show which work centres are experiencing problems. VisualFactory will document each one of these problems / defects so that you can Pareto them to prioritize your improvement effort. It’s by systematically addressing the root cause for these problems that you will be able to reduce your defect rate, providing you true MES system functionality.

Why is my continuous improvement program not giving me any results?

Without a standardized production process or a system that tells you where the problems are, it’s very difficult to know where to focus or to have process improvements stick. Making your assembly process and your problems visible will be very important for your improvement effort. VisualFactory is also very easy to update, which allows process improvement ideas from your production staff to be easily implemented.

Can I use VisualFactory for other processes?

Absolutely. VisualFactory can be used for any process that you document with work instructions, like: preventive maintenance instructions, safety instructions, inspection instructions, repair instructions, etc…. VisualFactory is a web based software that can be used on PC, Mac’s, IPads and tablets of any kind. This versatility allows VisualFactory to be used in a variety of environments. VisualFactory also offers other MES system functions and documents valuable production data like: inspection checks, assembly times, operator certifications, operator training, tooling calibration information, defect tracking, rework information, and more.

Can VisualFactory interface with my ERP system?

Yes, similarly than any other MES system, VisualFactory can interface with any ERP system on the market to imports bill of materials and work orders, the software will then export the status of your work orders back into your ERP software, as well as the amount of time issued to the work order.

How do I learn more about VisualFactory?

If you would like to know more about VisualFactory and how MES system functionality can help your company, please contact me at to schedule a free Web demo of the software.

One Response to “Struggling to standardize your production processes?”

  1. […] before, you know how much importance I place on standard work, for more detail you can read this blog and you can read more about the visual work instruction software that YMB Consulting is partnered […]