The 5 Biggest Continuous Improvement Challenges and How the Factory Operating System Solves Them All

1. Resistance from the Shop Floor and middle managers
As any Lean or Continuous Improvement (CI) practitioner can attest to, the first problem you encounter while trying to drive changes is resistance from the shop floor – and then the management team. The resistance is often created by a fear of change and people being pushed out of their comfort zones. It also arises from conflicting agendas.

The fOS solves this issue by creating a grassroots movement to get better by automatically motivating people to be more productive. This is done in a few key ways:
a) Clearly defining the goal of CI as getting better every day by measuring progress against perfection for teams, products, production lines, factories, and others
b) Clearly defines “getting better” as eliminating process waste and doing more with less; also tying the organization’s performance to value stream execution
c) Highlighting cases of people getting better every day including: personal records, record-breaking weeks, performer of the day, top-5 performers (and automatic ranking based on effectiveness score), and much more. This allows everyone from the shop floor up to the C-Suite to see exactly where they stand relative to others in their network and what they need to do to move up the chart.
In essence, the fOS turns manufacturing performance into a sport – and the sport is “getting better”. Those who continue to get better everyday are the winners.

2. Lack of leadership support
One of the biggest problems with doing CI is that traditional approaches require leadership to be highly engaged in the process. Busy leaders are expected to be visibly supportive and perhaps lead improvement events, prioritize significant budgetary resources, and sometimes understand complicated Lean Six Sigma or other CI tools. In most cases, this isn’t a realistic expectation – and thus many CI initiatives fail (roughly 70% according to a recent McKinsey study).

The reason this is a problem is because most companies approach CI from a top-down command and control perspective. This approach is heavily dependent on leadership involvement and ignores the strongest force behind any organizational change; the will of the people.

The fOS solves this by tying the CI implementation to people’s personal interest of being recognized for their contribution by being the master of their trade. The fOS automates the job of disseminating outstanding performance news for individuals and teams; and shares best practices so that others can shine when they set personal records and have break-out performances. This creates a pull from the shop floor for CI as opposed to having leadership push CI onto the people. Can you imagine the people on the shop floor clamoring for more kaizen events instead of coming up with reasons to avoid them?

Also, the fOS scores leadership for effectiveness as well based on shop floor execution. A Supervisors score is an aggregate of their direct reports’ scores. The same is true for an Ops Manager, Plant Manager, and every other position in the chain of command up to the CEO. This gives leaders some “skin in the game” for driving the CI agenda because no CEO wants to finish last in the ranking.

3. Cumbersome and complicated CI management processes
Although most Lean tools can be learned in a matter of days, all the Japanese names and complex math can be intimidating to the typical shop floor worker (and managers too for that matter). In addition, these tools often take time to use and maintain, which can be a problem for resource-constrained organizations.

The fOS solves this by:
a) Providing an easy-to-use platform to collect data (up to 1 minute per production run), then analyze, synthesize, and report results automatically
b) Takes the focus of CI off of “tools” that are sometimes difficult to learn / use / understand, and places it on “getting better”, which everyone understands
c) Includes features such as the one-click savings calculator that takes a ton of the heavy lifting involved with some of the most critical CI calculations

4. Difficult to justify, implement, and manage CI software packages
Software can be a great tool since it helps to perform many of the needed functions automatically, which increases the likelihood of sustainment. The problem is that these software packages can be very expensive, require complicated installations, and require resources dedicated to keeping the system usable. Additionally, it’s impossible to predict the savings that will be generated from implementing these systems. There are several approaches but they’re all based on some pretty wild assumptions.
The fOS leverages the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) to solve this problem by:
a) Making the platform free for all forever. Anyone from the shop floor up to the C-Suite can just jump on the system and start benefitting. However, the site does allow users to contribute to the site in the form of a monthly subscription on a strictly voluntary basis.
b) Designing the system to implement itself semi-automatically. All a user has to do is create an account and start inviting their colleagues - similar to Facebook or Linkedin. The system builds the operations chain of command automatically based on reporting relationships. There’s no need for a massive / cumbersome roll-out that presents the risk of failure in itself.
c) Making the system web-based so that the system remains current and available for all users. There are no update or upgrade charges, which keeps the quality of experience high and eliminates the cost of use

5. Lack of ongoing and reliable CI expertise
One of the greatest challenges on the tactical side of implementing CI is developing and maintaining useful production standards; then having the time and resources to dedicate to driving process improvements.

The fOS solves this problem by:
a) Applying artificial intelligence to set and update standards for products and production lines. This allows standards to be set and maintained automatically, which is a process that currently costs companies hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to have engineers do manually
b) Providing an access portal to professional CI experts who can supply the skills and focus needed to drive performance on demand. Projects can be easily launched so that CI experts can bid and propose approaches to solutions.

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