How to set and deliver on your productivity objectives

Posted on 28 Oct 2008 by The Manufacturer

Stuart Mitton, a Practitioner for the North West Manufacturing Advisory Service at The Manufacturing Institute stresses the importance of setting robust objectives that are firmly aligned to real business need.

1. How do we get started?

Identifying the key drivers for productivity improvement will give your whole team motivation and focus. There might be a need for cost cutting, increased output, improved margins, equipment productivity, stock, scrap or defect reduction, better space utilisation, lead time improvement, or any other factor that will make your business more competitive. But without this hungry desire and clarity, your plans are likely to get stuck on the starting grid.

After these drivers have been identified they must be communicated, understood and appreciated by the entire workforce so that it is obvious to everyone why a performance improvement programme is being pursued.

2. How can I find the right balance of measuring progress?

There’s a saying: “What gets measured gets done”. Measurement is the cornerstone of setting and delivering on productivity objectives. A desire to understand the current condition and to realise the critical importance of data collection to productivity performance will be vital. The most enthusiastic change manager will never make a lasting difference without setting and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) and a knowledge of where the business started out from and where it should be going.

Manufacturing businesses tend to fall into polar opposites – they’re either totally bereft of data or are buried under masses of historical data camps. Strive for the middle ground and capture simple, relevant, current data. Communicate it clearly throughout the organisation.

Few people are natural data lovers, so the tricky part is to make measuring and performance assessment part of the company psyche. To do this you must ensure every member of the business understands why measurement is important, what’s being measured and how it impacts the business. It’s also wise to involve as many people as possible in the data capturing and communication process itself. The real challenge is to make KPIs as equally an interesting shop floor conversation as GTIs!

3. How do I make targets meaningful?

Targets and objectives should be meaningful to all levels of your workforce. Quantify performance in a way that absolutely everybody understands, such as cost per unit or output per person.

SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) work in any type of manufacturing enterprise. A typical SMART objective would be to produce ten units per person, per shift by quarter three – giving a clear goal that can be understood, worked towards and monitored by all.

4. How can I motivate my team?

The more you can involve everyone in performance improvement and create a sense of buy-in and ownership, the more successful you are likely to be. Try and involve staff in the setting of objectives if you have time to do so. If you can’t, ensure that whoever does have responsibility for this has an in-depth understanding of what is realistic and achievable.

Set stretching targets – say 25% above what is needed – to enable your team to reach even higher. You will need to manage, monitor and motivate to achieve stretch, as well as the minimum of hitting forecast.

Delegating responsibility for measuring performance to team members generates a real sense of ownership. Try and implement hourly performance measurements, so that if productivity dips, early corrective action can be planned and taken by the team in order to achieve the day’s target. This gives much more empowerment and often greater job satisfaction to your team.

5. How can I communicate progress?

Feedback is vital to achievement. Key targets should be displayed prominently, with hourly/daily/weekly key results entered as soon as the count is done. In-depth feedback should also be given at regular team meetings or whole company briefings, where as much information as possible should be shared – but in meaningful language.

Celebrate and applaud success – this can be a huge motivator for people. Simple gestures such as praise and treating the team to a coffee and a doughnut can go a long way. But if you are asking more of your people, particularly in terms of job flexibility and versatility, you must ensure that their development needs are met and that they have the right training to carry out any extended duties.

By Stuart Mitton, practitioner for MAS North West at The Manufacturing Insitute.

What other objectives must firms initiate? Has your company succeeded with such a strategy? Leave a comment below or email the editor [email protected].