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Process, Process, Process

The Weekly Report – September 13, 2021
When preparing your organization for automation, start by taking a good look at your “three P’s.” 

I may never look at my morning cup of coffee quite the same way after Greg Langfield’s Sept. 9 presentation, “Automate with Purpose: Strategies for a Productive Workforce.”

An impressive audience of more than 50 manufacturers turned out to see Greg‘s virtual workshop a great example that demonstrates how automation has the potential to supply long-term answers to worker shortages in manufacturing.

“Morning coffee” might seem like an odd takeaway from a manufacturing workshop. Yet, when you stop and think about those new coffeemakers that use a single pod to brew one cup of coffee instead of the traditional pots that brew a whole pot, you realize that these new machines give us a much more efficient way to make coffee. They also demonstrate how companies can use automation to optimize their people, machinery, and production. That could be important as we face a changing workforce.

It shows us something most manufacturers know; their automation requirements depend on their unique needs. Greg explained that manufacturers should consider automation in the context of the three P’s: process, process, process. That involves looking at a business’s approach, their production method, and their tools.

He described how he once observed a situation in which workers had to stop production for a minute or longer every time their machine jammed, and it jammed several times while he watched. That led to lower production and inefficiency. Automation might have helped that company reduce (or even eliminate) those extra steps and that might have made their production more efficient and saved money.

As we face a changing workforce with fewer available workers, automation could keep manufacturers production levels as high as possible. As Greg said, “it is automation with a purpose.” Automation is automation with purpose?

He also gave us a couple of quotes from two of America’s greatest (and most diverse thinkers), Bill Gates and Yogi Berra. They told us (in slightly different ways) the best way to approach the issue.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency,” Gates said. “The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Berra, a noted expert in malaprops, may have said it in a simpler way: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Greg’s presentation is available on our website. Please sit down (with a cup of coffee if you like) and take a look. It might not change your view of that coffee, but it might give you some ideas on how to optimize your workforce, overcome labor shortages, improve your production, and lower your costs.

Events Calendar

September 14-30 – State of Manufacturing® focus groups
Our State of Manufacturing survey is underway, and focus groups complement the data to help us understand how manufacturers are approaching economic issues and opportunities. Join us at one of our virtual or in-person sessions and contribute your opinion. Learn more and register

October 7 – A Model for Manufacturing Excellence Using ISO 9001
ISO certification expert Keith Gadacz will be discussing ways to take your operation from average to excellent using the ISO 9001 business management system. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

October 21 – Investing In Your People to Create Leaders At All Levels
Talent and leadership development expert Abbey Hellickson will be demonstrating why leadership development is critical in today’s environment and how to determine key competencies for your organization. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

See more upcoming events

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Industry News

MSC Southeast received $229,312 for Bicycle Design and Fabrication program
The grant comes from the Jones Family Foundation and Red Wing Area Fund of the Saint Paul Foundation and will support the college’s unique bicycle program. September 7, Winona Daily News  Read more

Mountain Iron, MN solar panel facility is planning $21 million expansion
Once completed, the plant will become one of the largest solar panel manufacturers in the country, with state and local governments providing investment incentives. September 10, MinnPost  Read more

North Freeze Dry earns MN DEED funding for expansion project
The Little Falls, MN-based startup partnership will manufacture freeze-dried pet foods, and the expansion project is expected to create 57 jobs over the next three years. September 10, Brainerd Dispatch  Read more

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