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The Customer Satisfaction & Process Improvement Tug-of-War

Christina Gay
November 13, 2015

In order to be competitive and profitable in the arena of CNC manufacturing, business owners must continuously improve the ways in which material and communication flow through their shops. When customer demands fluctuate and production priorities shift, it is easy to lose sight of problems that need to be addressed or potential opportunities for improvement. Too often, production managers find themselves caught in a tug-of-war between the need to improve processes and the need to meet the customer’s delivery requirements. There is no easy solution to this problem. Many companies that operate within this environment rely heavily on small groups of specialists to execute Kaizen on a daily basis so that the core engineering and manufacturing groups can process and produce goods for customers without distraction. For Kaizen to prevail, they must have aligned goals, focused objectives, and the ability to act upon them quickly. This requires unhindered collaboration between functional groups within the organization. The company’s vision must be shared between leadership and employees. The root causes of problems as well as any opportunities for improvement must be recognized so that the Kaizen actions are centered on the greatest opportunities to improve productivity and profitability.

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Understanding the performance of our machines, specifically the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), can also be a direct indication of the effect that Kaizen is having on the work flow. The identification of root-causes and opportunities for improvement requires data-- the same data required to calculate metrics like OEE. Collecting this data can consume a significant amount of resources. Productivity on machines may decline if operators are asked to collect process information while they are producing parts or products, so this must be avoided whenever possible. Teams of specialists are costly and can only maintain focus on Kaizen in a few areas of the shop at one time. Spread this capacity too thin and focus will be lost, slowing down action towards improvement. This is where automated machine monitoring enters the equation.

The status on the shop floor is shared via dashboards between all departments so that objectives and actions are easily aligned. The CNC data records and visual indicators generated by this software allow workers to act on relevant information in real-time. When coordinated efforts to correct issues or capitalize on improvement opportunities take place, the information provided can quickly verify whether or not the desired results are achieved and goals are met. With accurate and timely information, businesses will move confidently forward, constantly effecting the necessary changes to ensure that customer satisfaction is met.

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