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Anthony Etzel
/ Categories: Tales from the Road

New Definition of Insanity: Collect data the same old way

Just because you've always done it this way doesn't mean it's the best way. The old way of doing things may get the job done, but is the job being performed efficiently, accurately, and on a timely basis?

Are you stuck in manual?

People resist change. There is an element of fear behind change: having to learn something new. Sometimes it’s just that you’re comfortable with how things are done, and you don’t see the need to make any changes. Think about this: as time goes on, different methods have been established to improve how things are done. Let’s take for example drilling a hole into a piece of wood. The old way would have been with a manual hand ratchet and drill bit. The new way is with a power drill. Because the new way required less effort than the old way, the new way was adopted and the old way was done away with. The goal was to drill a hole. With the manual method, the hole may not have been drilled straight and the number of holes drilled in one hour would have been significantly less than the number of the holes drilled with the power drill. So, then, are you stuck in manual?

Time-Saving Tools do help – everything

In manufacturing today, changes are always being made. New computer systems are installed, new software applications are implemented.  CAD systems are used, and a variety of other time-saving tools have been adopted into the design engineering arena. On the production floor, the new equipment has been installed that is more efficient and allows products to be produced faster. Technology is rapidly changing. Manufacturing equipment often times are controlled with computer-assisted programs. This would eliminate the need for someone to manually set up the equipment. Think of the many ways your business could benefit by reducing the time it takes to perform critical tasks.

The Problem with: “We’ve-always-done-it-this-way” kind of thinking

In the warehouse, the use of barcodes and handheld laser scanners has been adopted, eliminating the need to handwrite and record inventory transactions. But what about what goes on with regard to how information is collected and communicated to the shop floor?

It appears as though the old methods of making copies of drawings, copies of shop packets, and manual labor tickets continue to be the norm. The reason is that we’ve always done it this way. Perhaps supervisors and managers feel as though they have better control of managing the paper trail. However, with any paper-based system, you are subject to errors. You rely upon your employee properly following the paperwork and filling out what activities have been completed along with the duration of time it took to complete those activities. How accurate is the time that is recorded? The time recorded is usually the employee’s best guess, or what they believe the standard amount of time should be. Labor tickets are subject to error first through the legibility of the handwriting. Second, the labor tickets would be keyed in to the system and errors can happen with data entry. Have you thought about the cost to your organization to fix errors?  

…One time a manufacturer thought they had their labor costs under control until one day the labor activity for a routine job almost tripled. By the time they discovered this, it was too late, and the entire job ran with significant labor overages. The problem could have been addressed with a simple task to watch and record the production activity in a real-time mode. They needed an automated way to monitor activity before a small problem turned into a big cost and a loss for the job.

Poor performance indicators make for poor outcomes

Companies today continue to tolerate and accept how labor and production information is recorded. The reliability of that information is questionable. In addition to collecting labor and production information, there are many other pieces of information manually recorded from the shop floor. A critical element of information for productivity throughput would be to examine how much time the work center or machine was actually up and running. Downtime is another critical element of data that is usually manually recorded along with a reason identifying what caused production to stop. If this information is not provided on a timely and accurate basis, then what good is it anyway? Forms are filled out, data may or may not be keyed to a spreadsheet, the forms are sorted and filed, but is anybody really looking at the information that was recorded? Think about the amount of time it takes to manage the manual collection of information from your shop floor. What would real-time access to data mean to your organization?


1.  Real-Time Production Visibility

2.  Reduced Paperwork Load

3.  Downtime and Scrap Visibility

4.  WIP Inventory Visibility

5.  Improve Efficiency, Capacity Utilization

How to get technology that will preserve your sanity

There are easier and more efficient ways to manage shop floor information. One of the best ways to communicate and report information from the shop floor is by utilizing a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Manufacturing Execution Systems provide a paperless approach to the information required on the shop floor. Factory workers can check a screen for instructions, review drawings, and perhaps even watch a video. The factory worker just touches the screen to indicate the job that is being worked on. It is easy to report what was produced, what was scrapped, and how much downtime may have occurred.

Back to “we have always done it this way”…

I know of many manufacturing companies where the employees maintain a logbook of all of their activities in the event they are challenged on any of the time that they have submitted. With an MES solution, the logbooks can be done away with, and employees can maintain and see an electronic log showing their transactions. Transaction history can be made available showing activities as far back as you want to show. Once a factory worker fully understands how easy it is to use an MES solution, they will never want to go back to the old way of using paper and pencil again. Your organization can now take advantage of the “new way” and become more efficient as a result.

6 powerful steps to win with automation:

1. Eliminate paper shop packet and distribution of the paperwork to the shop floor.     

2. Eliminate manual (paper-based) recording activities and the need to key in the transactions.

3. Easy electronic scheduling by sequence and changing job priorities.

4. Evaluate differences using actual times compared to standards.

5. Improve data accuracy and eliminate the need to chase and fix errors.

6. Practice Real-Time data reporting to monitor efficiencies and identify problems as they occur.

Think about just the cost of paper, ink, and the man-hours to distribute, collect, and key in data. Often times this alone is sufficient justification for an MES solution.

What could these changes mean to your business? Still not sure? Contact expert “Smart People” to help you put real numbers to this to find out just how big of an impact this could have on your business.  Find “Smart People” here.

About the author:

Anthony is a recognized industry expert in manufacturing processes and operational improvements. His thirty-plus years of experience encompass a broad spectrum of industry sectors: Automotive, Pharmaceutical, Medical Equipment Manufacturing, Aerospace Manufacturing, Food and Beverage, and General Manufacturing. He is uniquely qualified to quickly and accurately identify the potential improvements in efficiency in both discrete and process manufacturing operations, and identify those specific areas that could most benefit from process improvement.

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1 comments on article "New Definition of Insanity: Collect data the same old way"

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Tony, This is terrific Blog post. Nice work.

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