Sunday, June 10, 2012

Turner's Five Laws of Manufacturing

Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing

Jun 6, 2012
                                                               By  Dave Edstrom

Note: I wrote this for the IMTS Insider's June 6th, 2012 Edition

I first met John Turner when he was working for GE FANUC and I was at Sun Microsystems. We met at an MTConnect meeting. I was immediately impressed with John’s deep and broad knowledge of manufacturing and his ability to take complex concepts and synthesize those into clear, concise and compelling points.
John and I work together on MTConnect as consultants and we have presented together on a few occasions, and I always learn something new from him. Recently we were discussing that just having a shop embrace MTConnect as the standard, open and royalty-free protocol as the means to connect the shop floor to applications is not enough. You must have a data driven manufacturing mindset and a champion. I told John that what we need to do is educate shop owners and plant managers on Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing. Let’s explore this topic, but first a little background on John:
  • More than 30 years’ experience at GE and GE Fanuc Automation
  • Specializes in Manufacturing Process Intelligence and Systems Optimization
  • Six-Sigma Black Belt trained
  • Broad business experiences
  • Product and operations management experience
  • Applications engineering experience
  • Software systems development experience
  • AMT Technical Issues Committee member
  • MTConnect Technical Advisory Board member
These are Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing:  

1.  We measure what goes into production and what comes out, but we have little data on what really happens on the production floor
2.  If anyone says, “I know exactly what is happening on my plant floor,” don’t believe them
3.  We don’t gather data because it is difficult, and someone has to look at it
4.  No one solution or set of data works for everyone
5.  If you don’t have an avid champion, save your time and money

John’s five laws really are critical points that any shop or plant should discuss before they invest in a shop floor monitoring package.
Law #1 is something that we hear about far too often. This is where a shop or plant that has a great deal of data and processes regarding both part design and part inspection, but has a big hole in the middle regarding data on actual part manufacturing. This is analogous to a race car team spending a lot of time and money on the design of the race car and then breaking the car down after the race to see what held up, but providing the driver with an instrument panel and then not gathering data during the actual race. You would never see that scenario in racing, yet we see it all the time in manufacturing.
Law #2 states, “If anyone says “I know exactly what is happening on my plant floor,” don’t believe them.” Shop owners or plant managers who have been so close to their operations for a long time sometimes can’t see issues/opportunities from a new perspective. It is the shop owner or plant manager who is in denial. If they do not have a shop floor monitoring package, they are only kidding themselves. The anecdotal stories in this area are endless. The number of shops/plants with a monitoring package is in the 4-5 percent range.
Law #3 states, “We don’t gather data because it is difficult, and someone has to look at it.” I have a lot of respect for this law because it really drives home two key points. The first part is about gathering data, and MTConnect can address that. The second part of Law #3 is a real cultural issue that is not obvious to most individuals in manufacturing. There is also an implied message in the “and someone has to look at it” part of John’s Law #3. The message is that someone needs to analyze the data, make recommendations on how to fix the issue, deploy the fix, and then monitor that the fix is working as designed. Sometimes those in manufacturing think that a shop floor monitoring package provides answers – it does not. Much like an MRI, it provides data that must be properly interpreted and then acted upon.
Law #4 states, “No one solution or set of data works for everyone.” While this law first seems like it is in the common sense category, you would be amazed at how many shops or plants expect a piece of software to be configured out of the box with the ability to grab the exact data needed, analyze the data, and then present it in a format that both management and the machinist on the floor can act upon. A fundamental question such as, “What are the top five problems you believe you have on the shop floor today?” sometimes generates hours of conversations with a different priority list depending on who you ask at the shop or plant.
Law #5 states, “If you don’t have an avid champion, save your time and money.” This might be the most important law of all five. Monitoring for the sake of monitoring will not be successful. Using monitoring as a weapon of mass data on the shop floor is also a great recipe to turn the shop floor against management. The right analogy is one that the military uses. Everyone’s job in the military is either to directly or indirectly support the warfighter. The same should be said of the machinists and those on the manufacturing floor. Everything that is being done with shop/plant floor monitoring should be done with those on the shop floor in mind. I like to think of the machinist as the neurosurgeon with shop floor data being the CAT scans, X-rays and MRIs to help that machinist do their job much better. If shop floor monitoring is being used as a stick, then don’t bother because both your morale and productivity will go down. 
I have become convinced that every time I speak on MTConnect I am going to bring up Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing. The reason is that the first and obvious application that individuals think of with MTConnect is the acquisition of a shop/plant floor monitoring solution. Most companies purchase these applications, but some do write their own. This is typically the first step of many for data-driven manufacturing. Once a shop/plant realizes that understanding what is happening on the shop floor can improve overall productivity, they quickly realize the many other areas where this and other data can be integrated to improve all aspects of their business. Of all of Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing, the most important very well might be having a champion. In my opinion, having a strong champion that can drive change by utilizing shop floor data will be the single most important factor in the success or failure of a shop/plant floor monitoring project.
Whether it is simply monitoring the shop floor or total integration of all your data in manufacturing, I would first strongly encourage a shop or plant to have an open discussion of Turner’s Five Laws of Manufacturing with all involved parties.