Incorporating an Innovative Training System into a continuous improvement plan

Incorporating an Innovative Training System into a continuous improvement plan

From automation and the manufacturing hiring landscape from the leaders in simulation training.

The world of manufacturing is changing. Dynamically. Vividly. Forbes reports that by 2022, smart factories will enable a seven-time increase in overall productivity. These factories will add between $500 billion to $1.5 trillion in value to the global economy. As of 2017, 76% of manufacturers either have an ongoing smart factory initiative or are in the process of defining one. It’s this idea of “continuous improvement”, taking incremental improvements to improve services, products, and processes.

Employees are at the heart of this continuous improvement process. As the nature of factories change, so does the nature of jobs. According to a Robert Half and Enactus survey of Generation Z workers, 91% cited professional training as an important factor when choosing an employer. Workers of all ages are looking to upskill, which is the process of learning new professional skills. They want to stay relevant. They want to learn. Having an innovative training system can help them do just that.

Innovative Training System, Defined

What exactly is an “innovative training system” or ITS for short? An ITS is something that is new or unique in its training methods, like turning electrical troubleshooting into a gamified simulation training software for manufacturers.

Hold on, simulation training in manufacturing? Aren’t simulations for pilots and astronauts? Not anymore. Simulation training software is becoming much more commonplace in the industrial landscape. Automotive, food, packaging, oil and gas. Industries across the board can benefit from electrical simulation training software.

Why? It allows workers to learn in a safe and stimulating virtual environment. New workers can become familiar with troubleshooting and veteran workers can upskill all from the comfort of their own computers. Instead of waiting for something to malfunction, workers can learn how to handle all sorts of situations without working on live equipment. Less room for error. More room for growth.

ITS and Continuous Improvement: Putting it All Together

The era of smart factories is beginning. With a host of new technology in place, there comes a host of new systems to maintain. Workers are hungry to adapt to the new work environment. While implementing an ITS can initially be costly, it can improve the company’s return on investment.

Investing in employees’ professional development is an investment in the company itself. Having employees who know how to maintain and troubleshoot equipment will reduce overall downtime costs and keep factories running smoothly. Upskilling internal employees has another added benefit. It will help retain staff by keeping them satisfied and engaged. Using an ITS can also boost employee confidence and keep their skills sharp.

All About Output

Employees want to be stimulated and motivated. They want to learn and improve. With an ITS in place, companies can give employees just that. Employees and companies can use ITS to continuously improve and streamline their processes. Simply put, better trained employees means better companies.

Next week, we’ll look at how to find and implement an ITS.

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Troubleshooting Thursdays | Transforming Manufacturing: Convincing potential workers that automation won’t kill their job (Tip 68)

Troubleshooting Thursdays | Transforming Manufacturing: Convincing potential workers that automation won’t kill their job (Tip 68)

A resource for safe and effective troubleshooting from the leaders in simulation training.

Hey there, Troubleshooters! We’re glad you could join us again. If you missed it, check out last week’s post on the true cost of your factory downtime. It’s an eye-opener! Fortunately, knowledge is power, so be sure to read how you can assess the full effect of downtime on your productivity, and then take control.

Today, we want to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room—namely, the need for transforming manufacturing’s image when it comes to attracting new employees. 

You and I know that the manufacturing industry provides a wide range of stimulating, challenging, and fulfilling jobs. The problem is, young people entering the workforce don’t share this perception. In fact, surveys show that people looking to enter the labor force think of manufacturing jobs as dirty, boring, low-tech, and unglamorous. They just can’t get excited about them. In a labor shortage like the one happening now, that’s bad news for manufacturers trying to build and grow their workforce.

The surprising numbers

A Minnesota-based survey of 1000 young (18 – 40) people found:

  • 44% simply would not consider a career in manufacturing
  • 30% viewed manufacturing negatively 
  • 50% believe the manufacturing industry will struggle from an aging workforce
  • 50% believe automation will replace human jobs
  • 42% feel manufacturers need to prove long-term job security

Reasons participants gave for not being interested in manufacturing career included:

  • “Is not a place I feel I could have a long-term career”
  • “Does not offer a work culture that I like/identify with”
  • “Does not provide employees with rewarding/fulfilling work” 
  • “Does not offer competitive compensation and benefits” 
  • “Is not socially conscious or solving problems to better the world” 

The survey aligns with a TST post from a couple of weeks ago, where we saw that Millennials are the most-educated generation in history, and typically want white collar jobs over skilled trades, in a company where they are inspired by the corporate culture. 

Yet another issue to be aware of is that Millennials and younger workers are love technology and aspire to work in high-tech fields, and they don’t associate manufacturing jobs with tech.  

The high-tech Catch 22

If you think the misconception that manufacturing jobs are low-tech can be easily fixed by just pointing to the latest smart factory (or “brilliant factory”!), you may be right. But you might just be swapping one hurdle for another. Once they understand that manufacturing processes are becoming highly automated with technologically sophisticated machines, robots, and cobots, young people have a new fear—that if they choose a career in manufacturing, their jobs will soon be taken over by machines. That’s the high-tech Catch 22 that manufacturers currently face: young workers are put off by manufacturing’s low-tech image, but if you convince them it is high-tech, they worry about robots stealing their jobs.

Rehabbing manufacturing’s image

Obviously, manufacturers need to rehabilitate their currently unappealing image, and simultaneously calm next-gen worker jitters about job insecurity. Join us next week on TST as we talk about the steps manufacturers need to take to combat the idea that the new wave of automation in the industry will make humans redundant.

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[Updated] Troubleshooting Thursday | True Cost of Factory Downtime: How Downtime Affects Productivity (Tip 67)

[Updated] Troubleshooting Thursday | True Cost of Factory Downtime: How Downtime Affects Productivity (Tip 67)

Welcome back, Troubleshooters! Today we’ll be looking at the cost of lost production. It’s not exactly news that factory downtime costs manufacturers. But, did you know that downtime consultants say that almost every factory loses at least 5% of its productivity due to downtime, and many lose as much as 20%? 

To make things more complicated, 80% of companies are unable to correctly calculate their true downtime costs. Some are underestimating these factory downtime costs by as much as 300%! Without a proper sense of the seriousness of the problem, or even the ability to plan or account for it, there is a lot of profit lost.

The automotive industry is a stellar example of the cost of downtime. It’s estimated that 1 minute of downtime costs automotive manufacturers $22,000 per minute or $1.3 million per hour. Some estimates ran as high as $50,000 per minute. As a smaller manufacturer, you may not be losing those staggering sums, but you do face the same problem. We’ll break it all down for you.

True Downtime Costs

Simply put, “downtime” is defined as the period where machinery and/or equipment are not working, and production is stopped. This could be due to such things as a power outage, an accident on the line, or if a piece of machinery breaks down. A company’s “true downtime costs,” or TDC, are the “total, wasted, business support costs” and the lost business opportunities sustained while production is on hold, as well as the resources needed to fix the cause of the downtime incident. Generally, downtime is divided into two categories: tangible and intangible.

Tangible Downtime Costs

Tangible downtime costs are relatively easy to quantify. The most obvious one is lost production. Every minute of downtime is a minute when the company is not creating a product that contributes to profit.

Here’s a simple formula for calculating lost production that will give you an accurate picture of the costs you incur when your lines are down.

First, take the time the company planned to operate and compare it to the time the company actually operated. The difference is the total downtime the company experienced:

Planned operating time − Actual operating time = Total downtime

Find your average production rate by dividing the number of units produced by the actual operating time:

Total number of units produced/Actual operating time = Average production rate

Then, multiply the company’s total downtime by the average production rate to get the number of units you were unable to produce:

Total downtime × Average production rate = # of units unable to produce

Finally, multiply the unproduced units by the gross profit per unit in order to find the TDC.

# of units unable to produce × Gross profit per unit = True downtime costs

This formula will give you a very clear idea of the cost of production loss during downtime. However, it doesn’t stop there. A related tangible cost is lost capacity. When a plant is running at capacity, the business may need to expand—to hire more people, buy more machinery, etc., all of which costs money. Reducing downtime creates extra revenue that can be used to build additional capacity; experiencing downtime takes away from that ability to expand capacity.

Tangible factory downtime costs also include direct labor. During downtime, staff are still on the clock, so the company produces less while using the same amount of labor at the same cost. Downtime also eats up the time of mechanics and technicians who are then forced to put out figurative fires instead of using their time to make permanent repairs and improvements to the equipment.

Intangible Downtime Costs

The more elusive aspect of true downtime costs are intangible costs. Intangible costs are harder to quantify but may often be costlier to the company overall.

Here’s an example. Downtime affects responsiveness; less downtime allows a company to be more responsive, enabling it to satisfy its customers more efficiently.

And then there’s stress. Increased downtime causes stress for both machines and employees. Everyone performs best in a stress-free environment—the stress that downtime causes prevents a company’s employees from functioning as eciently as possible.

Downtime can also dampen innovation. When everyone is stressed out and playing catch-up, they don’t come up with great new ideas that could bring down costs or increase staff productivity. These intangible costs, although much harder to quantify than the tangibles, affect a company’s performance just as negatively.

How to Prevent TDC from Sky-Rocketing

Reducing downtime is key to a healthy bottom line. To avoid soaring TDC, it’s imperative that those responsible for maintenance to keep the facilities up and running smoothly. If downtime occurs (which it inevitably does), employees should be able to repair machines quickly and safely, which will lower the entire TDC. The less downtime a company has, the more efficient its production. Having staff who are trained to assess and troubleshoot electrical issues is a critical aspect of reducing downtime.

The problem for some manufacturers is the lack of trained electricians on staff to handle problems as quickly as they arise. One way around this shortage is to give general maintenance staff the skills to do the repairs themselves. Simulation training software can recreate a downtime situation in a controlled environment and, at the same time, train general maintenance employees to troubleshoot safely and effectively.

The Simutech Training System not only helps staff find solutions to the electrical problems, but also measures the performance of each employee as they use the system, assessing whether or not they are ready to troubleshoot in a live environment.

The training system gives users the equivalent of years of hands-on experience in a matter of hours by simulating real-world scenarios for them to practice in. Simutech is the only company to offer a complete electrical troubleshooting skills training system. We’ve been servicing Fortune 500 companies such as Toyota, Kraft, Nestlé, Michelin, Dannon, and more for twenty years. Ultimately, the system equips employees to respond to downtime incidents as eciently as possible, reducing the company’s true downtime costs, and bumping up profits.

Get a demo today! For more information, click here. 

Understanding your factory downtime costs is as important as understanding your return on investments for training. Downtime will happen, but it doesn’t have to drag on for so long. With a well-trained and confident staff, you can get your machinery and equipment up and running in a reasonable amount of time.

1. Dave Crumrine and Doug Post. “When True Cost of Downtime Is Unknown, Bad Decisions Ensue.” 2006.
2. Diane Galligan/Business Insider. “What 1 Minute of Unplanned Downtime Costs Major Industries.” 2016.
3. Advanced Technology Services. “Downtime Costs Auto Industry 22K/minute: Survey.” 2006.
4. John Henry/Frain Industries. “Calculating Downtime’s Costs.” 2011.

How simulation software can help fix the perception of manufacturing

How simulation software can help fix the perception of manufacturing

In his latest video, CEO Samer Forzley discusses the changing image the public holds about manufacturing. Until recently, and for some it still holds true, people thought of manufacturing jobs as performing dirty work in dark and dingy environments.

Perhaps, those images of plant floors in the early 1900s were still somehow pervading the public’s perception and could possibly be why so many for so long had steered young people away from joining the industry. Many of us in manufacturing knew this was untrue and began to push out a lot of content to try to refute those claims.

As our communications manager Debra Schug has recently written about for Smart Industry, it seems that antiquated perception is starting to change. A recent poll by West Monroe Partners shows younger people in Minnesota now view manufacturing as tech-savvy and tech-forward. This seems to be a positive finding, however, the second part of the same poll shows these respondents believe that automation will replace their jobs, making manufacturing not an attractive career choice for them.

Automation-driven manufacturing also appears to be widening the skills gap, with less and less people having the knowledge and know-how to deal with advanced technology and equipment. That’s where Simutech Multimedia’s simulation software can help. We have products that can help you learn how to troubleshoot and fix a PLC and our latest 3D simulation software that is focused on industrial sensors.

To see more of Samer’s video, please watch it here.


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LiveWorx 2019: IIOT and the future of manufacturing work

LiveWorx 2019: IIOT and the future of manufacturing work

Simutech Multimedia heads to LiveWorx 2019 in Boston this June!

As we anticipate Simutech Multimedia CEO Samer Forzley presenting at LiveWorx on June 11 in Boston, we wanted to give a preview of his presentation on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its impact on the manufacturing workforce.

In the first part of our IIoT series , we took a look at how IIoT is transforming the plant floor and why it is still important to invest in workers by equipping them with the skills needed to troubleshoot failing equipment. In the next part of this series, we will take a look at how IIoT could affect the future of manufacturing work and steps for organizations to take to start preparing for that change.

Because the industry is, on a whole, undergoing digital transformation, many organizations are starting to take a look at their processes and figuring out what can be improved by adapting new technology and connecting the whole enterprise. However, many businesses don’t realize until they are in the weeds that preparing operations to face Industry 4.0 and come out on top will necessitate more than changing some production lines, but rather the entire operation.  

Having a roadmap to navigate the uncertain future is more critical than ever, so we’ve put together a few concepts for the new rulebook:

  1. Leadership: Manufacturers must recognize that transforming traditional operations starts with leadership and having a plan. We are moving into a new era, which will require a strong vision from leaders to get the buy in from everyone in the organization before the change can begin.
  2. Flexibility: Operations will need to be flexible and able to go into different directions at the same time. For instance, increasing technology in the workplace can alienate workers, so employee engagement will also need to be increased. Putting in place a systems-thinking framework can be helpful for workers to understand how the whole business is related to each other and changing one area will affect other parts, so everyone being open to change will help the business as a whole.
  3. Collaboration: Organizations in the industry will have to work together more and share best practices with each other. Overcoming challenges that the uncharted territory of digital transformation will bring alone is likely to be a rough road to travel. Instead, companies will need to discuss their lessons learned and bounce ideas off one another.
  4. Cultural change: Organizations will have to acknowledge that they are undergoing a total transformation, in both their production processes and their culture. One of the biggest misconceptions of Industry 4.0 is that it involves just equipment. Also, the time and commitment required to change an organization’s culture can be vastly underestimated.

These are the changes that IIoT might bring to manufacturing, but what can your business do now to prepare? First, take the proactive approach by equipping your workers with the technical skills they will need to face the future. According to Deloitte’s new study, 2.4 million manufacturing jobs are predicted to go unfilled in the next decade. This unprecedented number is being caused by a number of factors, including vast amounts of Baby Boomers retiring, a dearth of skilled workers and the younger generation not seeing manufacturing as a viable career.

But not just any training program will do. How well you train your workers will directly correlate with how well your company and workforce will be prepared for the IIoT future ahead. So what should you be looking for in a training program?

  1. Creates problem solvers: Find a training program that teaches critical-thinking skills. In manufacturing, workers who can troubleshoot is important for dealing with failures that inevitably happen with automated production lines in order to correct problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  2. Effective: Simply put, make sure your training program works. Investing in people to put them through training that isn’t effective is a waste of time and money, not to mention a real morale killer. And this goes for not just new hires, but existing workers as well. Upskilling your existing workforce will be essential in the digital future ahead. If you invest in new technology without the training, it’s possible this new technology won’t be used at all.
  3. Uses new tools: Among the advanced technologies entering into manufacturing plants is simulation, which has proven successful in training applications. Many companies and industries, including construction, are realizing new tools like simulation more efficiently train workers.  
  4. Scale: Being able to teach more workers will become increasingly important as the skills gap worsens. As mentioned above, many manufacturing jobs are predicted to go unfilled because so many people lack the skills to do the jobs. You will have to find ways to assess and train a lot of people quickly and efficiently, so make sure your training program is up for the task.

Training is paramount to incorporating new technology into your processes, which can then transform your organization. To survive and thrive in the digital revolution, your business will need the help of your people. Your job is to make sure they are prepared to do so.

We hope you feel inspired to prepare your workforce for the IIoT future of manufacturing. If you’d like to hear more from Samer himself, we’d love for you to join us at LiveWorx this June in Boston!


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IIOT and the human element

IIOT and the human element

As we anticipate Simutech Multimedia CEO Samer Forzley presenting at LiveWorx on June 11 in Boston, we wanted to give a little preview on his topic of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its impact on the manufacturing workforce.

Since we are in the dawn of IIoT, manufacturing is not what it was in your grandfather’s day. Advances in technology are making the industry smarter, cleaner and leaner, with more plants employing devices like PLCs and sensors and connecting them to the enterprise.

A report from Deloitte Insights entitled “The Smart Factory” explains this new way of operations as “ a leap forward from more traditional automation to a fully connected and flexible system—one that can use a constant stream of data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands.”

Some analysts are predicting that in certain industries, such as material handling, breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence will be driving operations close to complete automation in possibly five to 10 years. More sensors, connectivity and analytics are resulting in enormous changes in production and the capabilities of what can be achieved in facilities.

Collecting data is not new in manufacturing plants, it’s been done for awhile now, but what was being done with the data is questionable. In some operations, historical data was collected, but just sitting on the server. However, now historical data can be put through a machine-learning algorithm to predict defects in products produced. The result? Safer and better products produced with less waste.

What’s more is that plant machinery, powered by AI, is enabled to self-correct itself, thus, preventing even more failures and reducing downtime. However, what IIoT isn’t great at is predicting atypical, but certain events. When introducing an IIoT solution into a manufacturing plant, the environment it is being released in is a wildly unpredictable place. As we all know, the real world is strange, and like the adage associated with Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Anticipating million-to-one events might not seem like an enormous problem, until the number of IIoT devices employed are in the millions themselves. Then million-to-one events won’t be that unlikely.

When advanced automation devices fail, the results can be catastrophic. A worst-case scenario example of this is the recent Boeing accident, which early investigations are pointing to a faulty sensor at the root of the cause in tandem with other failures. The result has been a tragic loss of human lives as well as financial costs estimated at $1 billion for the company.

Of course, there is no comparison to the scale of the human suffering caused by this failure and the downtime caused by a sensor failing on a production line. However, what the two examples do have in common is when the equipment cannot fix itself and there is a major problem, human intervention will be needed to troubleshoot the situation.

No matter how close the industry is to “lights out” manufacturing, investing in workers and equipping them with the skills and know-how to fix an equipment failure will still be needed. After all, if the devices meant to boost productivity and efficiency are down, then they aren’t doing too much to help the bottom line, are they?

As for our customers, we are definitely seeing a rise in those looking to thoroughly understand PLCs and advanced automation devices, which is why we came out with our newest Troubleshooting Industrial Sensors Module.

But more than just simply meet a training need in the industry, we decided to use a 3D simulation platform for the module. We strongly believe that in order to be effective, training should be an immersive experience. Our newest module is designed to have a more realistic look and feel of an industrial environment, so users can understand the complexities of the modern manufacturing plant in a safe space.

In the next part of our IIoT series, we will take a look at how IIoT could affect the future of manufacturing work. And please join us at LiveWorx this June in Boston!


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