“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” - Harvey Mackay
Improved processes and state-of-the-art technology can deliver better performance and insights into manufacturing operations that drive significant financial savings and higher customer – and employee – satisfaction. There is one thing, however, these capabilities cannot change, and that's time. You only have 168 hours in a week. How you manage against this constant may be one of your tougher challenges.
New capabilities typically focus on increasing production throughput and quality or reducing costs in the manufacturing process. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics are usually evaluated in relation to time, but what if you consider time as an asset itself – time as a currency? It can provide a completely unique perspective.
Personally, we exchange our time to work, play, be with our families, eat and if we are lucky get enough sleep. We make decisions about how we allocate this currency of time as it affects our ability to provide for our families and invest in ourselves (i.e., eating for nourishment, sleeping to regenerate). Time is even budgeted to provide guardrails for how we spend it. And through work, we directly and indirectly exchange our time for things such as food, lodging and entertainment.
But what about time as a currency?
Monetizing time is not new. Social media platforms, for example, are thriving based on content creators uploading recordings of funny, serious, nonsensical, and other types of material to capture views, which in turn drive advertising revenue. Just like manufacturers, content creators face intense pressure to generate output (content in this case) and experience similar resource constraints. Their output, however, is not measured in pounds or gallons, but in time – minutes of video (of arguably varying quality) to capture eyeballs.
How can viewing time as a currency offer value in manufacturing operations? Consider it as an enhancement to your current, well-established key performance indicators and metrics like overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Tracking availability, performance and quality are foundational metrics and drive valuable insights, especially in relation to time, but they do not tell you how to prioritize your opportunities for improvement.
Automatically focusing on the lowest OEE component of your manufacturing operation, for example, may not be the most valuable place to invest. When looking at production through the lens of time as a currency, you naturally focus on returning hours to production and identify actions that will make the biggest contributions of recovered hours to production.
What tools can you use to better manage time and recoup hours that are ignored, lost or written off as waste?
Closed-loop problem solving, building on data that is likely already captured, can feed continuous process improvement initiatives to analyze bottlenecks, investigate time loss through waterfall and Pareto charts, develop and track actions for improvement based on the analyses, and then monitor efforts and progress through scorecards tailored for the manufacturing process. Using time as a currency allows you to analyze operations throughout the entire process with a common, monetized unit of measure, which allows your analysis to span across different operations and still view aggregate results.
With this new orientation to time, you move beyond ratios and percentages to working directly on financial impacts that help you focus your improvement efforts. As you mature in your capabilities, integrating additional data from other critical systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) can make the data and insights even more valuable.
Stay tuned for future articles in this series as we explain how to use time as a currency to drive operational performance.
Seasoned leader in digital transformation strategy and solutions, with a strong background in ERP, analytics and OT/IT convergence. Residing in Milwaukee, WI, Troy enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, reading, and cheering on his beloved Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers.