Part 1 of our Spotlight on Operations Management focussed on evolving expectations between companies and OMs. They were based on observations I have gleaned as a recruiter and liaison between employers and candidates. Today, I’d like to share some of the trending developments and shifting practices I’ve seen with regards to manufacturing facilities. Do these ring true for you? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the four items listed below, as well as any that I might have excluded.
One growing trend is lean manufacturing, which involves an intensified focus upon reducing waste and creating customer value throughout the supply chain. As competition is fierce, companies are sharpening their pencils in an effort to create efficiencies from top to bottom. Lean warehousing means carefully planning stock layout and warehouse logistics in order to save time and money. Increased efficiency of vehicle traffic and inventory control are examples. Careful scrutiny is paid to the way warehouse employees spend their time, with an eye towards minimizing downtime. Making sure that documentation is in order, that proper pathways are laid out and that automation techniques are optimized can reduce wasted man-hours. Transportation is also carefully analyzed. Fleet tracking software helps to ensure that the most efficient routes are taken even when it involves using multiple shipping companies. William McKinnon is president of Canadian Alliance, a third-party logistics (3PL) partner who promises ‘supply chain by design’. He highlights the benefits of focussing on lean practices:
“Manufacturers will benefit from taking the time to study their supply chain for opportunities to employ lean manufacturing methodologies. Even small, logical adjustments can reduce wastage, therefore saving dollars, man-hours and even raw materials.”
Fields Anew: the Cannabis Industry
Marijuana is now being utilized legally in Canada for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Although the situation is slightly more complex in the U.S. where federal and state laws are often at odds, suffice to say that on both sides of the border, marijuana is proving to be a gateway to many people’s true drug of choice: profit.
If you’re conjuring images of consumers meeting a guy in a van to score some bud that he grew at his mom’s acreage, think again. All aspects of the cannabis industry are well oiled and honed for business. Much has been said about those who advocate for it, sell it, and, of course, smoke it, but what about those who grow it? Demand for the product is sky-high and companies are focussed on supply. This means launching and operating state of the art facilities.
With most of these operations being just established, marijuana companies are jonesing for operations managers with a steady hand. Production will have to meet business objectives while also satisfying regulators and the end users, who will judge the product by smell, taste and the high it produces. As is typical with rapidly developing industries, the race is on to establish position. Operations managers are well-positioned to get in on the rush.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the concept of extending internet connectivity past traditional platforms and into any number of other ‘things’ that were traditionally not connected, or ‘dumb’. This concept could apply to your fridge, your car and, of course, throughout all aspects of production facilities. Manufacturers are increasingly utilizing IoT technology to reduce costs, increase efficiency, improve safety, meet compliance requirements and innovate products.
Business to business spending on IoT technology has proven very lucrative, with much of that spending driven by discrete manufacturing, transportation logistics and utilities. While several aspects of IoT, including predictive maintenance, haven’t taken off quite as quickly as initially projected, it’s a safe bet that it’s a technology that will continue to have more and more applications within all levels of industry.
As a result of this, expect an increased focus on IoT expertise for potential operations managers. The specifics will vary by industry but, as with all disruptive technologies, it presents both a threat and an opportunity: those OM candidates with a mastery of emerging technologies will go to the top of the proverbial stack, while those who do not may find themselves passed over.
Recent years have seen tremendous advancements in the capabilities and pervasiveness of 3D printing. The breakthrough has allowed for quicker and less expensive prototyping and tooling, creating more nimble companies able to manufacture “on demand”, while contributing to warehousing efficiencies. While 3D printing certainly doesn’t factor into all operations, it represents yet another technology that has become prevalent in recent years. A firm comprehension of its uses and applications will help set a candidate apart.
As technology continues to move forward at a rapid pace, industry responds accordingly. The most successful operations managers will stay up to date as practices emerge. Companies looking to embrace these changes will find themselves in need of the brightest and best OM’s to help navigate the way.