How to build World-Class Manufacturing Facility?
CertainTeed is part of Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest building materials companies and manufacturer of innovative material solutions.
• What are some of the most common/unique productivity challenges facing manufacturers? What are some of the underlying causes for these challenges?
One of the greatest challenges facing manufacturers today is the speed at which we need to develop and deliver products that meet customers’ changing demands. A key part of that is understanding customers’ needs in the first place by creating listening mechanisms. Some large companies get into the mindset that they’ll always be profitable and design products based on what they think the customer wants. We’re in a different environment now. If there is no mechanism to continually listen to customers, companies aren’t able to adapt, innovate and meet their customers’ needs. As a leading North American brand of exterior and interior building products, CertainTeed utilizes information technology, artificial intelligence and other methods to obtain actionable information and feedback, whether it’s from B2B distributors, architects, building owners, direct consumers or our employees. With this feedback, we’re better prepared to become even more operationally excellent to create products and solutions that make buildings more livable and more dynamic for our customers while enforcing leaner and faster operations across the board.
• Please describe a specific productivity challenge (or set of challenges) CertainTeed was faced with in the last 5-10 years. What did CertainTeed do to improve its processes and address the challenges?
The entire manufacturing and construction landscape faces labor shortages that threaten our industry. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 500,000 jobs in manufacturing remain unfilled, and that number will increase to 2.5 million in the next 10 years. This is a great source of opportunity, but it can also put stress on the existing workforce, especially if those jobs are repetitive or labor-intensive. CertainTeed is embracing this challenge as an opportunity to build the next generation workforce – and to change the way we work now. For example, in many of our accounting and HR functions, we’re utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to create rules and logic that reduce manual data entry. In some of our manufacturing functions, we’ve found ways to integrate robotics to make certain manual tasks easier for our employees. We’ve also spent a lot of time studying processes to make them recurring and not dependent on individual employee knowledge. By moving away from a labor-intensive stance, CertainTeed is more agile and able to spend more time attracting and developing great talent. We are continuing to invest in workforce development programs to change the perception of careers in manufacturing and construction to build tomorrow’s workforce today.
• Given the vast number of building products CertainTeed makes and distributes, what are some of the technologies and best practices it employs to be productive and profitable (e.g. better packaging, less waste, smarter supply chains, strategically located facilities, etc.)?
Across CertainTeed, we have a number of activities in place, utilizing technology to improve productivity and profitability. It’s critical for companies that want to succeed to be data-centric. We have a centralized data science team that helps us leverage data to be more predictive and productive. One example, we employ monitoring technology within our critical equipment, which allows us to minimize downtime and proactively schedule maintenance, as opposed to running equipment to failure and having unplanned downtime in order to fix it. If a part is wearing down or something is off, we get automatic alerts and can respond right away. Another example, many of our boxing and palletizing operations are automated, which saves time and labor, and most of our shipping is paperless. Rather than having paper inventory transfer and packing slips, our forklifts have a touch-panel HMI (human machine interface), which allows our products to be transported from the factory, tracked to a final destination and shipped without a lot of time-consuming paperwork. With 200 trucks shipping daily from some of our locations, you can imagine the savings over time.
• How do you define CertainTeed’s “World-Class Manufacturing” methodology? What does that mean to you and what are some of the ways you use technology/Iogistics/supply chain management to confront challenges?
We define World-Class Manufacturing (WCM) as our commitment to continuous improvement and operational excellence. This is expressed in three stages: understanding your losses; eliminating your losses; and putting a system in place to sustain improvement. We utilize continuous improvement tools such as Lean, Six Sigma, TPM and Kaizen. Engaging the process experts – the talented women and men who perform the work – we identify the need or the loss to our business, implement technology to eliminate the problem and add controls to sustain the success. WCM is the driver behind many of these technology improvements.
• What are some ways CertainTeed leverages information technology (IT) to achieve its goals? What big IT improvements has CertainTeed made in the last few years to improve its processes (internally or in the field)?
To be effective, you need real-time data. Information technology helps us achieve this. If you don’t have a system or platform to help you make decisions in near real time, it’s almost too late. CertainTeed recently invested in a big data platform to help our sales divisions, supply chain, and manufacturing plants gain agility. In addition to this, we’ve rolled out common enterprise resource planning (ERP) across all business units, which helps us automate many of our back office functions, improve internal efficiency and improve product monetization. We’re launching a platform for product information management (PIM) to help us manage the launch and commission of new products. This will give our business units an accurate, centralized view of product data that helps us create compelling literature, develop effective selling strategies and optimize the product lifecycle. We’ve also strengthened our cybersecurity defenses, as cyber threats are increasing in the industrial environment.
• How does sustainability factor into CertainTeed’s business practices? How does CertainTeed balance productivity with the need for sustainable practices?
As part of Saint-Gobain, sustainability is embedded in everything we do, and it’s something we measure in all of our products. We use Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to quantify and interpret environmental impacts, such as emissions and energy consumption, over the entire life cycle of a product, process or service. Across all our divisions, we try to offer affordable products that enhance users’ comfort and well-being while also reducing overall environmental impacts. For example, CertainTeed operates a program to reclaim and recycle old ceiling panels, which reduces landfill waste and virgin raw material use while saving energy and resources. Our roofing manufacturing facilities recycle a significant portion of production waste into asphalt materials used for road construction. We also integrate recycled content into packaging materials such as corrugated rolls and kraft paper.
• What are some methods CertainTeed employs to help its employees be more successful and productive?
CertainTeed works closely with its employees to get their feedback and identify new technologies to increase productivity and comfort. At our North American headquarters in Malvern, Pennsylvania, we’ve created a living laboratory that can monitor employee productivity related to the use of more than 60 of Saint-Gobain’s sustainable building materials. With a systems-based approach, we are increasing worker comfort and well-being every day through improvements in visual, acoustical and thermal comfort. In fact, more than 91 percent of our HQ employees reported feeling healthier because of indoor air quality improvement. By eliminating discomfort, you are able to increase employee productivity and job satisfaction.
• What are your general recommendations to manufacturing companies in approaching process improvements?
Thanks to the Internet, today’s consumers come to the table well-informed about what your business and the competition have to offer. Employees come to work better informed about the methods competitors are employing to improve productivity and worker comfort. The only way to stay on top of this is for manufacturers to embrace technology and use it to respond to the needs of customers and employees. This means making customer intimacy a priority and employing ways to actively listen and quickly respond to customer and employee feedback. Agility is the key to staying profitable in this environment. Big data, continuous improvement tools, dynamic listening systems and predictive maintenance all part of that equation. Technology can and should be leveraged to help manufacturers become more self-aware, understand their weaknesses and improve their processes.