Whiteboard, production board, day by hour board so many names for the same thing – a visual representation of the production expectations on the floor. What needs to be produced for the day, the shift, the hour? The whiteboard, production board, day by hour board, all of them can tell you.
The concept of a whiteboard and production board on the floor isn’t new, but there is a better way to organize your data.
- A whiteboard and/or production board and/or day by hour board helps create awareness and visibility on the floor
- But, there are 6 big limitations of whiteboard effectiveness:
- Visibility is severely limited
- No consistency
- Recording data once an hour may not be enough
- Manual reporting is time-consuming
- Reporting is complicated
- Historical analysis is virtually non-existent
- Whiteboards vs. manufacturing analytics – which is more beneficial?
- Manufacturing analytics provides real-time data while reducing time and cost spent on manual reporting
A production board is easy, yes, but it’s also hard to do well. That’s the limitation – any manufacturer can use a whiteboard on the floor, but to do it well, requires a substantial amount of resources.
NOTE: For more clarification, a whiteboard, production board, and day by hour board are all the exact same thing. The names are often used interchangeably. Which name is used frequently depends on the manufacturer.
Throughout this blog, we will use all 3.
The 2 Benefits of a Production Board
If we’re being honest, there isn’t anything easier than buying a whiteboard and putting it out on the floor. It’s really low tech, there’s no training involved (theoretically), and it kind of works.
When we say it works, we mean it works for 2 reasons really.
1. The whiteboard makes the operator, the person doing the day-to-day work on the line, more mindful of the work they’re doing because they have to write down the numbers every hour, every day, for every cell or machine. Operators are now aware of what the day’s or shift’s target. They know where they stand at all times. Things like losses, big downtime events, basically anything that could keep operators from hitting targets to the production numbers at the end of the shift are transferred to the whiteboard.
2. It’s visual. Anyone walking by the whiteboard can easily understand where production is at any given time. A computer doesn’t need to be used to see where the problems are.
Those 2 reasons are why whiteboards became popular on the floor and continue to remain popular. Whiteboards are easy. If a manufacturer is going to record production manually, in a non-computerized system, a whiteboard is the better solution over traditional pen and paper. Paper doesn’t create any value until it is transferred to a report and someone looks at it. So, if you’re weighing the benefits of the two, whiteboards are the way to go.
So, why is a manufacturing analytics company touting the benefits of using a whiteboard on the floor to organize production? Well, we’re not, really. The point is to say, we understand why whiteboards are so common in factories and why they have continued to stick around. They have their uses. It’s better than nothing.
If you can get into the discipline of using a whiteboard and taking that data to make improvements, you’re taking the steps to develop a data-driven culture and create visibility and accountability in the plant. You’re on the way to becoming a world class manufacturer. You’re also on track to introduce automated software on the floor to improve those processes even more.
But, remember, if you can’t do that to start, automating that process isn’t going to help. Our goal is to be up front about the benefits of manufacturing analytics, and you have to have some of those reporting processes in place or be up to developing them to really succeed.
One of our favorite things to do to help manufacturers understand the benefits is to compare manufacturing analytics to sports. Who doesn’t love a good sports analogy?
It’s a beautiful spring day, you’ve booked a tee time at your favorite golf course for you and 3 friends. You bought $1,000 on new clubs, but you get there, and you still can’t quite swing the club right. Did those new clubs improve your game? No.
It’s a simple example, but “drives” the point home. If your game isn’t “up to par”, new equipment won’t fix the problem.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to say whiteboards are the greatest and best solutions, but to show they do have their uses and yet still have great limitations, too. The idea is that there is a better way to organize production and move forward with the use of technology.
Limitations of Whiteboards in the Plant
You didn’t think we’d talk about the benefits of whiteboards without talking about the limitations, right? At the end of the day, we are a software company.
There’s 6 big issues with a production board.
1. Visibility is Severely Limited
You don’t know what’s happening on the floor unless you’re standing in front of the day by hour board or someone sends a picture to you.
The day by hour board doesn’t help you stop problems as they’re going on and it doesn’t help you understand what will happen in the future, either. Essentially, it’s just a snapshot of the past, only giving you insight into what’s happened, and only if you’re physically standing in front of the whiteboard.
2. It’s Not Consistent
There will be a lot of variation in data reporting for 2 different operators on 2 different shifts. The way that 1 operator is going to record data and account for downtime will likely be different than the way another operator is going to do it.
If you’re trying to improve a process, consistency is really important. Consistent data is the key to continuous improvement.
3. Recording Data Once an Hour May Not be Enough
The number of times data is recorded is arbitrary and depends completely on the product you’re making and the needs of your company, but if a machine goes down for even a minute, it could mean thousands of parts weren’t produced.
While that is indicative of a high volume manufacturer, there is a similar use case on the low volume side, too. If you’re creating a part that takes 16 hours to make, and that machine goes down, it’s costing your company so much more time and money down the road.
In both scenarios, you may not know why the machine is down. What’s going on? What’s causing the delay? If you don’t know that information, what are the operators writing on the whiteboard? And, if they’re writing that data down at the end of each hour or shift, is it too late?
4. Manual Reporting is Time-Consuming
Let’s estimate and say each operator is spending 10-15 minutes per shift manually writing down data on the whiteboard. That manual effort takes them away from value-added activities. If you run more than 1 shift, just think of the soft costs you’re accruing by relying on manual data collection.
5. Reporting is Complicated
Other people will need to see the data that is written on the whiteboard. Will your CEO walk out on the floor just to see today’s production numbers on the whiteboard? Probably not. Someone is going to have to take that data, compile a report, and send it out.
Maybe that means simply taking a picture of the whiteboard and texting it to everyone. Or, someone is walking around with a clipboard and piece of paper to write down the most important numbers. For the latter, that person takes the data, summarizes, creates a report in Excel, and emails it to everyone when it’s done – maybe every other day, once a month, or maybe, even never. The big waste here is that someone has to collect the data and aggregate it.
6. Historical Analysis is Virtually Non-Existent
If you want to go back and look at trends to understand why production, downtime, or any other key metric was higher or lower last quarter versus this quarter, it’s going to be a very manual process.
You’ll either need to go back to the Excel spreadsheets (that were maybe compiled) or find the pictures of the whiteboards that were texted to you. Compared to an electronic system that could do that in seconds, it’s a very convoluted, tedious process.
With a standard production board, stopping problems as they happen would be virtually impossible. If you’re only using a whiteboard to track production, you’re missing out on key data needed to stop problems on the floor. If the whiteboard is only creating more visibility by standing in front of it, ask yourself, and be honest, how often are you really standing in front of that board?
Production Board vs. Manufacturing Analytics
One of the best stories that really illustrates the comparison between the effectiveness of a whiteboard and manufacturing analytics is the story of a weekly meeting.
With the use of a traditional whiteboard, people are going to see a weekly Excel summary of last week’s data, But, the kicker is that it’s only a summary. It won’t include all of the details. So, if you’re sitting in a conference room reviewing last week’s data, what happens when someone asks a question that requires more data?
The conversation could go something like this:
Bob: “We’re fully booked on orders. If we were able to keep up last month, why can’t we keep up now?”
You: “Well, we’ve had more downtime.”
Bob: “Okay, why?“
You: “I’m not sure. We’d have to review last week’s data and look at each instance of downtime.”
Bob: “Why isn’t that in the report and why am I just now hearing about it?”
You: “This report is just a summary. We’ll need to go back to the paper or pictures of the whiteboard to know why that detail isn’t in this report.”
While that’s just an example, the scenario can play out in a number of ways – particularly reflecting whatever issue your plant is facing. Imagine how different the conversation would be if you had an easy-to-use tool like SensrTrx to replace a static whiteboard? You’d have the data at your fingertips.
Why You Should Replace the Whiteboard (or the Day by Hour Board)
Maybe you’re hesitant to switch from the production board you’ve always used to a computerized system. You may view the new solution as complicated or think it won’t work for your or won’t be as flexible. It’s normal to have these thoughts.
But, remember, a whiteboard is actually making reporting more complicated. The level of flexibility you have now can also be a major downfall. Yes, you can write down whatever you want on a whiteboard, but that means it’s the wild west of data collection. A system enforces a little bit of structure and supports consistent reporting.
Foster an Engaged Culture
Let’s talk about culture for a minute. Even if you don’t use a day by hour board well, or at all, in your plant, collecting, using, and sharing the data with everyone will require a culture change within your company. Unsurprisingly, this can make people hesitant, even if they currently use day by hour boards on the floor. The move to create accountability and real-time visibility can be daunting for some, but it’s worth the effort.
Culture is a vital component of the success of your company. When you start using tools that create an engaged workforce (like SensrTrx), your bottom line will benefit. To learn more about employee engagement and an inclusive culture, check out this blog.
This is where we switch from talking about the problems of the whiteboard to the solutions that can improve these processes. Of course, we’ll insert a sales pitch here, but SensrTrx, or really any manufacturing analytics solution, will improve the organization that a day by hour board started. Here’s why.
Eliminate Manual Reporting with Manufacturig Analytics
Whiteboards and day by hour boards are great, but they do have severe limitations. It’s truly an example of the great limitations of manual reporting, of any kind. Even if a whiteboard is very well executed, and many are, it is still a fraction as powerful as a manufacturing analytics solution.
With manufacturing analytics, you get the same benefits, but none of the limitations. Think real-time feedback, stopping problems as they happen, automatic historical analysis, without human intervention, production reports sent to those who need it.
It’s all done through the software. To talk even more about the examples we discussed earlier:
- You don’t need someone to analyze the data and compile it to Excel. If Tom is on vacation and he normally sends out weekly reports, that task will still get done through the software.
- If you wonder why you were meeting production last month, but aren’t this month, historical analysis can be done easily and quickly to get to the root of the problem.
Most importantly, you, or any other member of your team, don’t have to stand in front of the production board to know what’s happening now or what happened in the past. You have the information at your fingertips.
And it doesn’t have to be complex.
Most of the time, manufacturers are counting downtime, parts, and scrap, and that can all be done with a photo-eye sensor.
Add a scoreboard to the mix and now you can get real-time information on a single screen, giving you insight into how your machines and the whole department are running. Anything you want to see, you can add, and anyone can see it.
Oh, and now the operators aren’t spending any time calculating this information and writing it down on a whiteboard. Even better, all of the data is consistent.
Think about all of the money you’ll save on markers.
Read More of Our Blog
SensrTrx Manufacturing Productivity Software
SensrTrx is manufacturing productivity and analytics software that provides real-time visibility on the factory floor to help reduce downtime, improve on-time delivery, and increase profitability of manufacturing companies
About the Author
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of SensrTrx. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights.
Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.