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By Amy Susan, Missouri Enterprise Communications Director 

Meet our newest team member, Dale Graves. He’s had years of experience in manufacturing, specifically working for major ammunition companies. He shares three tips on improving operations processes that could result in more bang for your buck. Thanks, Dale. 

Q: What is the most important thing you are seeing in manufacturing RIGHT NOW?

The one thing that seems to be constant with the majority of our clients is growth. Most manufacturers across the state are growing/expanding. From my perspective and past experience in manufacturing, when a company is in a state of growth/expansion, safety, quality, and production efficiencies can decline. It can be expensive to “grow”. There are always going to be challenges with growth. This makes it as critical as ever to make sure we have the continuous improvement tools fully functional during these times. 5S, flow, standard work, visual factory, all the lean tools, can ensure success and minimize the cost when growing and expanding.

Q: What can small to medium manufacturers learn from your experience?

I have had the opportunity to hold a variety of positions within the manufacturing world. I think my broad experience and views from different perspectives have allowed me to see the manufacturing world from all sides. I have worked in the engineering side of manufacturing, I have supervised and worked closely with the production floor employees, I have managed operations, I have managed very large expansion projects, and I managed production programs from the corporate view of the business. I think I can help the manufacturers in Missouri ensure they are aligned from the production floor to the CEO/President/Owner.

Q: What tips on improving operations processes do you have for manufacturing companies?

1. Ensure the production metrics align with the higher level corporate goals of the company. If production “succeeds” in their daily/weekly/monthly goals, it should translate to success for the company.
2. Make the factory as visual as possible. Visual production boards are powerful if implemented and used correctly on a daily basis. All employees should know and understand “what good looks like” on an hourly/daily/monthly basis.
3. Use the Continuous Improvement/Lean tools how they best fit for your facility. All production facilities are different, and all can incorporate the CI tools into their culture, but the people must be the owners.

Q: To you, what do you consider “a job well done” when working with a company?

I would define “a job well done” as simple as this. Define and agree upon “what good looks like” for what that client is trying to accomplish. Then put actions into place to go accomplish that. Once accomplished, I would say it’s a “job well done”.

Q: Now being on the other side and assisting manufacturing companies, what would you tell yourself as a manufacturer?

People are your biggest asset. Ensure they have the tools to succeed at their jobs and never underestimate the knowledge and power of an engaged workforce.

Q: Based on your experience, what is the biggest loss in time and money for manufacturers?

Unneeded reporting. Companies really need to question what is needed to be reported to effectively manage production. I was a GM for an ammunition company that had experienced extreme growth. When I arrived, our supervisors were spending 1.5 to 2 hours daily inputting production. We reduced that time to 10-15 minutes allowing the supervisors to be on the floor with their employees solving problems and doing their jobs effectively.

Q: In your previous career, how important was cyber security? Do you have a new perspective now that you are with the MEP center where cyber awareness and education are top priorities?

Working at a GOCO facility for 13 years making mil-spec ammunition for the US government, security was a high priority. We had required annual online training that kept us informed and aware of the importance and dangers out there with regards to cyber security. In today’s virtual world, cyber security needs to be a priority for all companies.