By Kindha Gorman

Full disclosure: I am new to the manufacturing scene. In my 20 year-career in communications, I have never had the pleasure of working with manufacturers – until now.

When I joined Raven, I had to get up to speed fast. In the rapidly changing world of artificial intelligence, things move quickly so I did my best to learn as much as I could in a short amount of time.

Enter my new favourite person, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

If you haven’t heard of him, Dr. Deming (1900-1993) was the rockstar of data science. Specializing in mathematical physics, he helped invent sampling techniques still used by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He was an engineer, statistician, professor, management consulting, and author. The guy was ahead of his time.

Not only was Dr. Deming book-smart, he was also insightful when examining human nature and motivation of work. He had keen interest in psychology and how it relates to the success of modern industry. He was a strong advocate for continuous improvement at all levels.  

Even though he said these things many years ago, they still ring true today, especially as they relate to manufacturing. Here are a few of insights that helped me understand manufacturing, and the link between technology and people:

  • There is no substitute for knowledge.

Most of the decisions we make at work are based are anecdotal evidence, experience, and intuition. There’s science supporting gut feeling a somewhat accurate decision-making tool. However, intuition should be complemented with cold, hard facts.  Those facts, or data, paired with other intuitive elements, make up a body of knowledge. Ideally, we examine both the data and our intuition to make decisions based on knowledge.

  • Money and time spent for training will be ineffective unless inhibitors to good work are removed.

Sometimes we look for the easy or fast solution to a problem without taking time to re-examine our process from beginning to end. We can have the most qualified team, the most advanced machines, and a great product, but no amount of money or training will fix a hidden obstruction. All elements of the production line must be evaluated and then inhibitors can be addressed.

  • The greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people.

Put another way, Elon Musk famously said, “Humans are underrated.” Even though manufacturing is quickly adopting more AI technologies into their processes, nothing beats the intelligence, intuition and motivation of a human being. Smart manufacturers are using AI to help people do their jobs better. AI can’t replace a person, but it can help a person be faster, efficient, and decisive. AI should augment ability, letting people do what they do best or work on more important things.

  • It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

Survival of the fittest is just as true in manufacturing as it is in nature. Given the speed of technological developments, it’s not an option to stick to outdated ways of doing things. While change might be a given, the best technology either integrates seamlessly into your process or improves it drastically.

  • All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride.

This one really hit home for me. It’s interesting to consider this as it relates to jobs most people would consider repetitive. As scientists discovered, people feel motivated when they have three things – a sense of autonomy, perceived value of the work, and competence in the task. All three things lead to a sense of pride in work. People tend to connect the success of the company with their own achievements, leading to increased motivation and productivity.

While I still have much to learn about manufacturing, my pal Dr. Deming has me off to a strong start.

About the author

Kindha Gorman is Raven’s Director of Communications. She has 20 years of experience in communications and teaches customer experience management at Algonquin College.

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