New Year's resolutions

Find the Resolve to Resolve your Issues

Jan. 30, 2020
Data points the way to a company's improvement—but only if it's evaluated within the proper context.

Welcome to February! Everybody who is continuing to keep their New Year’s resolutions, please raise your hands.

I’ll wait. (Pause.) Not too many hands there.

Anyone else?

Me, either. I had vowed to eat well, exercise frequently, stretch out my aging body and generally get myself in some kind of shape. After a month, I’m getting to the gym more, and I’m eating a little better, and I’m able to touch my toes, but I’d hardly call this effort a strict adherence to my 2020 resolutions. As with most of us, I failed to find the resolve to meet my resolutions.

This got me to thinking: Is there a word with two more opposite meanings than resolution? Resolution means both a decision to act and the completion of that act. The thing is, what you first resolve to do and how that decision is ultimately resolved can be two very different things.

Resolving to improve operations is a fundamental goal of every business each new year. In many places, the idea of continuous improvement is a benchmark principle. Yet those are ambiguous ideas for many people unless there is the resolve by leadership to see those concepts through to execution, and an understanding by the full team of the value of such improvement.

Data points the way to improvement. The vast amounts of data available to operations teams today is overwhelming—and in many cases, the other definition of overwhelming. It can mean impressive or stifling, depending on how much is coming at you and where you’re standing when you’re overwhelmed.

One of the basic opportunities in the Digital Age is the ability not just to collect data, but to convert that data into knowledge, and then to allow the operations teams to turn that knowledge into action. The challenge is in finding the right context for that data so that each person who will access it finds just what is needed to better understand the true nature of the operation and find places for improvement.

With the pace of change, however, this can be a formidable obstacle. One-third of Machine Design readers said in this year’s Salary Survey that the challenge of staying current with new technology keeps them up at night. That’s a lot of engineers pacing the floor at 3 a.m.

So it takes resolve to meet those challenges. It’s not enough to talk about IIoT or the Digital Twin any longer. The time to actually turn these shiny ideas into action is upon us. It will take more than resolve, of course. It also will take capital investments and additional training at a time when manufacturing investment appears to be at a standstill.

But one of the greatest lessons from the 2008 recession is that many operations doubled down on both training and investment in the economic slowdown, then reaped the benefits more quickly when the economy began to improve. This isn’t the time to back off of investments in our operations. This is the time to resolve to move forward.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some toes to touch.

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