Perspective from a Former Plant Manager

The Labor Dilemma 

As a plant manager, unit manager and departmental supervisor throughout my career, my day went something like this. Get to work early and assess the plans one more time before executing. Everything looks good, or at least the challenges are manageable – except for headcount.  We need 120 in production positions to complete the day without overtime and after call outs from full-time, I’m down to 113. Then, I move to my temporary staff positions which make up 15-20% of my team depending on the season which is about 18 folks, 8 of which are no shows or have yet to call and let us know their status.  Now, the team has to figure out a way to make up a 12.5% staffing deficiency through productivity and overtime, or not complete orders. This scenario occurs all too often, despite the variety of attendance policies promising to solve the issue.

And now, to make matters worse, we face arguably the most competitive job market in the United States.  Employees are changing jobs at a mind-blowing pace, walking away from full-time jobs with benefits and security for an increase in pay of less than $1 at times. For those not in full-time employment, many continue to circulate from unsuccessful position to unsuccessful position without the new hiring manager having transparency of past performance.  Employers are having to depend on a third party to assure them that the next person will have the values or work history needed to make them successful in their environment. However, we rarely (if ever) get to validate those claims.

The Veryable Solution

As a manufacturing and distribution manager, I always wanted to see behind the curtain. I wanted to see where that 15-20% of my labor force had worked and how they performed. I wanted an operational tool that gave me visibility and transparency to their background. I needed to access these folks on-demand, for a term that I needed, based on the reality of my production or forecast. I wanted all this and more… Access to this tool for myself and for my leadership team would be vital, giving me access to a labor pool and giving them the autonomy to “run their business”.

The good news is that this technology already exists!  Veryable has brought this tool to the marketplace and it is being used by early adopters in manufacturing and distribution in many states. Veryable’s digital platform is enabling businesses and workers to control their respective calendars according to their needs. Scaling to demand quickly, finding the right fit, and creating transparency in supply via “operator ratings.”  For operational leaders, providing a useful tool they can control as opposed to waiting on a third party is a breakthrough. For businesses, the proven cost-reduction in overhead expense and reporting toolkit is a welcomed change. For operators, Veryable provides the opportunity to take control of their career and develop skills and work experience, building themselves a reputation that precedes them wherever they go. With this, Veryable is driving personal accountability in the workforce like never before, which ultimately benefits everyone in the market.

Veryable is here now and it is being used by many leaders in manufacturing and distribution, changing the competitive landscape. To learn more about this operational tool that is challenging the status quo, go to


Forecasting versus Flexibility

Forecasts, by definition, will always be wrong. The degree to which they are wrong varies widely – the magnitude of the gap is often a factor of demand planning techniques and tools, market factors, changing customer preferences, and operational strategy. In terms of strategy, many businesses seek to find the “sweet spot” between forecasting and operational flexibility; they ebb and flow across the forecasting-flexibility spectrum with changes in leadership preferences, business models, and enabling technology.

How does demand planning work?

Understanding where the sweet spot lies starts with understanding how demand planning typically works in practice. For most manufacturers, demand planning is a labor-intensive process that often requires full-time dedicated resources. Demand planners tend to rely on a number of factors: firm order book, sales forecasts, market intelligence, industry trends, historical data, and seasonality. These factors are then loaded into statistical models – many of which are very sophisticated – and the results form the basis of the demand plan. The demand plan is then scrutinized by a cross-functional set of stakeholders and will often undergo a number of iterations before being finalized by leadership. The demand plan is often a major driver of the financial budget and guidance.

Despite the level of sophistication, demand planning is always an imperfect exercise and requires a significant amount of judgement and assumption. The process and results are analogous to traders trying to anticipate the financial markets – the projections may be directionally correct but the market is ultimately a random walk.

Finding the Sweet Spot

A robust Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) should be the primary mechanism by which companies begin to converge toward the sweet spot. It is not feasible for operations leaders to develop a supply plan exactly aligned with the demand plan due to potential implications on inventory, supply chain shocks, capex, and labor costs. In addition, demand plans are typically applicable over one fiscal quarter; given that demand is never constant over a 3-month period, operations leaders have to be prepared to adapt to daily variation across that time period.

Leading companies find the sweet spot by developing capabilities to increase flexibility and agility. Good examples of these capabilities include product platforming, design for manufacturability, supply chain redundancy, postponement, and temporary labor. These capabilities allow companies to neutralize the impact of product variation on operations. At Veryable, we believe that the right approach is a “flexibility first” mentality that then pulls in the demand plan to set the broader boundary conditions. Forecast accuracy tends to decrease as you traverse down to the product/component level so the key is finding the appropriate hinge point where forecasts are credible across a broader category and the remaining variation can be managed with operational flexibility.

Impact on Direct Labor

In a previous blog titled New Take on Temporary Staffing, we explored how temporary labor has traditionally been used to embed higher levels of flexibility and agility in the supply plan. This blog presented some of the challenges and limitations around the current paradigm, namely the fixed period costs, productivity challenges, and lack of choice and availability. These limitations are becoming more poignant by the day as customer preferences evolve faster, delivery expectations become more demanding, and cost pressures increase. Companies do not have the luxury of planning temporary labor 3 weeks out and retaining temporary workers in weekly installments. Direct labor planning ultimately has to give companies the ability to adapt in real time.

At Veryable, we believe the next paradigm shift is bringing labor flexibility down to a very finite level, aligned to daily, or even hourly, production schedules. The on-demand economy gives us the opportunity to introduce these higher capabilities, as well as usher in a whole new set of workforce participants into the equation. Leading companies are starting to think this way and are having much more success adapting to today’s market.

For more information about the on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse applications, please view our website:

Higher Demands on Manufacturing

The New Manufacturing Environment 

At Veryable, we refer to it as “The Amazon Effect.”  If you own or operate a manufacturing business today, you may not be familiar with this phrase but you are most likely experiencing its impact.  The Amazon Effect alludes to the rapid increase in customer expectations across all industries and sectors: short lead times, high on-time delivery, customized products and services, shorter product life cycles, and personalized customer service.  In short, having a custom product on your doorstep within days is the new bar for customer expectations.

In light of the increasing customer demands, operational flexibility and agility have never been more important.  Manufacturers are feeling the squeeze: delighting the customer and continuing to increase productivity are difficult to achieve in parallel and are requiring many companies to rethink their operating models.  Successful businesses today cannot survive without doing both.

Impact on Manufacturing Businesses

“The assembly line can only work only if you have a standardized product” – Henry Ford

The ability to efficiently manage fixed assets and human capital with the help of technology enablers is the key to driving productivity and responsiveness.  Traditional supply planning methods are about targeting averages – this frequently leaves companies behind the ball during order spikes and with inflated cost structures during the troughs.  With many solutions now emerging to improve fixed asset efficiency, we see antiquated labor management practices as the next barrier toward unlocking a manufacturing renaissance in higher cost regions.  Operations managers know that that the real key to success is through operational flexibility, i.e., striving for the mythical “infinite flexible capacity.”

The New Paradigm for Labor Supply Management

We believe that the landscape is ready for a new paradigm shift that gets us closer to the operations manager’s aspiration.  The on-demand economy gives manufacturers a new option for labor flexibility and Veryable has developed an on-demand labor solution specifically catering to manufacturing and distribution environments.  Our vision is to create a real-time marketplace for labor on demand where businesses like yours never have to turn down orders due to labor capacity constraints and never get stuck with an inflated cost structure in a down cycle.  Infinite flexible capacity is now a real possibility.

Introduction to LEAN 4.0

Lean manufacturing is ready for its next iteration.  While Lean theory draws upon practices that have been around for centuries, the commonly practiced version of Lean today is somewhere between 60 and 80 years old dating back to the early days of TPS.  The market, however, has changed quite a bit since the 1940s and 1950s.  This blog does not intend to question the core value of Lean as an operating philosophy; generally speaking, Lean in its current form works and works across a broad spectrum of environments.  Rather, we believe that today’s landscape offers practitioners new capabilities, consistent with traditional Lean theory, that can take business performance and manufacturing theory to the next level.  It starts with questioning the uses of TAKT and Heijunka.

A quick introductory story

I had a client once, a medium sized industrial equipment manufacturer, that reached out to help address a stagnant growth situation.  They were a fairly mature Lean shop with robust planning and operational practices.  However, they had only managed to achieve 1% YOY revenue growth over the last 3 years despite a healthy market and growing customer base.

They would conduct demand planning analysis on a quarterly basis (every 13 weeks) to determine their line rates for the quarter and were pretty rigid about communicating product lead times to the market.  Their typical lead times were 2-6 weeks, where 2 weeks was approximately industry standard, and lead times were adjusted weekly based on their firm backlog.

Whenever large order volumes came in, the plant would smooth out the demand over future weeks and extend lead times accordingly.  Not surprisingly, as the plant whittled away at the order book, few new orders came in until lead times returned closer to 2 weeks.  The analysis concluded that they were missing ~50% of potential business due to this accordion pattern.  It’s the classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy that all too many manufacturers deal with today.  You could grow your business if you eliminated self-imposed constraints and listened more closely to the market.

The problem with averages

“The assembly line can only work only if you have a standardized product” – Henry Ford

While Ford’s claim specifically refers to a production line, it’s reasonable to extrapolate his point to apply to a broader notion of “progressive flow.”  Furthermore, to what lengths can we extrapolate the notion of a “standardized product”?  Is it limited to product platforms, the whole portfolio, the whole product strategy?  Our contention is that it’s most useful to think in terms of the entire product strategy, e.g., design, feature, cost, lead times, etc.  Now ask yourself: how much functional standardization do I actually have across my product portfolio and manufacturing strategy?

It’s not a stretch to restate Ford’s claim as such: “Progressive flow is difficult, and potentially impossible, if you have high degrees of variation in product design and customer requirements.”  More often than not, the problems we see in manufacturing stem from businesses unsuccessfully fighting to reconcile this statement on a daily basis.  Establishing a progressive flow environment relies on planning around averages.  High degrees of variation widen the gaps between the averages, which are the basis of your production plan, and your daily production requirements.  The result is a production environment that is inconsistent with market expectations.

Quantum TAKT and Heijunka

If we’re learning anything from the current environment, it should be that customer-centricity and speed win in today’s market.  Traditional TAKT and Heijunka scheduling are inherently at odds with both.  You can imagine an environment 50 years ago where you had a handful of SKUs and you were the only player offering such products.  Given that you had your customer base hostage to a small catalog and varying lead times, you could trust averages and apply production smoothing mechanisms to level out daily requirements and keep costs as low as possible.

The game has changed, however, and customers are not tolerating anything short of how they want it, when they want it.  Ignoring this need can be a death sentence for businesses and stubbornly applying old fashioned TAKT and Heijunka practices makes you incompatible with your customers.  The answer lies in shrinking the time horizon – going from a 13-week TAKT calculation to a daily or less TAKT calculation (i.e., Quantum TAKT).  Anticipating demand in 13-week increments is not good enough anymore.  Demand in today’s environment needs to be dealt with at the lowest and most finite possible level.

Introducing Lean 4.0

All innovation in the digital manufacturing environment can boil down to improving the precision of your operations, either through asset/human capital performance or operational intelligence.  How you think about Lean’s role in the future should be no different.

In a series of upcoming blogs, we will take a more comprehensive look at Lean 4.0, but starting with this core premise is critical: if what you’re doing is incompatible with the needs of the market than it’s time to evolve or someone else will.  It’s about building in complete flexibility and agility to achieve your full market entitlement.  In a sense, it’s about eliminating (potentially all) demand planning to liberate your business to win the series of possible games versus the single game you are anticipating.  Only then will you break the shackles of a production philosophy that pulls you back to your original estimate instead of reaching your full market potential.

Step one in this journey is to set table stakes on what the market requires and work backward to optimize internal flexibility and agility.  Does the market require 1,000 variations of your core product at 2-week lead times across the portfolio?  If so, you will probably need to focus on establishing TAKT in finite increments, employing Heijunka only within those intervals, better localizing your supply chain, and taking advantage of on-demand labor to eliminate labor related capacity constraints.  Perhaps IoT, additive manufacturing technologies, and wearables would help address the perceived challenges in doing these things.  Leading companies are already orienting their strategies accordingly – today it’s a matter of playing offense but soon it will be a matter of defense.

Stay tuned for more in our Lean 4.0 series.  For more information about Veryable on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse applications, please view our website at: or

Digital Manufacturing: Onwards to 2018

If you were waiting all year for the big digital manufacturing revolution and subsequent manufacturing renaissance, don’t worry you didn’t miss it.  While it’s true that U.S. manufacturing output and employment have risen significantly over the last year, this is more the product of overall economic health and less the result of any wide adoption of a new manufacturing ethos.

New paradigm shifts in manufacturing are rare and driving change in manufacturing takes a good bit of time.  But whether it’s 5 years from now, 10 years, or 20 years, digital manufacturing is where we are heading and you should be thinking about what you’re doing to prepare your business for it.  Adopting digital manufacturing techniques today is playing offense.  If you wait too long, you’ll be playing defense.

The Digital Manufacturing Framework

In a previous blog series, we laid out some basic frameworks for how to think about the broader digital manufacturing use case.  In this blog, we will overlay a couple of these frameworks to orient use cases evolving in today’s landscape.

Any time you hear about an emerging manufacturing technology, it will likely fall into one or more of four general categories of use cases:

— IoT / Connected Factory – operational intelligence, big data, analytics, etc.
— Automation – robots, cobots, factory control, etc.
— Additive Manufacturing – 3D printing, etc.
— Workforce Enablement – on-demand labor, augmented reality, haptics and optics, etc.

In addition, each of these use case categories derives value by impacting what we call four manufacturing focus areas:

— Machines – predictive maintenance, OEE, asset productivity, etc.
— Materials – inventory optimization, materials availability, etc.
— Flow / Flexibility – bottleneck optimization, real-time production monitoring, etc.
— Labor – labor productivity, production flexibility and agility, etc.

It’s important to consider both of these dimensions when evaluating the digital manufacturing landscape since only through the two combined can you build a business case that links technology to use case to value creation driver to value created.

Where do we stand at the end of 2017?

With few exceptions, we approach the end of 2017 in the same place we were a year ago.  This should come as no surprise to most – manufacturing as a sector is stubborn and conservative.  It’s difficult to drive meaningful and lasting change, and doing so requires the coordination among many stakeholders, inside and outside the four walls of the factory, as well as solution design, implementation planning, and the allocation of capital.

So we stand today with an idea of what the future looks like and a general understanding of the technologies and use cases that enable the future vision.  The following table gives some examples of those use cases.

The fact of the matter is that manufacturing change takes time and the value creation mechanism has to be clear.  Implicitly, everyone knows that each of these use cases could create tremendous value but the level of uncertainty around implementation requirements, time to value, vendor selection, etc. has led to another year of general stagnation.

What should we expect in 2018?

Until there are tangible case studies and demonstrated value in the marketplace, expect the digital manufacturing revolution to continue to make only modest gains.  From our vantage point, the pace is being stalled by a preoccupation with the most difficult use cases: those involving machine intelligence and central IT infrastructure.  It’s an odd place to start due to the difficultly of implementation but it’s also no surprise that this is the case.  The providers of machine-oriented IoT based solutions like GE, Siemens, Rockwell Automation, etc. are the same OEMs with an existing installed base and have been first to market solutions.  The large tech companies with cloud based operational intelligence platforms are also in the game but lack the installed base at the equipment level.

The fastest way to drive large scale adoption is to refocus on the primary sources of value like labor productivity and growth enablement.  At Veryable, we believe that labor flexibility should be the tip of the spear that subsidizes other value add use cases as illustrated in the figure below.

For most manufacturers, the most productive way to think of machine and flow oriented use cases is to view them as enablers for higher labor productivity and throughput.  Starting with labor will put the business case in your hands and the rest will follow logically.

For more information about Veryable on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse applications, please view our website at: or

Veryable: An Alternative to Job Seeking

We’ve all been there before – experiencing the twists, turns, and dead ends of job seeking.  You post your resume on countless job boards and you apply to all the jobs you can find.  Most of the time you don’t hear a single word back.  Other times, you’re invited for interviews only to show up and find out that the job has been filled.  All that time wasted with nothing to show for it.

No job seeking with Veryable

Our goal is to eliminate the hassle of job seeking and put people directly to work.  Signing up with Veryable takes about 15 minutes and is done remotely from your mobile App.  Once you complete the background check and a few other quick sign-up steps in the App, you can begin working immediately.

There’s no catch

The job seeking process is inefficient for everyone – so we have come up with a way to connect people to companies more efficiently.  Manufacturing and warehousing companies need workers quickly and people want work that fits their personal schedules.  A win-win solution is the best kind of solution.

Technology helps connect people

There’s a reason this type of on-demand model is new.  Before everyone had smartphones, connecting people was time consuming and difficult.  You had to talk on the phone or meet in person.  Smartphones and mobile Apps now give us the ability to connect a large group of people to companies.  These companies can request help at any time and everyone with the App can see the opportunity.  No gimmicks, just work – shown to you in real time.

Does this replace jobs?

The answer to this depends on your personal needs.  Many of our operators are looking to make full-time income using the Veryable service.  Others want to find part-time work opportunities that fit their busy schedules.  Others want to make extra money on top of their full-time jobs.  How you use Veryable is totally up to you.

To find out more, download the mobile App from our website:  You can also download directly from the Apple store or Google Play or complete our Web Form if you’re away from your phone.  For any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Veryable recruiting team at (214) 310-0424.

Frequently Asked Questions for Business Users

We are pleased to announce that Veryable is growing quickly across the DFW metroplex!  Many businesses are already benefiting from the ability to scale quickly with Veryable on-demand labor – both increasing their top line growth and improving the bottom line with better labor productivity.

For both current business users and prospective businesses, we wanted to highlight a few frequently asked questions in this blog to help guide you through your on-demand journey.  For a complete list of FAQs, feel free to visit our website at

Are there any sign-up costs or obligations?

No.  Veryable is committed to delivering a productivity solution for businesses.  True to our name, we want to make sure that your costs only scale relative to the value you get out of the platform.  Not only are you not charged until the work is complete, you are not charged until you sign off that the work is done to your satisfaction.  There’s no obligation to use the platform after you sign up – it’s totally flexible for you to design a solution that works for your business needs.

Are there minimum or maximum usage requirements?

No.  Picking up from the question above, the Veryable marketplace is set up to give you the flexibility to design your own solution.  Some businesses use the platform to bring in 1 person a few days per week on an hourly wage basis.  Others bring in multiple operators per day on a piece work basis and vary the requirements based on the daily production variances.  The maximum number of operators may depend on your location and skills required, but this will increase as the Veryable operator pool continues to increase.

Are all the Veryable operators vetted and screened?

Yes.  Every one of our operators has passed a detailed background check.  The background check process certifies that each operator is over 18 years old, has felony free criminal record, and is legally authorized to work in the USA.  Operators are also given an interface to add their skills, past experience, and certifications, which are vetted through our resume screens.  Businesses have full visibility of every operator resume within a 50-mile radius and the ability to search for specific criteria through your business portal.

How do I know if my business could benefit from Veryable on-demand labor?

Veryable is set up to enable a wide range of use cases applicable to manufacturing and distribution businesses of various sizes, levels of operational complexity, industry sector, etc.  Ask yourself a few questions:

— Does my demand vary widely from week to week or month to month?

— Does my business struggle to respond to any variance from the sales forecast?

— Do I ever miss shipments due to capacity constraints?

— Do I have a growing past due backlog that I can never seem to address?

— Do my on-time delivery metrics seem to max out at 70% or below?

— Does my labor productivity vary widely based on the level of firm demand?

— Do I hesitate before hiring an employee because I don’t know what demand is going to be in 2 weeks? 2 months?

— Do I hesitate before firing an employee for the same reason above?

If your answers to any of the questions above are “yes,” your business should stand to benefit from Veryable on-demand labor.  Explore the possibilities by signing up at or reaching out to one of our sales representatives at (214) 530-2336.

For more information about the on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse applications, please view our website:

Veryable and The Third Wave

The Internet of Things is coming to a theatre near you.  Some of the early developments will be subtle, e.g., new apps popping up for your phone, new technologies arriving in your grocery store, new services springing up in your neighborhood, etc.  However, expect to turn back 10-15 years from now and find the 2017 landscape as unrecognizable as you might view 2002, before smart phones and social media became such permanent and essential fixtures in your life.  What you will be observing are the gradual effects of what Steve Case refers to as the “Third Wave of the Internet.”

The Three Waves

In his 2016 book called The Third Wave, AOL co-founder Steve Case outlines what he calls the three waves of the internet; the first two having already passed and the third closely on the horizon.  Case characterizes the First Wave of the internet as essentially the infrastructure phase.  This phase began in the 1980s as companies like AOL, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. established the infrastructure and connections to create the internet itself.  He characterizes the Second Wave as the building on top of the internet: new technologies to access information and connect people.  This started to gain steam around the turn the century and continues in high form today with notable examples like Facebook and Google.  Most of the big tech companies of today are the major players of the Second Wave.

The Third Wave, however, is shaping up to be a different animal – one with some similarities to the first two waves, perhaps most akin to the first, but unique in its invasiveness into traditional sectors and everyday activities.  The banner under which this wave resides is often called The Internet of Things.  Simply put, we’re talking about connected items, edge technology, operational intelligence platforms, predictive capabilities, autonomation, and machine learning.  These capabilities and technologies have a wide range of use cases that span nearly every sector and end market.  Thus, conversations about IoT often meander down a confusing tunnel of considerations and implications.  The common thread is that IoT is entering into some unchartered territory in familiar and often stubborn environments.

IoT will Impact Every Sector

The scope of the Third Wave pays homage to the First Wave in that there is a massive infrastructure element and culture change requirement.  For the most part the infrastructure components are ready, as evidenced by the avalanche of sensor technologies into the market, the proliferation of IoT platforms, and rapid advances in edge technology.  The challenge, however, is that the solution looks a bit different depending on the sector, environment, and application, i.e., the architecture varies on a case by case basis.  Effective IoT solutions will therefore require a significant amount of industry knowledge and access.

For the Second Wave, in particular, Silicon Valley has been a hub of innovation.  New products and services are incubated out West and distributed through PCs and mobile devices.  This is a perfectly reasonable model for Second Wave solutions that target individual consumers or business enterprise IT applications.  In contrast, Third Wave solutions demand transformation.  Transformation cannot be driven remotely with packaged solutions – it requires knowledge of the current paradigm coupled with an understanding of the “art of the possible” and the capabilities to deliver the result.  With 75% of Fortune 500 companies residing in states that receive less than 25% of total Venture Capital funding, the landscape is primed for new entrepreneurs to deliver these solutions within their markets.  Steve Case calls this the “Rise of the Rest.”

The Challenge of the Third Wave

The primary implications of the Third Wave are underscored by a recent IndustryWeek article by Steve Minter that aptly contends that the “toughest challenges of IoT are not the technology.”  If you consider an oil field services company, for example, looking to implement smart assets in the oilfield and achieve higher operational productivity, an appropriate IoT solution begins with the understanding of the current work flow and the access needed to implement the transformation.  The challenges are not in the technology per se, rather the solution architecture, environmental considerations, work flow changes, program management, skills, and training.

At Veryable, we believe that the answers to today’s manufacturing challenges require solutions born in our manufacturing heartland; solutions that specifically address the needs of the sector.  In a previous blog titled New Demands on Manufacturing, we talk about some of these challenges such as higher demand variation, lower lead time requirements, levels of customization, etc.  What manufacturers need today is higher levels of flexibility and agility with zero cost to scale enabled by IoT based operational intelligence.  Robots and additive manufacturing will be game changing components of the future digital manufacturing environment but basic blocking and tackling need to be mastered before we introduce the trick plays.  The combination of IoT technologies and on-demand labor will do just this.  Major players in the Third Wave will understand these types of needs because they understand the complexities of the sectors they serve and the behaviors within.

For more information about the on-demand labor for manufacturing and warehouse applications, please view our website: