Operations: Improve Your Relationship with Your Manufacturing Operations
Regardless of organizational structure or size, catalogers who manufacture their own products are made up of multiple groups that must cooperate if the business is to be successful. Productivity is at stake when the two main players, those in management and production, are not working as one unit.
Following are a few ways management and production teams can start working together to gain a competitive edge:
* Obliterate false divisions. A recent client often used language that emphasized whether a particular employee was “union” or “company.” I worked diligently to get everyone using the same vocabulary: Everyone is now “WE.” Not only did they unlock the doors between the production areas and front office, but they also kept them open. Trust began to build, grievances were pulled, and a team began to emerge -- one that focused on “our” issues.
* Keep a clean house. Lean manufacturing principles provide guidance for keeping everything neat, clean, organized and ready to use. An unkempt facility sends a message to employees that “we don’t care about the customers or the products.” Sometimes, simply painting the word “trash” on drums used for garbage to differentiate them from drums containing certain materials can kick-start a “no clutter in my house” mentality.
* Recognize individuals. Each of us has a basic need to feel like we belong and believe we are valued as individuals. That need doesn’t go away just because we’re at work. Something as simple as taking a photo of each individual employee and posting them together as a group in a high traffic area can go a long way in helping employees feel they belong. Use the caption “Our Quality and Customer Service Team” to emphasize the point. This emphasizes the importance of the individual as well as the role each has as part of the team.
* Find the frustrating fixables. Find the one or two things that frustrate your employees the most and fix them. One company’s third shift employees complained that the vending machine was always picked over before their shifts. Another company’s die-casting employees had to knock out parts with a hammer -- a physically demanding and unsafe practice. Fixing frustrating problems helps open communication lines and adds to management credibility.
* Define success. Having metrics to measure performance will be lost if employees don’t understand how they relate to them. Identify one or two metrics each for quality, safety, delivery and cost, and ensure results are measured constantly and consistently, shared with everyone, and explained in a way that helps employees see how their decisions impact the numbers.
Rebecca Morgan is president of Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, a Cleveland, Ohio-based lean manufacturing consultancy. She can be reached at (216) 486-9570 or via e-mail at email@example.com.