One thing that has plagued mankind for eternity is underestimating the usefulness of a “well-laid plan”.
I’m certainly not alone in experiencing pain during a time when I naively thought all would follow a plan that seemed perfect in every way. This leads to lower self-confidence, less fulfillment and hesitation when making decisions in the future.
Where this really breaks down a machine is in business. I know first hand how a broken system leads to broken spirits, low morale and overall dissatisfaction from employees and customers alike.
How to Manufacture a Positive Outcome
That sub-title is every bit a pun as it was intended to be, because I am about to really zero in on the manufacturing process.
Without a great understanding of your process, your successes will be accidental and short-lived in almost any industry. Let’s break down the process here.
- Customer submits a request for a product to be manufactured This should include documentation explaining their needs. In a “job shop” documentation could be: blueprints or an understanding that a design must be developed through a cooperative process.
- Requests are evaluated and quoted The quoting department should receive customer requests, the product should be evaluated to be certain the shop has capabilities to produce the part(s). If so, the job must be quoted ACCURATELY and in a timely manner to give the customer a close cost estimate for the work.
- Begin the producing the part Typically this will include a planning phase, more blueprint production and possible programming, and finally outlining the process flow from “idea” to “finished product” called the manufacturing process.
- Logistics This happens to be one of the most overlooked areas of manufacturing. Sure, a shop can theoretically make anything within their skill/machinery capabilities, but it’s worthless if it doesn’t make it out the doors to outside vendors for further processes (paint, plating, etc.) and then to the customer. Someone must thoughtfully and efficiently move the product safely.
- Final Shipment This might sound exactly like number 4, but it’s not. Final shipments should meet or exceed the expectations of the customer in regards to the promised date of delivery.
“If product arrives to the customer late, somebody did not do their job, or they’ve done it poorly.” – Bruce Meglio
This entire process is worthless if the outcome is less than ideal. Meaning, the plan was put together like a house of cards on a windy day… It’s certain to fall apart at some point.
The best plans are not elaborate or complex
The most effective approach at success is to not get fancy or complicated.
You might be shaking your head, thinking that dozens of great movies have shown secret agents succeeding through a mind-boggling plan with lots of smoke and mirrors. But, we’ll leave all of that to the movies, because in real life, it’s just going to get you in trouble.
If you don’t stick to basic plans, then details get lost, and communication breaks down, leading to an unscheduled stall. When production stalls in a manufacturing setting on one “job”, then other jobs will take priority by default.
The “Department/Shop Lead” should do their best to follow through
This sounds like common sense, but when you’re dealing with thousands of individual parts per month, things get missed… A lot.
Ultimately, the reason things get missed is because of poor planning, confusion, distraction and the lack of a team who is committed to the best interest of the shop. (We’ll save an explanation of the last one for another post).
So, the most important rule in a shop with any kind of volume of work, is to stay on top of your backlog.
What I mean is you have to know what volume of work is already released to your production floor. If they’re dealing with enough work to stay busy for 4 weeks already, it’s suicide to book a new order and promise a customer delivery in 3 weeks.
Have a system in place to determine your workload, overbooking will put everything behind schedule, and being late with every customer is not where anyone wants to be.
Lay down a plan that’s going to work with ease, be thorough, and have employees along the ladder who will go above and beyond their job scope. (This is achieved only through proper management, and truly caring for employees, there is no fake it option in 2019).
The days of “dead weight” employees is coming to an end.
IBM used to employ hundreds (if not thousands) of people who really were not necessary to the function of the company (and IBM was making so much money, they really didn’t care).
Today, every shop should have a team of work-minded folks who not only want to see their year end bank statements bloom, but also to see the company succeed.
A well balance team, with a clear plan will not fail frequently.