Easily, one of the most important aspects of manufacturing is the efficiency of the workers at any given company.
The businesses that will succeed have a fair amount of cooperation within their ranks.
Any shop can benefit from the “consideration method” where each worker is mindful of the next person/process in line.
If, from the initial contact of a customer, everyone were to do their best to mitigate any issues for the next person in line, it would provide a smoother path for the job as it flows through the shop.
What (in a metal fabrication shop) is effected by this method?
Production Lead Times
The quoting process is often the first form of contact to initiate the beginning of a job.
The quotation department will gather information from the customer to gauge their needs, wants, and expectations.
Once they have the proper information (often all information is contained on the production drawing provided by the customer), their job is to work up a price with cost in mind.
Price of Materials + Labor + time = Cost
The most important thing a quoting department can do is capture every cost in their initial quote.
This will include gathering information for the cost of raw materials needed to complete the job, including sheet stock, bar stock, hardware and any other peripheral elements required.
It’s important that the quoting department also get accurate estimates for the time (labor) required for each department involved in any given project.
Once all of the cost information is compiled, a price can be created using the algorithm created for mark-up on raw materials, and labor rates for the time the job spends in each department.
Where does quoting “help the next person”?
The help that can be provided by quoting will initially benefit the purchasing department.
If all of the items are captured in a quote, the purchasing department will know where to obtain materials and how much they can spend on those materials to maximize the “profit margin” on any given project/job.
Maximized profit margins are good for everyone, as I will explain a teeny bit more later on.
But, an accurate quote will benefit everyone in the shop by capturing adequate time for each department, this way everyone is given enough work time to produce the highest quality efficiently,
Morale (n) – the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person or group at a particular time
The most underrated variable in a healthy work environment.
A shop with low morale will not be effective, since the men and women feel as if they are underappreciated, underpaid, and over worked (typically due to poor management image, practices, or a combination of the two).
Everyone wants to feel like they’re in a team
If all employees wanted to work by themselves at all times, with no support, wouldn’t they eventually lose enthusiasm for the company and look for alternative options?
Of course any sane person would!
The best way to feel supported is to know that the person/operator before you took the initiative to think of your time and the work you need to do.
Setting up the man (or woman) next to you for success
By taking 5-10 extra minutes to do more than the bare minimum tasks, the next person in line could see an exponential savings of their own time.
A press brake operator can bend a flat pattern part into a 12″x 12″ (lid-less) aluminum box with ease (under normal circumstances).
If they take 10 minutes to set up a machine, and 1 minute per part to produce 50 “boxes” in 1 hour (60 minutes), that’s a good rate of production.
However, let’s say the operator rushed in that 10 minute setup, and their bends are not exactly 90 degrees, leaving a 1/8″ gap in the corners at the base of the box, and a 3/16″ gap at the top/opening.
Those boxes need to be clamped or held in place by the welder to tack them, and weld perfectly square.
The welder now must take an extra 120 seconds (per box) to tack weld, then full weld each box (filling that 1/8″ gap). Resulting in 6 minutes per box (total of 300 minutes, or 5 HOURS).
If the press brake operator took 5 more minutes to set up, leaving a 1/16″ gap, and square bends (making their total time 65 minutes), it would cut 2 minutes (per box) from the welder, shortening their time to 3.3 hours [that’s a 1.7 hour savings because of 5 extra minutes from the press brake operator].
Which translates to less time in grinding as well (since the gap is smaller, requiring less welding rod, making the weld smaller, and less to grind).
Not only does this result in QUICKER production, but the tighter fitment and welds will allow the grinder to fit a more uniform radius/contour, giving the product a better finish after plating, paint, or powder coat.
Product Flows Better
When product flows through the shop better, production can increase, allowing for more opportunity for work, increasing overall revenue and allowing the company to grow.
While the boss is often “demonized” in the eyes of the employee, the reality is… They’re still the boss.
The boss takes the risk when owning and operating a business. They risk their money, and reputation by running that business.
If the business were to close due to bankruptcy or any other factor, the boss would lose massively (their money for initial investment, money tied up in the company when it closed, and their reputation may take a hit as well), while the employee just has to find another job. So, who really loses worse?
The boss gets bonuses
Sure they do! Anyone would want one if they were the boss!
But, it’s not an award reserved for only the “head cheese” of the company.
If the boss sees profits increase, you’re heading up the “help the next person” movement in your company, and your boss becomes aware to that somehow (I mean, tell them if you have to!), it’s easy to bet they’ll be gracious.
When production increases (as I mentioned above), the company is able to accept more orders, increase revenue and grow!
If revenue increases, then worker compensation should follow suit. Once the employees in the company accept the new method of “help the next person”, everyone is open to hit up the boss for some improvements in the paycheck department.
If you’ve ever watched a hamster run on a wheel, you’ll know they never get to the end of the tank, let alone to the next town over.
This is unfortunately how some employees live out their time in a company. Feeling like they’re constantly running, putting in massive effort, and never getting anywhere.
That does not have to be the way if everyone works as a team, the benefits will be seen (and felt) by everyone involved.
Pride in their work
When the whole team joins in to make better products (more efficiently), the end result is increased quality.
It’s much easier to be proud of a job well done, when less pressure was applied to the team to push it through, because it was calculated, planned and executed effectively.
It has become even more apparent to me lately how important this last point truly is.
Stress takes it’s toll on everyone differently, but the toll must be paid eventually.
By operators rushing to simply work as fast as humanly possible to get parts through only their department without a care for the next poor soul in line, they’re really pressuring the line to make the best out of the mediocre mess they made.
This leads to higher stress levels and puts people at risk for some serious physical and mental health issues.
Think Like a Team, Work Like a Team
If you’re at the beginning of the operational chain, just make an adjustment to think of the next person.
If you’re the boss, meet with your team to implement this practice and see how it does in your company.