Happy new year everyone. I appreciate this forum and you guys. You've been a great source in the past for my fledgling cabinet company. Forgive me candid manner below. This is part rant, part question.
With that in mind, just this last year was the first year I had to hire a full time employee. I used a part time finisher, had a helper for awhile. Let him go, and hired a full time fabricator. He has experience in a previous cabinet shop, mostly commercial. My question is about him. He seems forgetful, sometimes dyslexic (denys), makes stupid mistakes from what seems like carelessness. Please keep in mind, I run a custom cabinet shop that specializes in built ins, entertainment centers, etc. I've built my reputation on quality work with a good design.
His first job with me, I had him make doors. I gave him finish dimensions, a cut list, and noted on the cut list I wanted him to rip styles and rails wide so we can cut it down later (tooling is rough). I also go over it with him, and WHY I do what I do. He does fair on the first job, 3 jobs later we make doors again. Completely lost what I taught him. Also, stupid things like sanding parts and forgetting to ease the edge.
Honestly, I feel like I'm a good teacher. I go over things specifically. Do one example, so he understands what to look for. Explain why we do things, emphasize craftsmenship, etc. I've trained my part time finisher from 0 experience, and in one year she can provide a finish lacquered product with little explaining. Only certain unique pieces intimidate her. But this guy, I sometimes scratch my head and wonder why he does 90% of the work, and then says he's done. He's paid $18 an hour with the responsibility of fabricating cabinetry. No one to be responsible for, and no stress passed onto his shoulders. I have him correct his mistakes, but the company pays for it.
How much is acceptable and fair before you throw your hands up and look elsewhere? Each job he on average makes 3-4 mistakes(some I don't know about until I find parts in the scrap bin). He's been with me for 4 months now, and granted I take only custom jobs, with unique designs.. but seriously. I'm in the hole, and wondering if I need to simplify things again. I have a hard time enough billing for my shop rate, much less meeting labor hour budgets.
If you are looking for verification, I will give it to you. Yes, terminate the person. Maybe what you are experiencing is why he wasn't working somewhere else.
MY experience is to find someone with minimal or no skills and teach them how I want it done. I hire for attitude and teach skills. Doesn't always work out but there is always another person looking for an opportunity.
Thanks for the response. I hadn't stepped back to realize the answer was right in front of me. It does seem better to start with new blood, than with one who has experience in just about every trade out there. The thing that intrigued me with him is his experience with being a former business owner. I was/am/maybe not seeking a guy who knows what its like to be a business owner, understanding we don't get paid until the job is done, and done well. Various other reasons as well.
The thought of training one up new is likely the best solution in general, but given my position, would you stick with a guy who raises your shop rate almost too high, and see if you could make it back into the black before you let him go? Hire someone new (expense), after your in good standing? I'm starting to think it might be cheaper to let him go, and start fresh -- shooting for the long haul.
The first person you have to train is yourself. You have to train yourself about how to train others. More accurately it's that you have to be willing to do things that are not fun, nor immediately rewarding.
A useful thing to recognize is that your worker only shows up to work under duress. If they could get the money for free they wouldn't come to work. Once they arrive at work the majority 80%+ will be ambivalent as to the outcome. They know with 100% certainty that it is better to work for a successful company than a non-successful company but this in itself is not enough to inspire them to greatness working for you.
If you start with the inexperienced you only need to hire for attitude. You know everything that you need to get into their head. When you hire people with experience you don't know which part you need to get them to unlearn and you don't have any assurance that you can in fact get them to un-learn it.
The simple act of building a drawer box is something you can do in your sleep. To an inexperienced person this represents about 30 distinct processes. You might think it is just "cut out the drawer boxes" but this really involves knowing something about how to grade for defects. The sides of the drawer will be visible on two faces. The front & backs will be visible on just one. How does your worker know what level of defect is acceptable and what level is not?
How do they know they are doing it right?
How do you know that they know? This is more of a certification issue. You can do this informally if you prefer. The outcome will also be a bit fuzzy if you do.
Would you be more comfortable with this employee's performance if you were paying him/her $15/hr vs $18?
Based on your comments, it sounds like you have a jack of all trades and master of none on your hands. Looking for a lead man that has not decided on a career path is probably headed nowhere.
You were intrigued by a person that had experience owning a business?, yet does not own a business anymore. Why not?, and why is he/she prepared to work for $18/hr. Why should an employee need to be concerned with weather you have been paid or not?, cash flow is your issue, owning a business is awesome right?
Could you gain double the production by employing, training, and managing two employees at $12/hr?
Could you afford this scenario?
I'm guessing not. You are probably not charging enough, training enough, and have convinced yourself that the extra $2, $3 or $5 you are paying this guy is the difference (ie $10k per year) between red & black.
Tough love, but you have to look a little harder at the bigger picture.
Have been in this same situation myself. It's a tough one!
If hes anything like my case he has a chip on his shoulder about where he is in life and assumes you are a millionaire and he doesn't have to perform to pay his way. I have absolutely no problem with mistakes but MAN it bothers me when they don't take any responsibility for it and just think it's fine for the company to pay for new materials and there time over and over again!
It is hard to pull someone into line when they think there performance is perfectly fine even thought it's not. You need to put the responsibility of performance on them.
Have a first meeting, tell them the company isn't doing so well and in a small shop everyone needs to pull their weight. In a week or so after nothing has changed or inevitably gone back to how it was pull him in again and write up a performance management plan. Pick about 5 of his worst areas and write up expectations of the time and quality you expect on the task.
Your local government probably has online resources you could use to write up this performance management plan.
The 2 times that I got this far with performance management I got a resignation the next day.
I could not agree more about getting them green and keen but unfortunately you can only really manage one greenie at a time and when your growing fast you need resources that can take some of your workload faster than they can learn it.
Good luck & remember. YOUR THE ONE dealing with the stress and risk and he is taking money and quality of life straight out of your pocket. He is holding your company back from growth and prosperity.
You gave him an opportunity for a fulfilling career and money......HE OWES YOU!!!
You have to figure that in a mature industry all the low hanging fruit has already been harvested. As a consequence all the remaining opportunities live in a hard to reach places. You need to go way out on a limb to get to that fruit. You have to go where nobody else has been.
This is called innovation.
The two biggest opportunities in woodworking today are choreography and training. As an industry we tend to embrace computer driven manufacturing technology but eschew computer based communication systems.
Training and choreography is all about communication. Getting woodworking business owners to prioritize these two areas, however, is a lot like trying to get a cat into a box for a trip to the vet.
Good comments so far. I've managed employees all my life, not always successfully. Hire for attitude, past experience is usually not valuable and often must be changed. If they have been doing it different or wrong for years it will be nearly impossible to convert them to your system.
It is a lot of work, but, using a Japanese method for defining what is to be done works (most of the time.) Each operation is defined in photos with few words. The photos are posted where they can be seen while working. It is an un-ambiguous set of expectations. The pages may include the expected time to complete the task.
"Custom" is nothing more than an assemblage of standard processes or at least should be.
You've spent too much time already with this guy, move on.
Larry makes a good point about specifically stating how much time something should be expected to take.
In the article "Decoding the DNA of Toyota" they raise the question "How does your worker know he is performing his task correctly?"
Is it up to the worker himself to decide he is competent? If he is satisfied with the outcome is the outcome acceptable?
Most of your workers themselves will consult a google map when it is mission critical that they arrive somewhere on time. They will actually print the step by step instructions or bookmark them on their phone. They do this because they don't want to fail and they are spending their own time and money.
Its been a minute since I've posted. Two long days of installing paneling! I realize this topic is expansive and fun for most of you. Totally blown away by the response -- I very much appreciate all the hard and soft words of advice. I'll do my best to respond in turn.
Interesting thoughts about workers. It makes me scratch my head though. I've always loved woodworking, love the architecture, love the sanding. Surely there are more people like that too? Someone who enjoys the challenge of trying to build things faster? Caring for an end product enough that they want to cull the drawer parts? I can't be the only one out there. I know my waitress turned finisher cares about her product. Why can't a guy who used to work for himself be a good candidate for someone who is interested in doing a good job? Obviously the results of the idea hangs on a knife edge.
I appreciate the "certification issue" thinking. I've read this theory in the past on the forum, and I wholly agree with it. This will take me time to do, but I'm fine with it. Excel is awesome, I've already made spreadsheets that match product ordering codes/prices coupled with labor hours/rates which all feeds into an end number for pricing. Thereby one sheet performing more than one task. excel could also perform the task of creating processes for products. One gentlemen on this forum mentioned awhile back that he has a drawer(or whatever product for each station) hanging so the workers can see what they're building. This is a decent idea.
I would feel better dropping him yes. I had started him out at 16.50 as a compromise from me wanting 15 and him asking for 18 from the beginning. after a month of good attitude and decent performance I granted him his 18 an hour. If I had waiting 6 months, I probably wouldn't have given him that raise. One month seemed a decent evalutation period at the time in my limited experience.
"Why should an employee need to be concerned with weather you have been paid or not?"
Its my issue, yes, but with such a small labor force the value of team effort and completion of jobs is markedly more crucial.
"Could you gain double the production by employing, training, and managing two employees at $12/hr?
Could you afford this scenario?"
Two employees as fabricators? Initially the cost of that is too expensive for me currently. Looking back at
the helper I had before, he did great with a cutlist and basic cabinets to assembly -- me doing the hard things. Its always easy to charge more, but for the market I'm supplying for, there is definitely a basic market value for this product. I'm peaking already with an inefficient shop, inefficient employee, and a customer who can't support my shop rate! ha!
Good thoughts Chip. I hadn't thought about a performance management plan beyond anything verbal. a written plan is very valuable. I've already approached him on Friday and let him know about half our jobs were over budget, for reasons XYZ. I told him to think about it over the weekend, and if he could contribute in anyway to the process or disciplining himself better, to rehash it on Monday. I even said if I was making things difficult on him, to let me know. Probobably a bad idea.
""Custom" is nothing more than an assemblage of standard processes or at least should be"
This is interesting. I struggle with this. The majority of our processes are standardized -- for a reason. Great. But
the designs for any builtin can call for a unique piece, or an uncommon piece. Are you implying I should build my own
shop catalog with parts(complete with material/labor/pictures) I can utilize in my drawings to accomplish my oddball built ins?
I think I read that article.
What are you implying with the googlemaps bit? should the shop focus more around them earning a percentage of the job upon completion?!
I'm not implying that you should standardize parts but rather processes. Sequencing so that no part is moved w/o adding value to the finished project. Your shop layout should be such that no walking is required for a process to take place. If the same tool is used for two different operations @ two different locations, get another tool. Eliminate change overs or at least simplify them. Make go/no go jigs for tolerance control. Make setup fixtures that eliminate measuring. Use constant reference points & surfaces, to eliminate variations. Do you change router bits in a hand held router? Get another router. The idea is to spend your time making, not adjusting, changing, measuring.
Custom is how long you cut the board, not how you cut it.
Hey bud, I get the feeling from your original post you might be asking to much from your guy. When you wrote he forgets to ease the edge I'm getting the impression you might be a little more detail oriented than most. Maybe you could lighten up and appreciate your employee and he might just respond in kind.
Maybe yes, maybe not is a pretty weak argument in support of your theory. Of course everything is maybe yes or maybe not. "Sometimes the sky is blue, sometimes it's not" is just a tautology.
The responses you see on this thread come from men who employ other men. The employers are the person who guarantees the rate of pay and are also the people who therefore get to define what is acceptable output & quality.
That this particular individual is weak and/or obstinate is no surprise to most of us. It's a problem we've had to manage since our first employee.
Here's a way to codify this contention: You obviously have enough experience in the marketplace to be able to identify a "S*ithead". Think back and answer honestly, how many of the many co-workers you have toiled along side in your many years would you personally handpick to be on your dream team if you were an employer? Would you personally pick 10 out of 100 or is the number much less?
I follow you now, fundamentally. One of your statements made me curious.
When you said "Eliminate change overs or at least simplify them. Make go/no go jigs for tolerance control."
Are these two sentences one thought? Define change overs, not familiar with that term from where I'm from. This should help me visualize a go/nogo jig!
Things are getting interesting! Perhaps I should ease up, although I disagree. Cabinetry is detail oriented by design. If you can't be consistent and detail oriented you'd be better off digging a ditch. His mistakes can be tallied consistently 3-4 per job, sometimes you might have to use more than one hand per job. Some are small, some are big(over clamped door style, and blow outs on rail copes, crap). I realize my work will never leave this shop 100%, I'd be happy with 90%. But when all those little problems tally into a dissatisfied customer, and return trips... geez. ChipBored made a great suggestion with a "performance management plan". TE, I'm not a paperwork guy -- I'm a handshake guy. I think this paperwork really helps to flesh out the problems, and create a paper trail to cover me later on. Briefly jotting down points I'd like to make to him, tell me what you think?
1)Consistent use of shop taught techniques.
2)Ability to yield a standard of high quality work.
3)Thorough handling of cabinetry to yield a completed processes.
4)Work performed at your station shouldn't impede or cause extra work to the following processes after your station.
5)LEAN concepts should be subscribed to.
I think this is a reasonable thing to ask someone? All of them are legitimate. I have more, but they are very specific so I feel this wouldn't be great for the paperwork.
Honestly, My intention is to be as fair as possible to him and myself. Hell, I could just cut him, end my troubles and build back what I had. Watch him file unemployment possibly, more paperwork...
I think a "performance management" paper with those 5 items listed above along with a 30 day notice that I need to see improvement or either a)he's going to take a pay cut or b)I'm letting him go. This will allow him to self reflect and think maybe he isn't cut out for this, or light a fire under him and make him work MORE DELIBERATELY. This is fair..?
I think you need to brush up a bit on the concepts of Lean manufacturing before you expect your employee to embrace them. If you don't know the difference between go-no go you need to read more.
My hunch is this guy doesn't want to drink the koolaid. That said you should use him to de-bug your management structure. If you can be even slightly more successful with him you will be very powerful with a new person. Have these new management systems in place before you hire the new people. It's really hard to fix the airplane while you are flying it.
The googlemap analogy has to do with every worker's approach when spending their own money. For some reason they are quite comfortable with managing the project using the imagination method when they are spending your money.
When the task is mission critical and they need to get somewhere on time with a minimum of fuel they break out the googlemap.
For example, in their own personal lives they would never on a bet store their spatula in the bathroom because it just doesn't make any sense. When they work for you storing the sandpaper 50 feet from where they use it is acceptable. The root cause (5 whys) is that the job pays the same whether or not he is successful or not. Every other thing is just a symptom of that root cause.
Ever wonder why you have to keep explaining how commerce works to a perfect capitalist?
Changeovers, preparing a machine to do a different operation. You can eliminate them by 1. designing the product to not need them, 2. making one setup do both functions, 3. Simplify by 1a. minimizing the # of adjustments needed by using fixed references for two operations, 2a. using jigs to locate elements rather than measuring or trial and error.
Go/No go: example, you need to repetitively make a part 2" in diameter + or - 1/16", the jig would have a hole 2 1/6" X 1/2" deep and another hole concentric @ 1 15/16". If your part won't go into the jig, it is over size, reject. If it goes into the jig but won't go through the 2nd hole it is within tolerance. If it goes through the 2nd hole it is too small, reject. Concept can be applied to almost any part, length also. Using jigs eliminates measuring errors. Just be sure to mark them well with their intended purpose.
It is worth noting that there is no such thing as an absolute measurement or fit. Even a CNC has tolerances.
Nobody, to your numbered points... although it would take valuable time to write, I'd encourage you to put your standards in writing. Your face frame assembly list would have a bullet point: "ease edges". Your employee would have something to refer to, and you'd have something tangible to point to as a flaw if you choose to part ways. (And if you do part ways, you'll make life easier for the next guy.)
(As a total aside, people's learning styles vary. Some people learn by being shown; some learn by reading about it; others learn by listening. This guy sounds like he doesn't take that well to being shown a process.)
Albeit a little off-topic, and granted lean systems are meant to be applied to numerous and widely varied industries, can any of you recommend lean literature focused on woodworking for a small shop?
Thanks for the explanation and thoughts. Briefly, I've studied a bit on Lean systems. Most of it makes sense, and some (shop setup, templates for hinge plates, shelf pin holes) are easily applied. Some ideas in lean leave me scratching my head trying to apply it to wood working. Either way, that's another topic. I'll do my best to make this guy's life easier, and build something positive.
Thank you for the explanation. I believe more studying and review will keep the concepts close in my mind in order to apply them, or see typical processes and improving on them.
Your right. I believe this guy will take best by being shown something. He's a bit burnt if you take my meaning, but he has good hands! Personally taking a JOAT halfway through his career to study woodworking is a tough road.
The number one tool that lean can lend to cabinetshops is batch size. If you reduce your batch sizes you will increase your capacity.
Building something before you need it is the root cause of all your other problems. Minimizing work in process will minimize management costs and minimize the costs associated with mismanagement.
The primary rationalization for large batch sizes has to do with set-up reduction. We try to solve the problem by having 30 doors sitting on a cart and multiple carts jamming up the floorspace instead of focusing on the root cause of the problem which is set-up reduction.
Think of it like this: A bathroom vanity with three boxes is a piece of cake to build. You can do this with your eyes closed and ship it tomorrow. Building a kitchen with 30 cabinets is a struggle. You hardly know what to start first or what remains.
Lean will help you turn that 30 box kitchen into 10 bathroom vanities.
Why the WoodWeb has never had a forum dedicated to the principles & techniques of Lean Manufacturing has always amazed me. It's the one topic every trade journal writes about in every issue and the primary focus of every knowledge seminar at the Atlanta or Las Vegas woodworking show.
I have started down the lean road after reading several posts here on WoodWeb. I have read several books, watched many videos and read many websites about lean. None of them have specifically mentioned woodworking but if you start looking closely enough, you can see that woodworking is just another style of manufacturing.
Big things that I have learned:
Meet with employees regulary to discuss production, wastes, company values and issues. ( Read "2 Second Lean". Great book. Read it several times and started adapting what they did to our operation.)
Reduce batch sizes to the lowest level and then reduce the size again, ( Read "The Goal". Great book. Read it three times and now for a fourth time. Each time, I gain new insights in how to run my shop.)
Minimize setup changes. I have setup several different routers with different bits. When I need a different bit, I pick up a router that has the bit already set and complete the process with no set up time. Same goes for hand tools and cordless drills and drivers.
Changed organization of shop so no product goes onto a cart to be moved from one area to the next. Rearranged machines so work flows from one to the next. Bought more machines so if one machine needs to be in two different work flows, I have a machine in each one.
In the past, I always thought about having more machines and tools as an expense as I thought is was cheaper to have some one move it around or put a new setup in. After studying my work flow, I found the extra machines and tools were cheaper than having my employees and myself stop and make a setup change or move the product to another area or look for the proper tool. Tools and machines are a one time expense while the labor cost is a ongoing invisible cost as it is just a little at a time. It is like a leaking faucet. Doesn't look like much at the time but over the month it really adds up.
My employees and myself have been amazed at just some of the little changes have increased work flow, easier work and not as stressful. It is amazing and wonderful.
Thanks for that bit. I'm looking into those books. Hope I can find audio books.
I agree also, my fledgling shop would appreciate a lean forum as well. So many questions race through my brain when lean comes to mind!
For example, from my current point of view, lean's batch theory or "pull" theory appears to be the antithesis of Henry Ford's assembly line which really has to be the ultimate in manufacturing. Its how I base my cutlists, and assemblies... but going back to Tim's commentary, you create clutter, confusion, having to retrain your train of thought on a complicated built in...
Dude, I gotta start a new thread on this.
Henry Ford's assembly line was the ultimate in manufacturing during an era where there was high demand for a limited product. In today's high mix / low volume environment you need to be a bit more nimble.
A lot of people eschew lean from the perspective of "don't fix it if it ain't broke". There is certain simplicity to that logic that is hard to refute.
The TOC guys (theory of constraints) operate under the assumption there is always one dominate constraint in your organization. According to them any efforts you apply to fixing something that is not this primary constraint is just a phantom improvement. They think that lean is too much of a shotgun approach and you are wasting ammunition on non-critical improvements.
If you read Henry Ford's book "Today & Tomorrow" you will note that he prioritized everything. There was nothing that was unimportant to him.
Mark Woeppel wrote a book called "Manufacturer's Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints". This is a really good read and a lot more nutritious than "The Goal" by Eli Goldratt. In this book Woeppel demonstrates that there is indeed one primary constraint but that you can be in control of where that constraint is. This is a bit hard to get your head around but once you do it makes tremendous sense.
Paul Aker's "2 Second Lean" book does a good job of explaining how to teach workers to recognize waste. That waste even exists is a foreign concept to many workers (and managers) so this is an important starting point. A undeveloped contention in this book is that lean managers who embrace 5S logic are overthinking things. According to Akers you will be more successful than even Toyota if you lean this process out to a 3S program. I would call this book Lean Lite.
A really great read is Jeffrey Liker's "The Toyota Way". This book will help break things down to actionable items for Monday-Tuesday & Wednesday. Theory is one thing. Traction is another.
Lean is worthwhile, particularly for those shops who are so busy and successful they don't have time or need for improvement. These are exactly the shops that need more capacity.
Nobody, The results that I have seen did not come overnight nor in from starting over a month ago. I started about 6 - 7 months ago. Before that I read several books, watched videos and read websites for a month or more to make sure that I was confident in that I could do it.
It was hard at first for me to do a meeting every day. Had employees that told me that they thought it was a waste of time. Eventually, as we discussed issues that came up during the previous day, they came to appreciate the meeting. I know that because the ones who thought it was a waste of time would come to me to suggest a topic of discussion for the next day. One even told me that he was surprised that it really does work. That's when I knew it was working.
Then the results started coming. We went down some dead end ideas several times but at least we had ideas to discuss. We did have several good ideas that have really helped and they seem to have others thinking about things and ideas.
It was not an overnight thing but rather a gradual thing for my crew.
I think of it like pushing a car up a grade. It is slow at first, then you pick up a little momentum and it is easier. However, if I stop pushing it will roll back to the bottom and I will have to start all over again.
I've noticed people have the innate ability to grasp 10% of certain things, but an inability to grasp 90% of all the other things. People by nature are specifically and narrowly gifted. Don't struggle and fight against an employee that lacks the 10% you need.
Find that person, don't implement systems and manuals and seminars etc to turn that person into one that grasps the narrow 10% skill set you need. You might have an accountant sanding wood or a sander keeping the books. I agree with the idea that you take people with no skill and train them but before even considering that, determine if the raw ingredients are there.
Find a way to hire, find a way to screen. Screening can be a test you give, a short working interview etc. Even this isn't a guarantee though.
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The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices.
What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe
for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use
of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation,
and at their own risk.