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I don't know if I can manage assemblers7/12
I've run crews of roadies. Excentrics all in black, tattooed and hung over, but in sunny fields setting up fun stuff. Easy peasy.
I've run shippers--from a computer. You send a directive, they do it. Or tell you if/why they can't. Then you adjust, they do. Also easy peasy.
I've been asked to run projects for assemblers. Set up the jigs, make sure it comes out on time, give directives. I'll be honest, it's slapping me across the face pretty hard. I had no idea the amount of the patience that was required to do this.
I'm not even sure why it's so different from anything I've done before. Of course I have a million suppositions--is it because I'm new/young? Is it because I need to modify my thinking? Is it because I get handed over paperwork and responsibility without official title? Do I simply suck at this?
I dunno! Old dogs tell me to get aggressive and lay the hammer down. Maybe?
I really don't know! It's a different breed tho, that much I know.
Set down the law. If you are truly in charge this is what you do. If you are a micromangaged sub supervisor then you might not be able to do this.
But have a meeting with the assemblers and get to know them and the way they are use to doing things. Figure out what they like and don't like about the process. Modify from there. If you have troublemakers then get rid of them or stick them on the undesirable positions.
If you are just a guy who is in charge of getting the blame for when things don't go right then there is nothing you are going to be able to do.
"I had no idea the amount of the patience that was required to do this."
Hehehe, I know the feeling.
Your only choice really, is repeating yourself in a professional/friendly manner.
I recommend setting targets, with the caveat that if they are too low or too high you will have an adverse affect.
Work with your people and handle things as they come up, IOW no office job on this.
Whatever you setup they will deviate from it usually in an adverse way, expect this and put them back on track when it happens.
I define people by are they willing or not? If not get rid of them. You may be able to work with slower ones.
It sounds like you have an assembly line, they are great for forcing quotas.
Thanks guys, that is really helpful.
I know I'm doing this wrong. I've been coming in at 5 am just to set jigs in peace and quiet. Talky Joes, bossy Joes, nuisance Joes, all-over-the-place Joes...
Gotta learn to work with all those Joes. Fact at the matter is that I can enthuse and motivate the motivatable but when it comes to getting Joe assembler to buckle down and haul arse, when he's been there for 10-20 years doing donkey work, I sure don't have a magic bullet.
So it seems like one of you is saying lay down the hammer and the other is saying keep it patient? Unless I understood it wrong?
Sounds like some of them are set in there ways of doing just enough to slide by. You need to inform them that's not good enough. Prod them along for a while, give out warnings if they stray from protocol, you usually can't be their friend and their boss at the same time.
If you can't get them motivated tell one of them to go home for a few days without pay as a warning that next time will be permanent. It's not the greatest way to get things going, but 90% of the time they see the light after having their paycheck threatened.
There is only one reason they are there. To work, to get things done that the company needs and to get them done in a reasonable time and fashion without the company needing to fight or babysit them. That's why they get paid. If it was fun and all happy-time, you wouldn't have to pay them, they'd just want to do it.
Just work together as a team and help one another pick up the slack wherever in the process it happens to be.With alll your skills you know good and well you can do it.
There is not much you can do with the people. You either work with them or find different ones to work with. You might, however, have some influence over the processes.
If what you have is a half dozen armies of one then you might consider pairing people up or, if possible, producing some kind of moving line where you could employ a bucket brigade type strategy.
If the product must first be positioned in a jig then require a subsequent process occur it might make sense to have one or more people just in charge of loading the jigs and a second person (or persons) in charge of secondary process.
We are currently restructuring some of our manufacturing processes. The first step is to discover just how many steps there are. To do this you have to write the steps down. All 27 of them.
People tend to shoot from the hip when managing something that seems familiar yet when it's mission critical and they have to get somewhere on time they never fail to consult a googlemap. The ever-descending circle theory of navigation just doesn't seem to work when they have a stake in the outcome.
We're faced with a similar situation but with bright & shiny eager faces. The simple act of machining and building a drawer box is something we pretty much mastered a million years ago. The simple act of training someone not so much. There are a lot of steps and it's easy for a newbie to fail.
As a result of creating a cliff notes list of processes we ended up making five process improvements that weren't obvious using our legacy strategy. Some of these improvements were pretty significant.
The same thing happened on a recycle pullout we produce. We've been making that product for 15 years and just recently arrived at 15 process improvements. We can now file the corner where two edges of plastic laminate meet faster than any company in the country. The only difference is that it is impossible to fail and a 12 year old girl can do it as good as Jesus. These improvements come from creating lists and evaluating the list one line item at a time.
Lists are tedious. Just like your line workers resist tedium so too do most managers. That's why most management is by intuition.
"If what you have is a half dozen armies of one then you might consider pairing people up or, if possible, producing some kind of moving line where you could employ a bucket brigade type strategy."
That would be interesting.
To make a bucket brigade work you have to have logistics to support it. Mostly this is just arranging the processes contiguously.
There are several advantages to this configuration. There are a lot of spots you can put new people (or slow people) and make them more useful. They get in depth training and can easily learn by osmosis the adjacent operations.
You can use peer group pressure. Somebody in that pipeline is more ambitious than others and they will exhort the others to succeed. You could also give a dollar to the big guy for every widget the little guy gets done. That's a twofer right there!
These types of shop arrangements tend to lower costs because there is less travel space from station to station. Less travel space means fewer carts means less space dedicated to aisle way and more for machinery. You can set this type of shop up to handle 5 people on door day but if you only need a couple of doors one guy can staff all stations.
This will also lower non-value added management costs because if the product flows from station 1 to station 2 you know it has past thru station 3 if it its at station 4. If station 3 is detail sanding you can eliminate the quality inspection part. You already have enough labor getting it detailed you don't need to spend non-value added labor inspecting it.
Stipulating where things happen gets you one step closer to stipulating how and when they happen. From here you just have to reach for the tool rather than hike for it.
Hiking for tools gives you lots more opportunities to chase butterflies or other more infinitely interesting projects.
Actually might be worth a try.
No go on the bucket brigade!! All I got is hosers ;)
Seriously, one would frantically and compulsively stop to count the buckets at random (slowly), the other would try to chat about buckets, the next one would try to reinvent the bucket... lol
So you folks are as usual an absolute wealth of information. Silly thing--but it didn't occur to me that I was allowed to pick my workers. I was in a use-who-you-give-me mode. Today I asked for specific people and got it no argument. I have found my powerhouses in assembly. Both Germans (coincidence?).
Deadline was late Wednesday worse case Thursday. I'll be done tomorrow afternoon for sure.
I've also started on ridiculously detailed written SOP. I've written SOP before, but not for an entire line that has minor but important deviations at every job. You aren't kidding that it's tedious. Now I have to make it make sense to someone who doesn't know what SOP even means.
I gotta say it again--seriously, thanks guys. Heck of a resource :)
Once you realize the power of SOP you'll never go back. It's like discovering an excel spreadsheet when all you've ever had was a pencil and a calculator, or like discovering what a database is when all you've been exposed to was an excel spreadsheet.
In his memoirs Taichi Ohno said that for someone to create an list of process that were useful to his co-workers he or she must first be convinced of it's importance. As soon as people decide something is important you no longer have to keep explaining how commerce works and the rest of the bullshit falls away.
In my shop we build a few products that involve laid up panels of plastic laminate over 3/4 inch plywood. These panels need a quarter inch rabbet to fit into a 1/4 inch groove on a drawer bottom. It's very basic drawer box 101 type stuff.
If I rely on experienced (i.e expensive) talent to produce this rabbet every one of them proceeds to set up a dado blade to produce this rabbet. This usually takes a few pieces of test material and about 15 minutes of labor. Invariably you will hear the litany " Do you still need this set up?" followed by a pause then "No, I can set it up again (code for I don't give a shit what it costs).
By listing the rabbeting operation as step 13 we could examine this out of context and ask exactly " what is the best way to do THIS step?"
As it turns out fifteen minutes of $25 per hour help costs us roughly $30. We can now perform this in about one minute with $15 help for a total cost of about 50¢. The real difference, however, is that the neophyte's work is always accurate and never requires any set up cost.
All this was discovered by listing out the processes one step at a time. When we relied on experience and intuition we left a lot of money on the table.
This can seem pretty extreme today when the economy is just rolling along but about two years ago when many successful shops were hunting for oxygen there wasn't the manpower to make an SOP list.
I don't think it's extreme at all, regardless what the economy is doing. Isn't bang for the buck always awesome? I'll always look at the price of cheese no matter what I'm making.
So how who has General SOP'd a custom line? Having trouble balancing including variants for thoroughness vs information flooding that results in too much convolution. Too much would scare Joe assembler. Too little makes me in charge of this task forever.
Standards are a must for any manufacturing. Conveying them is a challenge. Verbal almost always fails at some point. Written sort of works but there are people that can't or won't. Visual seems to convey a message better, "a picture is worth 1000 words." A picture with notes emphasizing certain details, best of both worlds if it is where it is easily/always seen.
We have a simple digital camera that anyone trying to manage can use. Dirt simple to make a series with notes, store on computer for easy modification. demo it @ the monthly meetings, put a copy in the 3 ring SOP binder, laminate a copy for display/use @ the work station.
Still not 100% but the best solution I've used. Initially it seems like taking a lot of time. In the longer run I've convinced myself it saves time & mistakes.
Your photo notes are a great idea. What's hard to get a craftsman to appreciate sometimes is that one-of-a-kind work (or first-of-a-kind) is all about making money in the future. You can't possibly charge enough for the learning curve the first time around.
When you ask these guys how long they think something will take they do everything they can to keep from committing to an expectation. A typical response would be "I have no idea what it will take to build...... I don't even know what it looks like". They're right about this. Until it is done nobody knows.
But after it is done ALL the information is there. They know what it looks like, how they built it, what they would do differently next time. This is the time you want them to debrief with a self-interview. You might even include a field for what router bit number they used etc. and maybe even a short list of processes with the ones a greenhorn could do yellowed out.
You can't of course get everything but any thing you do get out of this is something you have available next time. And next time is when you make the money.
The trick is get a craftsman to think like an adult rather than a teenager.