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I would like to take this rant in a slightly different direction. What I am interested in now is the mechanism we use to establish priorities, assign tasks and monitor status. Emphasis on the word "mechanism".
Every company has a system for making these things happen. It may be a random system but it is a system nonetheless.
The girl who shows up each day to work at a Baskin & Robbins Ice Cream Parlor is part of a system. Somehow she knows what to do when she first shows up. There are a variety of mechanisms to get this information into her head.
If the method is brute memorization on her part it will take a little longer. If she has to wait until the big guy gets off the phone to know what needs to happen next she will be idle while he is chatting. She could just pick up where she left off but priorities may have changed since she was last at work. She could also follow a list.
Which method do you think produces the best result?
Formality usually produces better results. As Pat Gilbert has said many times, in the absence of a policy a worker will create his or her own policy. Once a worker creates their own policy they own it. Once they figure out their own protocol you will not blast them off that trajectory with dynamite.
People will work under any system that is in place on the day they hire on. In their mind, however, they are grandfathered in at that system.
This applies to client control too.
Checklists from opening to close to client approval on a finished job.
Of course, you really do have to make sure the checklists are followed and the checklist is understood. Then you do need a checklist checker. Are the checklists being followed ? Why not, what adjustments do we need to make ?
We have a daily preflight and operating checklist for the cnc router. Filters are checked- blown out, dust collector is checked, tool holders are cleaned. Daily, weekly and monthly tasks are done. Little ridiculous, but the machine runs pretty freely and well- the checklist is more of an operation procedure - followed, we can determine we need greases and lube every six months
Amazingly we don't have "oh shit the dust collector is full in a mad rush job..."
Cabmaker said, "What I am interested in now is the mechanism we use to establish priorities, assign tasks and monitor status.".
I view it as a mechanism for updating work status and then creating a specific sequence of tasks (a dispatch list) for each resource on a daily basis with the overall objective of meeting project deadlines. In my opinion, the logic used for efficient operations scheduling supports this mechanism. In resource-constrained, multi-project environment (like custom manufacturing), the necessary logic is available in good scheduling software.
If system simplification is not economically viable, management of complex production will be easier with the help of efficient planning and scheduling.
You can make things as complicated as you want, but people's minds are limited by things that cannot be changed by anyone but God.
I don't know why you think this is a complicated question.
I am merely asking how it is that your workers know what they should be doing next.
Do they pick their own targets?
Do they wait for somebody to tell them?
Do they consult a list?
This is not a rocket science question.
The question could be rephrased like this: How does whoever is in charge know it is they got done and what remains?
Does this person walk around the shop and look for clues?
Does he mechanically ask "How far did you get?"
Does he check a list to see what got crossed off?
All strategy is based on how you evaluate status. Every single scrimmage in a football game is based on field position, time remaining on the clock, scoreboard and what down it is. In a football game these status points are easy to interpret.
You can use prayer as a strategy but God not's gonna tell you what got done and what remains.
At my shop, during the morning meeting, each person is given their plan for the day.
For us, this makes it easy for management to quickly see what still needs to be accomplished and for employees to see the next step for that cart.
The only part that takes time is the setup. The manager sets up the flags on each cart as they start the process. From there on it is simple. Have trained a couple of employees to handle posting the flags as well. The manager still has to get them together in the proper order. Takes time but it has really decreased the confusion on the floor.
We use a (WIP) work in progress sheet that list every job. The front pages are work that has been released to the plant and the back pages are "unacknowledged orders". These orders are not ready to be built and still require material takeoffs, clarification, and submittals and such. The WIP report has a check list beside each order that covers all the admin requirements. (take off, purchases, submittals, etc.......) and it has all the plant requirement as well. (pre lam, cutout, machining, sub assem, post lam.....) Each department head and the admin staff meet every morning to go over new orders and update the WIP report to reflect the days new reality. The team consist of the plant manager, the purchasing agent, the designer, the sales coordinator, the shipping manger and 3 department heads. Each person reports the completion of their own task. Once all admin requirements are met and order goes from unacknowledged status, is assigned a date and moved to the plant ready status. Then we track completion from the department heads daily report. The department heads themselves go to the plant and use visual display boards to relay to each of there teams their own daily requirements. When an assembly tech is done nailing up a listed elevation, they go to the board and check it as complete.
Its tedious, but I have a firm snap shot of all work in progress each day and I can see exactly where each job is without physically being in the plant. Its really been a successful system. I think the most valuable part is the level of individual accountability it creates. Each person know that they will be questioned on progress of their own task each morning and held accountable by the rest of the team. Plus, we can see failure a mile away. We are the custom manufacturing arm of a cooperate furniture dealer. I run a 35 man plant (plus admin and burden labor) doing around 6 million a year in custom furniture and it hasn't let me down yet.
Would love to see some pics of what your carts look like when colored production flags.
You wrote: "Its tedious, but I have a firm snap shot of all work in progress each day and I can see exactly where each job is without physically being in the plant."
I think it is the tedious part that sinks most guys when trying to implement this.
I don't think, however, that your are adding tedium per se. In the absence of this system you would need to have a meat puppet doing the same thing. The only difference is that your system actually produces the results you are looking for.
(substitute whatever word you want for meat puppet. Is just what came to mind)
Today is Friday.
Except for a brief period on Tuesday I have not been to my shop since last Saturday. I will be there tomorrow at 10am to meet with some new clients but will leave shortly thereafter for a date with my daughter.
I telecommute for the most part.
For this particular job I am making my presentation on a website rather than via PDFs and emails. I think I can move into new frontiers if the design proposals can be explained to all the constituents (and their friends) via short videos. At the very least this helps to develop communication skills which, as DS indicates, is key to getting the kind of answers you want from customers.
Here is a mechanism we use to park information and communicate status at my shop.
The first image is the ACTION REPORT. This is punchlist we use to drive the shop. I run my end from an iMac at home. The feedback loop is an iPad at the shop.
The action report just manages activities (common etymology with the word "action".
The second image is the DATA LIST. This is where we store all things that need to be retrievable or archived. It's kind of like dropbox but is sortable. We can select a customer or topic and parse it out so that just that customer or topic is presented. This ability to filter creates a smaller subset of information.
CUSTOMERS are populated from a list of all customers. This field presents only the customers who have a status category ="current".
The values on the far left of the screen constitute a button that takes you to a screen germane to all things that cabinet.
If these values are yellow that means there is also a memo. They can leave a memo on their end and I can leave one on mine. If you see yellow this means investigate.
We also make use of text and iphones to discuss.
I forgot to mention that these ACTION REPORTS & DATALIST are accessible from anywhere on an iPhone or Android device.
You can update a memo and/or access an PDF document directly from these reports.
As I said before, this is not necessarily adding extra tedium. You already had to have some way to hang onto this information. If you do it electronically more than one person can have access to and/or be able to update the information remotely.
Cab - you wrote "Of course, you really do have to make sure the checklists are followed and the checklist is understood. Then you do need a checklist checker. Are the checklists being followed?" and then "I don't know why you think this is a complicated question."
I don't thing the Question is complicated. I felt like your Answer was complicated.
My statement of "people's minds are limited by things that cannot be changed by anyone but God" was referring to the pretty widely accepted fact that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Of course that's not entirely true, but I have found it is very, very hard to change people. I prefer to put procedures in place where people are forced to do things the way I want. BTW, I am not saying I am 100% successful at that, but the number 1 technique is putting certain people in place that are naturally skilled and/or teachable AND invested; then THEY ensure that things happen the way I want them to.
As for all your questions regarding who's supposed to do what when, and how they know that - that's what my team leaders are for. Big picture scheduling is done by the back office, in conjunction with the team leaders when I'm no there (or mostly just by me if I'm there). Daily scheduling is done by a combination of job priorities (back office scheduling) and sensible workflow (done by team leaders). For our main production area, this is mostly conveyed by the calendar software I showed in the previous thread.
As for hands-off, I spent an entire month in Europe last spring. I did spend a few hours each week remoting in to do this and that (payroll for one, we do it in-house and I think we may have lost a few employees if no paychecks were issued...) and answered a few emails. But for the most part I felt like I was pretty close to my goal of making myself entirely unnecessary.
While these kind of conversations can sometimes trigger improvements, in my experience the best option is visiting other shops and seeing ideas in action. Trying to convey 3D work in 2D words is often an exercise in futility.
Kenneth, I understand that your WIP sheet contains thecurrent status of each order in progress and the list of orders yet to be released to shop floor. It also contains routings (process requirements) of orders. It is supported by proper updating mechanism. Your system is quite impressive as part of production management.
You said, "Once all admin requirements are met and order goes from unacknowledged status, is assigned a date and moved to the plant ready status.".
If several distinct orders are simultaneously progressing on shop floor, how are you able to assign a rational due date for a new order? Rational due date assignment requires a reliable estimate of the manufacturing lead time of the order based on the current workload in progress and in planning and resource availability and requirements. Material available times also affect order completion times.
Is it possible to see in advance how long a new order will have to wait at each operation for resources (for given order priorities) and where and when bottlenecks are going to occur due to the varying product mix?
How would you revise the estimated order completion times when major disturbances occur in the system due to order priority changes, major interruptions in resource availability, major rework, unexpected material delays for orders, etc.?
Is it possible to do optimal capacity planning in advance to prevent or reduce possible delays in order deliveries?
Prasad, Thanks. I've been building and improving the processes at this plant for 6 years now. Its been taxing, but lucrative.
"If several distinct orders are simultaneously progressing on shop floor, how are you able to assign a rational due date for a new order? Rational due date assignment requires a reliable estimate of the manufacturing lead time of the order based on the current workload in progress and in planning and resource availability and requirements. Material available times also affect order completion times."
The rational due date is easy if you understand departmental capacity as define by revenue. The plant ready projects have values assigned by department (this is a side effect of my estimating templates) and is totaled weekly. Work is usually scheduled for 2 months in advance. Once a job is ready to schedule, you just put it in line per the department thatís has the longest lead in availability and assign the date. But, the real reason we don't miss, is that I wonít allow a date to be assigned until clarifications have been done, all materials have been purchased and vendor promised shit dates to have been secured from each vendor. The clarification covers the rest. My sales coordinators sole purpose is to take each project through a 26-question list and to obtain answers by her own resource or by commissioning the help of the engineers, purchaser, or department heads. The list has common questions that eliminate failure. There is a standard specification list that will not allow for you to be hung up by something silly like, not having a paint spec on line of a particular order. It also goes over submittal requirements, site requirements, and even prompts questioning to the department heads and engineers as to the need for special tools or talent required. A project is not allowed to be dated until this has been completed. It takes about 4 days for a job to get taken off, pre evaluated by engineers and department heads, and to fulfill the clarification requirements. This is a bit longer than some shops, but I offset this with clients by never missing the date assigned.
"Is it possible to see in advance how long a new order will have to wait at each operation for resources (for given order priorities) and where and when bottlenecks are going to occur due to the varying product mix?"
Through assigning volume to each department, understanding capacity, and a targeted sales approach, it is clear when a new project will hit the floor. The sales approach is key. I target a mix of product type and try to keep mix inline to capacity based on the customers estimated install date. This is no science, but it minimizes most schedule bust.
I've mostly eliminated bottle necks by adding resource to these areas and by applying lean principles to our batch sizes.
For major disturbances, I only preliminarily schedule straight time. I've found that adding 10-15 hours of OT to a week will yield 20-25 production hours. This is due to the reduction in set up times and down found in a standard day. Otherwise, I have a 3 man "one off" team that I keep loosely scheduled and utilize out source partners to help with unseen disasters.
The WIP is only a part of the system. All other processes have to be form and supportive to the others to work. Plus, you have to feed this process. It does poorly under spotty work loads. The other key, I've found is to price the work to be able to cover the teams slow seasons. This way I can keep a full and trained staff, even if the work isn't there for a few months.
Don't get me wrong, its hectic and my only real task as the plant manager is insuring that all process is adhered to, each box is checked, and that things are documented and filed appropriately. When we do fail (happens to everyone) its my job to evaluate the process and see if another stop gap is required to prevent future reoccurrences. Most often, failure is found to be caused by someone that was not trained well enough or by someone not adhering to the procedure.. These are both easy fixes.
Kenneth, thank you for your clarifications.
Daily tasks and procedures under this tasks. All written up as work orders with check boxes for completed tasks. There is software for this to follow and truck the jobs/work in real time.