Shop Floor Management Systems
What techniques do you use to communicate with your employees? There is communication via drawings. You know - plan and elevations. Drawings are necessary, but not sufficient. There is communication or instructions about how to, i.e. how to take a pile of rough wood and turn it into a finished product. What step to take first, what step to take second, etc. Instructions or coaching about how to work as a team, machine setups, running machines, accuracy, how much time things should take. It goes on and on.
Some of the tools we use are:
B. We use cut sheets that I produce on the computer. We have started to separate the cut sheets based on components. For example, if we were building cabinet doors, we would have a cut sheet for stiles, a cut sheet for rails, a cut sheet for panels and a cut sheet for the boards that make up the panels. These cut sheets would be sorted from longest to shortest or biggest to smallest. Sometimes the cut sheet will have a drawing on it showing how the piece looks at that step.
C. We use what we call process validation at each machine. That is a map of how to run that particular machine or work station. How to make sure that the work being produced at a given station is correct. Correct quantity, correct size, correct shape, correct material.
Even with these tools, we have some mistakes. Not a huge amount, but some. I think if we added people, the disconnects would increase exponentially. What do you use? What do the companies that employ 15-50 people use? How do the big boys communicate with all of those people?
From contributor T:
To the original questioner: You seem to have a good flow from the office to the backroom, well documented procedures with clearly defined steps. How do you handle the flow of information in the backwards direction, i.e. from shop to office? Do you have any mechanisms in place to know the current status of a work order? If you do, I am curious how you accomplish this. I've seen several project management applications that generate percentage completion reports for updating GANT charts, etc. Whenever I probed how this percentage was established, it usually came down to shoe leather and somebody making an educated guess. What is the mechanism you use to get these reports from the backroom to the front room?
From the original questioner:
We do not have a shop foreman, as I act in that capacity. I have my bags on every day. Some days for the entire 8 hour shift and some days for just part of the day. So as you can imagine, wearing all of those hats (shop foreman, drafter, CNC operator, salesman, bidding and invoicing) keeps me too busy. Hence the push for better systems. I have a good crew at present, but even at that, the employee situation is always a challenge.
As far as info back to the office, that is a good question. We have a column on the cut sheets for checking when a component has been made. And we write on the cut sheets "complete," date it, sign it when we have completed a cut sheet. Additionally, our cut sheets all have titles indicating job, phase or production run and what the cut sheet is for. This really comes in handy when we have to dig back through the paperwork to remake something or check if something has been built or shipped.
I am not sure if more detail is the answer. Personally, I get hung up on the details about everything. Whether you say "vacation" or "cabinets," my mind immediately sees all of the details associated with those activities.
From contributor P:
I don't know what your total shop size is or sales are, but if you want to get a handle on this, then you will need to expand management beyond yourself. It's a big step and can be very scary, but essential. 5 years ago I was where you are and it sucks the life out of you. The trick is to find someone to promote, and to identify which of your responsibilities can be passed on. Start with the ones you like to do least, as this will boost your happiness and performance. Oddly enough, things that I hated to do were enjoyed by some of my guys. Two things to keep in mind: delegating your responsibilities is the only way to grow your company, and relaxed management is the foundation of productive, happy employees. A single, overworked manager trying to do everything leads to all kinds of trouble.
From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. Delegating responsibility, degrees of control, feedback systems for that responsibility could very easily be an entire thread by itself. Counting myself, we have a 4 person shop, with one person in the office part time doing payroll, job costing and data entry. We gross 425K a year. And we have shown a profit every year. We do not produce the same thing over and over. In fact, we pretty much do not build the same thing twice (has to do with our clients and market), and while there is a number of very talented shops in our area and talented craftsmen, none of the shops are very big.
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