The Cost of High Turnover

      Replacing a lost employee costs a business to a degree that isn't always appreciated. Here, cabinetmakers discuss the problem of selecting, training, and keeping valuable team members. September 8, 2007

Many employers operate under the thinking that high turnover costs nothing. I don't believe this is true. Is there a study or survey enumerating the costs of losing people for whatever reason and retraining? Especially companies that hire people with little or no prior experience specific to their operation. I don't think the inefficiencies and mistakes are figured into the equation as costs in determining the benefits or detriments of doing business this way. Does anyone have any input?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor C:
I completely agree. I see companies every day that use the disposable employee theory. You are right that most of them don't consider the cost of training or the amount of time spent to simplify their process so anyone off the street can do the job. On the other hand, a non-skilled position can be filled with little or no training (read, sweeping floors) but a bench person or installer needs skill or training.

What ends up happening is the shop with a high turnover is the training and screening shop for the market. With this practice other shops just wait for a trained and pre-screened employee with a little experience to apply, rather than take a risk and hire off the street.

I do not have any study data for our specific industry at the moment but it wouldn't be difficult to do some mapping of production employees' revenue to develop that figure. I believe it would vary by company because of training methods, work flow, shop procedures and quality of employee. Rest assured, spending training time on an employee just to throw them away after a few months is expensive. Money would be much better spent finding a better prospect to start with before spending a lot of training dollars.

Years ago when there was an excess of potential hires, I would start them at the lowest position so I could tell if they were the right person for the job before I made the commitment to train them for the long haul. In today's world of hiring, that may not work as well. Times change as well as methods. Take the time to develop a strategy that works for you and your company.

From contributor P:
It's hard to imagine that anyone doesn't realize how expensive turnover can be. On the other hand, a savvy employer will get rid of people who aren't working out as soon as possible. So a shop may experience some turnover and still be effective, but it's always a win to keep your best people in place, by whatever means necessary.

From contributor D:
In recent months we've hired and fired 3 entry level employees. We are a small shop with currently only 3 people on the shop floor. I have my most experienced person train the newbies. During this 1 to 2 week period, his productivity is at the very least cut in half. In addition, the newbies don't produce much and what they do produce needs time to inspect and possibly do some touchup sanding, etc.

Based on some simple math, I figure a new hire costs me about $2,000 a week during training. This cost will slowly go down as the training progresses. This cost will start all over again if they don't work out. The last 3 trainees each worked for 2 weeks before they were fired at a cost of $12,000... and we continue to search. We need to hire 3 more people in the coming months, so this process is extremely expensive.

From contributor T:
An observation I have arrived at over the years is that things are a lot more obvious when you are "outside of the moment." An example of this occurred the first week I owned my first digital camera.

I had sent a fellow to a jobsite to gather data about how we were going to interface a windowsill with adjacent cabinetry. When he brought the photos back, I noticed a small subpanel for low voltage wiring that I somehow never noticed when we were measuring the room. The camera paid for itself at that exact moment. More importantly, it gave me this lesson I am sharing with you. The reason we missed that detail probably had to do with all the stimulation we were bombarded with on that day. The carpenters had radios playing, we probably were hungry or tired. Somehow we missed the information that became so apparent when we removed ourselves from the moment.

The big clue here is to separate learning from doing. Starbucks has a great approach for this. They pay their baristas just pennies over minimum wage, but somehow manage to produce a consistent product from store to store. When my daughter went to work for them, they gave her a week's worth of training before she ever poured a cup of coffee.

My hunch is that your most experienced cabinetmaker is probably not the most experienced trainer. I could be wrong but I would guess that he hasn't yet sat down with a piece of paper to delineate these methods on a step by step, 1 through 10 basis. If his system of training relies on brute memorization, his training system is going to be inconsistent and it's going to take a lot longer to get a guy trained. If your experienced guy does not recognize the benefit of writing things down, he is probably not the most effective teacher.

Making your guys drink from a firehose does not work, and prayer is not a strategy.

From contributor G:
I spent 20 years as an executive in the nonprofit world before realizing how much happier I would be (and am) building things for people. That said, I enjoyed great success in hiring folks that stayed, and that worked. It was all about looking at their resume first (yes, even an entry level person in any field should have one), and how it was presented, then meeting them in person. Then, importantly, talking to their references. And even looking for references that they didn't list, for whatever reason. It is expensive to make a hiring mistake, but you can limit your exposure to that mistake by looking at how the person presents him/herself, talking to their references, and most importantly, by asking them all the hard questions you want to during an interview. It's an acquired skill, but worth acquiring, in light of what it costs to hire, then lose, an employee.

From contributor D:
Contributor T, as it turns out, my best guy is also the best teacher; calm, patient, and articulate.

I don't hire based on the strength of resume, nor do I hire experience. Over the years, I've actually seen a negative correlation here... The better the resume and the more experience, the worse the employee. On the contrary, we have the most luck with young, inexperienced workers who show an eagerness to learn. We have had great success over the years in this manner, in fact so much so that several of my former employees have gone off to start their own shops within a year or two of their hire date, having no previous cabinetmaking experience (this is a lesson not to hire people with too much ambition).

My last three hires didn't work out for three different reasons. One was just too lazy, one just wasn't smart enough, and one was all thumbs. I'm not too worried about this trend; we've got 3 more candidates chomping at the bit to get their opportunity.

As for writing down instructions or teaching from a production manual, I think that's a waste of time, personally. Text does not teach someone how much they can sand before they burn through the veneer, it doesn't teach them what flush is, it doesn't teach them how much glue is just right, it doesn't teach them the correct feel to achieve an eased edge. This can only be taught by your tribal elder system, as you like to call it. Thankfully, the kind of product we make on a day to day basis can't be reproduced simply by reading a production manual. If it were that simple, we'd all be out of business.

From contributor T:
I agree with most of what you say. Like you, I think the best candidate is somebody who doesn't have much experience. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are rare. I disagree with you, however, about not writing things down. If you take the time to magnify each step as a stand-alone event, you create the opportunity to become the world's (Skagit County's) low cost producer for that event. At the very least, it helps you storyboard the product in a way that is visual for those who are memory challenged.

You are lucky that your experienced guy is patient and has talent in this arena. My experience has been that people who are good craftspeople are typically not very interested in systems. They tend to be very proud of their skill set and figure that if they had to earn their stripes, everybody else should too. This is great stuff for a diorama but not so great for long term consistency.

There are not very many things we do in this industry that could be considered rocket science. I would go so far as to say there are not very many things we do that couldn't be mastered by anyone within three days. They won't learn everything in three days but there are not very many discrete steps they could not learn in three days.

Writing stuff down does more than just set you up for developing a system. It gives you a formal way to monitor status of steps within your system (or status completion within a cabinet or within a kitchen.)

Think of this like a trip to Home Depot to get twenty things for your remodel. If you don't write it down and end up forgetting one or more things, it does not surprise you. In fact, this is the result you expect. If, however, you start that effort with a list and come up short, you will be quite curious about how that happened. There are a lot of steps involved in making a cabinet. If you have a great guy teaching, you are way ahead of most of us. If he is great now, he would become magnificent with a list.

From contributor C:
The amount that you can standardize your procedures will depend on your product mix and business model, and I know a shop in Tennessee that has operations down to a science. While I agree a process can be broken down to steps and shown on a chart, skill and technique are not so easy. Sanding and finishing would not be as easy to map out as building a simple plywood drawer box. Unless you are building a simple box and outsource a lot of parts, some skilled workers will be needed. There will always be a place in this industry for skill and talent.

I must wonder, if we dumb down cabinetmaking too much, will it be worth doing? Having the right people in the right position is a powerful tool in running a business. ("Good to Great" is a good book on this subject, ISBN: 0066620996)

At the end of the day, are we a cabinet business or a training facility? Or are we in the business of tailoring our operation for the benefit of the un-trainable workforce? (How many shops have to constantly simplify their process to accommodate their employees?)

From contributor T:
This is not about dumbing the process down - it is about leveraging the assets you have in place. Delineating things on a step by step basis gives you some tools that pure intuition (or experience) simply do not provide.

There was some discussion a while back about the Ferrari Racing team that could pull a car off the track, fuel it up, change the tires and give the driver some Gatorade in 8 seconds. This type of athleticism comes from an obsession with minutia. They can do this at 200 miles an hour, and we're proud of the fact we can cut and process a cabinet box in 30 minutes?

Lazy Boy furniture company used to require a week to make a recliner chair. They've now figured out how to get the job done in 3 to 4 hours. This is the kind of excellence that the most skilled craftspeople should applaud. My hunch is that these gains were not harvested by utilizing tribal knowledge alone. The Cabinetmaker's Association is just now starting to comprehend the principles of lean thinking. There is no lower hanging fruit than simply writing something down.

From the original questioner:
Well, since I started this, I can't help but chime in again. I have been in this business since November of 1972 and I have won awards on both coasts. I have mainly been in the high end of residential but for a short stint, I ran the cabinet division of Sellen construction north of Seattle. (They built Bill Gates' house). Enough horn tooting, actually just laying the groundwork for a good defense.

I have seen over the last 35 years business owners trying to make a living in an ever changing climate. Changes in techniques, materials, and equipment. CNC was supposed to do away with all the problems with the troublesome employee (lack of ethics, desire to learn and become more and so forth). However, after the last 15 years, what's the top concern of the top fdm300? Insufficient trainable people wanting to be cabinetmakers. Why? Well, I wouldn't want to take on a career that can be learned in 3 days. Not much job security in that.

I believe we have tried in vain to bypass the fundamentals of the trade in the pursuit of the quick dollar. We send our children to school for 12 years and almost teach them nothing. Many quit because they can make XXX dollars in no time.

I don't mean to sound negative, but here is a quote from another woodworker - see if you can guess who he is and what year this was written.

"Again since they had made machines, they took a pride in doing everything by machine. The marvelous power of the human hand, which had really developed the human brain, especially when using hand tools, was lost sight of, and individually was lost, together with the nicety of shape, accuracy of structure, and the charm invariably resultant from the skilful and loving human touch. It became a maxim in shops, as it is to this very day, 'You can't afford to do it by hand.' This spirit yet rules and largely ruins the age. There is no extensive manufactory of furniture where much work is done by hand, or where it is encouraged or even tolerated. Nemesis has overtaken furnituremaking. The extensive factories have, mostly, failed and those that made the best furniture have failed most completely. The leading man in a concern widely boasting of its reproductions stated in the hearing of the writer that 'Finish is 99% important.' So furniture is made with a lick and a go. A form was selected that could be managed by a machine. In fact, the name 'Joiner' of old, given to a man who could unite by mortise, is totally inapplicable to the rank and file of woodworkers of today. They pass no examination of a guild. They have no pride in their product. This system is subversive of character. Everything below the surface is rotten; if not the wood, the method. It is the murder of the finer attributes. And it will go merrily on, civilization dancing about its own open grave."

Thanks for bearing with me. I know that sounds pretty strong and initially meant for the furniture industry. But where is this industry today? Where are all the craftsmen? If this trade is so easy, why do so many companies lose money and go out of business? The true tradesman is disappearing before our eyes. Our answer is newer machinery that can replace people. Hmm...

We have tried this for years and still no winning formula. I am going to meet with the woodshop teacher at our local high school and try to inspire some juniors/seniors into a trade with a heritage dating back to Egypt 3000 B.C. I think getting some fresh people and molding them while they are still moldable might work. Enough rambling. Did you guess who wrote this and when?

From contributor T:
Contributor D, you are right again. You wrote: "Text does not teach someone how much they can sand before they burn through the veneer..."

Text can, however, tell a newbie which kind of sandpaper to use for a particular phase of sanding. The other alternative, of course, is brute memorization. Which of these ways would you have more confidence in? Or, put another way, which way would you rather be taught?

From contributor U:
I'll guess: William Morris?

From the original questioner:
Good try. It was Wallace Nutting and he wrote it in 1933. He had quite a bit of foresight. We never try to bypass teaching our children the fundamentals, yet we think we can teach a trade without them. Just because one can plug in a light doesn't make one an electrician.

From contributor C:
Contributor T, my observation was to expose the idea that if cabinetmaking was easy, anyone could do it. I agree that you should strive to obtain the highest return on available manpower. A value stream map of processes is a tremendous tool for removing waste from your production process.

I am just a little concerned with all the Lean talk. Our industry is becoming perceived as a simple industry to break into, both by prospective employees and customers. This is a bad thing for cabinetmakers as a whole. If a customer believes that an eight dollar an hour guy that was flipping burgers last week built my cabinets, why does my kitchen cost twenty thousand dollars? Likewise, why would anyone want to work at a place that was boring and non-rewarding?

Granted the above is an extreme look at a perceived perception and may not apply to any reality in your world.

There are countless examples of how Lean thinking has improved process and profit. In fact, I was lucky enough to sit on a panel discussion with one of Lazy-boy's suppliers that helped them achieve that goal. And yes, it was from implementing Lean manufacturing. Believe it or not, I am not against Lean manufacturing; in fact, quiet the opposite. You are fortunate to have so many excellent resources right in your backyard. Last November I visited a contract furniture maker not far from you that was without a doubt the best example of Lean integration that I have seen in the wood industry.

I am not knocking your commitment to process at all. Just when this subject is discussed on the web, a lot is left out and to the casual reader it is difficult to get the big picture. I am all for improving throughput. All across the board, it starts in the office and ends with install; the shop floor is in the middle.

The CMA membership has been involved in Lean discussion on many different levels for quite some time. True, some members more than others, and some not at all. The two Lean seminars/workshops that were held in the last four months were full. I don't think Keith called his paperwork processes Lean, but he sure had a paper trail system that was constantly improving. The low hanging fruit is the easiest, and as people exhaust their supply, they will move to the next level. On a side note, a lot of interest in this subject may result in a day long or even a multi day seminar/workshop - IWF may be a good venue.

From contributor S:
Yes, there was a study done. I attended a seminar on it a few years back. IIRC Short answer ~ 3x employee gross salary plus benefits = cost of turnover. This is a simplified version of a very long formula. I saved the paperwork with calculations but don't have it with me right now.

I think the main problem with most employers not realizing the true costs of turnover is because they never look at the big picture, the long haul. They can't get their mind past the next project. This is why they never see the investment value in creating SOP. It takes time, tons and tons of time, to develop a system, but when you look at the long term goals, this investment pays dividends way beyond what is put into it.

When you look at the end vision of what would work best, it seems like an obstacle not worth overcoming. The thing is there is no such thing as an end. There is no such thing as perfection; there is only constant improvement.

I know first hand what implementing procedures can do. We have done nothing but work on constantly upgrading procedures and training for the past 6 years. I don't care how complex or custom you are. Everything done in every facet in every business can be broken down into tasks and subtasks, documented and trained to someone with zero previous experience.

Acquire/review/ revise/improve data
Write procedure

Set a standard for quality of your product and write procedures on how to do it as efficiently (profitable) as possible. Change policy only when it meets one of these 2 requirements. Will it raise the level of quality without costing more time/money (hurt throughput), or will it reduce time/cost (increase throughput) without hurting quality?

Anyhow, if you want people to stay on for the long haul, you have to offer them a career. You have to make the job so rewarding that they would never want to go out on their own or leave. You have to offer benefits - multiple weeks paid vacation, full health insurance, retirement plan, many miscellaneous perks.

If you set up your operation to run systematically with SOP, you will generate the extra cash flow that will enable you to offer those things.

I started several years ago by scribbling procedures down in a spiral notebook for two weeks. Sat down for one full day with my guys to review them. Then went into the office and photocopied them and stapled/taped them up around the shop. Productivity went up 25% in two weeks. Six years later those same employees write and update those procedures themselves. We are closing in on 250% improvement. The biggest problem now is selling enough to keep them busy.

The absolute number one key to success and keeping employees long term is to constantly improve throughput with written and easily trainable SOP, which in turn creates the increased cash flow needed to give your employees the pay and benefits it will take to make them lifers.

From contributor D:
Contributor T, over the years on this forum I have seen many people who I respect preach over and over the value of a production manual. So one day, I up and wrote one. I wrote down every step of multiple processes... casework, various woodworking tasks, finishing, installation, even my own office tasks. They sit in a three ring binder above my desk, never having been used to train an employee.

The reason? Why not write down how to go to your mailbox? Because after you do it once, you don't need the instructions anymore. You're right when you say that most cabinetmaking tasks can be learned in three days... probably less. It's the totality of all the tasks that takes years. We don't, however, give someone a binder and say "read how to assemble a filler, and then come see me when you're done." Why? Because it's faster and better to explain it. After you explain it, you never have to explain it again.

When a newbie sands through the veneer on his first filler and looks sick to his stomach, we say, "Hey, that's great. We want you to make that mistake because now you know what it feels like to sand through. This learning opportunity is now done with, and we can move on to better things. There's nothing we can say or do to show you what it feels like right before you sand through. You just have to do it, and learn from it. This is true with every mistake you're going to make."

I'd really like someone to show me an example of a set of written instructions for a wood part, let's say a fluted column, that would produce faster, better, and more consistent results than verbal instructions. What would they look like? How much time would it take to produce these instructions? How and where would you store these instructions? What if the instructions are for a simple fluted board, but the part needing to be made is 4-sided? How many variations of these instructions do there need to be? How many thousands of combinations of parts do we produce in a year? Do we write them all down?

It seems to me that any task simple enough to be written down should be simple enough to be explained once. In your sandpaper analogy, why not just tell this employee to start with 120 and finish with 180? Why take the time to write this down?

From contributor T:
I'll start with your fluted pilaster. We do those from time to time. The process we use is to set up a router table with a stop on both ends of the flute. We don't do enough of this to warrant a CNC machine, so we cobble our way through. We also don't do enough of this to remember that key step of taking a wet cloth and dampening the wood before making the final plunge. This raises the grain a little bit, but this grain-raise is a lot easier to detail sand than a burn mark.

A simple set of procedures would help the experienced guy to remember something he might forget, or help a new guy learn about the method for the first time. As I said before, if it is not written down, you have to rely on everybody's memory.

Standardization is one of the outcomes of training by list management. While it is true that there are usually several ways to accomplish a step, there is typically just one "best" way. Lists give you tools to evaluate those alternatives.

Sometimes it's not how you do something but where you do it, or when you do it, that makes a difference in the outcome. A simple list keeps these sequences in order and gives you a less expensive way to manage them. If monitoring production status consists of polling people or spending time looking for clues (then building a strategy based upon these ad hoc conclusions), you're probably going to miss some opportunities. The Sherlock Holmes system will get the job done eventually, but a simple list that's yellowed out when a task is performed is less ambiguous and more effective.

The difference between a good craftsman and a great craftsman is speed. A list can make a great craftsman quicker. We've all seen jigs and fixtures in our shops with poetry written all over them to describe what they do. A list approach would associate a number on this jig to a number on the task. A SOP would also include a digital photo of how the fixturing looks when it is set up. An SOP is no substitute for actual experience, but it will sometimes help an experienced guy remember something he might forget or help a new guy learn something quicker.

Watch your craftsmen sometimes at the end of a project. When it comes time to power down and they have no choice, they will make a punchlist. How much more effective would these people be if they started the job with this list?

How you do it? Where you do it? When you do it? Who should do it? Has it been done? How long did it take?

This may seem like too many layers of management, but these are questions that get asked and answered everyday in your shop. Making a list of these events isn't adding a single task to your day. It just changes the way you accomplish something you are already doing.

From contributor R:
I think contributor D makes a good point. A lot of people get hung up on procedures and paperwork, when what we are doing is producing a product. If you are running a factory that makes multiples of the same thing, you can standardize procedures and processes up to a point; what you get is something that resembles an assembly line. The assembly line concept worked early on, up to the point that the workers quickly figured out that it was boring and un-rewarding, and the bosses eventually figured out that their employees were unmotivated and resentful. Enlightened employers gravitated towards the assembly-cell concept, and now we are all being told about Lean manufacturing, although nobody seems to be able to explain the concept very succinctly; maybe that's why all these seminars are full, and there are so many articles in magazines talking in vague terms that need an expert to explain.

It's no wonder that young people don't want to go into a career that involves doing a repetitive task in a dusty work environment, where the bottom line is how fast units are produced. The pictures that I see in the trade magazines about successful companies show people standing in front of CNC machines loading and un-loading parts. Re-read the quote from Wallace Nutting, and think about what you are being told about CNC machines - they perform a function, but nothing can replace hand-work and talent for certain operations. Talent cannot necessarily be taught, but skills can be. In my humble opinion, young people today have not been taught to work their way up from sweeping the floor, because everyone on TV makes enough money to do whatever they want, without actually working - the twenty-somethings don't even have jobs. There is no concept of learning a trade or skill - there are no craftspeople or artists on television, and the doctors and lawyers are too busy having affairs and personal crises to actually do any work. Contributor S makes a good point about giving employees enough consideration and benefits to make them lifers, but in the many years that I have been in this business, I have rarely seen what he describes.

From contributor C:
Using the example of a fluted column, I think a standard for that part would be something like this.

ABC cabinet company's standard fluted column is made from 1" thick material clear and free from defects and warp. The part is 34 1/2" long by 4 " wide with 5) 1/4" flutes 5/16" deep (see drawing below for spacing). Use the PC router marked flute router with the flute jig and bit number AM1353.

This could be written up with a few simple line drawings showing size and flute placement and a cut or cross section if needed. By producing this document you have set a standard for a fluted column at ABC cabinets. So when a shop drawing indicated a fluted column be applied to cabinet number 8, everyone knows what you are talking about and you do not have to waste time telling every new hire what a fluted column is. This is where a SOP comes into play.

You could take this further, as in the question, what if it's a four sided box? Shop drawings would say: Take four standard fluted columns, miter them along both long edges at 45 degrees, and assemble them into a box with four fluted sides... You get the idea.

I still don't believe there is any way to replace skills and technique with a written manual, but setting some standards will help to improve productivity. I like the term "SOP" - standard operating procedure. Not that everything that comes in the door will fall under its guidelines, but it will allow you the time to explain a different procedure by freeing you up from going over the same standard time and time again.

The sanding point is another good example of how a SOP would help. A written procedure would not train anyone how to sand a part, but it would ensure that parts sanded by different people in the shop would be sanded to the same grit. If you set a standard that all cherry parts for natural finish be sanded to 220 grit before finish, there would be no question that Bill and Sam would sand to the same grit that was called out on the sanding SOP sheet. Without a standard defined, who is to say that Bill thinks 180 grit is plenty good for cherry and Sam thinks 280 grit does a better job? Both of the parts are sanded to the standard set by the person that did the sanding, not by the shop's standard.

From contributor I:
I have tried both ways. I have gone as far as making videos of how we... And have written up how we do the bookkeeping (a 300 page document), both of which got pitched when we changed methods or systems. A lot of work only to be abandoned.

The other way verbal hating is fine for highly repetitive tasks.

Whatever you do, I think you have to make the rules of the game very clear. One extreme is the guy has to make his own policy as he goes, the other is the guy can't get anything done as he is stymied trying to follow all the ambiguous rules. In either case, the guy is not going to be happy. If the rules are clear and he is motivated by you, he can produce and become a lifer.

I get the sense from this thread that everyone is trained equally. Not everyone is equal; you have to evaluate each individual and their ability and willingness to learn and think conceptually.

The union apprenticeship program has been around for a while - it can't be all bad? They use book learning and hands on training, and this (in theory) is rounded out with apprenticing, where the real learning takes place. Why reinvent the wheel?

From contributor D:
On the side of our point to point is a piece of paper outlining about 10 steps in running the machine, from sizing it in the morning to shutting it down. This is something I see value in because it's a confusing machine. After a week or so, a new employee will stop looking at those instructions, but it's good that they're there so that we don't have to write it down again when we hire someone else.

Although we haven't done it, I could see value in a set of instructions on how to set up the shaper, or how to change the knives on the 4-sided planer. But when it comes to woodworking/part assembly, I'm going to politely disagree on the idea of process documentation. At least for my company, which consists of 2 or 3 woodworkers, 1 or 2 caseworkers, and a product line that requires 100% flexibility.

From contributor O:
When I took woodshop in school, many years ago, out of 25 kids in a class, there were 2 of us who had an actual interest. Guys took woodshop, girls took cooking or sewing. When you could pick your subjects, most of the guys took woodshop again because they didn't like school, so it was better than taking calculus or chemistry. I don't think people go into woodworking because they are particularly good at taking notes, or for that matter, want to. If a person has the right touch to become a brilliant carpenter, it is not because of something they read in a book. The instructions are there, but the interpretation may not translate to doing a good job. Tell someone to use 120 grit sandpaper, followed by 180, etc., but how much pressure should be used? What kind of touch do you need to use a file, a hand plane, a chisel? Can written instructions teach that end of our industry? I hired a Dutch cabinetmaker several years back. I have yet to see the level of skill he exhibited. He could barely read, but put a tool in his hand and stand back. I am not saying that people can't learn this trade from a book, but to be truly proficient, you can't beat hands on.

A problem that we will all face is that a person can be a great carpenter, but that doesn't make us good businessmen. There will always be shops that go out of business. You look at that and say, "he did such good work, I wonder what happened." The problem is that business gets in the way sometimes. Many tradesmen can build the most amazing products, but then turn that into making a living and it's not so easy. You can go from being that guy who turned a bunch of planks into an award winning china cabinet, to that jerk who wants $20,000.00 to build my kitchen. It kind of takes a lot of the fun out of what we do.

When it comes to hiring, it is really just the luck of the draw. Is this the guy who is going to turn our company around or is he just filling in time until he figures out what he really wants to do? I don't think there is a formula that will tell you what a person is thinking, or what the future holds. We just keep hoping our experience along the way helps us weed out the wheat from the chaff.

From contributor S:
The following are 2 overview sheets for maintenance and sheetgood processing. At each work station/area/machine is a separate sheet with owner's manual, individual operation manual and a chart showing how to set up machine settings. Of course you have to physically have someone train a new person. You can't just hand someone paperwork and throw them to the wolves. But with a manual, I know that no matter who is doing the training or who is learning whatever the process is, it will be done exactly the same every single time. This creates the ability for anyone in the entire shop to step into a project at any point and know exactly where it is at and what needs to be done next (cross training). Plus, after explaining once, this new person only needs to read a step by step guide for a refresher instead of repeatedly stopping to ask someone else for help (losing double production hours). SOP and standards are only good if you train people on them. They are useless if they sit in a book on a shelf.

Once someone understands something, they don't even need to read anything. That is the goal. That is the whole point now of having my guys actually rewrite SOP. By the time they think through it and type it down, they know it by heart. They are also prepared to train any new person. By breaking down like this, you can have someone step in and immediately be in production. You train people from the most menial tasks and work them back through to the smart operations (primary processing). Start at learn maintenance, sanding, staining/scuffing, secondary processing, assembly. When they master everything, then they finally get to do the primary processing (the most important part). This is where the parts are cut to primary size and labeled for all sub tasks to follow.

1. Turn on lights and punch your time card in
2. Turn on air compressor for appropriated day
A: Turn on wall switch
B: Open gate valve
C: Turn on chiller
3. Drain air compressor
A: Enter compressor room
B: Turn on light
C: Crack open petcock valve on compressors
D: Let drain
E: Close petcock valve on compressors
F: Crack open petcock valve on wall
G: Let drain
H: Close petcock valve on wall
I: Turn off light and close door
4. Check dust collector bags and empty if needed
A: Check to make sure the power switch is off, then go and unplug the dust collector from the wall you are working on
B: Loosen the black strap located at the top of the full bag of dust
C: Pull the bag off of the machine and pull a contractor size garbage bag over the dust bag
D: Flip bag over and empty dust into garbage bag completely
E: Return the dust bag back onto the dust collection machine (MAKE SURE you have the black STRAP PORTION of the bag over the FLARED OUT part of the dust collection drum and that it is TIGHT and SECURE!!!)
F: PLUG dust collectors back in, clean up any saw dust that fell out, place in bag, and tie bag up. (WHEN 6 or more bags of dust accumulate you can call LISA at (xxx)-xxx-xxxx and she will come and get the bags. IF we are working with BLACK WALNUT THROW OUT THE DUST INTO DUMPSTER DO NOT GIVE AWAY!!!)
5. Vacuum HVAC intake filters
A: Use shop vacuum and ladder
1. Fill in your Daily agenda book. Write down anytime spent on jobs, what you did and how long you took. (example- Broedur-trophy case-process-4 Hanks-doors-sand-2Shop-2)
2. Turn off the compressor for that day, close the gate valve, and turn chiller OFF
3. Turn off the radio/CD player, any dust collectors, Fans, or Power Feeds that might have been left on, and replace all phones to phone bases
4. Turn off all lights, the electric heat in the front office, and punch your time card out
1. Clean out sanding table
A: Clear sanding table off and open top
B: Vacuum out top filter using shopvac
Close table top
C: Open blast gate and turn dust collector
D: Blow out bottom filters
E: Turn off dust collector
2. Clean spray booth
A: Turn on fan, Blow off racks and lights
B: Sweep floor to the back corner of the spray booth
C: Vacuum remaining pile of dust
D: Change filters if necessary
E: Vacuum out ceiling vent filters
1. Sweep shop from front to back - side to side
2. Put away all usable sheet goods in racks. Throw away scrap
3. Put away all usable hardwood in racks. Cut up scrap for kindling
4. Empty garbage cans from front to back, Empty into dumpster, and return garbage can back to appropriate area.
1. Throw away Tupperware
2. Check the heat located to the left of the compressor switches

Monthly-15th of the month
1. Vacuum and clean machines out.
A: Go to all machines that you can open up and go inside
B: Blow off and Vacuum up excess saw dust build up
C: Close up machines when DONE
2. Wax all table tops
A: Get a can of BUTCHER'S WAX, a few clean rags, and electric buffer.
B: Go to the machine, UNPLUG MACHINE!, lower the blade, and move any power feed out of way
C: Apply a healthy coating of Butcher's wax to the table top (try not to get the wax all over everything)
D: Buff out until table top is smooth and slick
E: Plug the machine back in and move on to the next machine
A: Clear off work bench
B: Take a SHOP CHISEL and carefully scrap built up glue off of bench top
C: Take Barrel Sander with 150 grit sand paper and lightly sand bench top
smooth (don't burn through on the melamine tops)
D: Apply a healthy coating of Butcher's wax to bench top
E: Buff off until bench top is smooth and slick
F: Move onto the next bench top
3. Clean bathroom and kitchen
A: Sweep out bathrooms and kitchen
B: Take bath room cleaner and brush clean the bowl and sink. Wipe dry
4. Top-off screw bins and sandpaper
5. Check forklift propane
6. Check oil tank
A: Get a flash light and go over to the back RADIAL ARM SAW
B: Crawl under the machine and remove the screen frame
C: Shine Flash light onto Oil gauge and CHECK OIL (let Mark know oil level after checking!)
D: Put screen frame back in place and turn off flash light
7. Check and replace all light bulbs
A: Take a walk around shop looking for lights that are dim or not working at all
B: Take the ladder and climb up and move bulb around to see if it works, if it doesn't work replace with proper bulb (BE CAREFUL)
C: Throw all non-working bulbs in dumpster

Quarterly (January, April, July, October)
1. Change compressor oil
A: Turn off compressors
B: Go into compressor room, turn on light, and unplug compressors
C: Take the appropriate wrenches (vice grip, channel lock, allen key) and drain out old oil into can in compressor room (let it drain for a bit)
D: Replace drain plugs and tighten to proper torque specifications
E: Pour out old oil into old oil collection jugs
F: Take funnel and fill the compressors motor back up (they don't take a lot so check it as you add) (DON'T OVER FILL)
G: Clean up any mess that was made, plug the compressors back in, turn off light in compressor room, and turn on the appropriated compressor
2. Grease Machines and wheels on POWER FEEDS
A: Get grease, grease gun and some rags
B: Go to a power feed or machine, UNPLUG IT!
C: Locate all grease fittings on machine
C: Move power feed away from fence then clean any build up off of wheels
and grease fittings
D: Take grease gun, put onto fittings (this may require raising or lowering or moving arbors and motors) and apply some grease(don't go crazy so grease doesn't squish out of bearing seals just a little bit)
E: Wipe fitting off and clean up around the area you were working (don't leave
Any grease on any part of the table surface or fences!!!)
F: Move power feed back over table and PLUG BACK IN!
G: Move onto next machine
3. Clean and grease exhaust fan in spray booth
A: Get an adjustable wrench, allen key set, a scraper, an old putty knife, and the shop vacuum
B: Go into spray booth, TURN OFF THE FAN, and remove the filters on the filter wall
C: Climb in and remove the fan blade using the allen keys and the adjustable wrench (THE BOLT IS OPPOSITE THREAD - Loosen to the RIGHT.
D: Take scraper and putty knife then scrap all the excess build up off the fan chute and fan body
E: Take the shop vacuum and vacuum out all the build up you just scraped free and vacuum it up in the vacuum
F: Take the fan blade and put it back in place (REMEMBER OPPOSITE THREAD TIGHTEN TO THE LEFT
G: Climb out of filter wall, replace filters, and clean up your MESS!

Quarterly (January, April, July, October) continued
A: Turn off fan
B: Go behind filter wall and locate fan motor
C: In front motor you will see a tube sticking up with a cap on it
D: Remove cap and pack the cap full of grease
E: Replace cap onto tube and wipe excess grease up on tube
4. Service and clean truck (as NEEDED)
A: Pop and Open the truck hood
B: Locate the Oil dipstick, Power steering dipstick, Radiator cap, Clutch reservoir, and Brake reservoir. CHECK AND TOP OFF ALL FLUIDS
C: Replace all dipsticks, caps, and lids back to proper spots
D: Close hood and Check it
E: Go inside of truck cab, clean all garbage out, sweep out truck, and take any receipts or old plans/paperwork in to front office then place in bin
F: Go to rear of truck and open up back door
G: Clean out any garbage, shake out and fold up any blankets (put them in there bin in the loading dock area), organize ALL TOOLS according to truck check list
F: Sweep back of truck out and CLOSE AND LOCK THE TRUCK UP (put keys back where they go)

1. Total up job hours in book
A: Go through your daily planning log
B: Write down ALL jobs you worked on and the hours you worked on them (example: Hefner- entertainment center living room- 69hours
Bush- kitchen- 130hours
Citibank- columns- 57hours
Shop Time- 420 hours
Install Time- 187 hours
C: Hand into Sean
2. All tooling out to be sharpen
3. Defrost refrigerator
A: Open the fridge and throw out all old leftovers (sorry)
B: Unplug and Let thaw out
C: Clean up any mess and plug back in
4. Forklift maintenance
A: Open up fork lift engine compartment
B: Locate the engine oil dipstick, transmission dipsticks, brake, and hydraulic reservoir
C: Check and add fluids if needed
D: Replace all dipsticks, caps, and close up the engine compartment
5. Gutters cleaned spring and fall
A: Get the Extension ladder from the Front shed
B: Climb up to gutters and clean out any debris (Be Careful)
C: Throw out the debris and PUT THE LADDER BACK in the front shed
Sheet goods
1. All areas to be used in the processing of any part must be cleaned first
2. All settings on all machines to be checked and adjusted BEFORE machining parts
3. Be sure tooling is clean and sharp before machining parts
4. Unplug ALL machines before servicing or changing tooling NO EXCEPTIONS
5. All safety features/methods must be in place before starting machinery
6. Check dust collection before machining
7. Understand why, what and how you are doing something before doing it
1. Read and understand operation manual for fork lift.
2. Turn on gas for forklift.
3. Turn on forklift.
4. Pull sheet goods to be machine.
5. Turn off forklift.
6. Read and understand the operation manual for sliding saw.
7. Put on all safety equipment.
8. Turn on dust collector.
9. Turn on saw.
10. Rip, crosscut, rip when possible.
11. Process all parts on cut list
12. Label codes on back edge or non-machined edge.
13. Place parts on separate carts, for secondary machine process.
14. Do all specialty cuts that can be done on sliding saw.
15. Turn off saw.
16. Turn off dust collector.
17. Clean area.
18. Roll cart to next station as per code.
* = Specialty cuts
TK = toe kick
DA = dado
LB = line bore plus number code
LBA - Drill both sides
LBB - Double Drill
LBC - Double drill both sides
LBD - Drill for divider
LBDL - Drill for divider left side only
LBDR - Drill for divider right side only
X = edge band
FB = foot bore
FBL - 3 Recess finished end left side.
FBR - 3 Recess finished end right side.
FBLR - 3 Recess finished end left and right side
PS = pocket screw
BJ = biscuit
HR = hang rail
*-Specialty cuts
A. Understand completely all specialty cuts. Refer to drawings for all specifications.
TK- Toe kick
A. 3 off face, 4 TALL
Sheet goods cont.
DA Dado
DAF Dado finish end
FENCE - A 19/32 wide dado x 3/8 deep, set 1 to front off of back edge.
FENCE - B 19/32 wide dado x 3/8 deep, set 1 to front off back edge.
1. Roll cart marked for dado over to the dado saw.
2. Read and understand the operation manual.
3. Put on all safety equipment.
4. Make sure fence A is on saw
5. Turn on dust collector.
6. Turn on dado machine.
7. Turn power feed to forward.
8. Run parts marked DA interior face down with coded edge on fence
9. Stack finished parts on cart.
10. Turn off dado machine.
11. Turn off power feed.
12. For parts marked DAF remove fence A
13. Turn on Dado machine.
14. Turn on power feed.
15. Run parts marked DAF interior face down with coded edge on fence.
16. Stack finish parts on cart.
17. Turn off dado machine.
18. Turn off power feed.
19. Turn off dust collector.
20. Roll cart to next station as per code. (linebore)
LB line bore, LBA Drill both sides, LBB Double Drill, LBC- Double drill both sides
LBD Drill for divider,
LBDL- Drill for divider left only
LBDR- Drill for divider right only
1. Roll cart marked for line bore over to the line bore machine.
2. Put on all safety equipment.
3. Never move the stops on the fence.
4. All drilling begins off top of cabinet 33.5 mm on center to first hole.
5. Set machine to code label front and back.
6. Adjust hold downs over drill bits.
7. Turn on dust collector.
8. Turn on line bore machine.
9. Place part cabinet interior face down, coded edge out with top edge on stop. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A
10. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
For parts over 36,
a. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill of left hand stop A
b. Turn toggle switch L.
c. Move part to left on indexing pin until right indexing pin R is exposed, and part is indexed on L pin.
d. Drill part
e. Parts marked LB part # .2 drill of right hand stop A
f. Turn toggle switch R
g. Move part to right on indexing pin until left indexing L pin is exposed, and part is indexed on R pin.
h. Press foot paddle to activate machine.
For LBA --
a. Place part cabinet interior face down, with top edge on stop. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A
b. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
c. Flip part over
d. Place part cabinet opposite face down, with top edge on stop. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A
e. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
For LBB -- Double drill
a. Place part cabinet interior face down, with top edge on stop. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A
b. Press foot paddle to activate machine.
c. Place 16mm(5/8) spacer between part and stop.
d. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
For LBC -- Double drill both sides
a. Place part cabinet interior face down, with top edge on stop. Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A. Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A.
b. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
c. Place 16mm(5/8) spacer between part and stop.
d. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
e. Flip part over.
f. Place part cabinet opposite face down, with top edge on stop.
g. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
h. Place 16mm(5/8) spacer between part and stop.
i. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
For LBD Drill for divider.
a. Place part cabinet interior face down, with top edge on stop
Parts marked LB part # .1 drill off left hand stop A
Parts marked LB part #.2 drill off right hand stop A.
b. Place spacer between part and stop.
c. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
d. Flip part over
e. Place part opposite face down, with top edge on stop
f. Place spacer between part and stop.
g. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
For LBDL - Drill for left side divider.
a. Mark top edge at this point.
b. Place part left side down code edge out with top on right stop A
c. Place spacer between part and stop.
d. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
FOR LBDR Drill for right side divider.
a. Mark top edge at this point.
b. Place part right side down code edge out with top on left stop A
c. Place spacer between part and stop.
d. Press foot pedal to activate machine.
11. Check for proper setting.
12. Run all parts.
13. Turn off dust collector.
14. Turn off line bore machine.
15. Roll cart to next station as per code. (EDGEBANDING)
X -Edge band (You must understand which edges are being labeled left/right, top/bottom. Do not randomly edgeband parts)
1. Roll cart marked for edge banding over to the edge banding machine.
2. Read and understand operation manual.
3. Put on all safety equipment.
4. Turn on egdebanding machine.
5. Check glue pot!!! Do not fill past opening to reservoir!!!
6. Loosen height adjustment.
7. Adjust machine for thickness of part.
8. Tighten height adjustment.
9. Select specified edgebanding.
10. Adjust machine for thickness of edgebanding.
11. Turn on dust collector.
12. Wait until machine reaches 200 Degrees.
13. Start edgebanding machine.
14. Run part with edge to be edge banded into machine dado side down.
15. Check part for proper setting.
16. Run all parts.
17. Turn off edgebander
18. Turn off dust collector.
19. Roll cart to next station as per code.
!!! Hand edge banding !!!
1. Roll cart over to hand edge banding area
2. Put on all safety equipment.
3. Turn on iron, and heat gun if need for round and curved parts.
4. Select proper edgebanding.
5. Place part in clamp
6. Iron, rub, and check EVERY piece for full contact.
7. End cut with end cutter.
8. Rout with round over bit just barely cutting into face.
Files, chisels and heat gun may be used for special applications
9. All edge banding procedures done at one time on each part while in clamp.
10. Turn off iron and turn heat gun to cool down setting, if used.
11. Wait for iron and gun cool down.
12. Put away all tools.
13. Roll cart to next station, as per code
FB - Foot boring
FBL - 3 Recess finished end left side.
FBR - 3 Recess finished end right side.
FBLR 3 Recess finished end left and right side
1. Roll cart marked for foot boring over to the foot bore machine.
2. Read and understand operation manual.
3. Put on all safety equipment.
4. Turn on dust collector.
5. Place parts marked FB exterior face side up with code numbered side on fence.
6. slide part to left to stop A
7. Turn on hold down.
8. Press start
9. Turn off hold down
10. Slide part to right stop A
11. Turn on hold down.
12. Press start.
13. Turn off hold down.
14. Rotate part 180 degrees
15. Slide part to left to stop A
16. Turn on hold down.
17. Press start.
18. Turn off to hold down.
19. Slide part to right stop A
20. Turn on hold down.
21. Press start.
22. Turn off hold down.
23. Check for proper setting.
24. Place parts marked FBL exterior face side up with code numbered side on fence.
25. Slide part to right stop B.
26. Turn on hold down.
27. Press start.
28. Turn off hold down.
29. Slide part to left stop A
30. Turn on hold down.
31. Press start.
32. Turn off hold down.
33. Rotate part 180 degrees.
34. Slide part to left B
35. Turn on hold down.
36. Press start.
37. Turn off hold down.
38. Slide part to right A
39. Turn on hold down.
40. Press start.
41. Turn off hold.
42. Place parts marked FBR exterior face side up with code numbered side on fence
43. Slide part to left stop B.
44. Turn on hold down.
45. Press start.
46. Turn off hold down.
47. Slide part to right stop A.
48. Turn on hold down.
49. Press start.
50. Turn off hold down.
51. Rotate part 180 degrees.
52. Slide part to left stop A.
53. Turn on hold down.
54. Press start.
55. Turn off hold down.
56. Slide part to right stop B.
57. Turn on hold down.
58. Press start.
59. Turn off hold down.
60. Place parts marked FBLR exterior face side up with code numbered side on fence.
61. Slide part to left stop B
62. Turn on hold down.
63. Press start.
64. Turn off hold down.
65. Slide part to right stop B.
66. Turn on hold down.
67. Press start.
68. Turn off hold down.
69. Rotate part 180 Degrees.
70. Slide part to left stop B
71. Turn on hold down.
72. Press start
73. turn off hold down.
74. Slide part to right stop B
75. Turn on hold down.
76. Press start.
77. Turn off hold down.
78. Run all parts.
79. Turn off dust collector.
80. Roll cart to next station as per code.
PS -Pocket screw
1. Roll cart marked for pocket screw over to the pocket screw machine
2. Read and understand operation manual
3. Put on all safety equipment
4. Turn on dust collector
5. Turn on pocket screw machine
6. Place part face side up with edge to be pocket screwed on fence
A. Up to 1-1/2 use 1
B. 1-1/2 + to 10use 2
C. 10+ to18use 3
D. 18+ to 34use 4
E. 34+ to 54use 5
F. 54and over use no more than one screw every 10
7. Turn off pocket screw machine
8. Turn off duct collector
9. Roll cart to next station as per code
BJ -Biscuit joint
1. Roll cart over to biscuit joint area
2. Read and under stand the operation manual.
3. Put on all safety equipment
4. mark out edges to be biscuit
A. Up to 5use 1
B. 5+ to 10use 2
C. 10+ to18use 3
D. 18+ to 34use 4
E. 34+ to 54use 5
F. 54and over use no more than one biscuit every 10
G. Use glue in slots for structural applications only, when used for line up no glue in slots is necessary
5. Turn on biscuit joint machine
6. Joint edges to be connected
7. Turn off biscuit joint machine
8. roll cart to next station as pre code HR = hang rail
1. Roll cart over to hang rail.
2. Put on all safety equipment
3. Run all unseen sides as per HR manual.

From contributor I:
Do you have that in Spanish also?

From contributor S:
I have it on video with subtitles.

From the original questioner:
Contributor S, you gotta be kidding. When I started this thread I did not have this in mind. When it comes to training, I mean the fundamentals. We teach the 3 R's in school and then it's up to each individual to take it from there. If we treat our employees with the dignity and respect and give them what it takes to be lifers, then retraining should be absolutely minimal. Create and inspire our people and they won't want to leave. I wanted the info on the costs of retraining to justify the argument that it's more cost effective to retain them in most cases. When we have to replace someone needlessly we lose all around, including our schedule and customer satisfaction. Have we ever been late on a job because we lost 1 or more key employees? If so, why did he leave? Could it have been avoided? Did he leave because we would only pay the going wage for that position? Would it have been more profitable to pay him and retain him, not having the cost to retrain? (Remember, 3 times gross + benefits. Divide that amount by 2100 hours and see what the right decision is!) I think many don't see the forest for the trees.

From contributor H:
I have worked in woodshops for 22 years. In my experience, high turnover is caused by a lack of management training. From the employee's perspective, switching jobs is a hassle, and easier not done, unless a workplace is unbearable. Training the boss to be a decent human being, and then training the boss to hire and train people, is like teaching the fabled guy to fish.

From the original questioner:
I agree. But we should be able to train him in 3 days - it's not rocket science. If the boss wants to make money, then he needs to learn. If we can relearn Lean or toc, then we can learn the cost effectiveness of keeping our employees happy so they will stay.

From contributor C:
Let's take a different approach with the original question. If we can agree an employee has value to his company, it should be easy to determine the point at which that value goes from negative to positive. If a company hires a person off the street and throws them into the shop with no training, they will save on training costs, but what would the output of the new hire be? The same company hires a person off the street and spends the first three days on training and orientation on SOP, there is a good chance the new hire will be more productive. Of course the person would have to be trainable and have a willingness to work.

So I guess the short answer would be yes, it is cheaper on the training budget to have a revolving door policy than it is to train people and develop systems to improve productivity. This management style would not look at production to manpower ratio. Maybe that is why a lot of shops fail? I think to give the questioner a solid answer, one would need to look at labor cost and factor in training and loss of productivity due to turnover. If the company in question spends nothing on recruitment and training, it would be harder to show the loss.

The sad fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, a cabinet costs XXX dollars to build. The management of the company is responsible to determine the split of that figure. It can be spent on training and system improvement or the throwaway workforce or even on a higher paid "better" workforce. Some chose to invest in technology to improve their line while others just throw people at the work until it goes out the door. In the end it is the owner that decides where to put his dollar. I for one like to see a system that keep my people happy and puts a profit in my pocket.

From contributor J:
Many good points have been made by some very smart people. I only have personal experience to work from, so this won't be college level. The system I know is simple apprenticeship. I started in a millwork shop in the late 70's by being assigned to assist an old sash and door man that was too arthritic to do the lifting any more. It was my job to do exactly what he said, like he said, with my mouth shut. He was a real jerk to spend the day with, and didn't want to teach me a thing. He apprenticed in the days when you could see guys sitting on their toolbox at the gate, waiting for someone to get canned. We went weeks at a time not even saying good morning, but I could see that he knew stuff that was special and would be lost with him.

I had the desire to know those things, and stayed with it for three years. Whether he liked it or not, I did learn the trade and grew to like him too. In the end I could match his skills well enough to take over sash and doors when he retired, and he respected that and we were finally friends. We had never really cost the company training costs as I was never allowed to make a thing until I was more than ready, but I was always working.

This is far from any written training program, but it worked because I wanted to know what he did no matter what it took. Aren't the old ways still sometimes the best ways? This is certainly a way to weed out the newbies that don't have the passion to become a skilled employee.

From the original questioner:
Good point. I think making newbies watch Coach Carter is a good start. I believe if trainees are treated right they can rise to the occasion. We need to realize first of all that to have to retrain constantly is costly. (That was my point from the beginning.) If employers offer as much as they expect employees to bring, then a mutual arrangement is beneficial. Any great sports team is made up of individuals with their own agenda as the owner has their own agenda, yet they still come together for the one purpose of winning. The outcome is mutually beneficial and therefore the glue that holds them all together. Also, no great sports team comes about without a lot of individual sacrifice. In the end, those that learn these lessons are the ones that will be truly great at whatever they produce.

From contributor T:
I wanted to comment on contributor S's list of standard operating procedures. On first impression the list looks really tedious to make and even more tedious to implement. I did, however, see some really great things in it. I don't know if I can knit this together cogently but I will mention three things it made me think of.

Turning switches on or off made me think of where switches were located in general on my machines. My wide belt sander, for example, has all of the controls on the left side but the dust collect is wired to a post six feet away on the right. In another case we have a process in our bead and quirk face frame zone where we utilize a bandsaw and router for the really long haunches we don't want to nibble at. At this station I always find myself having to hunt with my fingers for the router switch. These types of inconveniences aren't a big deal all by themselves, but they still represent death by a thousand razor cuts...

Contributor S's tome on how to start up the edgebander reminded me of the instructions we have near ours, and what life used to be like before they were posted. When you switch our bander on, the rollers engage immediately and the pot starts to heat up. There is, however, no safety switch that requires you have the air turned on before you feed a board in. If you forget to engage the air, your test board tends to smack up against a guillotine knife and sit there while glue starts to puddle up before you have a chance to understand the crisis. In this case we have to stop and try to clean up a thoroughly messed up machine.

This problem was recurrent until we added a ten point start-stop procedure list by the machine. The list reminds you to lubricate the glue pot every two hours. If we'd have had the list in place a couple of years earlier, we might not have had to buy a new heater element because ours seized up from lack of grease.

A third observation is just a day or so old. A woman that works with us was diagramming a value stream map for our drawer department. When I looked over her observations, I discovered a cost account for retrieving the part of the Accuride drawer slide that hooks to the drawer box. This extra cost was something I had never thought about. Since she magnified it, I realize now that sometimes it's not just a hike, it's a hunt. We usually keep the drawer slides near the box department... but sometimes the actual part she is looking for is already in the cabinet and now she has to find the cabinet. This might be the basis for the missing sock theory. I'm constantly baffled as to why we have orphan drawer slide parts... now I know. The people putting hardware on drawer boxes couldn't find the one they were looking for, so they cannibalized a brand new pair so they could keep working.

Now that I think about it, the real solution is to separate the slide members when they come into the building. We are going to do it eventually and if we do it proactively, it will cost less money and create less frustration later.

I guess the point of this missive is to understand the real value of contributor S's thinking. I agree with everybody that you will never get your crew to read or follow such a list, but that does not invalidate the benefit of this kind of analysis. Contributor S has not added a single activity to his company. He has just changed the way he performs those activities. We are all willing to invest money in our shop. He was willing to invest time. Because of this he has something no salesman could sell him. He has a tool for analysis that nobody else has. He can go through his list with a yellow hi-liter, a blue hi-liter, a green hi-liter and the rest of us just get to squint and try to remember this stuff.

I don't think we can dispute the benefits of management (or training) by list. What we should be discussing is how to implement the lists.

From contributor I:
Contributor T, S, and the rest of you obsessive-compulsive types, do you determine which projects are more important than others? I find it hard to believe that fixing your drawer guide storage is more important than maybe getting a better edgebander (that doesn't require chicken bones) or having better software, etc. In other words, not all of these projects are equally beneficial.

Organizing is an ongoing thing that never stops and it can only consume so much of your day. As far as analyzing your shop goes, I don't see how you go about this? I have to admit you make me realize I have to look through the microscope, but you also have to look through binoculars once in a while. A manager doesn't want to introvert into the minutia too much because at that point, he is no longer a manager. This is a common problem amongst cabinetmakers.

From contributor T:
The reason the Ferrari racing team can get a car off the track, lubricate it, fill the gas tank and get it back on the track in 7 seconds is because they are obsessive-compulsive. I suspect they do this with an eye to the big (binocular) picture.

Thinking about where you do operations can lead you to thinking about when you do them. Sometimes a simple change of location can compel a change in sequence. In some shops face frames get detail sanded wherever you can find an open horizontal surface. In a lot of these same shops the face frames sometimes get sanded before they are installed on the box and sometimes after they are installed. A dedicated sanding station with horizontally arrayed lights will illuminate and magnify the work so that it get sanded better and quicker.

These value stream maps are a big picture-binocular way of looking at your company. You can't, however, develop a value stream map without first developing a list of processes to map.

The whole effort here is to eliminate waste. Unnecessary motion is one of the seven wastes. Unnecessary transport is another. You don't have to spend $40,000 on an edgebander to minimize those wastes.

P.S. About three years ago we struck a deal with our vendor to furnish us with pre-finished maple plywood ripped to 24 X 96, with one long edge banded with fusion maple PVC. This adds just under $3 a rip which is about what it cost us to do. The only difference is that we go from crosscutting directly to assembly without the intermediate banding operation. Doing one cabinet at a time, we can cut, drill, install Accuride slides and assemble a 3-drawer stack base cabinet in about 30 minutes from beginning to end. I don't think this is too far off what the NBM guys are doing. They get it cut and drilled faster, but we don't have to band.

There also isn't any incense or chicken bones in this approach either.

From contributor I:
I don't anything about Italian Nascar, but pit stops seems like low hanging fruit? Please tell us more about value mapping.

From contributor D:
This is why I lean (no pun intended) towards TOC more than Lean. TOC does not get sidetracked with the minutia. You identify and focus on repairing one thing at a time and only one thing. Anything else is a waste of time and money. Now maybe when a shop gets to the point that the location of their slide members is their constraint, they've reached a point I have not. I think that there is a day not too far in the future where that sort of thing might draw my attention, but for now I'm still focusing on issues that have a much greater impact to my bottom line. In my case, "right kind of sales" and "expedient customer decisions."

From contributor T:
We're getting hung up on semantics here. The analogy I used about drawer slide locations can easily be dismissed but the principle of unnecessary motion or unnecessary transport cannot.

I agree that most (if not all) of our constraints can be minimized at the point of sale, and with good client control. This is an area that your crew is probably not going to be real helpful at. There is, however, nothing to keep them from working the other end of the deal (except for, of course, extreme adherence to principles of TOC).

Contributor P, one of the goals of value stream mapping is to help identify unnecessary motion or unnecessary transport. These are steps that have cost associated with them but which do not also have offsetting revenue.

One of the benefits of value stream mapping is consolidation of workstations. A benefit of consolidation is an immediate increase in your effective real estate, i.e., a smaller shop becomes bigger.

About two months ago we moved our drawer box station about 50 feet closer to the saw. We were able to do this because we moved our bandsaw and jointer closer to the 4-side planer. This step allowed us to eliminate one cart between the jointer and the planer.

A consequence of this value stream map was that we now have more flexibility in the zone drawer boxes used to be made. We can stage big islands or we can store kitchens that are ready to ship. (We used to store these kitchens in bits and pieces all over the shop.)

Moving your work stations closer together also makes it easier to integrate and train new workers. The optimum shop would, in my imagination, have the outfeed table for one machine constitute the infeed table for another. This, however, is another discussion about "right sized" machines.

From contributor I:
Value stream mapping - where do I read more about this?

From the original questioner:
I think we need a new thread that approaches the issues here mentioned. Somewhere we took a right hand turn. All good points but not pertinent to the original question. TOC I believe in, but hard to put onto what to change to.

Efficiency is the elimination of waste, no matter what the waste is. (Including needlessly losing employees over whatever reason, and then having to retrain another - total waste -especially when it's due to owner ignorance. Remember in the Goal, most constraints in a company are policies - policies are not living breathing things and cannot react to any given situation with intelligence, only a human can. In the book "A Passion for Excellence," MBWA is mentioned - does anybody remember what that is? Taichi Ohnos book suggests standing in the middle of the shop for 8 hours observing, and the wastes will become obvious. Also, when a problem surfaces, ask why 5 times. This deeper probing will uncover real reasons for the problem, not just the symptoms.

P.S. Thanks for all the brainstorming - "In the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment!"

From contributor I:
"Remember in the Goal, most constraints in a company are policies - policies are not living breathing things and cannot react to any given situation with intelligence, only a human can."

One thing I liked about The Goal was that it used logic. As I recall, the teacher was some sort of scientist. The only thing I wonder about is that the constraint and all that makes sense, but other things can be improved and still be beneficial, but what?

"In the book "A Passion for Excellence," MBWA is mentioned - does anybody remember what that is?"

That was a Sam Walton thing. Mbwa = management by wandering around. By the way I recall, a lot of Tom Peter's results were doctored and embellished.

"Taichi Ohnos book suggests standing in the middle of the shop for 8 hours observing, and the wastes will become obvious. Also, when a problem surfaces, ask why 5 times."

I disagree with this idea. You should ask how come until you get to a real problem. The real problem will steer you towards a real solution and this will resolve the real problem. This is logic and it was not thunk up by Taichi Ohnos.

From the original questioner:
That may be true but most of the posts on this thread did not even come close to answering the question. It's like they were reading something from somewhere else and answering it here. This country is failing when it comes to manufacturing - that's why so much is done overseas. Too much talk and not enough action that makes sense. My original question is about the cost of retraining people we lose. In 35 years I have seen more ignorant business owners than I care to admit. I guess it's because people here think cabinetmaking is so easy that any idiot can do it. There seems to be no end to arrogance.

From contributor S:
I am very sorry I went so far off track to your question. I probably should have started a different thread. My short point to a very long post was to make training very quick to lower the costs of losing a person. The idea was to take that 3x salary cost for replacement to a much lower amount. The side effect of that was to create an environment where good people are less likely to leave your operation.

From contributor N:
One of the things 20+ years in the Army taught me was the importance of a good SOP (Standing Operating Procedure). It had to be two things - written down and understood by everyone in the organization. Not only for the benefit of new members, but to avoid the question, what do we do now? When you got to a new unit, you grabbed the SOP and learned it.

There are different subsets of the "Master", i.e. Admin, Operational (day-to-day in garrison (shop)), Tactical (install crew), Maintenance, and each platoon (builders, finishers, etc) would have one made up of the pertinent pages of the master.

1) Administrative
A. Duties and Responsibilities
B. Sales
C. Logistics
2) Safety
3) Operations
A. Field Verification
B. Shop
1. Material Handling
2. Cut Department
3. Builders
4. Faceframes
C. Installation
4) Maintenance

and so on. So if your builder needed to work in the face frame department, he could just grab the face frame SOP (kept in the department area and only having the sections needed) and glance down through a short synopsis, or refer to more detailed steps (great for training new people - see drinking from a firehose above). And it provides for more uniform results with less rethinking the wheel. And for less duplicity of effort. Granted it can't cover all contingencies, but when creative thinking in needed, you won't have to think about the mundane things.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Business

  • KnowledgeBase: Business: Employee Relations

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2016 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    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.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article