What Does A Foreman Do?


From original questioner:

What should the responsabilities of a shop foreman in a ten man shop be?

From contributor Ba

Passing out tasks and monitoring completion is not a whole lot different than a grocery clerk weighing broccoli. A real manager would figure out how to keep the broccoli looking fresh and keep an eye on the parking lot. If people are still circling and looking for places to park hold the price. If you start seeing an empty lot slash the price. Whatever doesn't get sold tonight is going to hit the dumpster and the margin on zero sale is zero.

The foreman should be focused on methods, sequences & locations rather than passing out tasks and monitoring status. That kind of clerk work can be done by the worker themselves.

From contributor pa

"That kind of clerk work can be done by the worker themselves."

If that are true then why do you need a foreman? Is it possible that people need supervision as this creates more production than if there is no foreman?

From contributor Ga

I have never had a foreman or any other employee with a "title" and notice that most shops do, even many that are smaller than mine.

I run a pretty tight ship and make a good profit but I am always trying to improve.

A valued employee has approched me about the subject and thinks he could improve things on the shop floor if he were the foreman. He would like to prove himself first and then would hope for even a small raise in pay for the extra responsibility.

I think it would be good to have another pair of trusted eyes out there, especially when I am gone, but I am curious as to what others expect of their foremans.

From contributor ba

A million years ago, when I was a cigarette smoker, my partner asked me how I could ever hope to be a "maestro" if it took half of my energy just to breathe. The same thing happens in production management.

Just about all strategic planning depends on status of completion. Whoever is in charge is constantly polling the crew to see how far they got, where they are, what's done. Based on the clues he can divine a game plan is developed.

The problem is this information is constantly changing. It is an overwhelming job just collecting the data. There is no time to actually apply "management" to the information.

Part of this is because we take such an oblique approach to everything we do. We define the goal as building boxes when the goal is really building stacks of dollars. With enough ammunition we eventually land enough BTUs on the target that the job gets done.

You have to figure out what you are trying to get done. Training someone to build drawer boxes is completely different than building drawer boxes. They are in support of the same goal but they are two entirely different things. Lumping them together is a simple way to look at this target so mostly people learn wholly by doing.

Task management is the same thing. The typical shop foreman considers his job well done if everybody has something to do. That's a great strategy until Billybob suddenly announces he has to pick his parents up from the airport. At that point the "highly strategized" plan falls to shit and the foreman is back building a new plan.

The target never was to keep Billybob busy. The target is to complete the cabinet. Until the foreman looks at the project through the lens of the customer (the cabinet in this case) the majority of BTUs will need to be ricocheted into the target.

From contributor pa


That is somewhat ambiguous, exactly how would this function be performed at Toyota?

From contributor Ga

Please don't start yet another argument and hijack my post.

From contributor ba


Pat asked a fair question.
How would the foreman get his job done with the least amount of non-value added activity? Whatever he doesn't squander can be brought to bear directly onto the target.

The objective of this exercise would be to understand what the target is and how to push the management of that target as close as possible to the guy doing the job. If you have to have a lieutenant instruct a sergeant to tell a private to sweep the floor then you have to feed a lieutenant, sergeant and private off of what the private can get done. Better to take some of the sergeant's wages and upgrade the pay & quality of the private.

Part of this is learning how to parse what requires judgement and what merely requires a decision. The parameters for decision making can be codified and the private just needs to know where to find the code.

This may sound abstract but it actually can be translated into actionable items you can assign to someone and accomplish on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:00. In much the same way a professional housecleaner only pays attention to the perimeter of the room you can nibble your way in from the edges.

The shop foreman needs to understand implicitly what a 5S program is because this is where it all starts, every day & every hour. It doesn't involve wandering around trying to figure out what they mean by "elevating a constraint" and it's way less random than simply fixing what bugs you. There actually is a strategy to this and there actually are rules.

But you don't just learn this stuff by putting a book under your pillow at night.

From contributor Pa

I think that most people add a foreman in order to compensate for a lack of other systems - the hope is that one genius can take care of overseeing operations, scheduling, and minute-by-minute HR problems so that the owner doesn't have to worry so much about what happens when they leave the shop floor. That can work as long as the foreman is capable of handling all of that.

I recently promoted a young guy to be foreman of my shop, and instead of just leaving him to figure it out, spent a significant amount of time each week reviewing what was happening on the shop floor, and how I thought he should act when leading the workers. Once he started to get the hang of that, then we got to work on improving operations. We started up a regular weekly committee meeting with the most responsible workers, in order to identify problems and work out practical solutions. Throughout all of this, the foreman was responsible for minute-by-minute scheduling, coordinating with the sales team, and keeping me abreast of how things are going.

It became quickly apparent that the foreman would not be able to do much production himself. He had wanted to continue in that role, but our throughput started to increase (rapidly) and he realized that his time was best spent in an information only role. Now he manages the daily schedule, spends a lot of time coordinating with the sales staff and the engineers, and thinks up new ways to get more work done. He has led a complete clean up of 10 years with accumulated crap, and is now in the process of re-arranging our machinery so that work flows better.

During the last year, our average monthly production went from $174,476 to $270,961. No hires to the shop floor to move that number. I would rate the foreman's willingness to think instead of just work as a big piece of this.

I had another foreman for 18 years. He was (is still) a fantastic craftsman, very hard worker, and a great example of how to get work done. But he didn't like people, didn't want to communicate with me, and I never did any training with him. It's my fault that I left the wrong person in this job for so long, and we all suffered for it. I was very fortunate that my present foreman walked in the door.

I would say that a foreman's main job is communication. If the guy who wants to do the job is willing to talk to everyone, and is liked and respected by all, then you have a good chance to succeed. If not, there will be problems.

Good luck,

Paul Downs

From contributor Da

In most shops I have been in, the foreman was the textbook example of the Peter Principle. He had risen thru the ranks to point where he was incompetent, and there he stayed. Sounds like Paul Downs has seen that also. A good craftsman does not necessarily make a good foreman.

A non-productive foreman needs to have the tools and drive to look for ways to constantly improve things, to connect the dots that the single worker or a manger may not see. And then start it up all over again, tuning every inch of the way. He has to be given the freedom to try things, and perhaps fail, but still be encouraged to evolve the way work is done.

And, as Paul admitted, often the biggest barrier to such improvements is the management. It is hard to let go of some of the jobs we think we are good at.

From contributor Ga

Paul, David, Thank you for your responses. That is the type of information I am seeking and I hope to get more through this post.

From contributor ba


Can you elaborate on what your foreman did with respect to "minute by minute" scheduling?

From contributor Sc

Hi Gary ! A foreman is the orchestrator of the crew, he is the trouble shooter the coordinator of flow,he/she is always looking for a better way a foreman can identify with their team and can anticipate issues or potential problems, a foreman creates a harmonies atmosphere through inclusion and unity and is always loyal to management. good luck !

From contributor pa

The way I look at it is that there are certain functions that have to be done. Not would be nice, but Have to be done.

You can parse these functions up anyway you want but at the end of the day 2 functions have to occur, you gotsta drive work in the door and you gotsta drive work out the door. To try and do this as one person is tantamount to driving down the freeway and throwing the transmission into reverse.

I suppose the question is do you make more money with a foreman or without a foreman?

The answer as with many things in life is control. Do you get more control with a foreman or without a foreman? Then do you make enough to justify the cost? A foreman imo can manage 6 to 8, if it is more he is doing little more than scheduling. The more repetitive the tasks are the more people a foreman can handle.

BTW scheduling by definition is prediction, prediction by definition is control (if you don’t understand this you have not been reading my profound posts).

I had a foreman at a shop I worked at that was really sharp and a nice guy, but the shop was a pain to work for. I had a foreman at a shop that I worked for who was a complete A hole, an alcoholic, obnoxious and never said anything that was not antagonistic. I liked working there, which may say something about me? Anyway the reason I liked working at the second shop was it was more organized, the foreman was in charge of 8 – 10 installers. At the 1st shop the foreman was in charge of the whole shop, maybe 40 people IOW I could predict what my schedule was going to be better at the second shop.

Part of driving work out the door besides scheduling is making sure material is there, maintenance is performed, hiring and firing, quality control, talking to customers on occasion, training (depending on the shop), safety meetings, suggest policy adjustment, go over shop drawings with the detailer, etc, etc.

Policy should be made clear by the shop otherwise the foreman is forced to create his own policy.

Policy is a critical area as it keeps the shop out of problems that it has had in the past and will keep the work smoothly flowing thought the shop. I would go so far as to say that if you are having problems in the shop there is a place that your policy is does not make sense. An example of this is that if you make a social engagement without asking your wife, your wife will get mad. Why? Because that is her hat. You should have a policy that clearly show who’s responsibility a certain function is. This is best accomplished by an organization chart, hung where everyone can see it. The purpose of policy is to keep things moving smoothly.

One of the most important characteristics of the foreman is calmness. If the candidate is not calm “under fire” he is not a good candidate.

Something that is very important is an intangible, it is a presence, meaning that they put out the intention that things are going to go right and the job is going to get done on time.

I went to a Taco Bell the other day that had no supervisor. It took easily twice as long as a typical fast food restaurant and was annoying to go to. Fast food has very specific tasks with very clear policy on how to make the tacos. The reality is that people need supervision. I avoid this place for that reason.

You can tell if your shop work is going well as morale will be high. If they are not you will get the usual bullshit of leaving early, calling in sick, upset, slow production, etc. I used to look at guys at break if they were sitting separate and introverted it was a bad sign, if they were sitting together talking lively and laughing production was high. If you doubt this, check it out and watch your guys, see if there is correlation between production and morale. It is a good tool.

Tim that is still an ambiguous answer. I have had this conversation with Paul Akers and disagree with the apparent Lean thinking on this.

I love the idea of fixing what bugs you and the concept of 5s but it would appear that Lean throws the baby out with the bathwater on the subject or top down managing?

From contributor ba


We have already been admonished to not hijack this thread into a diatribe about the merits of Lean thinking. Gary would like us to stick with tangible concrete examples and suggestions.

Paul Down's new shop foreman is a great example of successful top-down practices.
The first thing he did was to purge the shop of 10 years worth of accumulated detritus. This would be the SWEEP part of a 5S program.

He is currently working on rearranging machinery to enhance production flow in the shop. This would be the SORT part.

Paul says his new foreman has set up regular meetings to identify problems and work out practical solutions. He has even implemented a minute by minute scheduling system. I would like to know more about how that works but my hunch is it has something to do with SIMPLIFY and/or STANDARDIZE. This is the predictability part you were waxing philosophically about.

Paul also has reported significant gains that seem to be correlated with profit sharing. Perhaps this will be the SUSTAIN part of a 5S program.

I know that these dialogs tend to meander too much and sometimes get off trajectory. I am sorry for any digressions on my part into Lean thinking or 5S programs. We can return now to our regularly scheduled programming.

From contributor pa

"He has even implemented a minute by minute scheduling system."

This seems to me to be un Lean. My understanding is that Paul Akers uses a Kanban method for the entire shop.

Of all the functions talked about scheduling is the most important. But I don't see how a kanban system can be used with custom type work. I can see where this would work with kitchen cabinets but not architectural mill work or store fixtures.

Which leads me to another point about the foreman position he has to know if jobs are staying on schedule. A bad one will just tell you what you want to hear.

Nothing I said was remotely philosophical, it comes from years of hard won experience, and more importantly it works.

From contributor ba


If you can get to minute by minute scheduling you can get to pull production.
If you know how long it takes to cook you know when to start it...........kind of like a breakfast joint.

Some things, like orange juice, can be poured first thing in the morning, potatoes can be halfway processed in the microwave, eggs need to wait until the order shows up but toast should be buttered with a brush instead of a knife because that method has the least amount of excess motion.

From contributor pa

"If you can get to minute by minute scheduling you can get to pull production."

I think by that Paul means keeping up with the schedule board minute by minute not that it is accurate to the minute. Sometimes running the schedule is like being an air traffic controller.

On repetitive things the schedule is very predictable on custom not so much. To me it is more a macro unit measure where as kitchens can have a unit measure of cabinets. But I don't think this would be called pull?

Still scratching my head on how top down organization works at Toyota.

From contributor ba

I am hoping that Paul will weigh in on how scheduling happens at his company.

In his NYTimes blog he mentioned how his company was transforming from a paradigm where one man was responsible for a piece of furniture to having several people participate in the project. That's got to require a lot more choreography. To get the tuba part right you have to get the trombone in sync.

From contributor pa

I did not get that Paul practices Lean, is that the case?

From contributor ba

I don't know whether Paul is practises lean or not. He said his throughput had increased significantly and he attributed this to a campaign on the part of his new foreman. The foreman's specific initiatives seem to be in line with a classic 5S program.

From contributor Pa

I wouldn't call what we do lean, but it has elements of lean. We are making a mix of custom products. If you count what the salesmen are doing as part of the production sequence, and I do, then we usually have from 100 to 150 jobs in the pipeline at any one time. We generally have from 35 to 50 under contract, and that can be multiple pieces. The situation is, in my opinion, far too complex to describe with concepts that have been developed for a linear assembly line. Not that there isn't value to Lean - we intend to implement many of its ideas in the near future.

Our minute-by-minute scheduling is done this way: the foreman has regular meetings with the sales team, the engineers, his own shop floor cadre, the finishers, and the packing/shipping guys. The meetings are conversations. Sometimes they take time to sit down, sometimes these are performed standing up and on the fly. These happen multiple times a day. None of them are very long, but they add up to a significant number of hours each day. He expects to do this and everyone expects that he will do this. It's his main job. He is assisted by one administrative aide who is in charge of updating a Google Doc spreadsheet and a custom filemaker database that shows the current status of the jobs, and the summed value of what we will build and ship each month. The job list and projected delivery date for each piece is constantly changing, as client schedules change, and the sales team inserts rush orders into the mix.

This sort-of-a-system evolved over the last ten years, and I'm not sure that if I started from scratch that it would look the same. The mix of software that we use also developed organically, as new technologies (and in particular Google Docs) came into being and were put to use by us to solve particular problems.

Every shop will have a different starting point in their search to build systems and solve problems, and a different mix of personalities available, and so every shop is likely to come up with a slightly different solution. If I had to generalize about what works, it would be this: scheduling is, at root, a question of human-to-human communication. It must be done constantly and consistently. Software should be deployed in support of person-to-person interaction, and not the other way around. If you try to build the perfect software system and then try to force people to use it, I think you are asking for trouble.

For my type of system to work, it's critical that the foreman be someone who can manage a job that is basically about communication. It can be very difficult to pull someone like that out of a normal mix of shop-floor craftsmen, because those kinds of guys were hired for a very different skill set. I was very lucky to find, in a single person, the right combination of a world class craftsman (that the guys would respect) with good interpersonal skills (that the guys like to work with) and a mind that was intrigued by the challenges of making a successful operation (which is a lot harder, and more interesting, than just making stuff.)

We have made great strides by trying to introduce SYSTEMS in response to problems, not just SOLUTIONS. The difference? Solutions are just patchwork. Systems are solutions that have an ongoing structure, that prevent the problem from coming back. In our case, that means more informal meetings, more scheduled meetings, more paperwork, and more records of problems, kept by everyone who is experiencing them.

Running a custom shop with home-built systems and limited administrative horsepower is extremely difficult. It's no surprise that most of us are bad at it. The biggest problem is how to make a first step that improves efficiency to the point that extra resources (profits, management time) are being created. As I said in the first post, that might require a genius who can do it from scratch. I could write a book about all of this - maybe one day I will. In the meantime, I hope that this is helpful.

Paul Downs

From contributor Sh

I think it is too limiting to consider Lean thinking as being strictly developed for a linear assembly system. Toyota makes automobiles and this conjures up the factory lines of Henry Ford's day but Lean is used in many industries from the Ferrarri racing team to hospitals everywhere.

Lean is all about identifying and mitigating waste and this is compatible with anything we do. Lean is particularly valuable in high mix - low volume operations. One of the most important tools is set-up reduction and leveling. This frees up resources quicker and minimizes demand for resources. In this respect Lean increases capacity and capacity is what is needed most in high demand periods.

Your shop may be doing just fine without anybody understanding Lean but it's kind of like the Nancy Reagan anti-drug campaign with the eggs & the frying pan.

From contributor pa

Tru dat

The shop where Paul Akers talks about cutting the change over for an injection molding machine from 4 hours down to 5 minutes is amazing.

But I don't see how that diminishes the need for a foreman.

Again I asked Akers the same thing, still no answer.

From contributor ba


You don't have to be a big injection molding company to benefit from lean thinking.

The most complicated set up we used to do in our shop is changing from an Ovolo cope-stick door profile to a Shaker style pattern. This used to take our most skilled guy 45 minutes and 10 feet of lumber to dial in the machine.

We can now do this in two minutes.
We can do it in one minute if we involve two people. The primary difference is now the accuracy is perfect every time without any test pieces. A secondary difference is that we can put the most inexperienced person in our shop on the task. They could be as good as anybody with two minutes of training.

This is all achieved by focusing on set-up reduction. It is the perfect tool for high mix - low volume manufacturing.

From contributor pa

Very cool, but you still need a foreman?

From contributor an

you ppl should take some basic courses in industrial engineering to see how silly are your barnes and noble ideas of lean and 5s.

From contributor Ji

I am curious about the basics of industrial engineering and how it would apply to this topic of foreman or supervisor. Please elaborate.

From contributor Ro

There is obviously a lot to digest from this thread.

One of the pearls of Paul’s wisdom is when he said “ I think that most people add a foreman in order to compensate for a lack of other systems…”

This is the plot from the TV westerns where the town’s citizens pin a badge on the new guy then tell him “You’re the sheriff now, go fix it!”. The thugs, of course, usually end up kicking the guy’s ass unless it’s Clint Eastwood in the starring role. The problem is there’s not enough Clint to go around. What we need is the Clint-O-Matic™. That’s what systems are for.

SYSTEMS not SOLUTIONS is the most succinct part of this thread. That was really good writing Paul. I shall adopt that as my own. Systems help everybody become their own sheriff and make it a lot easier for the guy you have actually appointed to this position.

Pat is right, of course, that you need someone in this position. How effective they will be depends on how much they have to get done and how much support they have to do this. It always seems to work out better when the bad guys come to town if the citizens already have snipers on every roof and the merchants and children are armed with shotguns.

From contributor Da

There are indeed some pearls in this thread, as Rowdy has mentioned. But all in perspective, let's not forget.

I know it is possible to 'lean' one's efforts to such a fine point as to yield diminishing returns. A whole lot of thought for very little return. The books that are best-sellers on the subject all seem a bit redundant to me (admittedly only browsing them; throw darts now...), re-hashing and re-naming things that anyone that has spent much time working and managing a production environment should have learned long ago.

I am one that is crazy for efficiency and have been for many years - it has helped me create interest and challenges where otherwise boredom might set in. I now realize my pursuit of efficiency is also so I can make time to play with certain details I like - and want - to do. Full scale drawing, optimizing materials, splitting hairs on mortise and tenon joints, a little carving - all things I spend way too much time on, but derive more enjoyment from than other tasks.

I know of a now large and very high quality cabinet shop whose owner says he has grown from a part time woodworker to an information management corporation that also happens to make cabinets as away to justify the costs associated with processing information. The original goal has indeed changed. He is OK with it now, but did not see it that way when he started out 25 years ago. Maybe the lean concepts would have helped him arrive some years earlier.

But we don't all have the same goals. I will always cut two panels to length at a time instead of one, stack things on the bandsaw, etc. But this is for the job at hand and what I want to do, not to chase that endless tenth of another cent. Gawd, if it is that difficult to wring out every penny, I'd find another niche to exploit.

From contributor an

Just kidding guys. I frequent forums from different segments of manufacturing and Pat Gilbert arguing with someone seems to be a common theme on this website. Nothing wrong with that Pat, I think its good to be passionate about your beliefs.

Much of what I know of manufacturing wouldn't be applicable here given that I frequently work with much larger companies. This doesn't make me any better than you and in fact many of you probably make more money than me given that you are business owners. In my case I work for a company.......that works for companies, but I will try to answer some of the questions as best I can.

"That is funny coming from yet another individual who hides behind a pseudonym. Most of the guys on this forum speak from decades of experience. Since you are hiding I'm assuming not you."

I haven't been alive for decades so you definitely have me trumped in experience. As for hiding behind a pseudonym, I am a manufacturing consultant. Using my real name and identifying myself as a consultant would seem a veiled attempt to procure business, which is not my intent. Additionally, I rarely if ever post on forums. My only purpose here is to try to learn more about your industry given that it is my job to walk into businesses from a variety of industries and tell them something that they don't know about their own business. If one of you hired the company that I work for and I was sent out and recognized as that guy who asks questions on your forum you would may question my qualification.

"Most of the people who actually do the teaching in university are teaching assistants who were taught by teaching assistants who were taught by.............
Test this idea sometime: Ask how many Professors in the school of business have actually owned a business. "

I think that is conditional upon both the institution in question and the level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) of the class. In freshman and sophomore classes it is pretty common to see a phd candidate as a professor but I have not seen this in the upper level courses. Also, it is pretty common for professors to do consulting work on the side, so I don't agree that they strictly exist in a cocoon with no interest nor value in industry. However, I do agree that portions of an undergraduate degree in anything, be it business, engineering or otherwise is highly theoretical and unlikely to immediately transfer to the intended field of work.

"I am curious about the basics of industrial engineering and how it would apply to this topic of foreman or supervisor. Please elaborate. "

I think that a lot of what is said here is good but I also think that for a company who has invested the time to write a comprehensive business plan these are just components of what that plan should be and I don't see the value of hashing each of them out in a vacuum.

Also, the guy who said that his approach worked well for a small volume large variety shop, it seems to me that you are always at a disadvantage to a shop dedicated to a narrower range of services. That was not a statement but a question.

As to how the principles of industrial engineering could be applied to your situations, most often they could not. Either you would have to invest a lot of time dedicating yourself to independent study or textbooks and the return would not be greater than the investment, or you would have to hire a consulting firm......and in your case the returns would not justify the investment. It is hard to wring extra efficiencies out of a small operation beyond what the owner has already figured for himself. A small shop has a lot of dependent processes and a relatively small footprint. You can pretty well conceive the whole thing in your head.

That said, imagine your shop but 100 times larger. Can you still map the throughput in your head and consider all the scenarios? Even if you could, can you come up with an optimal configuration, batch size, order policy, etc?

For something like this you really need to either use simulation software or spend a lot of time with matlab, define the work cells and employees as states in the matrix, study the system over a long enough time that you have accurate statistics and optimize through simulation.

I think that the number one thing that a small shop owner could glean from the field of IE is the relationship between time waiting in queue and utilization. This is touched on in The Goal, and further there exists a formula relating waiting time in queue to utilization in which with utilization = 1, waiting time goes to infinity. Your waiting time never goes to infinity because you somehow accommodate the ever increasing buffer in some way that likely results in a ripples of inefficiency that are not as noticeable as the ever increasing buffer but they cost you money nonetheless.

Further, full utilization isnt so bad in some areas as it is in others. For many of you, YOU are at full utilization while your shop is not and yet you are finding ways to make your shop more efficent. Take some time and learn SQL, write your own database or at a minimum become more proficient in the use of your own database. Try to link the functions that your front office performs in a sophisticated way........automate your front office. Learn python, learn excel at a minimum. Many of our senior projects were very helpful for the companies involved (unless they were blowing smoke which is possible) simply involved writing an excel program to support front office functions. Learn statistics and look at all aspects of your business from a standpoint of confidence intervals, e.g. with what level of confidence can you label the process time of all operations in your shop and if you cant then why not and what are the effects of this variance on your bottom line?

Back to the shadows now........

From contributor Ro


Nobody is advocating we spend dollars to chase dimes, and I think you will agree that this particular industry is a very target-rich environment with much low-hanging fruit to harvest. You don't have to look very far to find some problem to solve that will provide a worthwhile cost/benefit ratio.

This is also more than just mental masturbation. Paul's goal is not to become more efficient but rather to develop a business that is sustainable, (fifth plank of 5S program). That he has been able to to move the needle one-third without adding crew suggest to me that two years out this increase in production will be three times what it was a year ago. That is the thing he needs to plan for.

Paul put it quite well when he said the "first step.....improves efficiency to the point that extra resources (profits, management time) are being created. " Lean is a capacity generator that creates capacity to create more capacity. Paul's foreman made that needle move without adding staff by merely cleaning out the arteries of his organization. As they get higher and higher up the mountain they will be able to understand the landscape better and will see yet more opportunities for improvement.

At the risk of being considered a pointy-headed Lean aficionado I will proffer to you that Lean is exactly the opposite of efficient. Lean is about balance. There is absolutely nothing more efficient than you cutting out parts for 30 doors at a time except that you can only hang one at a time and no cabinet has more than two. Those extra 30 doors are going to need to be stored and managed and the cost of this storage & management is a drag on profit. It just clogs the arteries. Space that you park 30 stored doors in could instead hold a shaper that will keep you from having to set up and tear down a shaper. If you don't need a cart to store the doors on you don't need an aisleway to push the cart through. Customer only pays you for the door. They don't give you an extra dime to shove the cart from one end of the shop to the other.

From contributor Ro


You have a point about hashing out all of these components in a vacuum but if you remember Goldratt's protagonist Herbie
was helped down the path by his fellow hikers who took one brick at a time out of his backpack. TOC teaches us which brick to prioritize but Lean helps us actually elevate that brick. Or as Mark Woeppler writes in "Manufacturer's Guide to Implementing Theory of Constraints" we can be in charge of what the constraint is.

Of course we are always at a disadvantage when compared to a shop dedicated to a narrow range of services but only if they show up on the list of bidders. There's a lot of shops in my neighborhood that don't get invited to the party and like the two hikers and the bear, I don't have to outrun the bear.

I think you absolutely right about the relationship between the time waiting in queue and utilization. Lean teaches us laymen that the root cause of all problems is building things before they are needed. Batch size requirements vary depending on what you are trying to get done. The large, highly specialized factory that can kick my ass can cut all their walnut on day one with optimization software then tint the lacquer so they could prove in a court of law that it is indeed American black walnut but my customer want's to see the grain. Lean (even as a component within a vacuum) teaches me it is best to separate the various parts of the walnut and do the processes subsequent to allocation in smaller batches.

I agree with you about the value of database if only to rearrange how you think about processes. Everything in our shop can in fact be codified. To the extent that we do this it becomes easier to understand and communicate what should happen next.

Anonymous, please do come out of the shadows but do so with logic rather than throwing fire bombs that reduce our experiences to silly Barnes & Noble ideas. I would be particularly interested to learn how you would apply statistical analysis to Paul Down's shop without putting him out of business.

From contributor an

I didn't mean to throw fireballs Rowdy, and honestly some of you who hold up lean or 5s like a shiny new toy to the assumed astonishment of your classmates need to be knocked down a notch because you become dogmatic in your application to the detriment of your business. I am not talking about anyone in particular and keep in mind that I read a LOT of industry specific websites and I get confused over what I see and where I see it.

Not to brag, but I have yet to put anyone out of business through statistical analysis. I will make you a deal. First, you download R-Studio and become proficient with it. It's not as good as matlab but it is free and anyone with a brain can get a working knowledge in three days of youtube videos. Learn how to import lists of data from a text file. Learn the basics of mean, variance, standard deviation p-values and confidence intervals as they apply to hypothesis testing. Most importantly, get on google and study exponential distribution and poisson process. Understand the meaning of their CDF, pdf, mean, variance relative to those distributions.

Afterwards I will be happy to discuss with you statistical analysis, but not towards Paul Down's business as we would have to guess at a lot of things to analyze Paul Down's business unless you are Paul Downs or have intimate knowledge of his business.

Having an understanding of the numbers associated with a manufacturing process gives you a level of ownership that you wouldn't believe. I hear people on forums all the time talking about a machine that they bought and how they found all sorts of uses for it that they never imagined prior to purchase. I think that in some way a working knowledge of some things that you may consider to be strictly theoretical would of a similar use were you to harness the basics. It's the principle of you don't know what you don't know in effect. I grant you that whatever you were to gain from such an endeavor would be an advantage that you would forever hold over your peers.

From contributor Ro


I agree with just about everything you say, especially the parts about durable advantage. I don't know enough about statistical analysis to have an intelligent opinion about the cost effectiveness of applying this to my business but I do know a lot about budgeting.

I help customers make decisions all the time to optimize the use of their resources. It's important to me that they get the best kitchen for their money as this will make my company more successful. I always try to spend their money like it was my mom's.

The same thing goes for you. If I tried to sell you a package of cabinets that was appropriate for a $10 million dollar house you might conclude it was inappropriate for yours. While the argument that anything that upgrades your house improves your field position is true this particular upgrade may actually work to your disadvantage. The math is all on my side for this argument as is the math you proffer for yours. We are both right. You can't afford my best kitchen and I can't afford your best statistical analysis.although we would both assuredly be better off for it.

I do agree with you about Gauss curve analysis and such. As soon as I have the resources I intend to probe whether or not I get more referral work from customers I create a blurb book for at the end of their project than those I don't. It might very well be that sending a $50 blurb book to every qualified sales lead might improve the caliber of my customer. Basic statistics can help me test that.

Now, about that wood fired pizza oven I think we should put in your new kitchen......

From contributor Pa


Statistics is well up in the math levels, I question our ability to learn it or the ROI.

I would say that the 1st focus is sales as if you don't have enough to stay above the break even point organizing is a waste of time. Over-organizing.

Technology is also more important as this is what drives industry. Not to say this also cannot be over done.

As far as the point of this thread it has been agreed that the most important function of the foreman is scheduling.

There is a guy who occasionally posts on this forum. He sells scheduling software that addresses the problems that job shops face. It would seem to me that this would have a better ROI than what you suggest?


I would suggest a course in logic as this is applicable to everything. It is not math, but is a tool to arrive at what is important. E.G. giving importance to organizing over sales or assuming that sales are not the problem. Or what is going to give the better ROI learning to program or better marketing.

The fact is IMO that 90% of business success comes from the business you go into. Consultants will tell you the key is to use their services or system, when in fact the key is the market that you go into.
E.G. Was Steve Jobs great at writing code or finding a position in the market place?

That does not mean the you can ignore organizing but that does not seem to be the problem with most of the posters on this forum.