What is going on out there? Well, here is what my clients are telling me:
“The supply chain is a mess.”
“Orders and demand are up.”
“We can’t make enough.”
”We can’t get labor.”
”We keep falling further and further behind.”
Wow. That’s disappointing… or is it? The pessimist would continue to worry and figure out which fire to fight first. The optimist would say those are all problems that could be addressed with the right help. Some problems are easier to address than others. Some problems are more under our control than others. The trick is to focus on what we can control: things which are results or products of our processes, equipment, systems, and strategies. There isn’t a magic pill or secret process change that will magically make the problems go away. What we need to do is take a deeper look at how we operate to make the best use of the resources we have, our shop floor associates.
These individuals make or break our utilization of equipment, are responsible for attainment of our daily production goals, and for meeting the sales forecasts. Difficult times like these should drive our focus back to the shop floor and back to the interface of these highly valuable resources to the production processes.
What issues are the value-adders faced with each day? Do we provide them with accurate instructions and clear-cut expectations to execute the work? Do we provide them with the tools and skills they need to properly perform their jobs at the highest efficiency and utilization? Have we overlooked ergonomics, parts presentation, and potential automation solutions to remove non-value-added activities from their daily tasks? Have we balanced workstation throughputs in assembly-line situations to maintain proper balance and avoid overload? Are we still asking them to fill out production tracking sheets, quality reports, or other paperwork? Are the machines, tools, and equipment they use properly maintained and reliable? These seem like simple questions, and they are, but when was the last time you went to the Gemba and asked them?
Do you have a Manufacturing, Industrial, or Continuous Improvement Engineer on staff to go and assess the operation? If not, don’t worry. We know what questions to ask, we have the tools to analyze the situation, we bring root cause problem solving methodology to clearly identify the issues, and we have the engineering experience to help you address them. Give us a call and let us show you how you can make more with the same or less!
—Mike Noll, St. Onge Company