Magazine article Business Credit

Management + Production = a Winning Team: 8 "Simple" Tips That Lead to Manufacturing Success

Magazine article Business Credit

Management + Production = a Winning Team: 8 "Simple" Tips That Lead to Manufacturing Success

Article excerpt

Millions of dollars are lost each year because manufacturing companies are not addressing an essential, straightforward issue. The problem? Groups within the company are just not working together.

Regardless of organizational structure or size, manufacturing companies are made up of multiple groups that must cooperate if the business is to be successful. Productivity is at stake when the two main players, those in management of the company and those in production, are not working as one unit. Competing against larger companies and those around the world, if productivity is at stake, so is survival.

The situation is so pervasive today, manufacturing consultant Rebecca A. Morgan, President of Fulcrum Consulting Works in Cleveland, is committed to finding solutions. By offering simple, specific tools developed with client companies learning to work together within their organizations, she wants the manufacturing industry as a whole to take notice as well.

Morgan has had her own business for 15 years and is still one of a handful of women in the field. She was the only woman noted in a March 2006 Industry Week article on manufacturing's most influential thinkers and doers in the last 35 years. Morgan has repeatedly overcome the odds through an open mind and an unrelenting commitment to excellence. She believes sharing lessons learned over the years with her clients can firm the foundation of many manufacturers fighting to become more competitive in today's global market.

Her perspective on a company's manufacturing process may seem harsh to clients; they don't always want to hear what she has to say. But the reality, says Morgan, is that many companies are too close to the forest to see the trees.

"When I tell them they don't understand their manufacturing processes as well as they think they do, they tell me they've been in the business for years. I say "great" but then I help them understand that when they make a change, they need to be able to predict with accuracy the impact of that change. When they can't do that, that tells me there are things they still need to learn about their processes," Morgan says. A willingness to learn is fundamental to any successful company.

When the management team and the production team both realize they are more powerful together, a company can produce one winning team. No longer is it "us" versus "them"--instead, a powerful force emerges that knows how to recognize problems and how to solve those problems.

Here are just some of the ways she says management and production teams can start working together to gain a competitive edge:

Obliterating False Divisions: What struck me with one recent client was the language that emphasized whether a person was "union" or "company". I worked diligently to get everyone using the same vocabulary: everyone is now "WE". Not only did I have them unlock the doors between the production areas and front office, I told them to keep them open as well. Trust began to build, grievances were pulled and a team began to emerge--one that focused on "our" issues.

Creating Seamless Shift Changes: Communication and support issues resulting from shift changes are problematic for many companies. Second and third shift workers are often left feeling like second-class citizens and not part of the picture. I advise companies to create a checklist of important information that all shifts need to know for discussion as part of the shift-to-shift handoff. Common categories for the checklist are equipment, people, process and quality issues.

Keeping a Clean House: In Lean Manufacturing, a methodology called 5S provides guidance to keeping everything neat, clean, organized and ready to use. An unkempt factory sends a message about the work environment to employees: we don't care about the customers or the product. Sometimes simply painting the word "trash" on drums used for trash to differentiate them from drums containing material can kick-start the "no clutter in my house! …

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