Make your plant floor time productive

The amount of time spent working the floor and what is accomplished is not always proportional to each other.

11/28/2012


I frequently pose this question to managers: “How much time do you spend on the floor?” I get responses that run the gamut from “I don’t need to go to the floor” to “I’m on the floor all the time.” Of course, the amount of time that you spend on the floor is directly proportional to where you sit in your organization’s hierarchy.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “go to the Gemba.” From what I can ascertain, this means go to where the work is being done. I absolutely, wholeheartedly, agree with this concept. However, the amount of time you spend there and what you get accomplished are not always proportional to each other.

So, how do you make your time in the work area more productive? First, let’s talk about the inverted pyramid. This is not a new concept, and it can be used in a myriad of ways. The pyramid that I am talking about stands on its point, and like the traditional pyramid, the head of the organization resides at the point. The difference here is that now the point supports the entire organization instead of the rest of the organization supporting the point.

Ask yourself a question, no matter where you sit on the pyramid. How much time do you spend making sure that daily customer demand is met? And how do you know that it is being met? Can you walk into the workplace and understand where you stand in meeting daily customer demand? In most places that I have worked, it is not easy to determine. That information is usually communicated at the morning production meeting. And where do these meetings usually take place? If you said “the floor,” you are in a small minority. 

Meeting customer demand

Whose job is it to meet daily customer demand? The operators who are in the trenches every day making the equipment/processes operate. About 90% to 95% of the time, they need to be focused on meeting daily customer demand. And what should they do with the other 5% to 10%? Teach them to solve problems in order to create greater stability and increase efficiency. With the operators taking on the biggest burden in order to meet customer demand, what does everyone else do? Everyone else supports the operator; thus the inverted pyramid.

A typical structure could include operators, team leaders, group leaders, assistant managers, and managers, with each lower level of the pyramid supporting the level above it. Visual controls are what will allow you to see what is happening on the shop floor. It is how the operator communicates to the management team what is happening in their process. Things like Progress Control Boards, color coding, and having specific locations for tools, work in process, raw materials, and finished goods will help you to identify the current condition of satisfying customer demand for that particular day. Even if you are producing an item that gets completed only once every 45 days, it can still be broken down into weekly, daily, and even hourly targets.

One of the foundational visuals is the Progress Control Board. It can display everything about an area that is required to understand what is being done to satisfy customer demand. It will always contain a temperature of where the area stands in meeting customer demand. Some will call it an hour-by-hour chart; I call it a feeling. When you look at it, you get a feeling for whether the process is performing well or not.

Another integral part of the Progress Control Board is the Pareto of reasons for missing target (or capacity). As the operators understand what is causing the line to be unstable, they will take action to constantly reduce the variation. This could be problem solving and implementing the solutions themselves, thus the 5% to 10% dedicated to improving the line, or it could be listing items on an action item log for someone else to handle.

This brings us to the final mandatory item on the Progress Control Board—the action log. When the operators run into an item that they themselves cannot solve, they will put it on the action log. It is then the responsibility of the people that are lower on the pyramid to review these action items and act on them. 

Allocating time

How much time should you spend on the floor? If you can adhere to the 90%-95% rule for the operators, the team leads (or supervisors, or assistant general foreman) will spend 70%-80% on daily demand and 20%-30% looking ahead. They will look one week to a month out and see what is coming up. What do they have to do with manpower? Are temps required? Are there any tests that will need to be run that require special attention? What is required of the team lead to support the operator in making the line more stable and efficient?

The next level down (group leader, assistant manager, foreman) should spend 50%-60% of their time satisfying customer demand and the remainder of the time looking ahead at what is happening this month or this quarter. Each level needs to ask what it can do to support the operator.

As we progress another level down, managers should allocate 25% of their time to meeting daily demand, and 75% to planning for the year. Are you starting a new line? What needs to be done in the holiday shutdown? How are we going to staff for the summer peak, what do I need to do to satisfy the targets and objectives for the year and, of course, what can I do to support the operator? At the bottom of the pyramid (CEO, COO, plant director), leaders focus 5% to 10% on daily demand and 90% to 95% on looking ahead.

When we look at these percentages more closely, if the bottom of the organization were to spend 10% of their day making sure that customer demand is met, that would be one hour per day (assuming that most management teams usually work a 10-hour day). This would entail walking the floor, observing the Progress Control Boards, and seeing what items on the action list require their attention. This would also include walking the floor with the team members that report to you. Peer pressure is a great way to get things done.

The content on the rest of the Progress Control Board is up to you. Remember, you have the daily progress sheet, Pareto of reasons for not meeting plan (or capacity), and the action list of what is being done to solve the issues. Be careful that the action log does not become a whine sheet. There should only be about two to three actions on the list. This is because in large plants with a lot of Progress Control Boards you need the ability to make sure that the actions identified are being solved.

Other items that you could place on the board are items that will roll up to the overall metrics of the company. These usually fall into the categories of quality, cost, safety, and, of course, delivery. All metrics should roll up and down to support policy deployment.

So while the question, “How much time do you spend on the floor?” is very relevant, because no one is excused from spending time on the floor, maybe the real question should be, “How productive is the time that you spend on the floor?” 

Kimo Oberloh is a Lean manufacturing subject matter expert at Life Cycle Engineering. Kimo can be contacted at koberloh(at)LCE.com

koberloh(at)LCE.com



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.