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Get your shop floor organised III: are you ahead or behind?

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Vincent Gerdes Published at

In my previous blog I provided a bird’s eye view on the four quick checks to organise your shop floor. I addressed turning resources into customer value that -in turn- delivers your P&L results. I applied a Gemba walk to observe all this in reality. And I described four guiding questions to look for visible evidence.

The four questions that reveal your level of shop floor control are:

  1. What is the next work to take?
  2. Are we ahead or behind?
  3. Where are our abnormal conditions?
  4. Do we solve our daily problems?

In this blog, I take a deeper dive into the second question: are we ahead or behind? The upcoming blogs will address the other questions. The total assessment typically runs between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on your scope.

There are basically three areas to focus on when answering the question whether you are ahead or behind.

Day by the hour

Can you see at a glimpse if the workplace is ahead or behind its daily schedule? Will it deliver as planned? Or will you wait until the end of the day and then listen to the excuses for not meeting customer demand? A good level of shop floor control is required to be able to observe the answer to these simple questions.

Both your operations staff and operators must know what manufacturing performance to expect per product, per line. With this expectation, they can schedule a realistic day by the hour per workplace that explicitly shows what output to expect at what hour into the shift. Based on such a schedule, operators can timely flag a significant deviation and ask for support.

If this does not get visible during operations, when will your manufacturing manager or team-leader find out? Hopefully it will be in time to intervene with corrective actions and not just before the operations meeting next morning. Timely discovery results in actions, late discovery in explanations. Besides timely corrective interventions, a day by the hour visibility of your workplace opens the possibility to use load levelling within or between workplaces to optimize the use of your resources.

Standards required

To create instantaneous visibility on how you are doing, good and detailed standards are required on production rate, uptime, and material efficiency. Often standards exist, but they are not sufficiently specific per product type. Working with such averages, results in approximate data which is an easy excuse if things do not go well. Even worse, using such averages never sets a realistic target for the operators to work against, so they can never be proud if they achieved it.

A second important benefit of good and detailed standards is that they allow for a realistic schedule. With a schedule based on averages, sand bagging daily output targets is required in order not to disappoint the customer. And lower targets result in lower output.

Finally, good and detailed standards lead to more realistic product costing once these standards have been brought into your ERP or finance systems. Are you really making money on that particular product?

If standards per product are not available from the design parameters, they may be derived from recent historical data, but only from the ‘stable process’ portion of it. If you use all data, you just assume that running the current average is the target, instead of setting realistic targets that drive the average up.

Visible targets

The other key requirement to answer the question if you are ahead or behind, is to implement visible targets on the shop floor. After an initial resistance to this change, most operators will be enthusiastic about this level of clarity on what does good look like. It gives them the ability to point out when they need support or can be proud of meeting targets.

Vincent Gerdes is Senior Business Process Consultant at R&G Global Consultants in the Netherlands.

Previous blog in this series: What is the next work to take?
Next blog: Where are our abnormal conditions?

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