Is effective daily management in manufacturing a lost art?

FOCUSSING your team's efforts on delivering the business result for today, and acting NOW on the issues impeding this, can have a positive impact on your customer delivery, your bottom line and staff morale.

FOCUSSING your team’s efforts on delivering the business result for today, and acting NOW on the issues impeding this, can have a positive impact on your customer delivery, your bottom line and staff morale.

We live in a digital age where there is often more data than time to analyse, prioritise and act. Data collection and analysis has been, and always will be a fundamental part of life in business and manufacturing.

For most companies, reviewing key business metrics is normal business practice and nothing new, however the timeliness of the right information and then in turn the ability to act, is the challenge.

Often performance data is reviewed too late to act; the next day, the next week or even at the end of the month. Leaders and Managers today spend valuable time in meetings and reviewing emails, how much time is actually spent managing the NOW, and managing resources to influence and deliver today’s requirements?

The challenge leaders in manufacturing businesses need to ask of themselves and their teams is: When do you know if we are having or had a good day?

Steve Ness a Principal from Atel Business Improvement Specialists says, “When onsite with a new client, one of the first questions we ask is ‘When do you know you have had a good day?”

“Often the answer is the next day, next week at our weekly meeting or sometimes at our monthly meeting.” Ness generally follows up with, ‘How are you going today, right now, are you on track for delivering today’s requirements?’ In most cases it is not known.

Effective daily management is about controlling and influencing today’s performance, throughout the day. Manufacturing rarely goes to plan, and the ability to recognise this and act quickly is invaluable.

Companies should know if they are having a good or a bad day during the day, as the day unfolds.

For example, if the key production line lost 45 minutes due to a bad start up, or a breakdown, what can the team do today to still deliver the days requirements? This may require the reprioritising of people, resources or materials, quickly.

The leaders/ managers of a manufacturing plant or a production line should know if they are on track to deliver today’s requirements during the day , and if they are not on track, ask themselves what can they do to get it back on track today. Then act accordingly.

Key Elements to Effective Daily Management

1. Identifying the key issues impacting today’s performance through effective and accurate data collection systems, and exception reporting is critical.

The daily priorities are safety, quality and performance. Performance can be measured a number of ways including efficiency (OEE), labour productivity or yield.

Each site/line needs to agree the relevant measures for their business and be consistent in the way it is measured and monitored.

The measures need to be agreed by the line team, planning group and management team, and should take into account factors like optimum output per hour, based on true line capability, crewing numbers, changeovers and run lengths.

2. The team should be reviewing performance throughout the day (hourly) and addressing the issues impacting the delivery, as a team, quickly.

As a team, operators, supervisors and managers need to develop the habit of balancing their time so they get on the shopfloor and review the hourly performance data as it unfolds.

Then actively support the line team by helping them address key issues impacting performance. Having a clear insight into the issues impacting the days performance early, provides the opportunity to address these and get the performance back on track.

Visual management boards, log sheets and verbal communication are all effective ways for the team to keep track of performance, and identify performance issues quickly.

3. A daily meeting at the beginning of the day involving key cross-functional stakeholders is fundamental to effective daily management.

Key representatives from each area should be present, ensuring stakeholders across the business are aligned on today’s requirements.

The meeting should ast no longer than 15 minutes and there should be no problem solving.

The meeting needs to take place as near to the shop floor as possible, the minutes are visible (on a white board) and cover the agreed business performance metrics and current priorities.

The meeting should also cover the top three issues inhibiting performance for the last 24 hours, and highlight anything that may impact the next 24 hours, including an update on how today has started.

The team armed with this latest information can if necessary, reprioritise resources, materials and customer requirements to best deliver against the days requirements.

Ness says he is seeing trends in both large and SME manufacturing companies that a lack of a strong focussed daily management process has a direct and negative impact not only productivity and customer service, but also on staff morale.

“What is clear is that if companies get their teams focussed on managing TODAY throughout the day, by following some basic principles, introducing some simple measures and management processes, they cannot help but improve their customer delivery, bottom line and even employee morale,” Ness said.

* Simon Higgins is a Senior Consultant with Atel Business Improvement Specialists,