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Change Your View, Change Your Results: Shop Floor Excellence Grows from the Shop Floor Not From the Boardroom

Change Your View, Change Your Results: Shop Floor Excellence Grows from the Shop Floor Not From the Boardroom

Shop Floor Excellence can be a critical component in lowering costs, enhancing your competitive advantage, and shoring up your bottom line.

We really are having a tough time throwing off the generations-old, “Tayloristic” approach to management in the United States. Even the concept of Shop Floor Management has high-level executives huddled in conference rooms, looking at data and drawing out plans on whiteboards for their employees to carry out obediently. They are the thinkers—the others, the doers.

This chasm and disconnect between top management and the workforce have been identified as a strategic weakness so often that the citation list would be unending. But, in the fall of 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor’s, Principles of Scientific Management, arrived on the scene and many United States businesses have been paying the price in competitive advantage ever since, especially in manufacturing.

During seasons of economic boom, it’s hard to see the price businesses have paid and the value lost. Financial success can have that effect and mask a myriad of underlying issues. But when the economy slows or threatens to constrict, the argument for addressing the gulf between management and workers resurfaces. This comprehensive article from November 1988’s Harvard Business Review, and Suzaki’s, The New Shop Floor Management, first published in 1993, are great examples.

Our goal is always to address these built-up “silos” and wide gaps in the business structure that result in poor communication, an increasingly disconnected and unengaged workforce, and ultimately poor performance. As business consultants addressing systems, processes, and behaviors, we contend that people come first. And nowhere is that more evident than the shop floor.

Value is Created (or Lost) on the Shop Floor

The shop floor is where value is created in your organization. Or, it’s where value can be lost. Shop Floor Management (SFM) deals with the day-to-day execution of creating that value most efficiently to serve customer needs. An effective shop floor management plan typically is one that:

  • Ensures proper routing of materials on the shop floor
  • Maximizes process and procedure efficiency
  • Schedules the materials, workforce, other resources, and operations
  • Identifies and corrects any communication issues
  • Monitors for any deviations from standard performance outcomes
  • Corrects any deviations quickly

But as you can see from that description, little attention is paid to the workers themselves. Although the processes and procedures of SFM are necessary for production, it’s a typical top-down approach. As a result, traditional Shop Floor Management can often leave your workforce feeling like easily replaceable cogs with little control over their destiny and unclear opportunity for advancement. 

Shop Floor Excellence Begins with Your People

Shop Floor Excellence, on the other hand, begins with the people on your shop floor—your frontline workers and leadership. Shop Floor Excellence, therefore, addresses one of the most significant areas of waste in any organization—the potential of your people. Let’s go beyond theory and present a more practical picture of what Shop Floor Excellence looks like and how to get there.

1. Tap into the Creative Problem-Solving Potential of Your Frontline Leaders and Workforce

That means involving your people in the issues you face and coming up with the solutions to address them. Most common opportunities for improvement in manufacturing performance occur in the startup, line changeovers, and shift changes. No one is more familiar with those areas than your frontline people. Enlist them in making improvements. Get them out of daily reactive firefighting and into creating proactive solutions. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find that no one has bothered to ask!

2. Transparency is Critical

It’s incredible how often we see production lines running without any visible indicators showing adherence to performance standards. That data is usually kept on computer dashboards and whiteboards in offices that can be far removed from the shop floor. Suppose your frontline leaders and operators cannot see if something is functioning out of standard or what optimal performance or capacity targets look like. How can they alert anyone to any issues, let alone try to help solve them? Maintain an obvious and up-to-date production control board that anyone can understand. Everyone should be able to easily find goals for quality, cost, delivery, safety, and morale!

3. Operate With Open Knowledge of Plan, Actual, Variance, Action (PAVA)

That means your shop floor personnel are all aware of the daily or shift-wise goals and are actively engaged in meeting those targets and in the action planning any improvements necessary when they’re not met. This open level of engagement in the greater purpose and productivity of the business is the ultimate team building.

4. Poka-Yoke the Shop Floor!

Anyone can make a mistake. Mistakes in manufacturing can be very costly. Mistake-proofing your systems and processes, known as Poka-Yoke, involves two levels. First are elimination, prevention, replacement, and facilitation to avoid the occurrence of mistakes. The second is detection and mitigation to minimize the effects of errors once they occur.

5. Train, Cross Train, Job Shadow, Mentor, Coach, and Recognize Accomplishments

We can’t emphasize this enough. Build your people, and they will build your organization. Teach them new skills, how to be a leader, and the behaviors that align with your company’s vision, mission, and values. Show them the path to advancement in your organization and treat them like the value creators they are. Acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments openly. The more engaged and involved your workforce, the more likely they are to commit to creating and maintaining an environment of excellence on the shop floor.

6. Sweat the Small Stuff

A shop floor that is disorganized, dirty, and poorly maintained sends the wrong message to your workforce. Allowing it to continue can set the tone for the whole organization and really undermine any improvements you’re trying to make. Get your shop floor in order and keep it that way.

Putting it All Together

The pursuit of Shop Floor Excellence is a commitment from, and to, every one of your people. Like many things in life, Shop Floor Excellence is a journey. It’s an objective with high ideals that translate directly into daily practicalities, behaviors, and purpose. And ultimately, Shop Floor Excellence can be a critical component in lowering costs, enhancing your competitive advantage, and shoring up your bottom line.

We’d love to talk with you more about identifying areas of improvement in your organization, such as Shop Floor Excellence, and how POWERS can optimize your company culture to transform performance. It can be the key to lowering costs, attracting, and retaining talented people and growing your bottom line.

The POWERS Difference

POWERS is a management consulting firm using our proven Culture Performance Management™ methodology to connect the dots between optimized company culture and desired operational performance outcomes. Shop Floor Excellence is one of our main areas of focus.

Our team has helped executive leadership across many industries operationalize their culture for rapid and sustained performance improvement, lowered costs, increased competitive advantage, greater value, and a stronger bottom line.

To put our experienced team and proven track record to work for you, schedule an initial discovery and analysis by calling +1 678-971-4711, or emailing us at info@thepowerscompany.com.

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About the Author

Sean Hart

CEO, Managing Partner

Sean Hart is an industrial engineer with a background in manufacturing supervision and project management. Sean’s background is in improving overall plant efficiencies and implementing Lean techniques to improve processes.