Author Topic: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas  (Read 5531 times)

k-vette

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I am the GM of a small company.  We build a niche product that is growing quickly, and we handle all aspects of the business.  We manufacture the product, market, sell, and service.

The question is, how do I increase productivity on the manufacturing side?  I have always worked in manufacturing.  In each case, I worked hard on the manufacturing line, was noticed for my work ethic, and quickly got moved into an office position with higher pay.  If I topped out in the office and wanted more, I left the company.  I prefer and like the physical work, but am never satisfied if there's room to move up.  As the GM, pay is dependent on the company making more money, so I need to pay attention to everything.  In other companies I've always seen a divide between the "office employees" and the "warehouse employees".  Although I've worked hard to prevent that here, I see it happening.  The physical laborers think those is the offices have cushy jobs with higher pay, they get the AC in summer, heat in the winter, (insert complainy-pants comments here), etc.  I generally open the gate each morning, and I'm always the last to leave.  I've got a high stress job and if it doesn't get done - they don't have a job at all.  I don't have time to watch the employees all day and make sure they're working.  As a small company, we're in the tight position that we can't hire (and don't need to) more employees at this point in time.  It's also expensive to train new employees since it's specialty work, so firing and hiring new people is difficult.

So how do I make sure they're on task, not taking super long breaks, etc?  Since I don't mind the physical labor, my current thought is that the "boss" (me) needs to go work on the manufacturing floor and lead by example.  I'll use another office employee to answer my phone, etc.  They can take messages and come talk to me about items they don't know how to handle.  It would be good for them to get the experience and grow a bit too.

If I do this, our response time for sales will suffer somewhat.  I could slightly shorten our office hours or days (from the customer's perspective).  This would give me uninterrupted time manufacturing, along with set hours when I'm available in the office.  That's not really what I'd like to do though, because I think it gives our company the appearance that we're slow in sales, etc.  I'm still brainstorming on the best way to handle this.

An excuse I heard today about the work not being hard in the office is pushing me to make a change, but I need it to be positive.  I don't want employees to fear me, I want them to respect me.

firewalker

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2015, 06:33:51 PM »
First off, I have to say that I would be very motivated to do a good job if I was working out on the floor "side by side" with the GM! But in this whacked out world, production workers cannot be paid at a level that would make them strive for quality and loyalty. Sad, but true. How it came to be that an office guy should expect higher pay than the floor crew I do not know. But aint that America.

capitalguy

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2015, 06:51:40 PM »
How about some form of profit sharing to the employees? If that won't motivate them, nothing will. Even the laziest employee will start working very hard upon learning that if the company succeeds they will get more money.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2015, 07:04:21 PM »
First off, I have to say that I would be very motivated to do a good job if I was working out on the floor "side by side" with the GM! But in this whacked out world, production workers cannot be paid at a level that would make them strive for quality and loyalty. Sad, but true. How it came to be that an office guy should expect higher pay than the floor crew I do not know. But aint that America.

How much money you earn will depend on 3 things:
1. What you do.
2. How well you do it.
3. How difficult it is to replace you.

Glenstache

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2015, 07:38:39 PM »
Really, it comes down to making people feel valued in their work and invested in the company's success. Working the floor as a GM says that you respect their work enough to do it yourself, so long as it isn't perceived as a stunt. If you have office people who need to understand the floor, you can have them go down too. Are there folks in manufacturing that could spend a day a week in sales to see how the office works? This has obvious inefficiencies, but could help make the company feel more "flat" instead of ladder-runged.

Employee ownership and/or direct profit sharing can work as a motivator, but is a very fundamental decision on company structure and bookkeeping. A bonus system could be an alternative middle ground.

You could "gamify" production. Generate a system for tracking individual productivity, make it transparent to all on the floor, and reward good work with low error rate (or whatever is appropriate). This would require careful planning to not make it feel like Big Brother, but could make hard work tangible and (potentially, maybe not) socially rewarded. Caveat Emptor.

Find a way to ask them for ways to streamline production. As you know, they do it 40 hours a week, so might know of things that are annoying/slow/bottlenecks. If only the cardboard boxes were in a different place... etc. Having their input change the workplace is a win-win where it is feasible.




Argyle

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2015, 09:19:58 PM »
I second the profit sharing.  Also, ask the employees what would motivate them and increase efficiency.  Offer rewards for doing so -- if someone comes up with an idea that means you make $X more per year, they get a bonus of some percentage.  If everyone's looking out for ways to increase efficiency, they're buying in to a better workforce.

DollarBill

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2015, 11:04:50 PM »
Look up "six sigma".

Le Poisson

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2015, 11:28:49 PM »
I was a machinist before I retrained for a career in transportation engineering.

In the shops, piecework incentives worked really well. I forget how it worked, but we had a piecework bonus that kicked in after a minimum quota was met. If you had issues getting parts out fast enough, the welders would let you know how bad they needed the bonus money.

Today I work in an office and have managed to end up with a staff of castaways no one else wanted. We now have morning get togethers daily, where we spend no more than 15 minutes to go over what everyone is going to accomplish today. I stole the idea from Walmart, and being accountable for something to the whole group seems to be effective. Side benefits include comeraderie and a documented safety talk in a daily log.

CDP45

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2015, 11:32:00 PM »
Thank you for asking a business/work related question, it kills me there is little interest on this forum to help advance your career.

It's tough, I work on the sales side of the "production" and what motivated me when I was on the line was my output compared to others, and also being a resource for fellow employees at my level. Is there a small pay boost/title you can give to those productive workers? Then you can give them some goals/responsibilities? Like senior grease monkey? Or Wrench Ranger level 3?

I led a team of 30 Marines, I knew how to turn wrenches but there was no way I could do all the work to accomplish our missions by myself. You need to be a leader and effective delegator to reach your goals.

Ditto on the LEAN reading.

Spondulix

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 11:56:33 PM »
I agree about working the floor being seen as a stunt (unless you intend on doing it regularly). At the end of the day, you're still going back to your air-conditioned office.

The obvious solution is to ask them - give them an opportunity to feel empowered in the company. Offering money to increase productivity helps, but it might not be a permanent solution. Maybe just being heard and treated as an equal (where you are bringing them to your level and telling them honestly about your dilemma) will make them feel more accountable. Are there differences in dress, the car you drive, things like that?

Kiwi Mustache

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2015, 12:12:14 AM »
I work in a distribution centre, so a factory of sorts.

I've spent the last two years on a trainee program being a physical labourer to learn all the different departments (inwards, processing, despatch, engineering, auditing, forecasting/planning, etc).

I found people (including myself) work harder for people I admire. The biggest improvement I saw in peoples attitudes at work was when the big boss (GM level) learnt my name, learnt about my family, what I enjoy doing, etc.

All they had to do was come up to me or walk by at 3pm or so when my shift was nearing and end and say "Hey young fella, hows it going today" this was the single biggest reason I chose to work hard. I found managers who ruled with and iron fist, only talked to you when you screwed something up and other wise sat in their office, I had no respect for.

If the planning team or the DC manager was thinking of implementing a new efficiency improvement in our department, it was always best to not just get the input of that areas floor manager, but also the staff doing the manual work. If the people doing the manual work didn't have input into new ideas, it was just "something extra, or a change, why don't we just do it the same?, etc" but if they had input into the project, you got them on board, felt like it was their idea (even though you planted the idea into them) and they felt like they were personally responsible for making their idea work.

Also, try to target younger people as they seem to be the most keen and energetic. The older workers in their 50's etc are a bit stuck in their way so it was difficult.

k-vette

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 06:41:36 AM »
I feel good that something will come out of this.  In response to some of the questions:

Profit sharing Isn't high on my list.  I have difficulty rewarding someone to do the job we're already paying them quite well for.  I'm not getting the value of what they're earning now.  I know this seems odd, but money doesn't seem like a big motivator - they just expect it.  I've seen profit sharing implemented in other companies and it was a big flop, so I'm very hesitant about this.  I think they would rather have time off,  so im thinking that maybe if they work hard enough, they can get off early for the weekend.  I get the work done I need without spending more on payroll.

Bonuses for increased efficiency i have actually brought up.  If they figure out ways to save money on each system,  we are willing to reward them.  They've never come up with anything I'm aware of yet.

I would plan on making the manufacturing time for me a regular thing, no stunts.

It was also asked if there are differences in cars, dress, etc.  I think this is a no.  I've been very clear about my savings and often ride my bike to work.  The fact is that the majority of shop workers get paid more than anyone.  Only one is paid less, and it's solely due to his unreliability.

Le Poisson

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2015, 07:31:04 AM »
I agree with most of what you have said. I remember a lunch hour at an engineering firm where a number of project managers sat around a table griping about their Christmas bonuses being lower than normal. Comments like "don't they know we were counting on that money!" as if a bonus was part of their regular salary. That year the company had lost money, and was looking to the staff to pull it up. The small bonuses weren't a surprise, and those of us that were employee owners saw it in our dividend cheques.

In the manufacturing environment, the piecework bonus was a different animal. I would really encourage you to explore it. The only way your guys can hit the bonus is if they accomplish MORE than you are paying them for already - I anticipate you have some sort of quota expectation if your staff are under performing. What happens is one guy who has never seen this blog figures out that he can make his car payment if he hits the bonus 3 days a week, so he enslaves himself with GM Credit, and goes balls to the walls to get his bonus. If he does that, then everyone upstream/downstream HAS to keep up or he starts chirping - for that one guy its a vested interest. Now everyone around him ups their game, and the bonus becomes the norm - until they miss it. The staff will sort out the reason they missed it on their own, and will flag the underperformers for you.

Piecework bonuses worked incredibly well on every manufacturing line where I saw them used.

I am now working for a municipality, and see similar productivity challenges in my office. As team lead, it is my responsibility to motivate my team, but I am not management and so I have a very limited toolset. Since we started having our 5 minute team huddles in the morning (we just started at New Years) the staff are accountable for the work they haven't completed to each other. Some interesting comments are being made between the staff - things like "You spent all day on that report? It was only 2 paragraphs!" and my personal favourite - "Waddaya mean you didn't have time to finish it? At 2:00 you told us all that Leonard Nemoy was dead, and at 3:00 you gave me a recipe for carrot cake - you were surfing the web all afternoon."

I also have a fairly laid back approach on this stuff. As long as my guys are putting out the amount of work expected at the quality expected, I don't care what they do with their time. Once the quality/quantity falls off, I start to get twitchy.

3okirb

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2015, 07:47:26 AM »
People want to be heard and respected.  Once per quarter, take them one at a time in to your office and let them be heard.  Ask them the questions that make them feel respected and act on them if it's in your power and let them know how you plan on using the information.  Keep them updated on that progress or they'll think you're not serious about hearing them.

catccc

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2015, 07:59:39 AM »
There's a family owned company based in Philadelphia, PA, called Cardone Industries.  I think they manufacture car parts.  I heard about them and their amazing productivity, like, very much in excess of industry standards, at a sustainable ag conference a few years ago.  (conference had nothing to do with car part manufacturing, but workshop was about building relationships as the foundation of successful business)  So pretty much what they do there is care big time about their employees and value them as people.  Not sure how you can execute that, but you might want to read up on them...


Le Poisson

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2015, 08:00:56 AM »
People want to be heard and respected.  Once per quarter, take them one at a time in to your office and let them be heard.  Ask them the questions that make them feel respected and act on them if it's in your power and let them know how you plan on using the information.  Keep them updated on that progress or they'll think you're not serious about hearing them.

100% - but it has to be a 2-way street.

MillenialMustache

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2015, 02:07:29 PM »
Someone mentioned it above, and it rings true to me. A former boss I had genuinely cared about people's families. She would ask about them and remember information about them. She had a very loyal following. I remember she sent me a check in the mail when I got married. My sister works at an independently owned bowling alley with two other family members of mine. When her fiancee had terrible vision, the owners helped pay for his lasik. When my sister had a baby, the owners asked what she needed and bought it for her. This makes a huge difference.

anon-e-mouse

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2015, 03:14:45 PM »
When I was a young manager, I tried to lead by example as you stated.
I was quickly reminded by upper management that I need to MANAGE the team, not become another co-worker.
You're not doing your 'job' if you're working the floor.  Your job is much more specialized than you give it credit.
If you want to incentivize them, offer a fridge full of sodas and snacks out in the warehouse that the office peeps won't likely venture out to.
This gives them a one-up feeling on the cozy office people.

If you are actually looking for Productivity, then you need to have a measurement of what that means.
Do you want to spiff employees that have higher scores than others?
Do you want to punish, repurpose, or retrain the employees that don't meet the standard?
What are you going to do with the employees that don't respond to pressure to improve?
What does it do to the rest of the crew to have a team member not pulling their weight and getting away with it?

It's a long dark rabbit hole.....

Spondulix

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2015, 07:24:24 PM »
Profit sharing Isn't high on my list.  I have difficulty rewarding someone to do the job we're already paying them quite well for.  I'm not getting the value of what they're earning now.  I know this seems odd, but money doesn't seem like a big motivator - they just expect it.
This is just my perception, but based on what you've said so far, your attitude comes across as though you're looking at your employees as commodities/numbers, not people who depend on you to make a living. It also comes across a bit like a parent who can't get your kids to do their chores. Now, I get that it's business, but I mention it because it contributes to the "us vs them" environment that you say you don't want.

If you had an issue with your spouse or best friend who made a promise and then didn't follow through, what would you say to them? What would you do if it was your business partner or someone equal to you who was underperforming?

Jouer

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2015, 08:15:32 AM »
My thoughts: You are getting too caught up in the weeds, considering you are a senior leader. Any loss of sales that occur because you are on the floor could mean loss of jobs on the floor....that's not very motivating.

It is up to you to motivate the leaders in the warehouse. You motivate the warehouse leaders and they motivate the workers. I would think you'd want the warehouse leaders to be seen as one of them rather than office people. Warehouse leaders could be supervisors or maybe even influencers on the floor. You need to rely on them to be advocates; to motivate your troops.

3okirb

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2015, 08:25:02 AM »
Your company might already be doing this, but another idea is to make sure that jobs are switched around every few hours.  Most big manufacturers that I have worked for in the past do this.  (BMW & Jacobs Chuck)  There are a few reasons for it.  Less injury and job satisfaction are the 2 big ones.  On a manufacturing floor, there is a lot of complaining, and one of the things most complained about is how everyone else's job is easier than theirs.  Those that stand up want to sit.  Those that sit want to stand, etc.  Change it up and not only do you eliminate that line of complaining, you also increase productivity by helping with monotony, reducing injury and it's MUCH easier to cover missed shifts because everyone can do the different jobs.

mm1970

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2015, 12:01:07 PM »
I feel good that something will come out of this.  In response to some of the questions:

Profit sharing Isn't high on my list.  I have difficulty rewarding someone to do the job we're already paying them quite well for.  I'm not getting the value of what they're earning now.  I know this seems odd, but money doesn't seem like a big motivator - they just expect it.  I've seen profit sharing implemented in other companies and it was a big flop, so I'm very hesitant about this.  I think they would rather have time off,  so im thinking that maybe if they work hard enough, they can get off early for the weekend.  I get the work done I need without spending more on payroll.

Bonuses for increased efficiency i have actually brought up.  If they figure out ways to save money on each system,  we are willing to reward them.  They've never come up with anything I'm aware of yet.

I would plan on making the manufacturing time for me a regular thing, no stunts.

It was also asked if there are differences in cars, dress, etc.  I think this is a no.  I've been very clear about my savings and often ride my bike to work.  The fact is that the majority of shop workers get paid more than anyone.  Only one is paid less, and it's solely due to his unreliability.
Wow, this is interesting. Money has been a huge motivator where I have worked. But maybe that's because I've worked for cheap companies where people weren't paid market rate.  In that case, profit sharing or stock options (depending on your level at the company) was a huge motivator.

But you have to work with your own demographic.  If money's not a motivator and time is, then go with that.

I like the idea of you going in and working the manufacturing line. For sure it will probably improve the efficiency of the employees and hopefully make them respect you.

I know that some people just slack off when they can.  At my company, we had shifts that started at 6 am.  I never really knew when people started though.  There was a period of time when I started coming into work at 6 am (I'm a senior engineer, so I wasn't the mfg line people's boss, but a senior employee).  Wow, they were sitting in the lunch room eating, drinking coffee, and chatting.  Often until 6:30 am, and sometimes some of them weren't even there at that time.  One of the employees told me later that because they never knew when I was going to show up early, they started coming in on time.

We found out later that some of the employees were leaving early on a Saturday and writing in their full time.  Yeah, the lead guy got fired for that.

asauer

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2015, 01:45:32 PM »
Having worked in your shoes (high level in manufacturing) there are two things that made a big cultural difference toward accountability:
1. Started Kaizen and Lean Sigma projects.  These are quick and do not need a shit-ton of training/ expertise.  I had floor workers lead the Kaizen events (which was within the labor agreement).  Floor supervisors lead the Lean Sigma projects (1-2 months long) and workers volunteered or were requested to volunteer for projects that they thought were interested.  By "requested to volunteer" I mean that I approached folks who complained like hell about the topic of the project and said "here's your chance to do something about it."  In a nice way, obviously.  Team got to meet in air conditioning- big factor there. 

2.  I posted results of the projects and results and celebrated every success.  Nothing like peer pressure to make a team pull together.  Knowing that the results were going to be posted for the whole floor to see was helpful.  After 4-5 projects, people actually came up with ideas and began to feel that they were trusted and had some autonomy and decision making power.  I saw a sharp decline (though not complete eradication of complainy-pants statements) after about a year.

Secret Stache

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2015, 02:38:06 PM »
+1 to Kaizen events with cross functional teams


Try forming Safety Teams of randomly selected people to walk an area of the shop to identify potential hazards.  Make it the team's responsibility to correct the hazard and communicate their findings to the rest of the workforce.  This won't help efficiency but will help build relationships. 

I worked in a plant where each employee had to complete a "work-book" within their first 90 days.  It had several tasks such as identifying the name of a part from a picture taken in the shop, testing your knowledge of basic process, where the bathrooms are located and even getting the name and birthdate of the XXXXXX (insert lead supervisor on x line, warehouse clerk, foreman, ect).  This required you to understand the basic assembly process, the parts involved and actually speaking to those involved.

Motivation in manufacturing can be difficult but I have found that keeping the guys turning wrenches informed of the customer required dates, consequences to the company if dates are missed, and customer feedback of the quality of the product goes further than an incentive plan.  They do care about their specific jobs but may need feedback on their impact.

Secret Stache

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Re: Productivity and Efficiency in the work place - looking for ideas
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2015, 02:52:07 PM »
Also, in a Kaizen event conduct a value stream mapping activity in a cross functional team where every step in the assembly process is mapped out and time studies are done on each one.  Then add up each activity to give you a duration.  Compare that to your actual duration and find the white space that can be eliminated.  Additionally this will point out your bottleneck which could be addressed by a subsequent team.  rinse and repeat until your bottle necks are wiped out.

Also measure touch points in the assembly process.  How many times does a human have to physical touch/move a part.  These are all opportunities for failure.  See what processes can be automated or be done more efficiently, ask stupid questions as to why you do the things you do and then optimize them.  If you want to get fancy you can calculate DPMO (defects per million opportunities) and publicize each lines' performance to generate some friendly competition.

Research Six Sigma and get certified.  Also look into APICS and their certifications.  Or hire an Industrial Engineer.

edited for grammer
« Last Edit: March 18, 2015, 02:54:21 PM by Matt »