I was meeting with the supervisors yesterday at our weekly production meeting.  I have mentioned before that our group is covering the book “FISH” for our Ebsco Book Club.  In our meeting we discussed a character from the book who was very task oriented manager.  His methods were not the most effective for achieving good results.  I asked the members of our group how we might be like him and what can we do to improve.  Our discussion went directly to spending more time on the production floor with the team that actually make the springs.  I hold myself guilty as accused of this also.

Ebsco’s production supervisors are all conscientious, hard-working people and they do care about our production team.  The problem is we JUST DON’T HAVE TIME.

We DON’T HAVE TIME?  Management is a demanding job in most organizations and you face several deadlines.  There are reports to create and presentations to make.  Forms that must be filled out and papers to review and pass on.  Schedules must be made and results tabulated.  Last I heard, Ebsco was in the Spring Business.  Our customers pay us for supplying them quality springs, to their specifications in a timely manner.  I have never sent an invoice to a customer for my time reviewing our on time delivery report.  There has never been a surcharge added for job scheduling services.  Our customers pay for springs!  No one on our management team is making springs.  So the bottom line is management can’t live without the production team yet the production team can live without the management team.  I realize this is some what of an exaggeration but you get my point.

But…. WE DON’T HAVE TIME.  Time is a commodity in business like everything else. There is a limited amount of it and to be successful you must utilize it in the most efficient manner.  We do this by deciding what is important.  We can’t make springs if we don’t schedule the jobs, so that is a priority.  The boss told me to get this report done by …, so that is a priority.  I know I need to complete this weekly so here is another priority.  So on and So on.  That is how we start time management.  Deciding what is important.  Didn’t I just say the production team were the only ones making something our customers pay for?  Isn’t my pay check dependant on the production team making and shipping springs to our customers.  I don’t get paid if they don’t ship springs!  That seems kinda important.  In fact that seems like it is the most important thing to me.  Sooooo  doesn’t it make sense that myself and the other supervisors should be out on the production floor more, observing and finding ways we can make their jobs better?  Shouldn’t we take time to talk to them and find out what they need?  Maybe we should just go out and take the time to say thank you more often.

If you read my Blogs, you know I’m a big fan of Toyota.  I don’t think they do everything right but I think they are closer than most manufacturers.  Toyota is known to have new engineers, that are moving into management go stand in a small square chalk box on the floor of the assembly line.  They are told to stand there all day and the next report what they observed to there trainers.  I assume they get a break to go to the restroom but they stand there all day. When they report back to their supervisor the discussion is not directed at the observations but at their observation skills.  Now I’m not advocating this because it lacks contact with the production team and that is really the point I am trying to make.  What is impressive is Toyota’s understanding of where supervisors need to be.  On the production floor where the rubber meets the road.

I used to call this management by WONDERING/WANDERING.  The words are interchangeable and equally as important.  I talked about this a great deal in my retail days.  management should be on the sales floor, with no specific task or direction WONDERING/WANDERING.  Walk around, observe, talk, listen and wonder what might be.  It’s very effective. In manufacturing that sales floor is the production floor.  The premise is the same.  Observe, talk, listen, and wonder what might be.

I am not talking about spending all day in production.  The staff will eventually get tired of you bothering them and you actually do have some things that must be done.  My point is that spending time where the rubber meets the road should be time at the top of your what’s important list.  When you put it there, you will make time to see that  it happen.  As soon as I get over these knee replacements I plan on spending more time on the production floor.  Our supervision team will also be spending more time on the floor.

I hope the production staff doesn’t get sick of me.

Happy WONDERING/WANDERING

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About Ebsco Spring Company

Ebsco Spring Company manufactures precision springs. Ebsco Spring was established in 1941 in Tulsa Oklahoma. Ebsco Spring manufactures custom springs for a wide variety of industries including fluid power, oil and gas, aerospace, defense, medical and others.

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