A View From the Shop Floor on What is Preventing Improvement

137803138_2585a3df01_mI recently had a very interesting  discussion with a craftsman at a large automotive manufacturer.  During this discussion, he outlined a few of the issues he saw in his plant, and why they weren’t able to overcome them.

The craftsman indicated that he had been reading my previous posts and that it all made sense.  In fact, he stated, ” it is common sense, but we don’t have that here”.

His organization was unable to make the changes in a sustainable manner.   I had to ask why he thought they were unsuccessful.   He summed it up perfectly “No one above the shop floor, involves anyone from the shop floor.  We deal with the issues every day and know what needs to be done.  But since we are not a P.Eng. (Professional Engineer), no one wants to listen to our ideas”.

After asking why him why they don’t listen, the response was “because they know everything and we know nothing”.

Unfortunately, this is a common issue found in many organizations and is a major blocker to achieving sustainable improvement.  How is this overcome?


To overcome this in organizations, there needs to be teamwork.  Not just teamwork within specific functions, but also across functions.

Think cross-functional work teams.  A group of individuals that are tasked with not only running but improving the production line or process.  This group should include engineers, craftsman, and operators, with the ability and authority to make decisions and implement improvements.

When all functions are involved in determining the issues, devising a solution and implementing the solution, the chance of sustainable success is much higher.  Why?

Having different perspectives from individuals in the group, allow for a better identification of the problem, identifying possible solutions and how to implement the solution. In addition, when everyone is involved in the process and has ownership of it.

This is easier said than done.

Developing the Teamwork

How do you develop the teamwork across functions?  It is not easy to do, but you can assist and guide the group of people to become a team.

As a leader, you need to assist the team in overcoming the 4 stages of change.  Forming, storming, norming and performing.   These are typically the stages that a team will go through as they are assembled.  At each stage, there are specific things a manager or leader can do to assist the team.   It is imperative that the team is progressed through these stages as quickly as possible while ensuring the team is sustainable.

With the team in place, be sure to use the right performance measures.  Having performance measures for operations, that are different than maintenance, that is different than engineering will not keep the team aligned.  Have a measure that everyone shares (OEE perhaps?) and make sure to include that measure in their performance review.   The goal is not just the measures, but how the team works together to achieve that measure.

One of the most important, but often overlooked way to foster teamwork is to celebrate the successes that the team has.  By celebrating the successes (both small and large) the team will grow together.


Total Productive Maintenance

This concept is not new, it is the basis of TPM and the Toyota Way of Manufacturing.  This level of collaboration is what many organizations strive to achieve.   For more information on this topic, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of The Toyota Way.

Even if you are not able to implement a full TPM program, start by listening to those on the shop floor.  They hold a vast amount of information and are the key to improving the performance in your organization.

Remember, to find success, you must first solve the problem, then achieve the implementation of the solution, and finally sustain winning results.

I’m James Kovacevic
Eruditio, LLC
Where Education Meets Application
Follow @EruditioLLC