7 quick fixes for manufacturing problems

May 23, 2014
7 common mistakes of facilities managers and how to fix them.

Mistakes will happen in manufacturing. It’s inevitable. However, some have significant consequences, such as slowing productivity or jeopardizing worker safety. The burden often falls to the facilities manager to correct the issue. You are the one who can make the decisions that improve procedures and streamline operations. If you know what to look for, you can correct the mistakes you’re already making and prevent future ones.

Here are seven common mistakes made in industrial facilities, as well as recommended solutions.

1. Problem — Unrealistic Goals. It’s easy to be overly optimistic, especially if you believe you can win manufacturing business with an aggressive timeline. But many times, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Straining your workforce can actually be counterproductive by hurting morale and increasing the chances for mistakes. Unrealistic goals can set you up for bad business.

The Fix — Detailed Project Management. In manufacturing, you must keep close track of your resources and manpower. Many facilities are migrating to different types of management software that allow you to see more than simply when your workers are clocking in and out. You can see how much time is needed for each task and plan future projects better. The result is a more consistent workload with realistic expectations.

2. Problem — Poor Time Management. In manufacturing, you are always up against the clock. Your production speed and efficiency can make or break you. Yet, even with the best machinery, you’re only as efficient as your team. It is crucial that your team keep up a productive pace. Poor time management on your part can be a major problem.

The Fix — Consistent Oversight. Management software can help you delegate tasks and set goals, and it holds everyone accountable. Your employees are less likely to drag their feet if they know that every minute is being logged and compared against norms.

3. Problem — Planning Without Input. Planning a project takes collaboration and input from all involved. Failing to get feedback from your workers can result in heavy workloads that slow productivity. Further, if you fail to manage customer expectations, you could lose future business.

The Fix — Planning Task Force. Your workers know better than anyone what can be done in a given amount of time and the best way to accomplish a task. Assign workers with varying expertise to give you feedback. Consult with them while you are still in the planning stage so that you can set more accurate expectations for your customers and to ensure that all needs can be met.

4. The Problem — Lack of Communication. The quickest way to ensure mistakes is to have an uninformed team. Industrial tasks often are incredibly complex, and a project can collapse without the right channels of communication.

The Fix — Weekly Meetings. Set a fixed time each week to review objectives and progress. Your meeting should include project managers, who should then relay that information back to the full team. Every member of your team should be aware where everyone else stands at the moment. Weekly meetings keep workers informed, and they serve to hold all involved parties accountable. The challenge is abiding by the weekly meeting schedule, so be very strict about attendance.

5. Problem — Carelessness or Unsafe Practices. In manufacturing, it is crucial that you and your team not grow complacent when it comes to workplace safety. In almost no other work environment is the risk of workplace accidents so high. The top three causes of injury and death in manufacturing are falling, being struck by an object, and electrocution — all preventable, if you know what to look for and take the proper prevention steps.

The Fix — Constant Training and Inspections. Your workers should know safety procedures ranging from regular inspections to emergency response. They should be trained to spot anything out of the ordinary. Additionally, all of your equipment should be professionally inspected on a regular basis.

Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators in Chicago. Contact him at [email protected].

6. Problem — Too Many Projects. Multitasking isn’t always smart, especially in manufacturing. When your workers are forced to juggle projects and switch tasks frequently, mistakes will happen and production will slow down.

The Fix — Scale Back and Reevaluate. First, closely measure the progress being made on each project. Then reduce the number of projects in progress by 25%. With the remaining projects still in the works, remeasure progress. Often, you will see that workers are actually more productive per project and you can move forward at a rate equal to or faster than if your team were multitasking.

7. Problem — Micromanaging. You might not know it, but the biggest hurdle to productivity could be yourself. Micromanaging can be disruptive to your workers, and it can even discourage them from doing the best job possible.

The Fix — Assign Project Management Roles. While they’ll ultimately answer to you, pass along the responsibility of project management to your employees. Allow them to delegate work and measure against clear benchmarks. Each of your workers likely has a valuable skill set that qualifies that employee to lead on various elements of a project. And, many times, they have an expertise or way of doing things that is more efficient for the whole team.

In this business, you always have room to improve — whether it’s onsite practices or workflow strategies. The good news is that simple solutions like the ones above can improve worker safety, morale and productivity.

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