Shop Management

You’ve Increased Your Shop’s Productivity, but What About Yours?

April 23, 2013

workinghardCongratulations! You’ve invested in new CNC machine technologies, added robotic automation and made sure your workforce has the training and technical support they require. Productivity is at an all-time high, yet the bottom line is still not where you thought it should be. Why is that? One possible answer may be closer than you think. As cartoon character Pogo Possum said: “We have met the enemy…and he is us.”

I know. Nobody works harder in your business than you. It seems as though the boss’s job is never done. You always work more than 40-hours a week and seldom take a vacation. The problem is you get buried in minutia and caught up in “getting stuff done,” while losing sight of the big picture. Could this be you? Do you see yourself in any of the following scenarios? 

  • The Mechanic. Your operator runs into a setup problem on a new job. You take a look and realize what needs to be done, so you dive in, finish the setup and run the first part yourself. Meanwhile, your operator stands idly by while you do his job. You wanted to get the problem solved quickly and production under way. However you didn’t take the time to educate your machine operator on how to solve the setup problem. You just did it. Mission accomplished. Or is it? How likely is it that this operator will come running to you the next time a similar situation develops?
  • The Errand Runner. The bank deposit needs to be made and the mail picked up. Everyone else seems to be busy, so you jump in your car and take care of it. Pretty soon it becomes a habit and you may even look forward to taking an hour or two to run these errands. After all, it helps break up the day. The problem is you’re a bit high-paid to be an errand boy.
  • The Distracted Worker. You sat down at your computer to attack a specific task. Hours later you’ve accomplished little, if anything. Why? Emails popped up that you were compelled to respond to. The phone rang and you had to answer. People were constantly poking their heads into your office to ask a “quick question.” You went on the Internet to search for an important piece of information but got sidetracked as some interesting, but unrelated, search results appeared.

If any of this sounds familiar, take heart: You’re only human. However each of these illustrate enormous time wasters that can keep you in the shop each day well past quitting time. The good news is that you can do something about them:

  • Teach. We all know that its much better to educate employees than do their work for them, but it often seems faster and easier to do it ourselves. This is, of course, short-term thinking. In the long run the time you invest to better educate your employees will come back to you tenfold. But if you absolutely, positively have to do it yourself this time, immediately schedule a training session to make sure the employees knows what to do the next time.
  • Prioritize. You are an extremely valuable asset to your company, which means all of your time should be invested wisely. Moreover, it’s important to your health and well-being to balance work with time for yourself and for your loved ones. So concentrate your work hours on the most important things, not running errands that can be delegated to a lower-paid person or an outside courier service. Again, the payback will be well worth any expense.
  • Plan. Distractions are part of our daily work life. However, you can exercise some control over these interruptions. We live in an age of omnipresent communications but that doesn’t mean we must always be available. One way busy people cope with this is to simply block out a period of time each day for those tasks that need our undivided attention, including planning for the future. During this “sacred time” they turn off the email pings and phone ringers, and inform their people that they are not to be disturbed unless it is a true emergency. When that time is up, they return calls and read/respond to emails much more efficiently. Not only do they get more accomplished in their hour or two of concentrated time, their people eventually learn to make decisions and solve problems themselves.

Clearly these simple steps are only possible if you are willing to trust and delegate responsibility to your employees. This is hard for many of us, especially the micro-managers. However those with the self-discipline to do so will find they are more productive and happier in all aspects of their lives.