Manufacturing Managers, Shop Management

7 Reasons Why the Boss Needs to Walk the Shop Floor

October 29, 2013

bdamonOwners and managers of CNC machine shops are typically hands on people. They often get started by running jobs themselves, and some never stop. As the business grows, however, many get bogged down in administrative duties, meeting with customers (extremely important), and putting out fires. All of which may keep them from spending time on the production floor.

Although it’s certainly smart to delegate responsibilities to production managers, shift supervisors or other managerial folks, there’s no substitute for The Boss spending an hour or so each day on the production floor. It’s really the only way to truly understand what’s going on in the shop. Some business leaders refer to this as “Management by walking around.” Here are a few of the benefits manufacturers can reap by taking that daily walk:

  1. Get to know your employees better. This requires taking the time to have a conversation with your people as you walk the floor. You won’t do this with everyone each day, of course, but over time you’ll be able to make the rounds. Ask them how the job is going and if there’s any issues you should know about. Remind them periodically that you’re available if they want to talk about anything privately. It doesn’t hurt to ask about their lives outside of work, either. How was the vacation? Gone fishing lately? How’s the Harley running?
  2. See how a process actually works. CAD drawings and machine specs only tell you so much. If you’re on the floor watching a part being machined you’ll have a much better picture of how efficient the process is. You can also discuss the procedures with the machine operator and learn if changes could be made to improve productivity. Could any part of the process be automated with robots or conveyors? Would it be more efficient to machine the part on a 5-axis machine?
  3. Observe machine maintenance. Check the routine preventative maintenance schedule and plan to walk the floor when these procedures should be carried out. You may be surprised at what you see. Are the maintenance workers using the right lubricants? Are they inspecting wipers and other parts that are subject to wear and damage? Are all of the oil fill caps replaced so contaminants won’t get in? Failure to clean and properly lubricate machine tools can cost even a small CNC shop thousands of dollars each year.
  4. See how safe the working conditions are. As you walk around observe how clean and neat the shop is. If there is too much mist in the air or oil on the equipment and floors you should look into adding or upgrading oil mist collectors or other air cleansing equipment. Is tramp oil collecting in the coolant tanks? This can cause respiratory problems and skin rashes. Are your workers lifting heavy metal bars or other materials that should be handled by hoists or lifts? You want to keep your employees healthy and safe, of course, but unless you see the issues first hand, you may never know about them.
  5. Find rising stars. The more you get to know your people and observe how they handle their tasks, the better chance you can identify those people who have the potential to grow into more demanding jobs. These are the employees you’ll earmark for additional responsibilities and promotions. They’re the future of your company.
  6. Identify training needs. As CNC machine tools and other manufacturing devices become more sophisticated, your people may need additional training to be able to program, setup and operate this equipment. Plus, as the ability for machines to communicate with each other and provide constant performance data increases, your operators may need help in learning these new technologies. By observing their progress first hand, you can better determine who needs training.
  7. Being visible. One of the commonalities among high performing CNC shops is that each employee knows that The Boss is personally invested in both the company’s and the employee’s success. Nothing brings this fact home more powerfully than seeing the top dog having regular, meaningful discussions with the people on the shop floor.

You can learn a lot by simply walking the shop floor. And if you discover a need for new equipment, automation, preventative maintenance, technical service or employee education, contact the machine tool people with over 90 years of experience: Gosiger, Inc.