Archives for posts with tag: labor

This post has been on my mind for a while, so I finally decided to sit down at the keyboard and share my thoughts.  Over the years I have interviewed my fare share of candidates.  The roles that I have interviewed people for have ranged from senior to entry level positions.  Irrespective of role, I have seen many candidates trip themselves up in the interview because they were not adequately prepared.  By prepared, I don’t mean having a dossier on the company.  In many cases candidates for both senior and junior level roles, have not completed basic research or just were not prepared.  A few examples include:

  • Not knowing what the company does
  • Not having reviewed the company website
  • Not having read the job description or remember what the job is, even though you submitted a resume and have accepted an in-person interview
  • Not having prepared any questions to ask the person interviewing you
  • Unable to remember (or unwilling to discuss) key accomplishments from you last position

The items above seem like common sense, but I have come across many people who were disqualified because of the aforementioned  items.  I know competition for talent is tough in today’s marketplace, but I don’t think it is too much to expect that people show  up prepared (as well as on time) for an interview.  Also, for folks conducting the interview, please take time to read the candidate’s resume.  Respect goes both ways.

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart

Brief article about the rise of machines (automation) in China.  Some of the suppliers I have dealt with in China could benefit / participate in this  trend if they consolidated their operations.  I’m not sure how this trend might apply to the apparel industry.

Credit Suisse Chinese Automation Boom – Business Insider.

 

Rindge Leaphart

Many people have heard of the term Just in Time (JIT) as it relates to manufacturing, production scheduling, or delivery.  But have you heard of Just in Case (JIC) manufacturing? It is a term I coined years ago.  I coined the term one day while walking through a plant that only produced finished goods to order.  The business did not actively stock finished goods.  They stocked raw material and some sub-assemblies in order to produce with relatively short lead times, but in general they did not stock finished goods.  During the walk through, I looked at a work order for a part that was being machined.  The operator was machining lets say 30 parts, yet the sales order associated with the work order only called for 15 or 20 parts.  I asked the machine operator and his supervisor why they were machining more parts than were called for by the sales order.  The response I received was quite curious: “this is a really tough part to machine and we have many rejects, thus we produce extra parts just in case (italics added) we have to scrap a part.”  At that point a new term was born: Just in Case (JIC) manufacturing.  I asked the operator how often they actually had to scrap a part.  Neither he nor his supervisor could answer the question.

I told the supervisor that I suspected that they were overproducing and tying up unneeded cash in inventory.  Additionally, this was a plant that was trying to improve on-time delivery.  I explained to the supervisor that if they were tying up capacity by producing excess and unneeded parts, that they were impeding their ability to produce on-time with short lead-times.  The supervisor assured me that this didn’t happen often.  I then asked the supervisor to take a walk with me to the warehouse.  I asked the supervisor if he was sure they didn’t overproduce on a regular basis.  He assured me they didn’t.  I then asked one of the warehouse employees to pull up several recently completed work orders for parts that had been delivered to inventory.  When we checked several of the recently completed work orders, we found that a large percentage of them were completed for quantities that were larger than what the sales order called for.  At this point the supervisor was a little embarrassed, but there is more to come.  Employees on the floor ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS know more about what is going on in a plant than supervisors and managers.  Knowing this, I engaged the warehouse employees in a conversation on this subject and they assured us that this happened on a regular basis.  Once again, the supervisor was embarrassed.  At this point the employees told me about the T location.  Being an inquisitive lad, I asked what is the T location.  Their response: “oh that the is the trailer we have outside where we store all of the production overruns.”  At this point the supervisor was quite embarrassed.

As you might imagine the supervisor was besides himself.  But being a smart guy he put a stop to the overproduction and eventually eliminated the T location.  With several other changes we were able to improve the plant’s on time delivery performance as well as their financial performance.

Key takeaways  / reminders from that day: 1. I learned on that day that Inventory is the Root of All Evil.  If you want to know if you have a problem in manufacturing, check your inventory levels to make sure you don’t have an issue with JIC manufacturing.  2. I learned about JIC manufacturing. It is more endemic than you might imagine. Walk the floor and check your work orders to see if you have a case of JIC. 3. Always talk to the hourly employees, because they know what is really taking place on the floor.

Has anyone else encountered similar issues?

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart

This might be my last post on the particular subject.  I had a discussion the other day with an executive at a flexible packaging  / label firm.  The discussion reminded me of the fact that some industries can’t just add labor and more hours when trying to improve on-time delivery (OTD).  Industries that rely on labor for assembly / manufacturing can put in overtime to get back on schedule.  Some industries, though, that rely more on machinery and the capacity of that machinery find it harder to stay on schedule and especially get back on schedule.  Since I started off with a comment on the label company, let me expand.  In a printing or label industry you have to keep your presses running.  Changing over jobs on presses can take anywhere from 3-6 hours if not more depending on the complexity of the job.  In my experience it is particularly challenging to stay on track with the promises you have made customers.

The best way to stay on schedule is to stay on schedule.  What I mean by that, is that your operations team, especially your planners have to OWN the schedule.  You cannot let sales own the schedule.  Salespeople are typically concerned with what their customers want and may not be very concerned with the overall health (OTD) of the system and how the business is performing for other customers.  Customers always have unplanned needs.  That is the way the world works.  My view is that a business should do their best to assist with the unplanned needs of their customers.  Having flexibility (some excess capacity) in your system is key to responding to emergency needs.  But sometimes the emergency requests become normal and it throws the entire business off schedule.  Sales people should always feel free to call and jockey for improved deliveries or assistance with rush orders.  But, the planners should own the schedule and have final say with input from management.  If you fall into the trap of letting sales dictate your schedule, then your OTD and customer satisfaction will suffer.

Managing the business and rush orders is a delicate balance that is fraught with issues.  That is why management must coalesce around what the goals of the business are and who has what responsibility.  Once again, no knock on sales.  They are a lifeblood of an organization.  But once that job is dropped into the funnel, it is time for operations to do their thing and keep the business on schedule.

Rindge Leaphart

Over the last several years I have visited numerous manufacturing plants in China.  I have visited various cities ranging from Wenzhou to Qingdao and many more in between.  The factories that I typically visit are small to mid size.  On numerous occasions I have seen many factories that seem to be overstaffed.  I don’t claim to be a productivity expert, but I have a knack for achieving efficiency/ productivity gains.  So when I see obviously overstaffed factories it make me wonder.  The general manager / factory managers I visit are smart business people.  I know they see the same labor inefficiencies that I view, yet they don’t seem to be pushing for productivity gains.  While I speak a few words of Mandarin I am not able to really have a thorough discussion on this subject with my factory hosts, plus I don’t want to seem rude telling someone else how they can make their business more profitable.  Anyone have any ideas?  I often wonder if there are incentives for them to hire more people than needed.

Rindge Leaphart