Probably 15 years ago, one of my sons was working on that report all our kids have to write at some point in their school careers, “My Mom/Dad’s Job is…” So off to work with dad he went, to watch, take notes, ask for change to plug into the vending machines, and of course go to lunch with dad at Chili’s.
The day starts early in production, so that part was no fun. We did the walk around of the production floor for his background notes, while I made personal note of who was at work on time and who was not. Who was at their work station, and who was not. Which machines were moving, and which were not.
Back in my office with the big window overlooking production, my son settled into his chair in the corner to observe. And I proceeded with my own day of running the plant.
After a few hours, my son pulled himself up in his chair and said, “Is this your job?!?!”
“Yes, my job is… wait a minute, what do you mean, “Is this your job?”
“Is your job to come here every day and listen to people complain???”
When did it stop being about schedules, hiring, training, purchasing, packaging, quality control, shipping… and of course printing shirts???
Every real production manager is smiling right now. That’s because they know production management is more about people than it is about printing shirts. That’s why no two shops are alike. That’s why the production numbers the automatic press salesman quoted to you at the last tradeshow don’t mean a thing in the real world. That’s why one shop is dead on schedule, and the next virtually identical shop is terminally, hopelessly behind.
By the way, I like to think those employees weren’t really complaining. But they were discussing issues, both professional and personal, figuring out angles to attack production problems, asking for clarifications and interpretations, offering up suggestions and solutions. My son (just as many business owners and managers) thought people came to work, punched the clock, printed some shirts and went home. Come to work – do your job – go home – repeat. The real world doesn’t work that way. The real world is all about people, and the issues real people have. (OK, maybe somebody did complain about yet a sales guy asking for a favor!)
Production management is less about managing the process than it is about working with the people staffing your floor. Take care of the people, and their needs, and their concerns… be aware of their lives on and off the production floor… give them the skills and the opportunity to be successful… and the production takes care of itself.
So, tune in while I talk about my printing passion and what should be your constant goal… Maximum Production.