How To Get The Most Out Of Your Shop Talent

July 16, 2019

One of the first things I hear from shop owners when they hire me to help turn their companies around is how proud they are of cross-training their work force, and they have sound production scheduling practices.  I ask myself, then why are you having production issues leading to lack of profits, poor cash flow, late delivery dates, excessive overtime, and rework? 

Granted cross-training has its advantages, but it also has disadvantages if you don’t capitalize in effectively utilizing those resources except when the need arises to cover when someone is on vacation or sick. The key is “functional” cross-training. That aside for the moment, more than likely there are additional forces pushing against your ability to get all you can from your workforce. One is “bad” multi-tasking in scheduling assignments. 

The biggest mistake made among shop managers is not to realize the power of correctly balancing shop talent to maximize throughput.  Underutilized capacity represents a big opportunity to improve bottom line profits without investments in additional manpower.

What if you could boost future capacity by proactively cross-training and scheduling production task assignments differently to achieve more predictable results with little or no out of pocket expense? 

The goal is having the right worker doing the right task at the right time!

Sounds like a simple enough concept, but how do you figure out where and when you will have gaps down the road in your production line, and what type of training will help your team fill those gaps efficiently? 

TOC Multitasking - Stopping work on a task before it is completed in order to start work on another task. Usage: Multitasking itself is neither bad nor good. Bad multitasking occurs when switching tasks does not help any project finish earlier.

Human Multitasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task or activity at the same time. An example of multitasking is taking phone calls while typing an email and reading a book. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.

TAKEWAY 1- Good multitasking allows projects to finish in priority sequence without delay. There are no stops and starts (unless intended) and profits are protected. Human multitasking has the undesirable effect of increased costs due to interruptions and potential rework errors.

Multiple studies confirm distractions don’t just eat up time during the distraction; they derail mental progress for up to a half hour afterwards (that’s assuming another distraction doesn’t show up in that half hour). And all these distractions not only hurt productivity, they have negative emotional effects. 

TAKEAWAY 2 – Minimize distractions that cause production interruptions, stops, and restarts as much as possible.

In functional cross-training the operative words are “functional” and “throughput.” Functional means adding capability and exploiting it. and throughput means getting more work out the door. To maximize throughput, managers need to get the most out of their system before they can get the most out of their team. Then it can be determined what specific cross-training will facilitate the ability to do even more work. 

Assuming you’re there now and ready to start training, you’ll need to determine the who’s and what’s. It’s as easy as plotting out a chart that lists the task work required to produce your products (listed across the top) with your workers (listed down the side) and marking an X to identify what they are already trained to do if assigned. Then find the gaps and color the cells representing areas to consider for training in each department.

TAKEAWAY 3 – Use functional Cross training to increase your shops capacity to do more work.

To wrap things up - What has been described are fundamental concepts. The work in earnest must be taken on by a dedicated leadership team with experience. Business managers that are not receptive to change will have a hard time breaking away from practiced norms. In their case, the tutelage is interesting but not a game changer. For those of you who want to make lots of money and compete at the highest level, three great ways to unlocking employee talents are: 



Guest Contributor:
John Hackley, ASBC

John of Oculus Business Coaching brings over 35 years of experience of small manufacturing business experience. He leads strategic growth, guides partnership development and serves as Chief Efficiency Officer for Oculus. Oculus Business Coaching provides consultation and coaching programs designed to help manufacturers implement systemic solutions enabling them to sell more, build better and profit for life! 



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