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48 hours to chain speed increase

Posted By Marie Gervais, April 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM, in Category: ML Council

Marie Gervais - www.global-leadership.ca

Here’s the situation for 4 out of 5 manufacturing companies that have hired my company to deliver managerial training so far: they bring in a number of temporary foreign workers from a given country and settle the basic logistics issues so they have a place to live and know how to get to work. In some cases foreign worker dedicated HR staff also have bank representatives come in to fill out the bank forms right away so that salary payments can be processed quickly. Or they may set up a grocery tour so that everyone knows where to get basic foodstuffs. An even more forward thinking company will have on-the-job/plant-specific English vocabulary classes within the first few weeks of arrival. I wish this were the norm. The fact that it is not the norm is likely the result of most decision makers being unilingual and not venturing long enough out of their own country to have to deal with learning a new language. But I digress.

In my experience, the norm generally looks more like this: New workers are brought to their stations on the floor and expected to figure out the job on their own. They are given a grand total of 48 hours before they are expected not only to produce at a quality, level and speed of people who have been doing the job for years, but they are obligated to increase production. After 48 hours, the chain speed is increased either weekly or bi-weekly in an attempt to get everything possible out of those new foreign workers.

Think about this people. If you put a new machine into the plant, there is no way that new machine will be functioning smoothly in 48 hours. There are always glitches and things to be worked out by the engineers who built the machine, the millwrights and a number of other team members who contribute to getting the machine up and running. Once it runs there is the issue of both receiving and sending from and to wherever the next stage in the process is happening to avoid bottlenecks. So answer me this: If it takes more than 48 hours for a new machine to function, let alone improve the production of the previous machine, why are people expected to do it? People are not machines. We were supposed to figure this out at the time of the industrial revolution in the 1800s. Since we haven’t, it might be helpful to break it down into steps.

When you come from another country, basic adjustment to the jet lag is at least 48 hours. You don’t know the job, and even if you do, your job has not yet become “plant-specific”. You can’t find the washroom, the cafeteria or your way home yet. From the humane perspective, the biological body adjustment perspective and the physical orientation perspective, this “48 hours to production increase” philosophy is wrong. Now let’s look at it from a business, managerial and production perspective.

Assume 100 new workers come in and are faced with this unrealistic expectation. What happens? Their managers are stressed and can’t do their on-the-job training because the production expectation is looming over their heads. Injuries increase, production gets bottlenecked and 50 workers say to themselves “I don’t need this” and they quit. So you just lost approximately $60,000 per worker of your investment for each foreign worker who quits (there are onlinet emplates to calculate retention loss – check it out).

You have additional costs to deal with for the injured workers, those who get sick because of the extra work and stress ofi ncorporating new people with increased production goals. Production actually goes down. Product quality suffers. There is more rework. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is notworking.

Now here is a more realistic approach to how to make more money from your new workforce. You have a two week orientation for new workers, part of which involves making sure they can find their way around the plant, and to a few places in the community so they can deal with their basic needs. There are visuals and procedural instructions in key places in the plant for people to check processes as they learn. Supervisors have trainers and designated leadhand monitors to make sure new people know what to do. The designated people are told to come to work 15 minutes early for the first month of the new workers integration process so that things are in place and people have a clear idea of how to handle the new influx of workers. For this extra work they either receive a bonus, a gift certificate for their families to go out for dinner, or some other group reward that the team has identified in advance.

The line/chain speed is not increased until the lead hands and supervisors who are directly affected by the new workers have been able to determine that their new workers have been integrated into the work flow, and they have communicated this to the next level up. Once several lines in a process have been signed off  by the people who work intimately with those lines and are technically the real experts about the process, the plant is ready for a pilot  production increase for a specific time frame.  The line speed goes up by increments to test the capacity. This process is repeated until it is realistically determined that a production increase, without detriment to all the other processes and people in the plant can be sustained.

If you follow this procedure, I can guarantee you a profit that will far surpass the first scenario. I can even break it down into a cost/benefit analysis and a return on investment for financials and non-financials, tangibles and intangibles. The bonus is that you will have a happy workforce that stays and brings you more quality workers when you need them. Your management will be on your side and willing to put in discretionary effort because their expertise has been considered.

Manufacturing really wants to get beyond its smoke stack image and show the world the brilliant technical future it is creating with a new workforce of skilled technicians and managers. This“ain’t gonna’ happen” until the people in this process are considered as a necessary and integral part of the production.Trust me, I have seen the results.

Category: ML Council
Written by Marie Gervais

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