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 A Production Team Skills Article

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When we create cross-functional teams, we move existing job descriptions, production standards and tasks lists with the people. Operating instructions for machine tenders are commonly available but the variety of things done by support, technical and professional employees typically is not well documented.

Reforming information into goal focused objectives pro­vides an opportunity to break down old "this is my job" perspectives and update existing information. It also helps us merge support and direct labor assignments.
Task descriptions for cross-functional teams take into ac­count the inter-action of all the jobs that must be done to achieve the schedule. No one functional specialist, supervisor or manager has the knowledge needed to put order to the data about purchasing, material handling, machine operation, quality, packaging, performance reporting and the myriad other things necessary to achieve the schedule. Putting it all together needs the combined knowledge of the entire team.

Select a core group from the team to create a flow chart of the value-added tasks needed to produce a product or service; use Pareto to select the most significant end item for your first analysis. Most of the data collection and analysis should be conducted on the production floor, in stockrooms and in the offices where the jobs are done. Plot every step of the process, use examples of documents, identify machines and individual effort.
Interview people doing the job, get them to share informa­tion from their little black books, and photograph and videotape the action for documentation and study.

Critically evaluate each element and ensure that only value-added tasks are included. Resist the temptation of existing standards and job descriptions early in the pro­cess. When the flow chart is near completion shift the emphasis to the evaluation of old data. Regularly bring in the balance of the team to review the flow chart and don't hesitate to verify, then add or remove elements identified by the reviewers.

Representatives of units upstream and downstream of the unit under study, your "suppliers" and "customers," have useful suggestions for improvement of the interaction while identifying things you may forget. Also, by getting them involved early, you stand a better chance of having them on your side when you start making changes.

Completed, your flow chart can be converted to prose but don't fall into the trap of organizing it under traditional functional titles. Take one objective—"Manufacture Wid­gets,"—record the earliest point of action and those that follow to make widgets. Sub-headings like "Review Next Day's Demand Notice," followed by "Prepare Next Day's Production Schedule" on through material handling and manufacturing steps, lead to "Record Finished Goods In­ventory Adjustment" when the production schedule is achieved.

Under each sub-heading list the elements of the task; tools, materials, information and machines plus the time re­quired to complete each element to a stated, measurable quality level. Identify the skills and knowledge required.
After the first, the studies proceed more easily because information sources are established and some elements repeat. Treat each team objective as a separate project and assign some different people to each core group.
Keep in mind you are creating one axis of a skills matrix. Later you'll add the names of the people on the team and indicate their ability to perform each element. Record the level of detail necessary for that purpose.

In this challenging undertaking tasks you didn't know existed are revealed. Countless opportunities to correct misinformation and remove non-value-added waste ap­pear. Take the time to make the easy changes; assign team members to longer term corrective action projects.

Encourage team members to set stretch goals for each study, provide the time to get the job done, measure progress, praise not the effort but the results and publicize success.

As team members get involved they learn their jobs from a perspective they could never have had before. This helps them cast off the baggage of past jobs, methods and functional associations and speeds the crystallization of the team to a cooperative working unit.

To be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02


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