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Building Manufacturing Teamwork
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Silos are pockets of people within a company that are loosely connected with each other. The people become bound by the area in which they work, preoccupied with doing their own things and overly protective of their separate interests. Lacking controls which tie all functions tightly together, these groups operate in an uncoordinated manner hurting the overall performance of the company. How to bust these silos and how to build teamwork are the objectives of this paper.

Creation of Silos

Silos seldom exist in small companies as face-to-face com­munications work well without integrated systems. People in different departments are aware of what's happening in other areas and can keep track of what's required to help each other. As small companies grow larger, however, volume and variety eventually overwhelm these informal procedures. Then the absence of high quality information becomes a handicap.

If the planning systems developed to help various functions are designed independently, silos will be created. People using parochial systems become self-centered. Their in­ability to see common company plans cause them to work at cross-purposes.

Integrated Systems

Teamwork can only occur when everyone knows the company's goals and knows what to do to support them. To successfully manage increasing volume and variety, an integrated planning system is mandatory, one that crosses all functional areas. Such an effective system can help establish a company game plan, communicate it to all users, and be the benchmark for judging performance. By synchronizing the actions among all departments, silos are destroyed and teamwork is enhanced.

Symptoms

Silos are easily spotted. Fingerpointing becomes glaringly obvious. "Not my fault" replaces accountability and "who-shot-John" memos attempt to shift the blame to others. Both are inevitable. Whenever people work harder and produce less, they are convinced that it "can't possibly be me, look at the extra effort I'm making. It's got to be those other guys!" Of course, these "other" people are equally confident that it's not them, and will point their fingers at you.

Other examples include end-of-the-month-crunch, weekly overtime debates, and daily shortage meetings. All are justified as problem solving activities, but, in reality, they are covering-over problems caused by silos. In each case, one or several departments are not doing their jobs prop­erly. These symptoms are worth analyzing:

• End of the Month—What's going wrong when a com­pany builds more product in the last week of the month than any other single week? It comes from having to spend the first two weeks finding what's missing and the last two weeks expediting to provide them. Any company that does this "fire drill" once will have to repeat it eleven more times this fiscal year.

There's a better way—A planning system that predicts shortages so that users can spend their ingenuity preventing them. In such a company, if there are five work days in each week, 25% of the monthly total is built each week.

• Overtime Meetings—Companies that heatedly debate the need for overtime are reacting to the lack of reliable capacity planning. Instead of smoothingthe peaks and valleys in advance, these surges surface as short term surprises. Accompanying this problem is fierce fingerpointing. The materials group accuses the fac­tory of not hitting schedules and the factory vigorously counters that the schedules aren't worth hitting.

Effective capacity planning requires the visibility from a good planning system coupled with measuring the two sides correctly. The materials group should be accountable for the quality of the plans, both priorities and capacities, and the factory responsible for the execution of them.

• Shortage Meetings—The daily shortage meeting brings together the top "can do" people. Each session identi­fies crises and ends with agreement on what must be done. Rarely does this group acknowledge, however, that they are creating "tommorrow's crises." As they single-mindedly solve problems, but not the causes, they ensure that more will arise.

Since the causes are spread throughout the company, individual events seem unrelated; sometimes this sup­plier, this tool, this machine, this operator, this speci­fication, this customer, and every once in a while, it's the same event. But each case is related and each has a solution; none are beyond good controls. Uncovering what went wrong and figuring out how to correct it in a manner that reduces reoccurrences would be a far more productive meeting for these key people.

To be Continued


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