Today, flow of information is no longer a problem due to smartphones, e-mail and other digital media. Messages cross global borders and distances in a matter of seconds. Even people on different continents are able to communicate in real-time. It is therefore hard to believe that the flow of information is still very slow in most German production processes. In machine and systems engineering, several activities such as production or assembly are, of course, spatially separated from the administrative divisions, since nobody wants their desk on the noisy shop floor.
Employees can benefit from a silent office; however, problems can also arise from areal separation. Due to the lack of direct teamwork, problems in manufacturing often do not reach management on time, and vice versa. Requests from management tend to get lost on their way to production. A method that improves the cross-hierarchical communication flow is shop floor management. This approach was developed directly on the shop floor, and is therefore based on the idea that improvement starts directly in that space. Strongly influenced by Lean Management, the direct cooperation between employee and manager supposedly helps to solve problems right on the spot and to achieve a continuous improvement process.
Besides daily meetings in the production hall, the shop floor management board is an essential part of this working method. It comprehensively presents the status quo of the assembly and visualizes the current target achievements, such as value deviations or staff assignment. APS-systems help to visualize all processes and the corresponding data. The data obtained from the system is centrally presented on the shop floor board. Therefore, it is the basis for a smooth workflow and decisions can be made directly on-site.
Shop floor management offers different advantages in production planning:
Faster information flow
The information flow is actuated by the shop floor management. The periodical meetings ensure that the production processes are immediately visible and understandable for the management. Thus, operations in other divisions can be better coordinated.
Problems and variations become transparent
The shop floor management board provides a good overview of all relevant data, current topics and projects in production. An APS system is a requirement for the accurate presentation of key data. On the shop floor management board, all employees can see at what stage projects are in and where problems or deviations appear. Additionally, the daily exchange of information, as well as the central visualization, shows problems straight away in production processes. Reaction times are therefore reduced and problems can be identified and solved much earlier.
Direct support of management
Due to the cross-divisional and cross-hierarchical composition of a shop floor management team, a communication platform can be developed where mechanic and management can discover and solve problems together. Thanks to this multi-eye principle there is no longer space for “operational blindness”
In addition, shop floor management can increase the profitability of production. In machine and systems engineering, the requirements wanted for product quality and degree of flexibility are usually very high, whilst requirements for lead and delivery times are low. Although most value-added processes take place on the production site, decisions for improvement are often made far away from these processes. This distance can lead to wrong decisions, due to missing information.
Successful shop floor management is a basic condition to implement modern management approaches. Consequently, a working shop floor management requires the willingness of the employees and management to participate in the process. Thus, shop floor management should not serve as a control instrument for the management, but essentially to improve communication.
However, significant data and purposeful communication exchange can be used as an important management tool. Shop floor management can improve the thinking in your company with little time expenditure. Relevant key data or occurring problems will be discussed. This way there is efficient, data-based communication of improvement in the daily activities.
Do you use shop floor management in your production? What experiences have you had?