Who Gives the Orders in Your Operation?

Who Gives the Orders in Your Operation?

Successful operations unlock value through a continuous cycle of PLAN – DO – CHECK – ACT. That critical cycle starts with a plan. Organizational learning comes from executing the plan and checking the results. The value is unlocked through actions and adjustments learned from the problems identified with executing the plan. A very real danger, however, is if the learning never happens because there was no plan.

There are two indispensable values to having a well thought out plan:  1) it incorporates what you have learned and 2) it allows you to continue to learn, and more importantly, identify problems.

It Incorporates What You Have Learned

 From years of experience, a very talented continuous annealing furnace operator had learned that, when he processed light gauge coils that required different speeds, it was always best to start with the slowest speed coils and work up to the faster speed ones. This resulted in fewer tear offs and less changeover time between coils. The department used this operator’s knowledge to justify why it did not give him an exact daily schedule to follow, and prided itself on allowing him to choose what to run, because it was obvious he was the expert.

True, experience had made this operator the expert, but it turned out experience had also taught him what a bad coil looked like – one that was not likely to run well. The operator used his expertise to instead leave those coils for the next shift. The next shift did not have his experience, did not run coils slowest to fastest, and often struggled with the bad coils.

Tremendous knowledge was lost in the organization from the years of experience the operator had accumulated. Identifying bad coils and the best pattern to run the product were just notes in a notebook stuck in drawer, only referred to occasionally by the seasoned veteran.

It Allows You to Continue to Learn

 Successful organizations understand the value generated from processing their customer demand in the least amount of time with the least amount of resources. Thus, the role of the plan is critical. Documents representing the products needed to meet the customer requests are given to the production process with specific work content, in a specific sequence, with a specific time to complete, and with a description of the final expected outcome.

Production’s role is to execute the plan, track if they are ahead or behind the plan, and produce the expected outcome. Anytime they fall behind or do not get the expected outcome, they capture and communicate the problem. The organization learns, adjusts, and solves the problem.

Who gives the (work) orders in your operation? Does your sales team call directly to the shop floor to expedite orders? Do experienced operators decided their own sequence as they go? Are valuable lessons lost every day simply because there is not a specific plan?

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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