Shop Floor Teamwork

A sofa shop struggles with coordinating part production and assembly. March 17, 2005

We cut out parts for sofas. We have been having problems in our frame shop with the guys assembling frames complaining that the single guy operating the machine should deliver them all. All he does is take them off the machine, stack them up nicely on a table, label them, and continue on with his work, cleaning or editing the next program. The framers stand there and there is no cooperation on the two sides. How can I solve my parts transportation problem? How do you guys do it?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
I don't do sofas but if there is a guy standing there waiting for parts to be brought to him then he should (instead of waiting around) go get the parts himself, and get back to work. It sounds like the machine operator is doing his assigned task by keeping the parts coming. If you are the boss then do your job and lay down the law as to how you want it done. It is not up to the employees to determine who does what and when. I am the boss of my shop and I don't put up with childish behavior. Letís just say itís my way or the highway.

From contributor B:
I read a book a while ago called "The Goal", which is all about production management and minimizing constraints and bottlenecks. It's a pretty enjoyable read as well as a great tool for learning basic constraint management principles. I would make all your guys read it and then work on their issues. Make them figure it out. Assuming they want to excel and are motivated, they will probably have more suggestions than just who gets to move the carts around.

From contributor C:
Look at production this way: You are trying to build complete sofas with the highest quality at the lowest possible cost. Making a bunch of neatly stacked, labeled parts isn't of much use until they are assembled and upholstered.

Move your assemblers over to the router and assemble frames right of the machine. The wasted time neatly stacking and labeling parts can go to helping assemble the frames. If you say that you can't do this because your nests have bits and pieces of different frames then you have an engineering problem to solve. Your programs should not have to be edited at the machine. If you are doing that, you have another opportunity for improvement.

But even if you don't like any of this advice, you need to determine who moves the product. Some plants have dedicated people who do nothing but this. Others have the supervisor schedule and stage the parts. Some require the receiving person to go get them.

In your case, who takes the frames from the assemblers to the upholstery area? If itís the assemblers, then they have a valid complaint that the previous operation should deliver to them. I know for a fact that the router operator can assemble frames right of the machine himself and you wouldn't even need the assemblers if you get everything running smoothly. We do it day in and day out.

From the original questioner:
Itís a tough subject, because I canít have the framers going to get the parts, because the framers have to keep knocking out pieces. Framing is a tough job, and having them making it right off the machine is kind of tough because we have about 7 framers and over 100 styles, so trust me it can get tough. Tell me more about this book?

From contributor B:
"The Goal" is by Eliyah Goldratt, who is an expert on constraints theory. I just checked Amazon and ordered the tape version for myself, since it's been 8 years or so since I last read it. To give you an idea, it has about 30000 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars out of 5. A previous employer made us all read the book and then go to "Goldratt training". The training was mostly computer based and was like playing a video game with various work cells with different setup times and capacities and a rolling list of orders and due dates coming in that you have to schedule. Fun stuff. The book is actually a story about this guy that runs a plant with a few problems and how he fixes them - something about mixing up the batches going into a heat treat oven sticks in my memory. He also uses the example of a Cub Scout hike where there's a fat kid that needs help to keep up, and how to get the whole troop to its destination most efficiently. Anyway, it seems like it ought to be very appropriate reading for your situation...

From contributor D:
I second the idea of reading "The Goal". You may also want to read about the "Toyota Production System".