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  1. #1
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    Default Business Doing Well, Having Trouble Running It....

    I feel like this is a pretty unique problem, maybe not? Really looking for some advice here. I'll start with a story. Company across the road from me started a wood/metal furniture business a couple years ago. Their company exploded! Went from zero to $2M/yr in sales in less than 2 years. He was making something like $40K/Month in profit. Well he couldn't keep up with his orders, people started complaining that they weren't getting their stuff, their quality control started to fall apart as they were rushing to keep up with orders, and in the end the place the site they sold all their stuff on shut them down. Just like that, out of business.

    I'm not in the exact same situation, but I tell my customers I will ship WITHIN 3 weeks, and 90% of my orders are shipped ON the ship by date. I don't want to hire someone to handle customer support, since I feel like I should be the face of the company, and no one knows my costs better than I do for custom quoting, etc. My hands are tied up for most of the day dealing with customers, quoting, etc. I have 7 guys out on the floor making stuff, and their efficiency (by my basic calculations) is like 20%. They all love their job, they're happy to come to work, very happy throughout the day, but they stand around talking a lot, they don't ever look for ways to save time on the jobs they are doing. It's very poorly run out there. I hired a guy about a year ago who was older, local, and was looking for a job very close to home. He had a lot of foreman experience running large shops in the past. His last job went out of business, then he found me. I thought that would be a great opportunity for me to hire someone with his experience to run the shop.

    Things got a little bit better, but he's for sure not doing the best he can. I feel like he's got a lot of potential, but I just can't get him motivated to work. His son also works here, and his son is pretty good. I'm worried that if I take his promotion away, he and his son will quit, which would really leave me SOL right now.

    Here are some things that I've started recently to try and turn things around a little: Monthly performance reviews for my shop foreman. Basically I have him fill out a sheet saying how well he thinks things are going in the shop, then I compare his answers to my answers. Then he lists a couple things he plans to change in a couple different categories, like QC, efficiency increase, organization, etc, then he sets a goal for each one and we review that goal at the next review. I just started this month, so I'm not sure if this is going to work or not, but at least he will know what I expect from him. I'm debating if I should do something similar with the rest of the employees or not since I don't work with them very much.

    I know most of you are shops of 1 or 2, but I'd like to hear some advice from any of you have been in a similar situation as I'm in. Is it worth my time to be investing so much in the shop foreman? Are there other things I should be doing that help get people to work more efficiently? I've seen what these guys are capable of when I push them, so I know they're capable of working so much faster. I also know it's not reasonable for me to expect them to work at 100% effort all day every day, but they should be doing way more than what they're currently doing. I feel like I could hire 50 more people and I would still be in the same situation...

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    After a year and nothing's changed find someone else.....

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    You have to have metrics. Opinions don't mean squat. You are on the right track with getting those metrics down on paper as to what is expected. Action plans where the metrics aren't being met.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Econdron View Post
    their efficiency (by my basic calculations) is like 20%. They all love their job, they're happy to come to work, very happy throughout the day, but they stand around talking a lot, they don't ever look for ways to save time on the jobs they are doing. It's very poorly run out there.
    ^^ there's your problem
    If it's happy happy all the time, it's a sure sign of not whipping the help enough.
    raise some hell for a couple of weeks and fire a couple slackers. They'll get the message. If they don't they dont belong.
    simple really.

    Cutting their wages and giving them an opportunity to earn it back via weekly performance bonuses could work too.
    Caining them or burning then with cigaretes might backfire.
    Last edited by mkd; 05-08-2017 at 06:55 PM.

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    Think about the metrics you could have, and create a set that will box the employees in. What I mean is, don't just go for volume, or quality will suffer. Or maybe reject rate, or delivery time or something else. You know your critical items. Then put together a measure that fails if any one of the measures goes bad. A common way I've seen is to divide each measure by the target and multiply them together. If any one tanks, the whole measure declines. Don't put things in for which you are responsible or that may be out of the employees control, such as order volume, etc.

    Then tie this measure to a reward. Is the measure up 20% this month? If so, things will be well ahead of where you are today, give the shop the first Friday afternoon of the next month off with pay. Or a cash bonus. Or something else that the employees would really like. Ask them. I sure know I got it wrong sometimes with rewards for other people. Maybe it's dinner cards. Maybe it's gasoline cards. Mix it up. If they really are running at such a low efficiency, it should be easy to make a reward for the target that would be a net gain for you and your customers.

    Once a goal is met for a while, then increase the targets. Make sure you've made it clear that this will happen when you start. But don't just do the targets yourself. Get the employees involved in the decisions.

    Frequent feedback is important. Track the measure on a very visible white board so everyone can see progress through the month.

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    A year is plenty of time, this is clearly a management problem. My boss would say what you said, we need to measure what he is doing. Sorry, you already know the answer and it is is costing you. You don't need to be a hard ass to manage a shop, you do have to know how to manage. The first time I got a promotion to manager it was for a company with two weeks left to live. Half an hour later I laid off half the shop and by the end of a year we we delivering product on time that actually worked, and were profitable. Second time we built a job and delivered on time, and the guys commented that the work was much easier. I left because they lied to me and only wanted me to 'fix' the shop and not replace the manager who couldn't manage.

    If your guy doesn't see the changes that need to be made without being told, you've got the wrong guy. If he isn't constantly improving the way you do things, you've got the wrong guy. You say the guy has lots of experience in larger shops. That may be a big part of the problem. Bigger shops often need to do things differently than you, or are forced to do them differently because different rules and laws apply.

    Getting the right guy is extraordinarily tough. Attitude is way more important than experience too. Some years ago I wrote a report where I told the owner of a company I was working for that he needed to get out of day to day management, and make the 21 year kid that was my assistant his manager. He was of course pissed, but his wife read it and saw the truth in what I wrote. It worked fabulously, he worked at being Mr Dad to his five kids and the business ran smoothly and extremely profitably for 11 years.

    Find the right guy.

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    My 2 cents.. I think I'm an OK manager sometimes, and I've worked and learned from
    some good people, and both my parents were Grade A top notch managers/supervisors
    (from talking with people that worked under them).

    First thing, your guys aren't doing what you need them to do.. Its YOUR fault..
    You are doing something wrong.. You aren't saying the right things, or doing the
    right things.. Those things can be tiny little stupid things like the occasional
    "Thank You", all the way up to "why didn't you fire that son of a bitch."

    So, your guys suck, and its your fault.. If you decide that you are awesome and its
    everybody else's fault, then you are never going to get anywhere and nothing is going
    to change.

    I've said it here a bunch of times, and it sounds stupid, and some people say its treating
    people like pussies, or its manipulation (it IS manipulation).. WE.. The word WE..

    When are WE going to finish this job so that WE can ship it?

    How are WE going to fix this problem? What do YOU think WE should do?

    Tons of stupid little ways to get people to step up, and everybody is different,
    Some people NEED a lot of positive reinforcement.. Some people NEED to sink or swim.


    As to your supervisor and his son... Most companies have rules against nepotism for a reason..
    There are 2 sides to it.. One is that the parent thinks their precious little piece of shit
    is special and doesn't have to do anything (my guess is that this is part of your problem),
    the other is that the parent holds the kid to a higher standard, and this can potentially
    become unfair.

    I may sound touchy feely, and I do believe that with the right approach you can get almost anybody
    to be a good worker... But... I also firmly believe that when somebody has to go, they have to go..
    And firing people sucks, its not fun, it doesn't feel good, you are damaging that persons life and
    potentially there family and kids, but sometimes you have to do it.. On rare occasion, somebody is
    asking for it, and it does feel good, but that is and should be rare, only happened to me once.

    I would highly suggest going to some supervisory/managment seminars, or reading a book or 2.. You
    can also probably find YouTube vids now also.. I was forced into a 2 day seminar back in my early
    20's, it helped me out a ton.. Take your "supervisor" and maybe one or two others along also.

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    I should be the face of the company
    Are you a blue eyed blonde with shoulder length hair?

    Colonel Sanders was an anomaly, Betty Crocker is closer to reality.

    Perhaps you could license a cartoon character? I think Mickey Mouse would have negative connotations.

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    This isn't an unusual problem. This is THE problem with running (as opposed to building) a business. If there was a canned solution, you could bottle it and be a billionaire within five years easy.

    You're walking down roads many of us have trod before, so maybe we can give you a few useful pointers.

    1: Your foreman needs to go. You know this. If you've given him a free hand to get the shop running well, and your guys are just talking all day with work to do piling up, then he needs to go.

    2: You'll be fine after the foreman and his son go. If you have 6 guys working at 20%, and those are real numbers, then you have 1.2 man weeks worth of work being done in the shop. My general rule of thumb is that someone should be able to do a job half as fast as I can. More is great, but half is realistic. He has to do the job all day every day, whereas if I'm doing a time study or pitching in, I'm coming in fresh and focused. 50% of the time I could do it in or changes need to be made.

    So, if there's 1.2 man weeks worth of your time going on out there, there's 2.4 man weeks worth of employee work going on out there. Round it up to three, and you can fire 4 if that firing motivates the other three. You got to where you were without this foreman, he isn't indispensable.

    3: Time studies! Time studies should be the absolute number one thing your foreman should be doing. All day, every day. If he isn't, he isn't very good. Time studies will find stupid low dollar/high cost bottlenecks. For example, if we have one set of bolt cutters, but three jobs require them, so guys are walking back and forth across the shop all day when $80 in spending would double plant output. They set baseline times for tasks, so you can know if the problem is someone loafing or a hard to do job. They let you know whether jobs are actually profitable. Time studies are the most important thing a manufacturing supervisor does, and yours is obviously not doing any.

    4: Why don't you work with your guys very much? I could see it if you had 100 people on the floor, but you have six. If you've given the shop over to the foreman to the point that you don't even know your guys, then you've put yourself in a bad spot. The foreman clearly doesn't care as long as you keep signing the checks. The guys on the floor are going to feed off that. They don't work for you, they work for him.

    5: If your jobs are shipping out on time with decent quality and your guys are only working at 20%, why do you have so many? It's not the guys on the floor's fault if they're working down to the level of output demanded of them? Who makes the decision to hire a new guy? You, or foreman? Who interviews and hires them?

    6: I've tried the whole bonus thing. It doesn't work. You have certain expectations. If they hit that, then they are doing their job and get to keep their job. If you give people a bonus for meeting expectations, it means that you don't really expect it. Bonuses mean you're not really serious about 5000 widgets a week, or whatever.

    7: Have you ever fired anyone? It sounds like you haven't. If people believe they can't get fired regardless of their effort, their effort will slip lower and lower until someone finds the threshold or you go out of business. Set expectations and keep only people who are meeting them. Yes, firing people is the worst part of the job, but it is an important part of the job.

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    Yeah, if you have the answer to this, you can quit machining and make a fortune from consulting. Everyone has problems like this. One of the biggest things I think you need to do is one way or another identify some measurable things that you can set goals for, and then communicate to the foreman what he will be judged on.

    Really, who is going to come into their bosses office and say "I've done a crappy job this last month?"

    If your men come to work every day, do not be in a rush to replace them. Sucks when you see them standing around talking, but it's better than not having machinists at all. The best I know is to walk up and ask them about such and such job or problem and hopefully get their gears turning on how to solve it.

    One big problem with manufacturing is the only feedback is negative (I.E. - you only hear back if there was a problem), try to communicate in a non-asshole way what the problems are (not saying you seem like one, just it's tough to communicate problems to ppl standing around talking without getting pissed at them, like 'c'mon I'm paying you to work, so work') , and I think most employees will actually respond and try to solve it, if you can ;lay it ut clearly enough for them. But, the solution also has to be simple and easy or no one will do it.

    A lot of manufacturing problems have been solved around the water cooler though. Sometimes it just takes a fresh approach. My philosophy currently is I want half the talk to be work related. That is something your foreman could do. " Hey Steve, I want you to walk around and drink coffee the first three hours of the day and talk to the guys. Talk with them and guide the conversation to our current production problems and see what they come up with. " Food also helps with that Doughnuts every Friday? I mean you've got the work, you can experiment.

    I would strongly advise against the "fire ppl to create fear"

    I got into this industry largely for freedom. I don't like something, I can go down the road and have largely the same quality of life for largely doing the same job. If I saw my employer fire ppl to create that kind of environment of fear to 'motivate' I'd be out of there faster than you could say my name.

    edit: and if increasing efficency means ppl will be let go, no will do it. I wouldn't. I know as an owner you are making a profit, and Bill has kids, so what if he's the worst setup guy here, he still comes to work and does the job and I'm not going to help you fire him. In a shop there is ALWAYS work to be done, and you can ALWAYS finds find something that a competent employee can do profitably.

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    It isn't about fear. It's about expectations.

    If you have three guys, one talking on his phone all day and doing shoddy work, one doing okay work and one doing superstar work, and they all get the same feedback (or lack of feedback) then what you are telling the ones doing okay work and superstar work that the guy on his phone all day is meeting your expectations.

    If you're expecting that little, then why would the superstar work as hard as he is? Nobody likes to be played for a chump. Nobody likes to carry the load of two men while others shirk.

    So either the superstar will ease down to the level of the shirker, or else he'll go find a job where people actually work. A place where everyone stands around all day with their thumb up their ass is not a place that will pay well or give good benefits. Can't be.

    If you're doing a good job, you should have no fear of being fired. If you're doing a bad job, you shouldn't fear being fired. You should expect to be fired. If you have no idea whether you are doing a good job or not, then your manager should be fired.

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    As a retired ol fart I feel for your problem....

    I was in your present boat a couple times.... And as silly as it might be.. I chased off a few good ol boys that were not doing the job management wanted done. And the surprising reply that came from them was .... " Golly I thought things were just fine."

    My suggestion to you is communication. Start with the guy in charge.... Plain spell out the options.... get it in gear or find a new place to make friends and hang out...

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    Comatose - I think we are on the same page Pay the superstar what he's worth, and pay the slacker what he's worth. When the superstar complains about the slacker "Well, Bob, that's you make $25 an hour and Paul makes $12 an hour."

    Employee: "Oh, yup. Ok." back to work. Everyone has a value and a worth. It is just unfortunate that some ppl have been trained to think that their level of productivity is acceptable, when it just isn't. Sometimes there isn't any other way to slice it. And even then it is still sad. Like "How could I have helped him to be better? Did I fail?" Try to give ppl chances to improve, but sometimes it is just painfully that it isn't going to work out, for you, right now.

    I think though that in America currently for a mid to large sized manufacturer, that isn't the problem. The problem is just finding ppl that will set up and run the machines, period. Unfortunately our kids are taught that working with your hands is below them. Ridiculous. I never graduated from high school, and found this field and love it, and make a good living doing it. I don't know how many kids there are that could be doing a good job in a shop that don't even know this field exists. It really is a shame against out current education system. Not everyone will be a doctor, scientist, lawyer. And that's ok. We need machinists/welders/mechanics also.

    (little off topic, but it's a forum, so WTF? )

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    Quote Originally Posted by brian.pallas View Post
    Comatose - I think we are on the same page Pay the superstar what he's worth, and pay the slacker what he's worth. When the superstar complains about the slacker "Well, Bob, that's you make $25 an hour and Paul makes $12 an hour."
    This is going to sound like a vaginal hippy love in. BUT, the key to productivity is happiness.
    You need a "team". If Bob is bitching about Paul slacking, its probably not really related to
    Paul slacking, its something else that Paul is doing that would make Bob sound like a pussy,
    or Bob can't even really put it into words. And if Bob is being dragged down, I guarantee, others
    are also... Unless Bob is actually the problem..

    If the Superstar is being dragged down by a known slacker, then something has to change, and change
    quick. Sometimes you have to put on your big girl panties and lay down the law and try to take
    control of the situation, and if you can't Paul has to go find another job.

    The world needs bottle washers and floor sweepers, it doesn't mean they have to drag everybody down.
    Idiots, retards, head traumas and stupid people can be team players also.



    If you have no idea whether you are doing a good job or not, then your manager should be fired.
    I like that, you need to save that one for the next time this comes up.

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    It sounds to me like somebody needs to get out in their own shop, and make sure it is being run the way they want it ran.

    I can understand you wanting to do the quoting. But, you should not be the only person answering the phones, in a 7 man shop.
    You need some administrative help.
    my guess is: your foreman, and his kid, should probably hit the road. After a year of YOU letting them work the way they want,
    it is most likely too late to make much in the way of big changes.

    Change number one if I was in your shoes:
    Foreman is now the voice of the company. He answers the phone, and at least screens the emails.
    And I would get my ass on the floor. Can you see the floor from your office?

    The most productive shop I ever worked in: The boss's office was dead center of the building, and 20ft up, with windows all the way around.
    He could see the whole shop. He also had an intercom that the whole shop could hear.
    If two guys let a BS session go too long, everybody knew it was time for them to get back to work.

    Even though the boss had a low tolerance for slacking, he was NOT an ass-hole. He was a really cool guy actually.
    He just wanted a productive shop, and his ways worked.

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    In all my time on the shop floor, only one place had managers/supervisors right on the shop floor. They had desks on the floor, with literally nothing separating them from the machines & people doing the work. It was the ultimate transparency, that went both ways. The boss could look up and quietly see what was going on around the shop - who was constantly walking around, which machines were running, where the crane was being bottlenecked, and so on... And likewise, anyone could look up and see that the boss was in fact doing his job - not farting around on Facebook, or PM, or brown-nosing his boss.(He didn't even have a computer, and likely even didn't need one.)

    It's also not uncommon for Japanese companies to have wide open "bull-pens" where every office employee sits in the same room. President, to pee-on. I'd say it very quickly instills a "team spirit" among everyone, and at the same time encourages everyone to keep the noise down, keep their heads down, and work.



    I would imagine moving your desk, or at a minimum, the foremans' onto the shop floor wouldn't be the worst place to start. (Moving the coffee pot to where you can see it wouldn't be a bad idea either...)

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    your the one quoting etc...

    you know what's involved for the jobs.....

    You should know the strengths and weaknesses of your employees...


    Everything has a deadline... make a shop deadline to push your guys to work...

    If they ain't working then their sweeping and organizing , if they aren't doing that then you need to lay out those expectations...

    Father & son working maybe as a team, but not as a manager and worker....

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    Along J's post's philosophy, I do not ever ask "my guy" (only one employee) to do anything I wont do.
    I push the broom as much as he does.
    That way when I ride his ass for being slow, he knows I am not expecting anything from him, I am not willing to do.
    And, along Bob's philosophy, when he is too slow, i jump in there with a "how can WE figure out how to do this faster?" mantality.

    There are times when I do have to force the issue, and just plain tell him "this is how your gonna do it, damn-it!"
    But, I always try the nice way first.

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    The OP says his guys are only at 20% efficiency? Would it be such a crazy thing to close up early for the week, if everyone picked up the pace and got more work done, in less time?

    As in, "Everyone really worked hard this week, and we're caught up on orders. It's Friday - Everyone go home at lunch (with full pay) and I'll see you next week."

    Has anyone ever tried this? Did it work, or is that a totally stupid idea?

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    Worked with a company that makes millions, money really isn’t a problem there. About 80 employees. But something was rotten with the people. There is a kitchen and canteen but no cook. When I first saw that and asked for the reason they said a cook wouldn’t be needed any more. They set up two microwave ovens. It was so dreary.

    At another place about 25 staff, also a professional kitchen and no cook. You could have a soup, sausages, Sandwich breads. Just miserable and there were gardeners, you know, men and women who work outside, winter and summer.

    To me it is very simple how to lead a shop: to build up. We have the wonderful word Aufbau. It is big, it means something positive, encouraging, the general way up. It’s there in every little affair. So to incite a machinist you simply ask her/him about her/his opinion about the actual job. I know from myself how I can burst out with details, mistakes I see on draughts, things one could do better from stock inspection over alignment of tool turrets to more effective measuring. A worker’s opinion is much more important than her/his manager’s because it’s her/he who is productive.

    Productivity shows, with a trained eye you can see it from far. Calm movements, of course repetitive, it’s the industry after all, order, and little to no waste. Vice versa a worker can read management as well: when they buzz around like nervous bees or tell me frosted crap, you know, shit with sugar on top, I’d rather be some place else. It makes a difference whether there’s one mechanic taking care of the machinery or externals pass by with multimeters. Quality can’t be bought, never, it is brought.


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