Is there such thing as a Lean Operator?
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    Default Is there such thing as a Lean Operator?

    I'm wondering if there is such thing as a job title along the lines of "Lean Operator". Don't worry about the wording, my point is to get at this concept: an alternative to a normal "machine operator", whose job is just to punch a clock and babysit machines. Instead, this would be an operator whose primary responsibility is to operate the machines, but with a secondary responsibility to improve his own process. He would be given additional training and tools.

    The reason is that a normal operator is given a disincentive to improve, or even care about his job. If he were to automate his process, he would risk losing his job. So instead, he fights change.

    As a "lean operator", he would be given some sort of incentive built into his responsibilities: if he can successfully automate one process, he is given another process and a raise.

    Does such a thing exist? Is it feasible?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CutEdge View Post
    I'm wondering if there is such thing as a job title along the lines of "Lean Operator". Don't worry about the wording, my point is to get at this concept: an alternative to a normal "machine operator", whose job is just to punch a clock and babysit machines. Instead, this would be an operator whose primary responsibility is to operate the machines, but with a secondary responsibility to improve his own process. He would be given additional training and tools.

    The reason is that a normal operator is given a disincentive to improve, or even care about his job. If he were to automate his process, he would risk losing his job. So instead, he fights change.

    As a "lean operator", he would be given some sort of incentive built into his responsibilities: if he can successfully automate one process, he is given another process and a raise.

    Does such a thing exist? Is it feasible?
    First step is to rewrite the job descriptions to reflect what you want. Then create the management system to support it.

    My two cents, do everything to avoid the word 'lean' in your efforts. It is a construct of the consulting world and is meaningless to people who add value. If you go back to the eighties and understand the research that coined the term you will understand what I mean. It will very much cloud your team's understanding of the company efforts if you try to flavor the initiative.

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    Yup...it used be known as "Piecework" or incentive pay.

    It's pretty much gone away, mostly from companies cutting pay rates and ruining the system, but if done right it does work well.

    Ask Lincoln electric.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan_Lund View Post
    First step is to rewrite the job descriptions to reflect what you want. Then create the management system to support it.

    My two cents, do everything to avoid the word 'lean' in your efforts. It is a construct of the consulting world and is meaningless to people who add value. If you go back to the eighties and understand the research that coined the term you will understand what I mean. It will very much cloud your team's understanding of the company efforts if you try to flavor the initiative.
    I totally agree with avoiding the word lean. Most employees that hear that word really do not ever fully understand the concept.


    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Yup...it used be known as "Piecework" or incentive pay.

    It's pretty much gone away, mostly from companies cutting pay rates and ruining the system, but if done right it does work well.

    Ask Lincoln electric.
    Yep! I have done my fair share of piecework. The only real caveat: validating and tracking scrap becomes a huge burden.
    Of course an operator on piecework will let parts out of spec slide. It ups their rate.
    You also tend to need somebody besides the "operator" to tend to maintenance.

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    Sure...my operators lean all the time.
    They lean on the machines, the walls, the chairs, the benches, the carts...at least for a few seconds till they start to roll away.


    Sorry, couldn't resist that from the time I saw the subject line.



    I get your point...

    A lot really depends on the people in that position.
    If it is an operator with willingness AND ABILITY to grow and move up...definitely.


    I know I can learn from anyone and do try. But the flip side is sometimes I/we may have learned the lesson many many moons ago. So the new to them ideas may have been dismissed through trial and error and your constantly saying...yes we tried that, it doesn't work, it doesn't work that way either. I'll take the time to explain why...but that can get quite time consuming at each stage of the game. After time that position of having your ideas shot down time and time again a person starts to lose interest in trying.

    Almost the same with a new machinist...I want to hear how they would do first, but often we revert back to the way we have done in the past...sometimes just because we already have the tooling, fixtures programs made and the better way does not offer enough benefit to warrant a change.

    I know people who drive 10 miles out of their way, paying a Bridge toll to buy 30 gallons of gas cause it is 40 cents cheaper per gallon. Try to tell them they drove 20 miles and paid $6 in tolls to save 12 bucks. They cannot get past...but I saved $12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Yup...it used be known as "Piecework" or incentive pay.

    It's pretty much gone away, mostly from companies cutting pay rates and ruining the system, but if done right it does work well.

    Ask Lincoln electric.


    Piecework if done right can be great.

    Maybe.

    If you can account for scrap, parts on the fringe of tolerance, parts out of tolerance, parts not quite debured or handled correctly. Then we have destroyed tooling and machinery. Think about it...push an endmill a bit harder you'll get done faster...but those edges may not last quite as long...get a new, get a new, get a new. Machine can run at 110% for 15 minutes and be happy...but what if run at 125% for 20 minutes to get another two piece done on your shift.
    Multiple those loses by each person on piece work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    Piecework if done right can be great.

    Maybe.

    If you can account for scrap, parts on the fringe of tolerance, parts out of tolerance, parts not quite debured or handled correctly. Then we have destroyed tooling and machinery. Think about it...push an endmill a bit harder you'll get done faster...but those edges may not last quite as long...get a new, get a new, get a new. Machine can run at 110% for 15 minutes and be happy...but what if run at 125% for 20 minutes to get another two piece done on your shift.
    Multiple those loses by each person on piece work.
    You have to factor in profit sharing for them as well, so that they are vesting in the big-picture well-being of the company, not just their short term, immediate payback on the piece work. And then - this is the most important part - YOU HAVE TO COMMUNICATE up and down so that everyone TRUSTS what they, their co-workers, managers and the company at large are doing...

    Will running a cutter faster, despite poorer tool life yield more parts for the operator? Maybe, but then work out and show the total costs. Examine that it might yield more pieces/shift, but total costs soar, and profit-sharing takes a hit... Likewise, reviewing the data together may reveal a surprise - maybe their way is better, maybe not....

    Will passing a "loose" part be ok? Maybe, but show the true costs of a customer reject, and soon everyone sees how it's not in the company's, or the individual's best interest to do so.

    This is certainly all easier said than done, but doable if executed properly, and then faithfully abided by...

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    What happened to improving the process/job just being part of the job??

    If you are hiring button pushers, you will get button pushers. Make sure they know from day one, if they grow in their job, they will be rewarded with -
    A) pay raise, bonus, etc
    B) more opportunities to grow and repeat the process

    Too often I see (especially new hires, myself included) we are promised the moon if we earn it, but then we are never give the chance to earn it. "No money for that tool" "Software upgrade is too expensive" "There is not enough time to rebuild that fixture to be more accurate"

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    Piecework if done right can be great.

    Maybe.

    If you can account for scrap, parts on the fringe of tolerance, parts out of tolerance, parts not quite debured or handled correctly. Then we have destroyed tooling and machinery. Think about it...push an endmill a bit harder you'll get done faster...but those edges may not last quite as long...get a new, get a new, get a new. Machine can run at 110% for 15 minutes and be happy...but what if run at 125% for 20 minutes to get another two piece done on your shift.
    Multiple those loses by each person on piece work.
    Hold on just a minute...if your workers are doing this, they don't have the bottom line in sight do they ?
    Bad employees are bad employees...period.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CutEdge View Post
    I'm wondering if there is such thing as a job title along the lines of "Lean Operator". Don't worry about the wording, my point is to get at this concept: an alternative to a normal "machine operator", whose job is just to punch a clock and babysit machines. Instead, this would be an operator whose primary responsibility is to operate the machines, but with a secondary responsibility to improve his own process. He would be given additional training and tools.

    The reason is that a normal operator is given a disincentive to improve, or even care about his job. If he were to automate his process, he would risk losing his job. So instead, he fights change.

    As a "lean operator", he would be given some sort of incentive built into his responsibilities: if he can successfully automate one process, he is given another process and a raise.

    Does such a thing exist? Is it feasible?
    .
    .
    where i work operator is expected to reduce machining times and reduce scrap and rework rate. computer has record of operator efficiency % that is is he doing per month for example
    .
    120% longer machining times than estimate
    what scrap and rework cost are in his name $5000. last month
    what tooling cost he had for the month. $1200. last month
    .
    so operator has to decide if going faster and scrapping part where it has to be remade what actually is saving money. often reducing scrap saves 10 times more money that going too fast and getting sudden tool failures. obviously if you keep records or a log of what has been tried and success rate, what potential things to look out for that could cause problems you can learn and improve. for example last 50 parts had 20 hours of rework needed last 6 months increasing part average 40 minutes. slowing feeds and speeds increases time 10 minutes per part but eliminated rework cost. when data proves going slower is cheaper and faster in the long run it often goes against what one thought at first
    .
    problem i see if work log often gets confused with work procedure or instructions. i like to have record of who did what when where why etc. it helps if i see watch setting boring bar easily can jump .002" dia if locks loosened and retightened. push cutter in as locks tighten lowers setting jumping diameter size. work log records any problem i had in the past and warnings about potential scrap and rework problems that might happen before i run the next part. for example, warning final cut often .0002" bigger than test cut. warning, advice, recommendations has saved a lot of scrap being made for me. work log, operator notes, often not a procedure just a record of past failures and problems and what to look out for next time
    .
    i was taught it is ok to make a mistake. it is not ok to make the same mistake twice. fix or change something to eliminate making same mistakes.
    .
    problem with lean is one person saying thats not needed and throws something away. next person finds tool he uses often is gone, missing and has to repurchase the tool.
    .
    or company eliminates roll around tool boxes. so doing job where do i put the many measuring tools i need to measure part that i got out of tool crib? obviously not sitting on a warm machine as that would get measuring tools hot. obviously not going to put tools on the floor or hold in my warm hands too long. a lot of lean advice is from people who are not good or experienced machinist and actually give bad advice. but operator often has to do what he is told to do even when it is a bad ideal
    .
    had job where setup book was locked up in office. boss wanted everybody to use only electronic copy. electronic copy missing critical information hand written in setup book. 1 ton part was scrapped cause operator was not aware of setting G55 for casting bigger or smaller than normal. lean said to remove setup book. get rid of what you do not need, boss said not needed use electronic version. that and problem with computer 20 feet away where you could carry setup book to where you actually doing job as oppose to walking back and forth 100 times looking at setup info on nearest computer.

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    i had a boss say Tom you use 10 times more grinding wheels than Dave per month. you cost company $60 more per month.
    .
    i answer i had 6 foot high pile of parts done in one day. Day had 1 foot pile and will need 5 more days to do same amount of parts.
    .
    i can use less wheels, if i do less work. did he want me to make fewer parts per day ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CutEdge View Post
    I'm wondering if there is such thing as a job title along the lines of "Lean Operator". Don't worry about the wording, my point is to get at this concept: an alternative to a normal "machine operator", whose job is just to punch a clock and babysit machines. Instead, this would be an operator whose primary responsibility is to operate the machines, but with a secondary responsibility to improve his own process. He would be given additional training and tools.

    The reason is that a normal operator is given a disincentive to improve, or even care about his job. If he were to automate his process, he would risk losing his job. So instead, he fights change.

    As a "lean operator", he would be given some sort of incentive built into his responsibilities: if he can successfully automate one process, he is given another process and a raise.

    Does such a thing exist? Is it feasible?
    A lot depends on the type of people you hire. The average operator is pretty much a button pusher with very little skills. It seems rare to hire a person who is willing to go the extra mile to learn and improve a process. Some guys we have hired at my place claim to have lots of skill and knowledge only to find out they are pretty much all BS. You need to set guild lines on tooling, material cost, fixturing if needed and limit the time to improve a process. If you tell a person you want them to improve the job making widgets but not tell him what his limitations are he will take his sweet time improving the process. I find it easier to not give the guys on the shop the options to improve our process because if they come up with an idea and you shoot it down you can demoralize them. I have seen this happen and the attitude goes south real fast.

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    i had boss say part 1234 we want to reduce machining times. see what you can do.
    .
    i got machining times down to record breaking levels. all he had to do was ask,
    .
    if i scrap part cause i got feeds and speeds too high then they say why did you do that ? when given permission to try and ok if mistake is made then operator will try.
    .
    why stick neck out if no reward for trying ? if anything normally get in trouble for trying anything risky. obviously caution is the result if get in trouble for trying anything considered risky

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    I did lean consulting/training for over 10 years and am now getting back into it. I've worked in just about every imaginable industry and I'll start off by saying that about the only industry harder than machining to make lean work in (because of the people, not the processes) is the lumber industry. Lots of inherent resistance but kudos to you for at least trying/investigating it. I'm going to try a different approach here based on the real roots of lean spiced up with my own beliefs experiences:

    1. Lean is a customer-focused culture; not just a productivity tool.
    2. It's pretty much impossible to adopt the methods/tools without the culture.
    3. The true lean culture (as developed in Japan) often does NOT work well at all with America's (and many other countries) work cultures.
    4. I encourage companies to study lean to get a sense of what it is but to ultimately develop their own culture. Hey, I saw a lumber mill take this approach without any outside guidance (other than book reading) and they got it so I know anyone can.
    5. If you encourage/request/require one process to "make improvements" (that typically lead to more parts/day) then chances are you're just going to get more worked piled up downstream or starve an operation upstream. You have to look at the entire process (i.e. door to door) from the customer's viewpoint. I'm really working on a "tough job" right now trying to get a client to see the error of their ways in the individual incentives (i.e. piece rate) they have and go to team incentives. They agree, it's just a hard change to make. In the meantime, lots of spot over-production and parts out of sequence (this ones' easier/more money), etc.

    Feel free (anyone) to "fire away"; all my comments are experience based and NONE of them are "absolutes" (there are always exceptions except for the big one that "we're different, lean won't work here"). If you have any more specific questions I'll be happy to take a PM. I like working on this stuff.

    Late add: I realized I kind of beat around the bush in answering your question. In my viewpoint, there are "lean-trained operators" who have an incentive (as part of a work culture) to identify and (ideally) eliminate waste but this is all part of a company-wide culture. There are also operators who work under lean controls (i.e. fill bins up to this level and then STOP). This has to all be done in the context of "flow of value to the customer", i.e. making an operation faster when it doesn't really need to be faster doesn't necessarily help anyone. One of the hardest aspects of lean to learn is that "faster is not always better".

    Good luck,
    The Dude

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawnrs View Post
    I find it easier to not give the guys on the shop the options to improve our process because if they come up with an idea and you shoot it down you can demoralize them. I have seen this happen and the attitude goes south real fast.
    Disclaimer - What's written below is not directed so much at you personally, but more to the tone & mindset that your comment describes - which is unfortunately pretty frequent.

    Why would you automatically "shoot them down?" If someone is doing the job day in, day out, why would you not want to try and accommodate them, and try to see their good ideas through? Oh, because we're expert machinists, and we KNOW it won't work, right...? Truth be told, I think that machinists/programmers/engineers are some of the biggest assholes about this, especially when ideas come from "operators"...

    I bet the first time someone suggested running a carbide endmill full-depth, 10% radial width of cut, 10,000 rpm & 300ipm in a block of steel, they were met with resistance...

    What is the harm of letting someone try to work out their good ideas? In the case above, you toast a $70 endmill, and maybe burn up a $30 part. $100 is a very cheap education if it goes bad, and a very small investment in one's knowledge.

    Why not encourage & cultivate their spirit of continuous improvement, and then allow them the freedom, but also the _responsibility_ to prove out their good idea. If it works, everyone wins. If it fails, everyone learns, and you/they have still learned something through the failure...

    If you are constantly shooting down someone's ideas without at least letting them give it a shot, then you are not worthy of their efforts to try and improve your business... When they inevitably move on after being continually demoralized, chances are it will be your loss, not theirs. If you are constantly having to educate people about why their suggestion is unsafe, or has been proven not to work, then it's time well spent on educating your people...

    ********** This is broaching on a subject that makes me SO ANGRY... **********

    The people who think training & teaching is an inconvenience, and are unwilling to invest in their people because it "costs too much" money/time/lost-production, whatever...

    I have a customer that ASKED US to come and perform a training session for their operators. Basic stuff, insert wear, basic tool care, etc... We happily agree, and buy all of their guys lunch too. Then, management gets pissed when we run 10 minutes over time. (When they also failed to get everyone there on time, but that's beside the point...)

    So, they pretend to see value in providing a training for their operators (Make sure you sign the sign-in sheet!) on someone elses dime & time, but then bitch & moan when their guys get engaged in good conversation, ask good questions, and ultimately let the machines sit for an extra 10 minutes because they are paying attention to what the company asked for, and then required them to attend...

    It's people & companies like this, who are in pole-position for the race to the bottom. Don't be one of those people. Give a shit about your employees. Listen to them, and to the best of your ability, act on their concerns. It will pay dividends later on far beyond what the balance sheet shows. (But it will probably also help the balance sheet long term too...)



    ----- ----- ----- ----- -----

    On a side note, I highly recommend the book "American Icon - Alan Mullaly and the fight to save Ford Motor Company" for anyone interested in management. Not only is it packed full of lessons, but it is an incredible "story" too. Buy a print copy. Buy a digital copy. Buy an audio copy. It's a wonderful, wonderful story of what excellent leadership can accomplish...

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    Certainly this exists.
    Perhaps strangely it is more common in the biggest manufacturing corporations.
    Mid and smaller size sort of talk lean but don't empower their people. Kind of a fad, not a way of doing things.
    You can make a very strong argument that a truly lean company never lays off employees yet many see lean as something that cuts the workforce.

    The one thing people can do that robots, automation, cncs, etc. can not is think and improve the process, come up with new markets, see ways to improve your market position.
    A robot will not come up with a new way to do something to makes it's life easier or make things work better or smoother.
    Sure some or many of these ideas won't work for some reason or another but like inventing a light bulb you need to keep looking forward.
    If you don't utilize this in your workers you are throwing away the advantage of having workers.
    Bob

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    I have read a lot about LEAN MFG and I still
    don't have a clue what it is. Now lean operator.
    I must be slow.

    My daddy told me if person can't describe his job or what a process does in a few sentences hes full of it.

    Is it possible for someone here to explain lean manufacturing in a few sentences so the average person understands it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CutEdge View Post
    I'm wondering if there is such thing as a job title along the lines of "Lean Operator". Don't worry about the wording, my point is to get at this concept: an alternative to a normal "machine operator", whose job is just to punch a clock and babysit machines. Instead, this would be an operator whose primary responsibility is to operate the machines, but with a secondary responsibility to improve his own process. He would be given additional training and tools.

    The reason is that a normal operator is given a disincentive to improve, or even care about his job. If he were to automate his process, he would risk losing his job. So instead, he fights change.

    As a "lean operator", he would be given some sort of incentive built into his responsibilities: if he can successfully automate one process, he is given another process and a raise.

    Does such a thing exist? Is it feasible?

    Maybe even train them to do set ups, change tools and offsets... Since they can run a whole machine... maybe call them... Machinists?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kallam View Post
    I have read a lot about LEAN MFG and I still
    don't have a clue what it is. Now lean operator.
    I must be slow.

    My daddy told me if person can't describe his job or what a process does in a few sentences hes full of it.

    Is it possible for someone here to explain lean manufacturing in a few sentences so the average person understands it.
    Lean manufacturing or lean production, often simply "lean", is a systematic method for the elimination of waste ("Muda") within a manufacturing system. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden ("Muri") and waste created through unevenness in work loads ("Mura").
    Lean manufacturing - Wikipedia
    Lean manufacturing - Wikipedia

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    I think I meet a lean operator every time I get something fixed on my house? They do just enough to get paid and screw every thing else up, in the end I have about 3 more things needing to fix.
    Dan


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