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Your Manufacturing Work Environment

Take a walk out onto your shop floor and really look around. I mean, take a short, sharp look at what’s going on. If you have your eyes opened objectively, the shop floor should be telling you everything you need to know about your company. It will tell you what your operators and managers are thinking about their tasks and their company. It will also tell you what your position is relative to your competition, your level of quality, and, most importantly, what kind of business associate you are considered to be by your customers and prospects.

Is your work place—for want of a better word—disheveled? Cluttered, dirty, unsafe, and disorganized. Are machines dripping all over the place, lines snaking across the floor, work orders barely readable through yellowing plastic travelers, tools stacked on workbenches, and operators strolling about in search of tools that should have been accessed in a matter of seconds?

In short: do you consider attention to detail important not only in the quality of your output, but in the maintenance of your shop itself? Ask yourself, what does the inattention to the work environment of my shop really say about my business? Am I rationalizing a “close enough” attitude to suggest that the maintenance of the shop work environment is a secondary notion to output, and that there is little relationship between them?

Liquid spilling, pans leaking, sawdust piling, and material scrap overflowing. Ask yourself, “Would you partner with you?”. Of course, if your professionalism expands from product to work environment and vice versa, there’s little worry. However, if you’re showing signs of uncaring on the shop floor, the bottom line might be that you are, in fact, losing money through notions of unproductive practices.

For example, in standard lean practices that work to reduce waste, all tooling is found at or near the point of use. Shadow boards mark what goes where, and things like materials and hand tools are proximate to the station. It must be always kept in mind that everything in the shop has its proper place—and it has it for a very distinct reason, and that is to ultimately reduce costs and increase profitability.

Again, take a good look around and see if any activity or process or clean-up is being left to chance. It shouldn’t be. All facets of the business should be important, and nothing is so minor as to be considered “unimportant”. This is the first rule mountain rescuers learn about avalanche potentialities. Ultimately, what you are looking for are an abundance of pride sources, places that testify to employee attitudes about the company and the product. Being “close enough” is not good enough in the hyper-competitive global economy.

On the other hand, an abundance of pride sources means that your professionalism is showing through. This means that your products, out there in the world, are probably reflecting your professionalism in an abundance of opportunities.

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