The people are the key. There is no way around it. The people that perform the job everyday are making the difference in our products. Without the shop floor employees, there would be no need for the support
staff. If they are not making products efficiently here, then someone else who can, will be. Yes – there is a need for management to guide the business, including the shop floor workers, but through adaptation and employee buy-in (engagement) the work gets done.
The employees are the ones which can provide the most insight to the process. By getting them involved and creating standard operating procedures based on the tasks they perform will lead to accurate work instructions for replication. Of the 8 Wastes, this one is the most neglected. We tend to not capture the skills that employees have into a documented form, or if we do, we miss the other tasks that make each worker unique and add that extra touch to their job.
The other very important piece (that is often missing) is employee led problem solving events or employee engagement with the creation of processes. I could create a very long list of times that a solution was implemented only to have it fail due to what was not known. If only I would have truly involved the operators in the process for the solution the call outs could have been made and saved lots of man hours in advance. It should be a mandate that during the creation of the ad-hoc team we involve people from each segment of the business, or SME‘s (subject matter experts).
The SME is not always the operator – but maybe an expert in a territory that you are not familiar with. A comedic failure is when General Motors marketing named a car Nova and wondered why it was not selling in Latin America. Well, that is until someone pointed out that Nova can be slang for “it doesn’t go.” Regardless of what you are doing it is important to gather intellect which applies to the task at hand.
A good exercise besides employee involvement in work creation, or problem solving is actually auditing the work instructions. On a routine basis take the work instructions to the floor and go over it with a group employees. During the meeting solicit feedback to see if this is still accurate, what steps need to be updated or improved upon in the instructions, and if any suggestions are available for additional instructions. You will be amazed how processes drift over time, and how much detail may be missed from the actual instructs but maintained via tribal knowledge.