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A monumental task...

A monumental task...

A monumental task...

I work as a Manufacturing Engineer in a small production facility that fulfills a number of roles within our company; production of one-off tooling, maintenance and automation support.

Since starting at this company roughly one year ago, I've been leaned on heavily to help by putting standards in place and "oiling the machine". The owner often asks me what I feel is wrong with the company and why project schedules are constantly not being met. Having worked for a few well structured businesses with key elements in place, I've acted more as a consultant looking at everything from the outside-in, rather than an employee, but now things have changed.

As of this past week, I was tasked with taking on a 'leadership' position in implementing structural changes and helping "get things in line".

The threat being, "if things can't be fixed, we will have to shut down the manufacturing portion of the company, and outsource for tooling".

The problems here are enormous in scope, so I will just list a number of the largest:

1. Key employees who haven't seen a wage increase since starting (many are 5+ years now)

2. No review system (those who have been fired, simply pushed the wrong button)

3. No disciplinary system in place (verbal, written, strike 3, you're out, etc)

4. No "managers". We all work as equals within the team, though some like myself are tasked with most of the administrative duties behind closed doors

5. No task management, and things that would fall under #4

6. Lots of capital expenditure; mostly on new machinery

7. Lack of formal communication from point-of-sale right on through manufacturing. Most information is acquired by asking the right person for the details or by word of mouth, which leads to many people being left out of the loop.

This is one of the key areas I'm working to improve now, but ever then, there is resistance to any type of formal push of information...

I have taken this last meeting a bit differently than might have been the intention of our President; do I want to take on the responsibility? At which I could answer yes or no. Because I realize that the intention here is to have me step up, at the same pay and do a job that many have tried to do before only to run into the same road blocks.

The real issues here are systemic; no reward system, no incentive, no way of improving the culture of the company and an owner who doesn't want to "micromanage" but, doesn't mind telling you exactly how he'd like to see something done. Key positions are hired directly out of college because, "experience breeds a set way of doing things" and "those people are not that flexible"... or so I'm told.

I've been in a position to turn a manufacturing operation around once before, but not with my hands tied behind my back.

I believe this company is going to need to change at the foundational level before anything effective can be done. We are way understaffed, with too much expectation and no method of measurement/tracking/etc., in place.

So I am reaching out for opinions and/or thoughts from those with similar experiences. Every ounce of help is much appreciated.

Thank you.

RE: A monumental task...

Without managers, and with everyone working as a team, it's time to take it to upper management.   If everyone is a team, there should be incentives for the team.  Maybe, if we can improve the process, can we share in the increased profits?  This is the proverbial win-win situation.  If you take this approach, point out to management:  a) the current structure is teamlike   b) the win-win.  If they resist, you could point out the lack of performance/salary review.  Or you could suggest abandoning the team concept to have a manager (or PM), with that manager having the authority to run the process improvement project.  In that case, the manager would need to motivate the team somehow.  I like the team win-win.  It fits with LEAN concepts.    

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was - Steven Wright

RE: A monumental task...

That's an issue John, because there is no "upper management", just the owner's son -the VP.

I've pretty much written this off as an unmanageable situation. I don't necessarily agree that designating a PM abandons the team concept. Every good PM I've worked with has only made my life easier as a firewall between upper management 'us'.

This company has absolutely no interest in relinquishing any authority to anyone and I just arrived at this lesson the hard way. After hours of deliberation on methods of improvement and making my case that, should I step up and take responsibility that I would expect to be compensated, I was deemed a defeatist... my employment was terminated today.

Se la vie. They will be trying to do the same thing, expecting different results for some time to come I'm afraid. Seems to me, that defines a certain key word..... oh yes, "insanity".

Thanks nonetheless.


RE: A monumental task...

Sorry about your situation.  Based on what you've stated via your point of view (which I have no reason to doubt), you're better off without them.  Hope you find something better, much better.   And based on what you've revealed about the old company, that won't be very hard.    

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was - Steven Wright

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