Before I had been put on notice in this plant, my relationship with the Production Mgr. seemed OK. Things weren't perfect in production but they never had been at this plant. The equipment was old and fully depreciated. I was learning and analyzing the data to find ways to upgrade the equipment, which was part of my job. During the interview, new equipment justification was emphasized.
We brought a number of new parts online and some required a new, very small process. It had been engineered and temporarily installed until it could be automated. Since it was a manual operation, an operator was required to sit there and run it throughout the run.
They had been trained and were doing a great job for quite awhile. We had the necessary job aids to help them set it up and run it. Everything was fine. For awhile. Then. It changed. Well, crud!
Other operators and maintenance people learned that the operator on shift was there, couldn't leave, and was, therefore, a captive ear. That's right. Other people were talking to the operator on shift and eventually they began to engage in conversation with those coming in to talk to them and they began to run rejects.
I mentioned this to the foremen but nothing changed. I watched the data and kept trying to work with the foremen. Nothing changed.
One foreman tried but operators didn't listen to him. They knew foremen didn't have any authority to fire them even though technically they did. Their authority had been undermined and the hourly people knew it.
I had multiple conversations with engineering about automating the process but they were too busy. My problems were not an issue for them. The project had been funded but they weren't making time for it. Management knew this and they were OK with it.
Finally the Production Manager told me to engineer out the mistakes with even more signs and whatnots in the area. Wow. I didn't know how much simpler to get things and politely told him as much.
I informed him of my observations and discussions with the foremen. I politely said since I was not a member of management, I couldn't tell the operators to do anything. Well, that didn't go over good at all. He blew up about making more signs for the operators and training them again. I pointed out that rejects were run only by certain operators, who had friends. When they weren't disturbed, we had far, far fewer rejects. Zero points earned.
I was not being disrespectful at all. The operators were kept aware of our performance through control charts that were posted daily. We had department meetings to cover all necessary issues, including training and any needs or issues I didn't know about. I did what I could on my own and was allowed to do by management.
Somehow I suspect this must have contributed to me ultimately being put on notice to be fired. I felt like the child telling the Emperor that he had no clothes on.
I went into that plant a few years ago. That small process was still a manual process and in the state I last saw it. No signs were up. No production aids were around. They still run rejects, when they are distracted.
I have spent years in the bowels of manufacturing plants helping to bring numerous products to market that touch virtually every aspect of life.
|Pamela Quillin, P.E.||