Mount Fuji from Mount Kachi Kachi

Mount Fuji from Mount Kachi Kachi

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bumble Bee Grumbling!

It’s May, the 2nd. How time flies. I’ve been meaning to blog from day to day but my work got in the way most of the time. Is life good at the moment? Hmm, not very.

I used to work as a PP (??) in a small department with merely 20 employees. My manager rarely speaks to me (except on technical matters where I’m totally ‘lost’), my subordinates seldom gives me much headache, my colleagues and I juggled from work & office gossips most of the time. My working hours was flexible & I could take five for coffee at any time I wish. Life couldn’t be better!

Last few months, due to the economic crisis, the management has decided to transfer me to the service centre department. Here, I was assigned as the master PP for all the departments instead of servicing to only one department. How did I took it? Well, I didn't really see that I have many options. So I said yes, without expecting too much. A promotion? Nah. It was more like an opportunity to learn new things. When you are working in manufacturing sector there is never a guarantee. So you just got to grab as many opportunities that comes along the way while you are still hot & marketable (it’s the truth!) Little did I know that the new department I’m handling is no different than an Emergency Room (only without the pregnant ladies going for labor). Everything is urgent. I mean EVERYTHING! People walk 3 times faster & talk 3 times louder. Meetings are held a several times in a day. Most came in to work very early in the morning, took a very short lunch and went home around 8 to 9pm every day.

3 months has passed. The biggest challenge we have now is struggling to clear a big amount of backlogs from previous months order to our customers. I wonder how they could work in an ER every single day and yet the crisis is not solved. Everyone seems fine with it. As an outsider, a junior, most of the time I just observe. I only speak when someone ask me to. My new boss already demanded a report on all the observations & improvements. That is my main task. Oh, why do they have to drag me from my happy spot into this mess? I’m still digesting. But I think it’s best if I list out all my findings here.

1. Non Efficient WIP Monitoring System
The MRP system has so many drawbacks here and there. It cannot even display a thorough overview of the WIP (work in progress). You had to click on the page one by one to obtain a very simple info. The controller end up calling for meeting every day with the production guys just to know how much is the WIP. Are you kidding me?? We are now in the year 2009! We don’t do manual work anymore! The world is just a click of button away from you! And yet they invested RM600K for the system that doesn’t serve the purpose. Might as well just create a file in Excel Format, ask every department to daily input the data from their end, and the controller just need to view the file in order to do his or her job chasing the lots. No unnecessary meeting required!


2. Over commit: Demand > Capacity & Availability.
The product required by the customers varies from time to time. The latest requirement is not inline with the current production capacity. In normal cases we can deliver a product within 3 weeks time, but the new product required a longer cycle time to be manufactured. If the PP still commits the dates according to the old capacity (which is obsolete in this case) you can already foresee a backlog. But the PP & Sales had to oblige with the customer’s date and just taking chances because customers likes to reject the actual dates they provide. I can see this is the culprit of the whole problems that arises. They should be firm with their decision & do it right in the first place. You shouldn’t make promises you cannot fulfill. If you cannot deliver early means you cannot deliver early, unless you do improvements to speed things up.

3. Working Culture
The staff had too many manual work to do, which is evidently time consuming and not productive at all. They are so stuck up with their own task and have little time left for brain storming or value added activities. Stress, is a very important factor too. The unsolved problems have causes people to be numb. It is difficult for them to change as they are slowly loosing the drive and motivation. They just accept it as it is. I guess they are just frustrated.

What can I do?
1. Identify the main caused of the backlogs: unrealistic delivery dates to customer
2. Rectify the problem:
Improvement -> create a method of how to come out with the best delivery date for customer and document it for future reference
Obtain current information -> revised cycle time & lead time for all process
WIP monitoring tool -> for quick action, to create an overview file with Excel, extract the data from the current MRP system
Working style -> cut out on manual work & create shortcuts, eliminate non productive activities
Communication & Information flow -> obtain actual overview of production activities from the operators & technicians

I already have some ideas. So now it’s time to get it done. It might not be the best idea in the world, but someone had to take the first step. Hope I can get back the coffee break I’ve been longing for very soon.

p/s: haha, it's labor day and I'm still thinking about work. No wonder I don't have a love life!

The Clan