3 Tips to Building a Winning Production Improvement Team

A Winning Team is built on more than just luck

Picking teams can be one of the most cruel grade school rites of passage. Selections are rarely based on need, kindness, or even logic.  Inevitably there are a few lonely stragglers left to be thrust onto teams they know don’t want anything to do with them.

Building the right team can be the difference between success and failure.

Building the right team can be the difference between success and failure.  Photo: colourbox.com

Unfortunately, many times Production Improvement teams are built the same way, with the same, sad results.  A manufacturing need will force co-workers together, with little strategic thought.  The team is given a monumental task with huge potential upside (paperless manufacturing, production control, and real-time visibility of operations are potential game-changers), but without the right people or skill sets in place on the team, you’ll have minimal gains for maximum effort.

Ensuring you have the right people will pay huge dividends for the project.  Here are a few tips for asking the right people to your production improvement team.

1) Ask yourself, what solution are you looking for?  Production improvement projects begin with a challenge that must be overcome.  Understanding the motivation behind the project should guide team selection.  For example, if your shop floor struggles with document control, then having someone who understands how documents are currently managed, and how they should be managed, would help.  If your company can’t make an accurate estimate on shipping dates, then having a customer service or business representative on the team makes sense.

This seems like an obvious strategy, but the key here is making an honest assessment of the challenges, analyzing potential solutions, and make sure you have buy-in from everyone on the team.  Creating a successful committee or team begins by doing more than just assigning people; it’s assigning or recruiting the right people who will get results.  Limiting membership also keeps the project focused.  Many MES or paperless manufacturing improvement projects struggle against bloated functionality lists when team members bring priorities outside of the original scope of the project.  This leads to increased costs, longer project schedules, and increased risk.

2) Recruit key stakeholders as soon as possible.  When creating a production improvement team, you will (almost) always need a few key team members.  First, you’ll need someone from operations.  Without approval and buy-in from the shop floor, your solution will become shelfware instead of software.  The existing production process, which operations manage, should shape the solution you select.  Early involvement of operations will save work later in the project.

Next, you’ll want a representative from IT.  IT may not use the new software every day, but they will maintain and troubleshoot the system.  They want an integrated software solution that works with existing systems and won’t be a burden on their team resources.

Finally, you need a representative from management on your team.  They will be a trusted voice and advocate to the executive team who helps earn approval for the project, and can ensure buy-in for the new system in all departments.  This representative may not lead the team, but they help coordinate efforts and overcome internal challenges.

3) Ensure you have the right skill sets for your project.  Match the tasks on your to-do list with the skills on your team.  This will prevent future frustration that can potentially slow progress.  For example, many times a company will require a study on the projected ROI (Return On Investment) before releasing funds for software.  Make sure you have someone on your team confident enough in completing a cost analysis to convince management the project is worthy of approval.

You might also need to prepare an RFI or RFQ, or lead a presentation to management on your findings.  If there is no one on your team with the experience or confidence in these tasks, then you may need to recruit additional help.  No matter how large your team, you may still need to recruit outside help, but proactively plan these steps before problems arise.

What is your strategy for building a successful team?

What is your strategy for building a successful team?

The comparison between a schoolyard kickball game and a potentially game-changing manufacturing decision involving cutting-edge software may seem ludicrous at first, but often a lack of strategy when team-building will destroy a project before it even begins- the same result schoolyard teams’ face.  Many times, it’s obvious who should be on the production improvement team.  Projects move smoothly through the committee, funds are found and the system implemented without a hitch.  Even so, it never hurts to have a strategy and plan in place when building your team.

What are your thoughts on how to create an effective team?  How have you found success (or failure) in team building?  Let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

The holidays are in full swing!  Our next blog is scheduled for Christmas Day (which means we’ll be releasing our next blog a little later so it’s not lost in the festivities).  We’re going to take a look at a few manufacturing ideas waiting to take off in the New Year.  Have an excellent holiday!  Stay safe, stay warm, and see you soon!

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