5 Tips to Effectively Manage an Assembly Team
by Joe Hoffman - VP of Operations, Timco Rubber Products, Inc.
1) Be Flexible
With the current state of the economy, and its effect on today's business environment, it has never been more important to be flexible with regards to scheduling and manufacturing. Orders will fluctuate, as will the part assemblies that accompany them — it's important to allow for these fluctuations in order to meet the customer's needs. The more flexible you are, the happier your customer will be.
This philosophy must be carried down from top management levels to the people on your sub assembly team — they need to understand that their workload may be sporadic, and that adjustments may be necessary.
To increase flexibility and your overall reliability to your customers, several solutions can be put in place if managed correctly. For example, at Timco we have established a KANBAN system of inventory management for one of our largest customers who require small parts assembly. With this system we are able to maintain the necessary levels of inventory based on scheduling that tells us when we need to replenish inventory and how much we need to replace. Other practices that allow us to increase our flexibility with customers who require part assemblies include the option for same day delivery on last minute needs and the ability to hold safety stock in case these needs arise.
2) Be prepared to wear many hats
In dealing with small assemblies for a variety of customer needs, you will undoubtedly come across a number of different assembly processes that will require a equal number of unique procedures. You need to be able to train your employees effectively in all facets of the assembly procedures which, as a manager, you must understand completely yourself.
Don't be above pitching in at any time to get the job done. Remember No.1 up there? Ya, this is part of that flexibility — a manager that is willing to get his or her hands dirty and do some clamping, labeling, inspecting is a manager that earns the respect of their team. Don't bring your ego with you to your team.
3) Have Patience
It's important to scale your expectations and give assembly team members time to learn the requirements and processes of new jobs as they come in. As new assembly projects come in, take the time to teach each individual employee the customers' expectations of the part. Don't just provide them with a sheet of work instructions— actually work with your team members and explain why a customer wants the part to be the way it is.
Always encourage accuracy over speed — after all, order an completed quickly with poor assembly that ultimately gets rejected will be more detrimental to your business than an order that may be a day late but has perfectly assembled parts.
4) Give people the tools they need to succeed
Make sure that the assembly equipment is always up to date and in proper working order — without the proper tools, the assembly team can get frustrated which will only lower the quality of work and effort put in by a team using already insufficient equipment. Always be sure that the assembly working environment is maintained to the standards of safety and beyond those that are required.
Always be looking for opportunities to improve the assembly processes in new and inventive ways. More importantly, ask your team how the process can be improved. These are the people who are repeating the task 1000's of times a day, they know what works and what doesn't, and, more likely than not, their suggestions will be based on their experiences
Be aware of new technologies available in the assembly and manufacturing industry. By being aware of new process improvements available, we were recently able to implement automated rubber tube cutting machinery that has improved our both our workflow and the quality of our assemblies. What new technology can you improve your assemblies with?
5) Don't micromanage unless it is necessary
As long as the resources are available to your assembly team to manage the job at hand, they should be able to what is required of them. When you leave your employees to their jobs, you foster an atmosphere of trust that allows them to take ownership to the task at hand and feel empowered to complete the job based on nothing but their own competence and desire to perform.
About the author
Joe Hoffman is Vice President of Operations for Timco Rubber Products. Joe joined Timco in 1989 after spending his first 6 years out of college in industrial sales. He took over as VP of Operations in 2008 when then president Jim Kuzmick retired. Joe attended Bowling Green State University and graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration.