Manufacturing Strategy
 - Part 11: Changing roles and things to do NOW!





So far in this series we have examined various concepts in how to schedule work through a factory to achieve control, responsiveness and above all reduced cost. The first article (if anyone can remember that far back!) said that the production people needed to start to act and think in a strategic way. Only by doing this could they influence how the company was run and develop an excellent manufacturing system that delivered the goods that were required.

The one aspect that we have not discussed in this series is how this change to a strategic view and responsive system affects the production manager and how he also needs to change and be flexible to the changes that are taking place around him. In this final article we look at this and some of the things that can be done now to improve your manufacturing.

  The changing role of the production manager

The introduction of a Manufacturing Strategy, in any form, involves a major change in the role of the production manager and in the way he manages his people. The main areas of impact are:

Time for reaction

The time for reaction is always reduced by a reduction in inventory and increased throughput. When using effective production scheduling the control of work should be automatic. There should be little, if any, need for the production manager to be involved in the routine scheduling of work. There should be no crises over late or last minute orders and the time consuming progress chasing aspect of the job will disappear. The down side of this is that work in progress will be so low that a line stoppage will require an immediate solution before it threatens the whole production line - there is no inventory to act as a buffer and safety zone.

The increased variety that is likely to be required by the market reduces the reaction time even further. Many different products means that we must be able to move work around our production lines, or cells, very flexibly to keep up with rapid shifts in demand. If you can only produce white casement windows then you are in real trouble when you get an order for brown or woodgrain products.

The production manager of the future will spend less time planning and controlling the process and more time reacting and solving the causes of problems to give fault free production.

Management Methods

There is a need to increase employee involvement and responsibility to achieve the rewards of partnership. This obviously means that in many cases the company 'culture' must change quite radically and this naturally changes way a production manager manages.

Instead of ruling by order, power and threats the Production Manager must now convince and persuade. When we hire a pair of hands for our production line then we get a brain thrown in for free, it is up to us to use it! At times it appears that British manufacturing management thinks that production workers leave their brains at the factory gate. The reality is that they are thinking human beings who need convincing, persuading and responsible treatment to get the best out of them. In the company of the future the only way to communicate will be to listen.

If we expect our staff to accept responsibility then we must give them the power that goes with this. In many Japanese companies the line workers have both the power and the responsibility to stop the production line if there is a problem. This contrasts to the traditional British way of working where to stop the line was the ultimate sin. Power and responsibility are totally linked. If you doubt this, then consider how you would feel if your boss gave you responsibility but none of the power to back it up, how would you regard your boss if he had the power but none of the responsibility for success or failure? In the company of the future the only way to retain power will be to share it.

These two factors show that there is a necessary change from being a 'boss' to being a 'facilitator'. The facilitator who helps to get things done and who can be challenged to provide proof is a different person to our traditional role and this will be a difficult transition.


The production manager has always been directly responsible for the quality of the goods produced but in the factory of the future there will be no avoiding this responsibility. This greater responsibility for ensuring product quality during production will highlight a need for training in quality assurance.

What to do now!

If you have been reading through this set of pages then I have given a lot of suggestions on actions to take to improve your manufacturing effectiveness. Here is a summary of some things that you could do to do now to improve your manufacturing. Remember: you need a set of goals to define your direction and a strategy to decide how to get there but you could do a lot worse than implement some of the ideas below.

(a) Factory layouts

(b) Incoming Goods / WIP/inventory

(c) Production

(d) Delivery of complete product

(e) Administration

There are many other things you can do but if you get through the above list then you will find the others along the way. The important point is not to worry unduly in the first stages about return on investment or profit but to get the structure of the manufacturing systems right. All the rest will fall into place once the manufacturing unit is in harmony with the rest of the business.

Above all measure, display, analyse and act to improve the results.

Conclusion and acknowledgements

This is the last in my series of articles on Manufacturing Strategy. It has been interesting writing the series as a method of exploring some of the newer ideas in manufacturing management and how they relate to the window business. I can only hope that you have had as much fun reading it as I have had in writing it! The series was designed to challenge, threaten and even amuse in places but above all it was designed to help us all get our manufacturing ideas right and relevant for the future. Manufacturing industry is the lifeblood of any nation and the manufacturing professionals are the guardians of that lifeblood. We have to get it right or we will find that the windows we sell are made overseas and yet another British industry is exported to more effective producers. We only have one chance so lets make it work.

"The Manufacturing Strategy" Series

"The Manufacturing Strategy" series is designed to give production managers and their staff some insights into new manufacturing methods and to prompt the industry into considering the benefits of alternative approaches to manufacturing. The series is:

Part 1: Setting the strategy

Part 2: The systems and MRP II

Part 3: Just in time (1) 

Part 4: Just in time (2) 

Part 5: Just in time (3) 

Part 6: Optimised Production Technology (OPT)

Part 7: A fundamental quality

Part 8: Quality management techniques & tools

Part 9: ‘There's no accounting for manufacturing strategy’

Part 10: Performance measurement

Part 11: Changing roles and things to do NOW! (This section)


Last edited: 11/03/10

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