Long ago in the mists of time, the young Michael started his career at 7:30 on a dark September morning. It is the UK after all. In I strode, trying to look my best, the tolls of University however showing their effect, the soles of my shoes flapping as I walked having long since lost containment with the rest of my shoes….
I was really happy to have found employment so soon after leaving University. The next few months flew by getting down to some serious work. Christmas and New Year holidays saw the site shut-down and travel back to the mother-ship to recant the tales of life working in a Japanese manufacturing facility. Back to work after that for a few more months. Then, a new experience. Vacation. This is not the same thing as the shut-down at the end of the year. Vacation is when everyone else works, but you don’t. There was a real and unexpected feeling of guilt driving out of the company car park on the Friday afternoon knowing I would not be back for nine whole days. Though my contribution to the overall operation was only slight at that time, I wondered how they would manage without me. No mobile phones or email in those days. It was a home telephone call or nothing, and we were going to be in Spain, somewhat worse for wear as it turned out….
Over the years, the vacation guilt disappeared. The mission was to ensure that everything was stable and everyone was in control before leaving. It was actually quite a peaceful few years, even though we were inventing new manufacturing systems continuously, serious issues during vacations were almost unheard of.
This cannot be said for most people in manufacturing management today. The dreaded email and mobile phone means that people can be contacted, and often are. Calls, meetings, WebEx, all of them intrude into private life, all the time. The acceptance of this ability seems to have led to a softening of management and control in the operation. Risks are more tolerated, operations less precise, checking less detailed, all resulting in what seems like a more agile operation, but ultimately leads to an operation that saps human resource continuously, whether working or on vacation.
This is not good, and you would have thought, not sustainable. Production managers should always be a part of the solution, and not the problem. It is important not to have a critical operation based on any key person. Understanding an operation, how to keep it going, how to react to certain unexpected changes needs to be something that is simple and visible, such that any decent manager can make good decisions, and not necessarily only the manager that keeps the critical aspects of his operation in his head. The “system” needs to be visible. Tools need to be easily understood. The status of everything needs to be available.
A challenge then. Most of you reading this are in the Northern hemisphere, or at least will take a vacation in the next couple of months or so. Will you be able to do so at the time you wanted? Will your vacation be free of emergency calls and meetings? Will you feel guilty if you turn off the phone and laptop? If you are unable to do this, then there may be an opportunity to look at your personal management. Are the manufacturing systems in place managing the operation, or are they managing you? Of course, by now you know that I am going to recommend that you take a good look at Valor MSS, which represents the system you would love to have, if you value your free time……. Sign up also for our webinar next week which looks into reporting, the essence of the visibility that enables your vacation “stand-in” to be able to carry on your good work, without hassle, and without the threat of you coming back into an end of vacation “war-zone”…….