If your shop is like a lot of others around the country, every morning several members of your staff congregate in a meeting room to review the plan for production on that day. Orders large and small, problems with art or inventory, jobs that “have to go” and others are all discussed, usually led by the production manager or the person that does your scheduling. Sometimes there is some horse-trading too – as maybe not everything will be able to be printed for a multitude of reasons, so job production is rearranged to get the most jobs out. Or at least the ones that the scream the loudest. Or have an account rep that brings in cookies.
This meeting could last up to about thirty minutes, but when your production level spikes it could last up to an hour. Decisions are made and the meeting breaks up. Not everyone leaves happy sometimes. Maybe it’s even fun…with coffee, muffins and good morning jokes.
However, it is a complete waste of time and it’s costing you a lot of money. Here’s why:
If you grab a piece of paper and a pencil, based on what you are paying everyone you could easily calculate the per hour cost of that meeting. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that there are five people in the meeting. Your production manager ($24/hour), one artist ($14/hour), one customer service rep ($16/hour), one shipping clerk ($14/hour), and one salesperson ($20/hour). Add that up, and its $88 per hour for that meeting. Expand that for a year’s worth of half-hour meetings, and you are spending $11,440 just in salary cost alone to have a production meeting. Your results will vary, of course. (Challenge: Add up the cost of your daily meeting per hour!!!)
Now, let’s think about why you have the meeting in the first place. It’s a crutch. Most shops have the production meetings mainly because nobody uses their system correctly, and possesses the discipline to enforce standards that the company should be operating with. The information in the system is lacking in some way; the dates entered are padded because sales and the customer service reps have been burned by production so they don’t trust that it will go out on time, or maybe there are challenges along the way with getting the art approved or all the inventory delivered – but the ship date never moves. The need for the production meeting is apparent, as your staff isn’t doing their jobs correctly and each day the schedule has to be filtered down to what you can actually accomplish with a discussion.
So how do you fix it? What’s the alternative? First, everyone has to agree that you want to move in another direction and agree to work towards that goal. Below are some challenges that should get you thinking:
- Whatever system you use, everyone has to do their part correctly. All departments have to use the system and mark their part of the work complete each and every time. Staff members agree to put all notes in the system, and not handwrite anything on the work orders.
- Ship dates and In-Hands dates must be the real ones. This is a cardinal rule that can’t be broken. If you are padding dates, you are forcing the “we have more time” thought around the order. It becomes a moving target, and the information is unreliable. Once in a while that client’s order uses a real date, when normally it would be padded, nobody will trust that it’s accurate and when push comes to shove, this is the order that gets bumped.
- Based on your staff’s skill level and equipment, you need to calculate how much time is needed for each step of the process along the way and then set some rules to work by. For example, art will need to be approved two working days before production is to start. This gives the art staff time to separate the file so the screen room has time to burn the screens. The goal should be that the screens are ready for use one business day before the job is to start printing. The goal of production is to work towards finishing printing one business day before the posted ship date.
- You should know your daily capacity in production based on real numbers. Use your production logs, and average out how many impressions or jobs can be printed on each press on a normal shift. If your customer service or sales team books jobs that exceed those numbers you should start talking about overtime, moving some jobs around, adding another shift, or contracting the work. It’s crucial that your front office is trained to understand the production schedule, and comprehend the impact on crowding the schedule and agreeing to challenges.
- Your production schedule should be available for all to see. Whether it’s in your computer system, on your server, or just a whiteboard on the wall of the shop; it’s mandatory that everyone is trained to review the schedule constantly and make adjustments to their department based on the ebb and flow of the work coming in. Each department has to support each other and get their tasks completed – the earlier the better.
- There’s one thing that’s certain, and that you are always going to have crucial “have to go” jobs every day. These could be for an important client, maybe they are already late, or you just want them to go early to impress a new customer. Regardless, you need a way to earmark them so everyone knows to “work on this first”. These are the first jobs you pull to the press in the morning (or if you are like our shop, we like to start them the day before), so you are assured they will go out on time. Some shops use brightly colored stickers, different colored paper, or job jackets for the work orders. We add a “$” to the front of our customers PO numbers so we can simply run a report each day on what is the crucial “can’t fail” jobs. This is reviewed by each department constantly and everyone gets to work to make it happen.
- People have to pay attention. Any challenges to the timing of the schedule have to be handled and decisions made. Inventory shipping in from two different distributors on different days? How will that affect the production? Art not approved? How will that back up the screen room? Everyone should be trained to review their chunk of the schedule three or four times a day, and really dig into what’s coming up tomorrow or the next day. Your staff may also need to get up out of their chairs or pick up the phone and talk to other departments to resolve challenges. The longer your company waits to tackle a potential problem, the larger it will grow as it nears the deadline. You want to be in the “Hey, I just noticed this” stage…not in the “Oh no! What are we going to do?” stage.
- The more you standardize your company’s policies and procedures, the better chance you will have of weaning off the production meeting need. It’s the system, discipline, and training that you have to have to support the idea of not having a production meeting.
So what do you do to get this started? Well, the first step is to recognize that you have a problem and are willing to do what it takes to work towards improvement. It may be hard and require some real work. I would suggest getting all of your stakeholders involved and brainstorm on how it could work in your shop. Ask the hard questions. There may not be some readily available answers without some research or work writing new policies. Test it out. Maybe try it on a Friday, or your lightest production day of the week. Learn what works, and make changes and improvements on what is a little more difficult. Make sure everyone’s concerns are heard and addressed.
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One question. Have you heard of the phrase, “Measure twice, cut once”? Think about it…
Rick – of course…one of my favorites!! -M
We have daily production meetings @ the end of day. Never more than 15 minutes. Amazing amounts of information can be shared in a more timely and impactful way. It also insure that the focus remains on the most important projects based on the too numerous to count changes that happen everyday to the job board.
The meetings are not a substitute to every described above but rather an enhancer to the process and wonderful to keep team connected as a group.
That’s great if it works for you. However, imagine how much more efficient your company could run if whatever you are discussing in the meeting was already in your system, your staff trained and empowered to make decisions, and the correct information conveyed so everyone can look it up? I get it, sometimes a meeting is needed…but daily decisions about what to produce first can be handled in an automatic way without them if you set it up correctly. It just takes some work. Just for fun, jot down the hourly rate for everyone in the room, multiply by .25 (for 15 minutes) and multiply by 260 (52 weeks a year * 5 days a week). Using my $88 an hour rate in the example – you just spent $5,720 a year for that 15 minute meeting. And honestly doesn’t it last longer than 15 minutes? This is why using your system, training people, some discipline and empowerment can pay off for you long term. -M
If all that was discussed was which orders to do first, I would agree. But our systems our extensive and updating constantly which gives us a foundation. But $5,720 is a pretty minor amount to pull a team together for face to face interaction. How often does your management get together as a team? What value would you put on those interactions? Far more that $500.00/month. Granted we are a large facility but those 10 minutes with the team together at the end of the day are priceless for the espirit de corp.
Then that make sense and is worth it! There is nothing wrong with meetings, per se…unless there’s a better way to achieve the same goal or result. This article was really focused on just daily production scheduling…stuff that’s gotta’ happen anyway. -M
Thats great:)..Its good when people look at the smaller seeming yet more important aspects.
Some fine suggestions that apply to any production environment (printing, machine shops, steel fabricators, etc.). Learning to enter everything into the system, whether electronic, on paper, or a whiteboard, then committing to accomplishing your portion of the process is a manageable (but often ignored) component of an effective system. Thanks for sharing!
Great – Article …. as I read it I was thinking of how true it rings to our facility….”Do not hand write anything on Work Orders” is the tough one for me to adhere too 🙂
Thanks! As we all know, the problem with handwriting anything on the work order is that its not searchable by anyone else, and what happens if the sheet gets mangled or destroyed? Better to train people to learn how to read the work order for the information, and have the discipline to check and comprehend the order before beginning your task.