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Who is an Ideal Shop Floor Manager| The Machine Maker

Who is an Ideal Shop Floor Manager?

To answer this question, we first need to identify the broad parameters that will establish his effectiveness. These are:

  1. Knowledge of his Job and Objectives
  2. Knowledge about his Resources
  3. Knowledge about his people (actually the most important resource and hence listed separately)
  4. Awareness of Safety, Environmental and various Statutory Rules & Regulations
  5. Updated knowledge/information on New Developments
  6. Awareness of performance benchmarks
  1. Knowledge of his Job & Objectives

An ideal shop floor manager must have a comprehensive knowledge of all the aspects of the allocated job. The manager must have all the responsibilities completely embedded in the mind.  These are:

  1. What are his specific responsibilities?
  2. Who are his customers and what are their needs and priorities?
  3. Who are his suppliers (Purchase, Stores, Shops prior to his in the manufacturing sequence) and what are their limitations and what support/ clarifications they need from him so that they can serve him better?
  4. His work targets – both quantity and time
  5. What are the work methods or methodologies to be used/ deployed to achieve the desired output in the time and cost specified? This will typically decide make-buy decisions
  6. What are the parameters for evaluating performance and information collection & reporting necessary for doing so
  1. Knowledge about his Resources

What are his resources? Classically, these are the 5 Ms – men, materials, machines, methods and money.

The first, i.e. men, is very important and in a class by itself, so it is discussed separately, below. Methods have already been alluded to in the first point, above, whilst Money we are excluding from the discussions here because it is assumed that the Shop Floor manager is operating under a sanctioned budget where the required money is already allocated.

The following is what he needs to fully know about his other resources, i.e. machines & materials:

  1. His plant and machinery and their state of fitness for operation

For example, he must ensure that all machines are in working condition at their optimum parameters – if a machine is working but can run only at half its speed, then that is not working at its “optimum parameter” and should not be called or understood as  working machine.

He needs to ensure that the operators carry out routine maintenance every day (e.g. cleaning, oiling, greasing etc.) and that the Maintenance (or Engineering) Department carries out the scheduled Preventive Maintenance regularly.

  1. Availability (physical and operational) of auxiliary equipment, tools, jigs, fixtures, dies, spares etc.

Very often machines are available and working but the required Jigs/ Fixtures/ Tooling are not available or cannot be found!  This renders the working machine absolutely impotent – it simply cannot be used.  Hence, a great deal of attention is required to ensure proper and full availability of such auxiliary equipment/tools.

  1. Input Materials used and required by him – their availability, scarcity and caution to be exercised in their handling and use

Again, if machines and tooling are available but the input material is NOT, then once again no output can be achieved.  So while keeping attention on his own machinery and tooling, the shop floor manager also needs to constantly check and regularly follow-up for timely and adequate availability of required input material as per budgeted production plan.

  1. Knowledge about his People (his most important Resource)

Knowing your people is not confined to just recognizing their faces or knowing their names – a pity that many managers do not even know that!  “Knowing your people” in this context means much more as listed below.

  1. Names, sections where working, in which shift
  2. Age, experience and qualification,
  3. Strengths (Skills and special competencies)
  4. Shortcomings (limitations) both in terms of skills as well as attitude/behavior
  5. Hence, areas where he/she needs training, guidance, counselling
  6. Potential for growth

As can be seen, knowing really means knowing their strengths, weaknesses and potential so that they can be assigned the right jobs/ responsibilities and taken off from assignments where they are likely to falter or make mistakes.  It also requires inputs of training, guidance and counselling so that they can grow to their full potential and thus get motivated to perform at their peak capabilities.

  1. Must keep himself abreast of changes and developments  in his sphere of working and all related areas

Without doubt this is the most important requirement for a successful Shop Floor Manager because only careful attention to this aspect will save him from obsolescence.  The areas where he needs to constantly update and keep himself abreast are:

  1. Technological
  2. Regulatory / Statutory
  3. Competitive
  4. Environmental / Safety / Societal

All technological developments do not immediately translate into a product or even a prototype – hence, one will not come to know about them in newspapers and magazines. You will need to institute a conscious search (which is now easy through the internet) of developments, in areas of your interest, in technical magazines or in the work of well-renowned Industrial Product Development & Design Labs or reputed Technology Institutes.

Similarly, you can keep your self-updated by becoming member of Professional Associations related to your work.

Constantly scan newspapers and government websites to know if any new laws or restrictions are being contemplated by regulatory/ statutory or Environmental/ Ecological authorities. Examine if it affects you.  If any of these bodies invite public views before enacting a new law, send them your views.

Constantly read about what your competition is doing or what it has achieved, where it has clipped; only this alertness will help you keep ahead of them.

  1. Must constantly benchmark himself against best performance parameters, internationally, and strive to attain and surpass them

This calls for self-motivation which pushes you to strive to be the best.  For this you need to know “what is the current best”, where do you stand in relation to that and how do you reach there or, even, surpass it.

This will call for extensive reading, meeting with people in the profession and exchanging notes, calling up friends and colleagues in similar or related business o know “what is going on” – in other word taking a lot of interest in the world around and making conscious efforts to understand and spot the direction in which the world is moving.

While the above may sound a theoretical ideal, it is not impractical.  There are countless examples of managers, across industries and countries, who are living embodiment of the above principles and you can also become one of them, should you wish so.  Best luck to you on an exciting journey towards excellence.

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