I am the production manager of a medium-sized factory in Laguna. When I assumed the job eight months ago, I was surprised at the high rate of product defects, sometimes as high as 30%. On the average, we settle for a defect rate of about 15%. That means a lot of money for the company in terms of repairing them, if at all possible. If not, they are simply thrown away. When I analyzed the situation, it appears that our workers (more than half are subcontractors) are partly responsible for the problem. I haven’t been able to sleep for weeks trying to think of a solution. I’m not sure if hiring only regular workers would solve the problem. Can I charge the cost of defects to the agency workers? What do you think? — Deep Blue Sea.
Andy Capp walks home from a pub, arm-in-arm with a male friend while singing “Dear Old Pals.” As he enters his house shortly before midnight, he calls out to his wife: “Yoohoo! It’s me,” and then passes out on the floor. His wife walks over and covers him with a blanket and placed a pillow on his head as he reeks of liquor.
Andy wakes up and says: “Thanks, Sweetheart!” His wife replies:
“Don’t mention it as long as you don’t take your problems to bed with you.”
It should be the first step in the process. Don’t bring your work problems home no matter how difficult they are.
Just do whatever you think is best under the circumstances. Whatever your options, don’t delay in studying and implementing them all with the help of your workers. After all, they are closer to the ground. Again, don’t delay. An imperfect action is better than perfect inaction. But to answer your two questions on hiring only regular workers and charging the cost of defects to the agency workers, you have to explore both the pros and cons of it.
That’s because you don’t want to complicate things which may include the increased cost of hiring a regular workforce compared to outsourcing, if not the possible refusal of agency workers to pay for the defects because of their lack of training. At times, it would be difficult to discover the real root cause or causes of product defects.
For these reasons, I suggest that you consider the following broad strategies to reduce, if not eliminate product defects in your factory.
One, create and maintain a Total Quality Management policy. Or you can review your corporate Vision, Mission, and Value statements. Somehow, you can find a sound basis for implementing something that already exists in the first place. It is better that way than have these corporate statements exist as mere wallpaper in the factory’s lobby and showroom.
If there is none, now is the time to create something which you can refer to as the factory’s quality and productivity constitution. It should be holistic so that you don’t have to focus on only defect prevention as part of the TQM equation. You must have a systematic approach.
Two, develop a good working relationship with everyone. That includes the minimum wage earners, regardless of their employment status (regular or contractual). If they are treated well enough, they are more than willing to help management. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to be pleasant with all employees. It is as simple as going to their work stations, smiling to everyone, and offering your help to make things better.
Sometimes, the enemy is within your management team, especially if there’s one who was bypassed for promotion. If that happens, a different tack is necessary with the active participation of your CEO.
Three, show respect and interest for the workers’ suggestions. In fact, you must create an environment where all workers, regardless of rank, must provide ideas on how to improve product quality and labor productivity. You can install a Quality Circle Program or the Employee Suggestion Scheme. Whatever you want to call it, ensure that they become part of everyone’s key performance requirements.
Of course, there are times that workers would simply go through the process of giving ideas, but not enough to create a dent in the workplace. It’s better than nothing. At least, they’re communicating with you. Over a certain period, as you adjust your policy and procedures, people would have to respond positively.
Four, understand and learn how to manage routine objections. It’s part of the ball game. Be ready to be challenged by people who are used to enjoy their respective comfort zones before. But that’s an imperative if only you would like to show your worth to the whole organization. In doing this, you can develop as many individual approaches that fit into the personality of people.
There are many approaches that you can take on how to manage difficult workers and managers. The specifics will vary according to the requirements of the situation. But the most important point is how to create proactive communication strategies to gain the cooperation of most people.
Last, give credit where credit is due. It’s one basic thing in management you can’t afford to ignore. And it doesn’t have to be limited to giving material things. In fact, you don’t even have to give cash. I could write a book on many zero-cash strategies that motivate people to do their best. One of these is a reward points system, similar to what’s being done by credit card companies to entice their cardholders to use their cards more often.
The advantage of this is you don’t have to pay tax compared to when you give out cash incentives. Whatever you do, don’t forget to shine the spotlight on deserving people during yearend celebrations and corporate anniversaries.
In conclusion, let me tell you that these rules are not exactly comprehensive but more than enough to remind you of the basic things in people management. In whatever you do, be watchful of bottlenecks, including difficult managers who are plain indecisive, as well as others who, in their attempt to justify their existence, would question everything.
Whatever the reason, don’t focus your attention on the product defects. The real answers could be more than you bargained for.
ELBONOMICS: An imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.