One of my first jobs after leaving university, was in the automotive industry. I started as a logistics analyst, looking after the biggest production line …. It was quite daunting to be given that much responsibility, but I love a challenge!
My first task was to reduce the amount of inventory the company was holding, so I created a system to monitor our stock levels.
It worked out how much the client needed, then planned the production line and created a list of materials to be ordered so they could build the right parts.
And sometimes I got it wrong.. The client would change their mind, or our production line would decide that it was easier to make more of the blue ones, or there would be a quality problem.
Whatever the reason, because I didn’t have sufficient buffers, I would run out of stock and feel devastated. My first thought each time, was that I was going to be sacked!!
My manager would talk to me, find out why it happened, and I would get on the phone to special order new stock (usually at a higher cost), but I soon learnt from that.
I would replan production to ensure that we didn’t have 30 people all stood around waiting for the parts to arrive. There’s nothing more embarrassing than seeing a production line come to a halt, just because you haven’t got the materials for them to build… even if its because they built the wrong things!
I hated having to put myself and the company in that position. I would feel panic and frustration throughout my body, even now my palms get clammy just thinking about it!
But it couldn’t have been all that bad. When we won the new Toyota project, I was asked to take on the logistics side of the project. This meant liaising with operations, quality and purchasing, as well as the production teams and designing a work flow to ensure the materials flowed through the system as efficiently as possible.
It was a totally different way of planning.
Instead of holding buffers at each stage of production and at the clients location, we were building to order….. well after a fashion!
It was still more efficient to bulk build, but the work in progress was much lower than the other production lines. Packaging was smaller and production was based on the Kanban system of just building to order.
This also meant that even more so, I was ordering materials to just satisfy demand, rather than holding it just in case…. A lot more risky, as inventory was now down to days, rather than weeks!
Which meant that I had to be more assertive with the production line. When they built out of sync, we would run out of stock and couldn’t build what the client wanted, which then resulted in me having to replan, so that we could still satisfy client requirements.
I remember getting so frustrated with the production manager, that I nearly walked out. Luckily my angry outburst did result in them building to plan… most of the time!
So having a plan doesn’t mean that nothing will go wrong, what it does mean, is that if something does go awry, then you can identify where you need to go back to and more easily get back on track.
It also means that you can’t plan 24/7… you need to have some slack, so that if things do start going off plan, that you can sit back and rework your plan
Even now, I have a broad plan of what I need to do on a monthly basis, then each Sunday I review what I’ve got to do and then create a more robust plan for that week.
Each day I try to spend a few minutes at the end of the day to review progress and update the plan if needed. This way if something unexpected comes up, or a friend drops round for a coffee, I can adapt and not end up wasting the day.
What about you? Do you plan your week, or do you just wing it and hope for the best? Please comment below and let me know
If you need help planning your tasks, then why not contact me and see how I can help