Industry Insights

Onsite leadership: accept no substitute

Who do you think is an effective operations manager? Is it a supervisor casually strolling the floor? Someone watching a live video feed while sitting at a computer? The truth is, neither of these people are going to help you maximize your production. That’s because both demonstrate a passive approach.

Based on Leadpoint’s many years of experience managing teams onsite for our clients we have identified what it takes to insure that skills are learned retained, and offered in a way that can be continually built upon and improved.

The key is active vs. passive staff supervision. Most managers want workers to ramp up quickly, but they don’t have the time or patience to accomplish that goal. What’s needed is an “on the floor” operations manager actively supervising staff at all times.

From day one that person will intuitively scope out the entire operation. Chances are, a quick scan with experienced eyes will bring up scores of issues.

The laser-like focus begins with close attention to people and processes. Are the sorters positioned correctly by the belt? Are their eyes looking ahead towards the product, instead of looking straight down? Are they safety compliant and has a safety audit been completed? Do the sorters even know what they’re doing? If not, they need to be retrained.

People want to be managed. They don’t like the unknown. If you’re not actively managing staff, then they don’t know if they’re doing a good job. A smart operations manager praises the top performers—and offers helpful instructions to struggling sorters. Staff needs to understand expectations. They should be watched, tracked and measured—not to harass them, but to help them do their job. In this era of low unemployment, you want to do everything you can to keep good people on board and on the line.

Managers also need to pay close attention to equipment—and the shiniest and newest machinery can easily cause problems. Many waste/recycling managers don’t have enough industry expertise. They can’t look at a machine and tell you what’s wrong with it. They can’t take a hammer out and hit in on the right spot and say, “There. Now it’ll work.”

At Leadpoint we’re fortunate to have operations managers who have run every type of machine there is. They inherently understand what can go wrong with equipment and know what it takes to keep it running.

Above all, they need to manage the entire process—and think quickly to avoid lengthy work stoppages. This alone can involve a multitude of issues that change from day to day. For example, are you starting a machine and expecting it to run, then assuming that everyone knows what they’re doing? Do you provide instructions to sorters, then turn around and walk away without checking to make sure they understand? Have you noticed excessive staff downtime? What are you doing to address it? You can recover hours of production time by addressing fairly simple mechanical and operational issues.

A strong manager will do everything in his power to help a plant maximize output. They should be able to provide an accurate estimate of how many tons your plant is running—and what you can do to bring those numbers up.

So, it all comes down to constantly being on the floor and actively managing staff so they can do a better job.

There is no substitute for deep industry knowledge and experienced operational leadership.

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