“What are we short on this week?”

That’s a question that door and window plant managers have probably been asking themselves a lot lately. Whether it’s glass, vinyl, or something simpler, like weatherstripping, a wide range of components and raw materials have been in short and inconsistent supply for months. For managers and shop workers that I’m in regular contact with, it’s created a situation where every week brings a new challenge.

How can shop floor managers effectively work with what’s on hand while cutting into lengthy lead times for customers? Today’s tip is simple in theory, but may not always be easy to execute:

Focus on teamwork.

Throughout my time in the fenestration industry, I’ve always found the work to be highly rewarding. There’s always a new challenge to solve—it might be identifying how to economically hit a higher performance target, or it might be troubleshooting a technical problem. Today, it’s how to deliver on customer expectations when supply chain reliability is in a state of flux.

Importantly, most challenges often involve more than one person’s ability to solve them. Continued collaboration with other smart people is part of why I love my job. Considering all of this, I sometimes find myself wondering exactly why we find it such a continuous struggle to find and retain good workers. The ongoing labor shortage will be familiar to anyone reading this blog, and there are plenty of contributing factors. Sure, the work can be challenging sometimes; more often than not, overcoming those challenges will be fulfilling.

How can shop floor managers use this to their advantage? Emphasize to new employees what this job really is: It’s being part of a team that’s always working toward a common goal, and it’s about continuously learning and applying new knowledge and skills. If these things are clear to new hires from the start, it might be more likely they’ll stick around. From there, a heightened sense of camaraderie and teamwork can better enable your manufacturing operation to find success in today’s hot market.

In light of supply chain shakeups, teamwork with your vendors and suppliers is critical right now, too. Everyone knows the challenges we’re collectively facing, so it’s been hard for anyone to complain too much about extended supply lead times. But continued collaboration will be a necessity as we work to deliver on increased demand without lead times being pushed any further than they already have been.

Throughout the past year, we’ve all had to find new ways to work together. We’ve done so successfully, and it will take our collective effort as we head into this year’s busy season. Let’s keep the focus on teamwork.

Donna Hinkle is Senior Technical Services Representative for Quanex.

1 Comment

  1. This is a very confusing article.

    You present a very real problem for manufacturers: our suppliers cannot fulfill their promises of on-time and complete. When the fertilizer hit the ventilator last spring, it affected every business in America, not to mention the world. Some very, very bad decisions were made in the supply chain by some of our OEM suppliers. A lot of them made smart decisions as well. But the very real problem of supply is not going to be overcome by platitudes and bumper sticker advice. “Teamwork”, “collaboration” and “working for a common goal” is not going to complete a window if our suppliers are satisfied with 80% complete and only three weeks late. We can’t send out 99.9% of a window.

    You promised a simple solution. I guess that’s on back order as well.

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