When you think about a factory or plant, what images does that conjure up? To some, factories are smoky, dingy, dirty, and dark places to work. Due to fierce pricing and quality pressures from abroad as well as with in the United States, domestic plants are competing for far fewer contracts than were available just 20 years ago. An example of the industry transformation can be seen from the Volkswagen You Tube video sensation below with 5.6 million hits and counting. VW – Factory of the Future: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd5WGLWNllA
Because of this manufacturing contract shortage, many factories are being transformed into clean, well lit, ergonomically friendly showplaces and plant managers lead the show. Today’s plant manager certainly needs to be aware of the latest safety requirements, personnel practices, and financial expectations. But in order to step above the competition a plant manager has to be a quality minded visionary, versed in technical leadership practices such as Lean Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement, and Error Proof Principles. He or she also has to be capable of imparting that mindset plant wide. The state of mind that one defect is too many and one line stoppage is intolerable must be understood and internalized to all employees from top management to the assembly worker.
A terrific training platform for plant management is manufacturing engineering. A manufacturing engineer has to have his or her finger on the pulse of every aspect of a smooth running organization. Safety, quality and productivity are the manufacturing engineer’s mantra and that is precisely what is needed for plant management. Technical leadership is the key. Manufacturing engineers lead projects, budgets, process safety, and key metrics but none of this is occurs smoothly with out skilled technical leadership. Unskilled engineers may fumble and bumble their way through tasks but only the true leaders will deliver seamlessly and those are precisely the credentials that make for solid plant managers.