As Director Operations – in Dunlap at MANN+HUMMEL USA – my main responsibility is to ensure that the production floor is running smoothly and the operators have everything they need to be as productive as possible. However, I also need to coordinate with other departments, plants and offices, so I am often in conference calls, meetings, or tied to my office putting together reports. It can sometimes be difficult to balance these two conflicting demands of my job.
My role means I need to be everywhere
Here at MANN+HUMMEL USA, we hold regular Town Hall meetings to hear feedback from our associates. At one recent meeting in Dunlap, an operator commented that I wasn’t out on the production floor enough. He said that it’s important for morale and reassuring for employees to see their plant manager. This was difficult to hear, but true; I could sometimes be stuck in my office all day. It was clear that my availability is imperative to support the operators and resolve any problems or issues quickly and easily. I had to find a way to be there for everyone.
I discussed the problem with our Facilities Engineer. I told him I needed to conduct meetings and complete paperwork, but not be tied to the office. I wanted to be out on the production floor, be accessible and not be rooted to one spot. Together we came up with a very simple but effective solution – the mobile office.
The office that goes with me
So, what is the mobile office? Well basically, it’s a desk on wheels. I have everything I need to do my job on the production floor: power strip, extension cord, monitor, mobile charger, storage shelf. I just walk up with my laptop and connect it, take the mobile office to wherever I want to go (or where I am needed), plug it in to a nearby 110V outlet and I’m ready to work. I’m visible and available to our operators and, if I need to be in a conference call, I find a quieter place so I can participate.
We used spare parts to build the first prototype mobile office and it was even height adjustable so anyone could use it, not just me. In fact, that might have been our first (and only) mistake – once everyone saw me using the desk and saw how practical it was, other managers started borrowing it. The mobile office was such an instant hit that we actually built six more to satisfy demand. Now, we encourage our Supervisors and Zone Managers to use the desks so they are out there on the floor, where they should be!
Do you need to be in several places at once?
I am sure our mobile office is a handy, practical solution to a common problem worldwide. In fact, my brother is Operators Manager at the MANN+HUMMEL factory in Portage, Michigan and I told him about what we had done. He wanted to try one out for himself, so we broke one down and sent it “flat packed” to Michigan. Wherever you are in the MANN+HUMMEL world, if you have the same problem as I did and want to know more about the mobile office (or even build one for yourself), please let me know.