Thursday, July 2, 2020

The "X Factor" in Determining a Modular Plant's Capacity

I recently read Modcoach's post on the causal factors in projecting plant production capacity.  The article rightly attributed production capacity to several factors including the product (what) and the market (who).  Or basically what type of product are you building?  Other obvious determinants are plant design, material flow and access, jigs and fixtures, equipment to mention a few.

However, the one “X Factor" that I have seen repeatedly over the 40+ years I have been in the industry, that impacts plant capacity is ATTITUDE.  It trumps all the above and if not aligned with the other factors will significantly alter what goes out the door.  It matters not the metrics used be they floors, square footage, lineal footage, or sales dollars……they will be impacted.  

Upon entering the modular manufacturing industry, I was part of a three-plant operation in Pa. that built high end custom single family housing and occasional multifamily projects.  We consistently for many years produced 20 modules/floors per week out of each plant.  Each plant was approximately 45,000 square feet!  I didn’t know that couldn’t be done.  The plant personnel didn’t know any other way.  The owner and COO believed it, we all believed it and it was not an option….it was done.

I moved on to other plants of varying sizes from 113,000 square feet to over 200,000 square feet.  The 113,000 square foot plant when I took over was producing less than 10 per week.  The plant was two years old, properly equipped, and had over 24 line spaces.  From production management through the rank and file they did not believe they could do more than they were producing.  They were right!  

Attitudinally they were convinced for various reasons they were maxed out.  It took a while, but our team was able to increase production to 30 per week and it could have gone higher.  We had to address their concerns and “reasons” for lack of production.  We listened.  We acted and gained their confidence through effective communications and produced/ measured results.  

Over time their attitudes changed dramatically.  They developed a can-do attitude……and they were again right.  The oft used saying “if you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right either way” is spot on.

I don’t pretend that the Norman Vincent Peale type approach, (positive attitude) is the only link in the production capacity chain.  Attitude however is a necessary link in that chain.  If not addressed or if ignored it will severely impact the capacity of any facility.

Bill Murray is a professional consultant offering services to prospective owners performing due diligence as well as growth and expansion situations. 

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