The Job Shop Animal

Posted by Bruce Hendrick on Thu, Jul 5, 2012 @ 15:07 PM

Welcome to the new RBB blog, authored primarily by Bruce Hendrick, president and CEO of RBB Systems. Guest bloggers will occasionally join our discussion as topics dictate.

Photo og Bruce Hendrick

This conversation is meant to be useful, targeted and very informal. We are not here to sell or thump our chests; the reader can decide whether RBB is a good fit for their business needs by visiting www.rbbsystems.com. If it feels like we are selling to you, by all means please call us on it!

We will explore many aspects of managing a “small batch” business, including:

  • How to thrive amid constant change
  • Relevant (and irrelevant) measurements
  • Why interpersonal trust matters and what to do about it
  • “Job shop” need not equal “mom & pop”
  • An approach to LEAN for the rest of us
  • The best kind of production schedule
  • Common job shop threats, trapdoors, and quicksand
  • How to get staffing right (well, mostly)
  • Plant layout musings
  • Healthy and unhealthy conflict
  • Capital investment in the absence of capital
  • Backlogs?  Forecasts?  Pshaw, as if!

The Job Shop animal

At this moment I am finalizing (ok, starting) my speech for the “JobShopLean” Conference coming up July 10-12 at my alma mater, The Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio. The conference is yet more evidence that “small batch” businesses across industries often have more in common with each other than with “large batch” brethren within their own trades. In other words, in many ways RBB is more akin to a short run, high mix Tool & Die business than to high volume electronic contract manufacturers.

Yeah.  So what? 

Aside from the technical aspects of (in our case) building quality printed circuit boards and related assemblies, we have learned that most of the conventional thinking of the smartest people… of the largest players… with the deepest pockets… simply doesn’t apply to running a responsive, successful, thriving, and fun job shop.  But maybe I’m jumping ahead. Perhaps in this inaugural blog entry I should be more precise about my use of the term “job shop”. 

Here are some typical features common to most job shops. This is not an exhaustive list (although it certainly can be exhausting):

  • A high mix of components/assemblies, each with variable volume
  • Diverse customer base with dissimilar needs and priorities
  • Products are designed/specified by the customer and so frequentlRBB job shop circuit boardsy change midstream
  • Large number of products, often with different manufacturing routings (process steps)
  • Unpredictable/volatile product demand
  • Irregular batch sizes; product costs change often
  • Limited or no sales forecast
  • Unstable delivery dates; frequent customer expedites
  • Highly variable setup times, dependent on the materials used and routing steps
  • Labor/staffing environment that is troubled with peaks and valleys
  • Limited control over the supplier base (pricing, delivery)
  • Complex scheduling logic with frequent constraints on sequence
  • Employee training that is ever important and rarely adequate

Clearly, the techniques needed to overcome these job shop challenges require a different mindset than the higher volume, high-speed operations. Small batch life is a very difficult, ongoing test of teamwork and resilience. It is also why many job shops are intent on “outgrowing” the small batch realm so that they can “arrive” at a higher volume, and theoretically less stressful, world. If this describes your own intentions, I understand fully (more than you know)… but this blog is definitely not for you!

This blog is dedicated to job shop excellence.  It is designed to help leaders – regardless of their industry and where they find themselves on their org chart – to bring order to the chaos, serve their customers well, have a ball along the way, strengthen their financials, and make a few bucks too. And all without becoming something other than a great job shop.

It starts with the belief that such a thing is achievable. If that’s you, please subscribe and let’s help each other find greatness!

Bruce Hendrick has been a leader of major change in corporations and small business alike for the past 25 years; currently he's the owner of RBB Systems and Organizational Development Services, LLC; noted speaker, author, active church member and community volunteer.

Topics: Small Batch Electronics, About RBB