Lessons from Temping as a Production Clerk

After I was laid off, I immediately started a temporary position helping with the daily operations of a manufacturing plant. The first few weeks there drove home to me more about "always be shipping" and mixing urgency with importance than had registered during the rest of my career.

My title was "Production Clerk" and all day Monday and something over half the day the rest of the week I processed paper work. I put in orders and prepared paperwork for them to be fulfilled, updated one aspect of the production schedule, and added information from the production logs to the reporting database.

But at 3:30 pm each afternoon I got to participate in the the daily production meeting. And that was the eye opener. My biggest lessons:

Daily Action

Progress on the priority project was expected each and every day. There was the understanding that this was in addition to the daily duties required to get product out the door, but it was still expected. And if it wasn't getting done, then an explanation of obstacles (with ways to remove them, if applicable) was also expected.

Always be Shipping

Projects were deliberately defined in chunks that could be set up and executed within a week or less, although the auditing of the training portion could extend for months. It' was one completed project after another. One potential for success or failure after another.

Also be Looking Forwards

Even though most of what we discussed was related to immediately obvious problems, some of it was also more overarching. The big picture was referred to on a regular basis and kept in mind. One area was not the exclusive focus, but things moved around.

Reprioritize Without Excuses

When a question about quality came up that involved a concerted effort, all the improvement projects were put on hold in order to first protect the customer and second develop the data of what was causing the problem to fix the root cause.

In Person Impacts

When I write this down it doesn't quite capture the feeling I got when I realized these things, because it becomes once more words on a page instead of seeing in action a person, the head of the plant at the time, who has mastered many of the things I'd like to learn. He made the principle real, doable, and memorable.