'DRIVE': A guide to shop floor management

Shop Floor Management is all about the DRIVE towards functional excellence. It is achieved by a thinking leadership that creates a system of consistent processes and procedures and use of tools that guides operations towards their destined results professionally and perfectly. It is simply a matter of thought, systems and discipline down the line; it may be a result of collaborative thinking but good shop floor management is all about 360° competence with everyone taking responsibility for his/her specified role on the floor.

The Ecafez DRIVE for effective shop floor management rests on five pillars:


Nothing happens by chance; certainly not in modern and professionally run shop floors. Understandably, shop floor managers have taken a great deal of interest in manufacturing systems design and analysis. Competent design can ensure that half the battle is won because, if adhered to, the shop floor becomes a major strength. The opposite is equally true. A good design flows out of the knowledge of what one wants to achieve and how and the design ensures a zero obstacle scenario, where nothing obstructs the flow of material or information; things are clear to everyone; there is a sense of perspective and awareness. The absence of this clear understanding itself can be a problem.


The shop floor having been created, the leadership must constantly visit it to ensure that things are working in the manner they were designed too. No matter how well planned, it must not be assumed that the design will work and, therefore, the leadership can stay away from the shop floor. Reviewing and revising are a part of the design function.


It is just as important to inform the people for whom the shop floor is designed about the thought behind the design and how it helps overcome obstructions and problems. The users must be able to view the design from the perspective from which it has been created and learn how to look for emerging problems to begin with and how to resolve them by themselves, when the senior leadership is absent, sometimes based on simple common sense.


The objective is to get the users of the shop floor to manage their business under the overall design parameters and adress roadblocks themselves. This does not, however, obviate the possibility of problems cropping up. While it is best not to interfere too much, larger issues cannot be allowed to persist, especially if they appear to be emerging from the design. Thus the overarching idea is to allow the users of the shop floor space to remove the obstacles and learn from the experience. The top manager’s intervention is needed when the issues are clearly beyond them. The need is to consciously test and validate the design.


To end with the most important pillar; shop floor management is all about perfect knowledge and perfect implementation of the knowledge through a correct sequencing of processes and personnel. Some call it vision; some call it perspective but what is of import is that this should inform the process right from the inception. Never make the error of starting the design and thinking along the way. Flexibility may be inbuilt into the system but perspective has to provide the lead.