How is your company organized? Does it flow smoothly? Need help in mine.

rafaelmadeira

New member
I work in a printer, doing mostly pre-press, and we have very serious problems of organization.

The owner/boss started the company from scratch, and conducted it in a very centralized manner. Today, some 20 years later, the company has about 30 employees (about 25 in production), and they all basically report directly to him, and get orders directly from him.

Actually we have a print manager, who handles most of production-related issues on the floor, and is a very experienced printer, but even this guy is constantly asking the boss what to do. I'm not sure whether that's really necessary or just a product of the centralized way the manager has been conditioned to work for decades (he has been in the company for most of that time), but it's like every hour it's a new problem that can only be solved by the boss. And when the manager is busy or unavailable for some reason, the operators just go straight to the boss.

We also have two people handling accounts and purchases who also get their orders directly from the boss, and on top of it manage to screw up often, and then it's the boss who has to run off to the bank, etc. Luckily an accounting firm handles most of that side for us.

I know all this because the boss is the only one in charge of sales and clients, so I have to work closely with him so we can handle issues with client's files, films, etc. And he is constantly being interrupted, having to attend to countless "emergencies," literally all the time. He feels like he can't delegate stuff, even though he wants–has to. He gets to the company by 9am, sometimes earlier, and leaves by 23pm, sometimes later.

As you can see, it's a total mess.

But recently, he asked me to help sort out this mess, and I wanna help. The problem is that my background is in design, not management of any kind, so I'm kind of at a loss about what to do.

My first thought is that we have to cut down or eliminate these emergency interruptions. For this I imagine we'd have to create some sort of organizational structure and come up with a system to enforce and perpetuate said structure. And for this I guess we would need processes to empower employees to handle things by themselves and minimize screw-ups.

To sum it up, I think we have to find a way to keep the boss in the loop, not be the one tying the loop together. I think only then we would be in a position to enact improvements in production.

Am I in the right track? I'm not asking anyone to "solve" these problems for me, but maybe if you share how your company works, I can get some ideas.

I've been reading a lot on the subject, but it's all either pretty high-level, or very low-level, and either office/services-oriented, or factory/industry-oriented, so I am finding it hard to apply what I read on a printing business, which is an odd mix of all that.

Any help would be appreciated.
 

gordo

Well-known member
Your shop's organization is not unusual given the number of employees.
The boss is likely personally financially responsible for the shop's liabilities. I.e. his signature backed up by his personal collateral pays for much of the equipment. So he's going to be involved in every aspect of the company because he's personally on the hook if things go south.

IMHO, what you need to do is build up a team approach to production rather than to empower employees to handle things by themselves. All employees are involved in getting jobs through the process. The better everyone involved understands the entire process as well as their individual role in the context of that process the better able your shop will be able to manage and solve issues as they arise.

Perhaps have a morning meeting everyday (which includes the boss) to go over the day's work and deal with outstanding issues. That keeps the boss in the loupe but makes his role part of a team approach rather than the sole source for dealing with issues. By diffusing his involvement you allow him to disengage from the day to day crisis and allow him time to deal with the bigger picture.

As the company gets larger, say 75 plus employees, roles that were initially shared by employees start to coalesce into individual employees with departmental responsibilities. E.g. Prepress manager, Print Manufacturing Manager, etc. Those managers then meet each day as representatives of their specific department responsibilities and the boss is no longer involved in the day to day issues and instead is devoted to longer range business goal setting, etc.

best, gordo
 

rafaelmadeira

New member
Gordo, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I really liked the idea of a team-based approach, but I am not sure how it would play out without giving employees more autonomy. For example, if we had only a single meeting in the morning, people would be coming in to talk to the boss as soon as something not covered in the meeting came up. So if we're going to tackle these interruptions with meetings, we'll need to hold 20-minute meetings every half-hour.

From what I could identify, these interruptions are of one of the following kinds:

A) People need some information the boss centralized;
B) Something came up and people have no idea what to do about it;
C) Something came up and people have some idea of what to do about, but don't want to act on it without explicit permission;
D) People are notifying the boss on something (and the interruption might be expanded by him deciding to act upon the new information immediately);

I think the boss should only be interacted with in cases of real problems, real emergencies, or when actual value is being transferred. But that people should be able to handle minutia by themselves.

Let me just be clear that when I say "empowering employees" I am mostly talking about giving them autonomy in the form of procedures–or "pre-made boss decisions,"– not about leaving things in their hands. At least not without supervision.

But I agree that 'diffusing the boss's involvement,' getting him to act more as team-member (even if it is as the team leader) than commander-in-chief, is a key to the problem. Changing the mentality is the most important thing.

Am I mistaken?
 

gordo

Well-known member
From what I could identify, these interruptions are of one of the following kinds:

A) People need some information the boss centralized;
B) Something came up and people have no idea what to do about it;
C) Something came up and people have some idea of what to do about, but don't want to act on it without explicit permission;
D) People are notifying the boss on something (and the interruption might be expanded by him deciding to act upon the new information immediately);

I guess I don't understand what those "somethings" might be. Can you give examples?
Generally the one a day meetings are basically used to plan out the days work, assign priorities, and uncover any issues. In larger companies that meeting might be held by CSRs or production planners. It's to get everyone on the same page - give them the big picture. That way if something does come up they have a context in which to make a decision. That is what the boss currently has - the big picture - the context. That's what allows him to make a decision when approached by an employee. The purpose of the meeting, and other tools like dockets/job tickets, schedule boards is to provide that big picture/context to the employees.


So, can you give some examples of A, B, C, D?

best, gordo
 

BeauchampT

Well-known member
The shop I work for is fairly limited in size - our entire production staff (excluding the shipping department) is maybe 30-40 people to run two shifts.

What Gordo says really works for us - our boss is not directly involved in every single little thing - but we have regular crew meetings to keep him (and us) informed.

One thing that was decided on over time was to define very clear limits on operator-decision/manager-decision/owner-decision. It is all written down and kept on press so that everyone knows exactly how decision making room they have (helps put a cap on how much of the shop's assets are directly affected by an operator's choice).

Having decisions written down can help give operators the confidence that if they stay within their boundaries, they won't be nailed for it.
 

rafaelmadeira

New member
Thanks, Gordo and BeauchampT. I now have a better understanding of what you mean.

Gordo, here are some common examples that come to mind:

A) "Where's the invoice for X?", "A spot should open up in the queue later today, is job Y ready?"

B and C are basically the same, the difference is mostly in the person's attitude. Examples:
"Job X should move to Finishing but it is running behind and this will affect production as such and such/Something is wrong with the paint and I can't get a good run/We just caught an error in the printed text. How do you want to proceed?"

D) "Here are the supplies we need", "Ink X and paper Y arrived."

(PS. English is not my first language so my jargon may be weird.)

BeauchampT, could you provide an example of a decision that the operator can make, one the manager can make (but the operator can't), and one the owner can make (but not the manager)?
 

airyk

Well-known member
it sounds like you guys have a production manager who isn't managing or doesn't want to make "the call" on things.

At our shop, any department that has a problem comes to the production manager. In which case he makes the decision on it.

In regards to problems in pre-press, the salesperson is informed of any problems with their job (ie. missing fonts, links, wrong size, too many or little pages). Then the production manager is brought up to speed so he is in the loop if that job were to be running that day/night.
 

Greg_Firestone

Well-known member
Hi Rafael,

There needs to be a level of managers or "go-to-people" that your co-workers can raise issues to instead of going directly to the owner. These managers in turn could report to a production manager who overseas all departments or to the owner. Everyone (including the owner) should have trust in the decision of the managers. Ideally you have someone for each department:

Sales/Customer Relations Manager
Prepress Manager
Press Manager
Production Manager - oversees the departments but doesn't have to know every detail

It's important to also realize that just because a person may be the best [insert job title], it doesn't mean they are the best person to make business decisions. Sometimes the best managers are not technical at all, but it's tough to do this these days with companies running so lean. It's critical that the managers be able to make decisions and take responsibility for what they decide.

Ideally there should be a Production Manager overseeing all departments since all departments are involved when producing a job. Someone needs to be looking at the big picture.

There's a book called Wisdom of the Crowd by James Surowiecki, which basically says a group decision will generally be better than that of a single individual because it uses the collective thinking and intelligence of multiple people. Going back to one of your examples:

"We just caught an error in the printed text. How do you want to proceed?"

In this case, the issue is raised to the manager of the department. He/She can then discuss this with the two other managers The managers can make a group decision or escalate it to the Production Manager"

- Greg
 

gordo

Well-known member
@ Greg_Firestone

I think that different sized companies need somewhat different organizational structures. This is a relatively small company. In companies of this size many of the employees have to be generalists. They are not big enough to insert levels of managers.
So, while it would be nice to have a:
Sales/Customer Relations Manager
Prepress Manager
Press Manager
Production Manager - oversees the departments but doesn't have to know every detail

It just may not be practical.

Instead, of managers, a company of this size is more dependent on effective, documented processes.

For example, the issues that the OP listed are all systemic problems that can be solved by implementing job flows along the lines of ISO 9000/9001 - no specific need for a dedicated department manager. As the company (hopefully) grows and employees become less generalists and more specialists then those documented procedures become the foundation that guides managerial responsibilities.

best, gordo
 

Arshad

Active member
mr gordo,
since u r talking about companies who are or want to go for iso certifications, and following the standards, i would suggest you to give us more light on industry where there are not more than 30 employees,
thanks.
 

gordo

Well-known member
mr gordo,
since u r talking about companies who are or want to go for iso certifications, and following the standards, i would suggest you to give us more light on industry where there are not more than 30 employees,
thanks.

No. I am not talking about companies who are or want to go for iso certifications, and following the standards. When I wrote ISO 9000/9001 I was using it as an example of how to bring an organizational structure to the print shop. As an example it just gives the business some ideas as to how it could be organized. The printshop that I used to work for went through the ISO 9000/9001 certification process. The second year they did not apply for certification. Instead they learned from the ISO 9000/9001 process and then adapted it for their shop. Certification was not important for them. What was important was getting the knowledge about how to organize. It does not matter whether you are a 10 person shop or a 500 person shop - you need to have a clearly defined, documented, and understood process in order to maximize production.

This is even more important in a small shop because most of the employees will be doing more than one job. For example, the owner may also be the sales manager and estimator. In the case of the original poster, the shop has some 30 employees. That typically means that there are perhaps 2 or 3 employees in prepress. With only 2 or 3 people in prepress you're not going to have a prepress manager. If you extend that percentage to the whole company you'll end up with 30% of the employees being "managers" of one to 3 employees. Which makes no organizational sense.

best, gordo
 

Greg_Firestone

Well-known member
@Gordo

I purposely said managers or 'go-to-people' for that very reason. At the end of the day "manager" is just a title on someone's business card. You need someone who can make decisions whether you have 2 people in your company or 200. Most people wear multiple hats, even in larger companies as the number of employees has dwindled.

I do agree about the importance of documented processes, but it will be difficult to document what to do in every situation. Most issues are somewhat simple, e.g. Where's the invoice? But others can be substantially more complex and deal with specific variables at hand e.g. delaying a job on press for another.

Greg
 

gordo

Well-known member
I do agree about the importance of documented processes, but it will be difficult to document what to do in every situation. Most issues are somewhat simple, e.g. Where's the invoice? But others can be substantially more complex and deal with specific variables at hand e.g. delaying a job on press for another.

Yes, so one of the issues that the OP and the owner need to work on are systemic issues that result from a lack of documented structure and informational issues requiring the input of one or more "managerial" type people to solve.
As an example, using the one's that you used "Where's the invoice?" to me is likely a systemic structure problem that should not require a "managerial" type to solve. It's akin to me asking my wife "where's the car keys?" If I employ the system of always hanging them up on a dedicated hallway hook - then the system solves/prevents the problem and I needn't ask my wife. I.e. "Where's the invoice?" becomes "Where the invoices are always kept."

On the other hand, the other example "delaying a job on press for another" probably requires the input of one or more "managerial" type people to solve. In this case, daily 20 minute morning meetings, or job scheduling boards, are tools that can be used to proactively deal with issues. I.e. at the meeting the group can look at the job board and discuss things like job priorities, where bottlenecks are occurring, etc. That might eliminate the last minute panic of an employee trying to track down an authority to make the decision.

Ideally one is striving for a situation where the company is set up so that when key people are not available to make decisions (they're on holiday, hit by a bus, or been laid off, etc) the company can still function. Maybe not optimally at first, but within a very short period - carry on.

Sometimes it takes an outside person to come into the shop and with fresh eyes and no personal stake in the existing structure, do an audit and make recommendations. Sometimes looking at other systems (like ISO 9000/1) can provide ideas.

best, gordo
 

BeauchampT

Well-known member
BeauchampT, could you provide an example of a decision that the operator can make, one the manager can make (but the operator can't), and one the owner can make (but not the manager)?

This is not the best example, but it'll work..

Operator is dealing with a problem ink. Does he struggle with it forever or not?

Operator decides..dip it out. Get the job done with another lot, etc.
But...he would never reject an ink shipment. The owner would make that call.

On the other hand (I work on a web press so this will fit), lets say some paper rolls are causing downtime (webouts, etc.). Our operators have full latitude to reject the rolls outright. Management would be the ones to decide how to proceed with the supplier, and the owner leaves it to the manager (a system was already setup).

Hope that gives you some idea of what we do.
 

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