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The Closer You Sit, the Better You Can Manage a Factory

Sometimes it takes a beat to figure out some things for yourself. For me, it came more than a year after moving the factory into our new location. When we arrived, the space seemed to lay itself out, with my director of sales and me in a sweet up-front spot, tucked into an alcove, where we were close to the front door and our meeting table.

Over time, I came to think less and less of this decision.

For one thing, I became the resident doorperson, Up and down, up and down, throughout the day, letting in employees (of TWO companies), deliveries (for TWO companies), clients (for TWO companies), you name it.

Then, there were the client meetings that took place about eight feet away from my desk. Nothing like trying to eat lunch at your desk while reviewing financial reports and your client wants to chat with you because you are right there. I adore my clients, but sometimes I have to put back some food and get my work done or I am not going to get anything accomplished for the day.

Even though I could hear the sewers working at their machines, I really couldn’t see a thing unless I got out of my chair to look. I’m sure there are a plethora of factory owners who sit in offices way away from the hustle and bustle of the factory floor, and that may be perfectly fine for a large, established factory. But a small factory in year four? Absolutely not.

And probably the biggest issue, one person from my management team was sitting up front with me, while the other was about as far away from us as we could get. Every time I needed to speak with my production manager, I either had to walk to the back to her, or she had to come up front to me. She also had to walk to the front every time she printed something.

We were making ourselves less efficient because of our location in the factory!

So a few weeks ago, I began the great factory shift. I moved my director of sales and me to the far back of the space, with a full view of the factory floor. (See the above pic for my birds-eye view.) My production manager sits right in front of us, so close that we can all speak to each other in low voices and hear each other perfectly fine. The printer sits in the middle, so no more trekking to that, either. On the printer table is our time sheets, so the production manager and I can see when everyone is signing in and out. Our meeting area is still up front, so I can work quietly in the back while my director of sales is conducting her meetings. Our former office area is now storage, which I particularly love, because clutter stresses me out. I used to walk past all those client boxes in plain view and shudder. They were neat enough, but for me, a total eyesore. Now we have panels of white curtains covering the alcove, hiding the storage, acting as a fabulous backdrop for fitting photos, and it’s a rather fresh, clean look for a factory.

We are all loving the new setup. I feel more aware of the team, the jobs and any issues or struggles. Communication is a breeze. We are taking less steps as a team. It looks better and it feels better. It’s not perfect. We can only work within the space we have, and that means some things aren’t going to be exactly as we would like, but this is a huge improvement on how we used to work.

Sometimes, you have to stop and look around at your environment like you are seeing it for the first time. And then make changes where changes are needed.


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