The year is 2360. Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) has an urgent matter, and he needs to speak to his direct reports. This 24th-century man draws upon a 20th-century maneuver: He gathers everyone in a conference room.
They have communicators that work over vast distances of space. They can just say “computer” and the artificial
intelligence running the ship responds to their every request. They even have a friggin’ telepath that acts as the ship’s
counselor, and she could probably just connect everyone via some sort of mental chat room. But what does Picard
do? He reserves the ship’s main conference room before those pesky engineers get in there for their afternoon game
of tridimensional chess.
Obviously, a science fiction television series hardly can be expected to be a predictor of things to come, but in this
case, “Star Trek: The New Generation” may not be that far off. Sometimes when you need to get things done, you just
need to meet face-to-face.
That never appeared more evident than after a recent visit to
Metcam Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., during The FABRICATOR’s Technology Summit, Oct. 1-2, in the Atlanta area. During a tour of
the Metcam facility, which was one of four such tours over the
two-day event, company management made it a point to stress
how important daily meetings with key personnel are to staying on top of production challenges and the hot jobs that pop
up on an almost daily basis.
Please note that this company is no slouch when it comes
to metal fabricating. It recently received a Supplier Excellence
Award from Tyco, one of only eight companies to do so and
the only metal fabricator to win it. It has reorganized its shop around cellular manufacturing (“Going cellular a year
later,” p. 68), which has helped it focus on quick delivery of product instead of the three- to four-week lead-times that
are common for other shops. It even recently installed a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that helps
them to schedule more accurately and track shop floor costs.
And they still need the face-to-face meetings to ensure as-smooth-as-possible sailing in the tumultuous sea of low-volume, high-mix manufacturing.
Jerry Ward, Metcam’s vice president of operations, explains how the daily meetings go:
• 7: 45 a.m. Team leaders from bending, laser cutting, punching, and other production areas quickly meet to review
the daily production schedule derived from the ERP software. At this time they can highlight the jobs that need to
be delivered ASAP. Because the jobs are all assembled in-house, everyone gets on the same page and then can return to their departments to make whatever accommodations are necessary to fit the hot jobs into the production
schedule. Because of the company’s new cellular layout, schedulers don’t worry about finding a gap in production
to squeeze through these special orders; there is always going to be a gap in one of the company’s eight cells to
handle a short-run job.
• 8: 45 a.m. Manufacturing representatives move to the company’s main conference room to consult with others
from the quality, information technology, purchasing, and customer service areas. Orders for the day are reviewed
for the last time. Often this is where mistakes are caught, and jobs are rescheduled to reflect shop floor realities. The
goal is to approve jobs that can be completed on time and without the need to wait for a special material or supply
order. This also gives the team the chance to talk about any problems that have emerged from the day before and
clear up any discrepancies that might appear on company reports.
• 2 p.m. The same players from the 8: 45 a.m. meeting get back together. This is the final meeting before parts are
loaded on the truck for a 2: 30 p.m. departure. Did the hot jobs get completed and loaded? Were the problems
brought up earlier in the day addressed?
Ward said that these meetings might last from 10 to 30 minutes. The company has a solid group of manufacturing
veterans, so a lot of second-guessing is not needed. The meetings, however, give them a chance to get right to the
heart of an issue with the decision-maker that can help deliver an immediate resolution. This old-school approach
to communication takes place right next to a new-school conference table that has a big-screen television with USB
inputs that participants can plug their laptops into; at the press of a button, anyone at the conference table can have
their laptop appear on the big screen, and he or she can direct the meeting.
Metcam is in no way turning its back on technology. It’s opening its arms to successful communication.
Editorial Advisory Board
Dan Berdass, Bermo Inc.
Greg Cornett, TI Automotive
Matthew Gehman, Metal Locking Service
Subramaniam Manivannan, Franklin Electric
Jim Poe, Iowa State University
FMA Officers and Directors
Chairman of the Board
Burke Doar, TRUMPF Inc.
First Vice Chairman
Carlos Rodriguez-Borjas, Feralloy Corp.
Second Vice Chairman
Edwin Stanley, GH Metal Solutions
Al Zelt, ASKO Inc.
Immediate Past Chairman of the Board
Dave Barber, Wilmington Grill Co. Inc.
Superior Joining Technologies Inc.
Robert Clark, Clark Metal Products
Vivek Gupta, Texas ProFab Corp.
Rick J. Hargrove, American Strip Steel/Marino\WARE
William “Jeff” Jeffery, IRMCO
Dan McLeod, Brenco Industries Ltd.
Carlos R. Mendizábal, Industrias Selbor S.A. de C.V.
Lyle Menke, Peddinghaus Corp.
Ed Severson, SB Specialty Metals
Gregg Simpson, Ohio Laser LLC
Jerry Ward, METCAM Inc.
President & CEO
Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl.
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Manhattan, Kan. www.amisuccess.com
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Face-to-face still best place
When it comes to running a fabricating operation,
personal interaction still needed
From the Editor-in-Chief
Dan Davis, editor-in-chief of The FABRICATOR, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Metcam Inc. needs the
face-to-face meetings to
sailing in the tumultuous
sea of low-volume,