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Creating a decision tree for internal customer so they can decide what work to send me and what work to outsource.

Except there may be a 2 day long job that comes in and interrupts everything else.
That two-day job needs to go on the end of the spreadsheet. Quick jobs that you squeeze in should be less than an hour.

If they don't like your lead times, they can see if an outside shop will do it faster, or lobby for you to get more resources. By putting lead times on your spreadsheet, you're making a soft promise. This gives you the power to say "I can't squeeze your job in; I've already promised so-and-so I'd have their project done by X."
 
And yes. Spread sheet with time estimates would help. Except there may be a 2 day long job that comes in and interrupts everything else. I have told the boss he needs to make that call. He says that he should not have to in every case and that I can make the call.

No worries.

Put the 2 day job on the spreadsheet with immediate effect, shuffle everything else down by 2.5 days to cater for the inefficiencies of stopping the current job, then email the spreadsheet to all the people who have jobs in the queue with the comment that delivery dates have been reset because of job X asserting priority.

Let THEM fight it out.

This is also a good way to make a lot of enemies but it DOES clarify who's responsible for what.

Alternatively tell the attempted queue jumper to fuck off (politely of course) and inform them that only your line manager can alter the schedule.

That won't win you any friends either but when you're in a lose-lose situation, you need to do something to sheet home the realities of life.

PDW
 
No worries.

Put the 2 day job on the spreadsheet with immediate effect, shuffle everything else down by 2.5 days to cater for the inefficiencies of stopping the current job, then email the spreadsheet to all the people who have jobs in the queue with the comment that delivery dates have been reset because of job X asserting priority.

Let THEM fight it out.

This is also a good way to make a lot of enemies but it DOES clarify who's responsible for what.

Alternatively tell the attempted queue jumper to fuck off (politely of course) and inform them that only your line manager can alter the schedule.

That won't win you any friends either but when you're in a lose-lose situation, you need to do something to sheet home the realities of life.

PDW
I do like the idea of putting soft promise or lead time dates in our request tool queue. I have suggested that and have been told we do not want to do that because then everyone would just be upset that their project is getting delayed. When I said. But their project is getting delayed. I am told. yeah but they don't know that. Also I have been told that I do have the authority to alter the schedule and decide what I am working on first. However I have made clear that I do not have the information to make those decisions. The problem is, my boss does not have that information either.

I have now been asking my boss to make the call everytime something comes up that will delay my other projects in queue. He seems to be getting annoyed that he has more work to do. But I don't know how else to handle it if I am the one to blame every time something gets delayed.

Sick of this place I guess.
 
That two-day job needs to go on the end of the spreadsheet. Quick jobs that you squeeze in should be less than an hour.

If they don't like your lead times, they can see if an outside shop will do it faster, or lobby for you to get more resources. By putting lead times on your spreadsheet, you're making a soft promise. This gives you the power to say "I can't squeeze your job in; I've already promised so-and-so I'd have their project done by X."
I think the issue is that they think there are alot of "quick jobs that take less than an hour" There are not. those quick jobs usually take about half a day. and always disrupt other work.
 
I have now been asking my boss to make the call everytime something comes up that will delay my other projects in queue. He seems to be getting annoyed that he has more work to do. But I don't know how else to handle it if I am the one to blame every time something gets delayed.

Sick of this place I guess.
You are clearly being set up to fail. They may be engineering your failure as an excuse to shut down the in-house shop.
 
I do like the idea of putting soft promise or lead time dates in our request tool queue. I have suggested that and have been told we do not want to do that because then everyone would just be upset that their project is getting delayed. When I said. But their project is getting delayed. I am told. yeah but they don't know that. Also I have been told that I do have the authority to alter the schedule and decide what I am working on first. However I have made clear that I do not have the information to make those decisions. The problem is, my boss does not have that information either.

I have now been asking my boss to make the call everytime something comes up that will delay my other projects in queue. He seems to be getting annoyed that he has more work to do. But I don't know how else to handle it if I am the one to blame every time something gets delayed.

Sick of this place I guess.

My POV is, I'm not taking responsibility for anything unless I have the decision-making authority. But I'd also TAKE the decision-making authority in situations like yours and basically tell my boss to either do his job or concede the decision-making to me. He couldn't have it both ways. So yeah I'd email the revised spreadsheet showing all the completion dates shuffled down by whatever amount and verbally tell anyone that complained to take it up with the PM who asserted priority or my boss but get off of my case (else they could find THEIR job de-prioritised some more being unspoken).

BUT - I was financially secure and had a wife earning a lot more than I did, so I had my 'fuck you' money well secured. And people knew it. That changes their attitude.

PDW
 
I think the issue is that they think there are alot of "quick jobs that take less than an hour" There are not. those quick jobs usually take about half a day. and always disrupt other work.

I hear you. I did a 5 minute job the other day cutting a simple 3/16" keyway in a tapered shaft.

It didn't take 5 minutes if you include all the other shit like swapping out the table on the toolroom mill, dialing everything in, then resetting it all when done.

Yeah I didn't HAVE to do it like that but it still wasn't going to be a 5 minute job. The shaft wasn't going to fit in the bore of the dividing head so I could tilt that and I'd STILL have had to tear the setup down when finished.

PDW
 
My POV is, I'm not taking responsibility for anything unless I have the decision-making authority. But I'd also TAKE the decision-making authority in situations like yours and basically tell my boss to either do his job or concede the decision-making to me. He couldn't have it both ways. So yeah I'd email the revised spreadsheet showing all the completion dates shuffled down by whatever amount and verbally tell anyone that complained to take it up with the PM who asserted priority or my boss but get off of my case (else they could find THEIR job de-prioritised some more being unspoken).

BUT - I was financially secure and had a wife earning a lot more than I did, so I had my 'fuck you' money well secured. And people knew it. That changes their attitude.

PDW
I have been thinking more about putting these "soft promise" dates into my work request tool / queue. It would be good to rough estimate when I would get to the end of my list and could automatically notify everyone when the estimated lead time changes. Then everyone is aware asap and can fight about the fact instead of being surprised. But. Did I mention. there are a lot of parts that I make that get sent to outside vendor for pain, anodizing, chromate, etc... I fabricate the part. then I get a quote from vendor. then send them parts. They send it back. Then I send part finished to the requestor. Usually the lead time for paint etc. is anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks. And the quote / estimated lead time for outsourcing anodizing is only good for 10 business days. So basically anything that has external finishing's. Just have an unknown lead time. Until I am finished with the part and we are at the mercy of the lead time of the vendor. I have explained this to my requestors. But they do not care or get it. Everyone is just under immense pressure to get it done. But we are not given resources to do so. I have suggested brining back these finishing processes in house. And again I am told no way. So it is like every step of the way we are making things harder for our selves.

I really do think we are being set up to fail, and it is offensive to me that they cannot just be honest about that.
 
Just had another 1:1 meeting with my boss. I floated the estimated completion dates that move and notify requestors when they get delayed and changed. He said, that will only make the requestors mad more often. I said that is what we are doing now except we are just not telling them. I said the issue we have today is that your boss claimed we were behind schedule and were not notifying anyone of that. When in reality we were not behind schedule never gave a completion date or deadline and I did communicate to management every time the project got bumped in priority. He said we will get back to a lower work load and we should have never taken on such a big job. To which I replied. If I did not take on that big job. Then I could have run out of work last month, if other work did not come in as it has. Then would me asked why I didn't take on the job if I had time. And I explained. There is no way for me to know what work is coming and if I will have time or not in the future.

But the boss is convinced in his idea of how to run the shop. Even though he has never worked in or ran a real shop. I am the only one of his direct reports that makes anything. The rest are cube dwellers.

So at this point. I am in a lose lose. I will keep my head down and do the work and not worry about who is pissed off about what. And if they want to get rid of me for that. I don't know what else I can do.
 
Oh and I forgot to mention. My boss literally said, "we dont want to over communicate". That is when I told him that his boss accused us of not communicating.

I realize at this point I am just playing he said. Thanks for all the advice. If it were up to me. I would definitely include estimated completion dates and have those dates update and change any time something bumps a head of the line. I would also invest in a laser to cut thin sheets of aluminum and a second (faster) mill. To have long run jobs not stop the progress of walk in work. And I would push every decision to bump priority to management.

I have communicated this up my chain of command. that is all I can do. At this point, it is keep my head down and stay on my work. While keeping my resume sharp and get ready for what comes next.
 
The more I hear, the more I'm convinced you need to be finding another job. In my experience, when a manager talks in nonsensical circles like that, it's because he knows the company will be shutting down, but has to keep it a secret from everyone below him. He has reasons for his decisions, but he can't tell you the real ones, so he has to make stuff up.
 
The more I hear, the more I'm convinced you need to be finding another job. In my experience, when a manager talks in nonsensical circles like that, it's because he knows the company will be shutting down, but has to keep it a secret from everyone below him. He has reasons for his decisions, but he can't tell you the real ones, so he has to make stuff up.
I agree that my boss has always spoken nonsensical. I just figures it was because he use to be a used car salesman. And is constantly hiding the fact that he does not know what he is doing. He also has an annoying way of needing to convince people to agree with him. I was always of the opinion that I don't need to agree with my boss. Just do what he says. But this guy will not stop talking unless you nod in agreement. Like his whole life is a persuasive speech.

But If he is hiding a shut down. I don't know why. He is retiring in less than 2 months. What does he care. He is out. But maybe he has friends in higher places that would suffer if we all quit soon. Idk.

The guy has always talked in circles. Has always said everything both ways to cover both sides. And somehow no one calls him on it because he has a gift of gabb. It gets old.
 
I have communicated this up my chain of command. that is all I can do. At this point, it is keep my head down and stay on my work. While keeping my resume sharp and get ready for what comes next.

Your management has their own decision tree.

First branch . Shut down the shop because their spending an inordinate time dealing with you.
Second branch, find somebody who knuckles under and keeps his head below the parapet.
 
Yeah, brush up your resume and start putting out feelers, and keep your head down for two months. Maybe things will improve with the new boss, maybe not. Best to be prepared either way.
 
I have been thinking more about putting these "soft promise" dates into my work request tool / queue. It would be good to rough estimate when I would get to the end of my list and could automatically notify everyone when the estimated lead time changes. Then everyone is aware asap and can fight about the fact instead of being surprised. But. Did I mention. there are a lot of parts that I make that get sent to outside vendor for pain, anodizing, chromate, etc... I fabricate the part. then I get a quote from vendor. then send them parts. They send it back. Then I send part finished to the requestor. Usually the lead time for paint etc. is anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks. And the quote / estimated lead time for outsourcing anodizing is only good for 10 business days. So basically anything that has external finishing's. Just have an unknown lead time. Until I am finished with the part and we are at the mercy of the lead time of the vendor. I have explained this to my requestors. But they do not care or get it. Everyone is just under immense pressure to get it done. But we are not given resources to do so. I have suggested brining back these finishing processes in house. And again I am told no way. So it is like every step of the way we are making things harder for our selves.

I really do think we are being set up to fail, and it is offensive to me that they cannot just be honest about that.

You need to read up on Gannt charts and how to use them. Project completion dependent on 3rd parties needs to be spelt out so the contracting parties are clear that this blocks progress on your part. It's a critical dependency.

Fucks sake, any engineer asking you to do work should understand that! If they don't then their education was fundamentally flawed. It's a standard part of project management.

PDW
 
But If he is hiding a shut down. I don't know why. He is retiring in less than 2 months. What does he care. He is out. But maybe he has friends in higher places that would suffer if we all quit soon. Idk.
Maybe that is why he is retiring. He may be the guy to make all the cuts so that once he retires, they can start fresh without the remaining employees having someone to blame.

I agree with the others, you definitely need to start looking for a new job. If the company isn’t intentionally doing things the difficult way to justify getting rid of the department, then they are flat out incompetent, in which case you want to distance yourself from that drama anyways. I’ve been laid off three times in my career, you definitely want a job while doing your job search. When you are unemployed, a lot of companies will try to low ball you thinking you are desperate, be in the drivers seat at your interview.
 
You are clearly being set up to fail. They may be engineering your failure as an excuse to shut down the in-house shop.
Nah. "Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence". If they want to shut down the shop, it'll only take an hour of massaging some numbers to produce a financial justification for it. That has been the bane of internal shops (and US based manufacturing in general) for quite some time. No one would waste more time with this.

Let's take a step back for a minute, okayee? This whole thread started because @Rough-cutter took on a production job he had no business doing, the job never got done, the PM naturally is pissed, and then complained to the bigger boss. If this is the shit that everyone needs to polish up their resumes for, than I hate to see what happens when there's a big spindle crash in your world.
Oh and I forgot to mention. My boss literally said, "we dont want to over communicate". That is when I told him that his boss accused us of not communicating.
Now, there is such a thing as over communication - airing dirty laundry. But that isn't what's happening here, and under communication is far more common. And the main problem here, why the complaint was lodged in the first place. This is the first _really_ bad thing you mentioned about your current boss, and somewhat falls into the @triumph406 decision tree.

I personally am still amazed you survived this long with no completion dates. That lack of communication, transparency, and accountability would've axed the shop long before. I don't see how it can survive without that. But you keep making excuses for not having that accountability -
there are a lot of parts that I make that get sent to outside vendor for pain, anodizing, chromate, etc... I fabricate the part. then I get a quote from vendor. then send them parts. They send it back. Then I send part finished to the requestor. Usually the lead time for paint etc. is anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks. And the quote / estimated lead time for outsourcing anodizing is only good for 10 business days.
A couple of things to parse here -
  1. Perhaps you need better vendors. My anodizing lead time is reliably a week, for instance. Or perhaps it's just a better relationship. Can you generate an open PO with them? So you remove a lot of the quote/admin overhead from the process. Just send them the parts. Most machine shops like yours don't ask for competitive bids from multiple anodizing shops for each job.
  2. Take the finishing processes entirely off your plate. Find an alternative resource at your company for outsourcing the finishing of parts. They outsource parts already, potentially some of their machined parts vendors already refuse to finish parts like so many shops on this forum and they handle it. Potentially this is the requestor or another buyer. No company is going to bring this in-house, as you advocate (primarily for "control" I feel), due to environmental reasons these days.
  3. Put two sets of dates in your spreadsheet, one an internal completion date, one an external services date. This communicates an expected delivery date, but if the date that is slipping is external, they're unlikely to blame you. I would put the actual completion dates for both on this spreadsheet as well, and then age off things after a quarter.
I really do think we are being set up to fail, and it is offensive to me that they cannot just be honest about that.
No. There's no malice here. If I was a PM at your place, I'd be offended/appalled/whatever that there's no promised delivery dates or accountability at your end. That would be unacceptable to me.
When in reality we were not behind schedule never gave a completion date or deadline
Not communicating any dates is not the same thing as not being behind schedule.
He said we will get back to a lower work load and we should have never taken on such a big job. To which I replied. If I did not take on that big job. Then I could have run out of work last month, if other work did not come in as it has.
Here, your boss is right. You shouldn't have taken on the job. Now, it's unclear to me who is more concerned about "running out of work". Is this @Donkey Hotey idle spindle problem his sense of work or yours? You should strive to have an idle spindle. At one level that means you're caught up. It's always better to have a spindle available to process the $10000/hr hot job instead of chugging along at $100/hr for an internal prototype shop. But I get the sense that you may be more worried about the idle time than he is, correct me if I'm wrong. You need to plan on more "dead" time to handle all of your various roles, not stress about having it come up. If nothing else you will be taking care of the deferred maintenance on all of your equipment, which I suspect is substantial.
 
All excellent points. I 100% agree. We should have always had estimated completion dates. I have been pushing for that for 4 years and apparently this shop has been run without them for over 30 yrs. Anytime I bring up that is what we need to do. The boss says we don't want to make promises we can't keep and it is better to not give a date. I tell him that is what we are doing anyway. Just not communicating it. Bottom line I think I'm he is just plan dumb.

I believe the reason the shop was able to run the way it had for so long. Was it had so little work. We use to have large internal fabrication shop. Separate from the one I am in now. When they shut down the larger shop. They left engineering to figure it out. And they just did not. So now we are loading more work onto my shop and it is not getting any investment to increase capacity.

The fear of running out of work is real. Not by me. But by management. I 100% agree that my goal is to have an idle spindle. To have avaliable. However if I have 4 hrs or more in a work week that spindle is not running. (Charging time to fabricating parts to a project). Then I have to explain why and what I am doing to find more work. So I also agree that I should not have taken on such a large job. But If I did not. The down time would be unacceptable and they would give me the job anyway. In my eyes it is insane.

I am partially to blame for this whole mess. When I got this role. I replaced a guy who could not use cad/cam. He barely knew how to program. And would do so by hand. First he would hand write Gcode. Then manually type it in in MDI. I even told him. You could at least type it in note pad on computer and transfer to mill with USB.

So when I took over. I immediately increased efficiency multiple times. I was also able to do much more complex work. I know that automation does take jobs away. But I figured I am the only one in the shop. And I thought as you said. The goal of getting the spindle to idle to be avalible is a good thing. While doing way more work and providing way more value. I thought this would get me a raise or at least a value added perception to keep me around. Instead it has done the opposite.

The more work I do. The more work is expected. And when I talk about how we can accomplish the work. I am told there is no money for that.

Finding a job when I have a job. I again agree. The hard part is, I make $43 / hr. (I know I complain too much and I have it pretty good.) The fact is around me It is difficult to find a job machining / programming. That starts over $30/hr. So no matter what It would be a big hit to the family budget. I have been saving. Making sure to live off less than we make. But it is hard to take that pay cut. If I don't have to. But I agree. Getting a job when I am unemployed will only make that pay cut worse.
 
Thank you to anyone who is still following. I know this thread has kind of been all over the place. But I feel it does still fit the topic of shop ownership / management.
So interesting update on this twisting turning thread.
I reached out to another internal machine shop in my company. They are a few miles down the road in a different department. But still with in the same company. Since they are different department we do not share work or resources. However I do know that some of my customers utilize them for some bigger jobs, (just like they should have for this big job I have that is causing my issues. But that shop is busy like I am too.) But anyway, I reached out just to ask how they deal with these types of issues. [switching priorities, deadlines, communicating completion dates, etc.]

Basically he told me they have the same issues. But then he emailed me again and said they have an open req, and that I should apply. Then he invited me to come check out their shop on a Sat. So I did. They are a 4 man shop, but are down to 3 and need a fourth. They have 3 vertical milling centers, a manual bridge port, cnc lathe, router for sheet metal and better bigger brake. Overall working with a much larger budget (think shrink fit tooling, probes, tool setters, etc.).

When I took the tour of his shop, we also discussed the issues I have been having and the stresses of the job. I clearly asked him and he explained that all that stuff gets funneled to him and that the other guys just focus on the actual work. So he is sort of the Forman of this small shop. He is slightly higher on the pay band then I am now, and makes me feel like dealing with all that stuff is why. And I probably should be on that pay band also for running my shop all by my self.

But anyway. The prospect of keeping my current pay band. With less stress of dealing with these fighting customers demanding priority and fighting getting blamed for missed dead lines etc.. While also being able to run more sophisticated equipment and work with people of higher skill and more experience. All seems great and a no brainer. The only down side I could see is that I have gotten used to working alone. But actually working with other people in anyway might be good for my mental health anyway.

The only stress I have with this decision is that it will definitely upset my current bosses. To find a replacement for me would be a big undertaking and require some transition time. I explained this to the "new shop"s Forman, and he said you need to do what is best for you. That is what the company does. What is best for it, not you.

Also even if this whole place goes under and I run into the same fears of shutting down a shop. This would be good for my resume to work with better equipment in a higher demand shop.

Any other advice out there. Is greatly appreciated.
 








 
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