Too Long in the Loo
By Luke Van Dongen:
This link is to an article in today's Detroit News. I've been hearing reactions to this article all day – it really seems to have struck a nerve with people.
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about the stance that has been taken at Ford to curtail the problem of employees spending time off the line for washroom breaks that are in addition to the contractual breaks union employees are entitled to. To be sure, we are human and as such need to deal with these matters on a daily basis. But I have also been in a position where I had to effectively deal with people working on an assembly line who needed to be relieved during scheduled production time. I know first hand how challenging this can be. There are no manpower provisions to cover bathroom breaks, and getting people off the line without negatively affecting throughput is sometimes impossible. This is even more true when it becomes obvious that certain individuals are abusing the system. Adding more fuel to the fire, absenteeism rates of greater than 10% are also common, making it even more difficult to juggle resources effectively around other ‘needs' that arise.
I don't believe that such a stance to crack down on additional breaks would be necessary if the regular volume of reliefs, and average time taken were not beyond what can be effectively managed. The fact remains that some manufacturing jobs, particularly in assembly, require that employees perform their task each and every cycle to maintain flow. Not every job can be a ‘free effort' job.
Is there anyone who has experience in a TPS facility who can comment on how necessary unscheduled breaks are handled within that system in assembly operations?