Cost Accountants, Take Time to Visit Production!
Oct 02, 2015
Years ago, one of my first assignments for a manufacturing company was as a new trainee industrial engineer. Although I had no formal training in industrial engineering, I was very familiar with the operations because I worked for the Company for years before as an hourly employee.
In spite of my lack of formal training, the supervisor of the industrial engineering department believed I could be trained with the necessary skills to be successful as an industrial engineer. I completed many of the traditional jobs of an industrial engineer such as time and motion studies, machine layout and the designing of a new conveyor system for a new machine going into operation. Although I had very limited experience as a draftsman, I outlined a conveyor system design which would be appropriate and submitted those drawings to the millwrights for their installation. Several weeks went by before all the parts were ordered and received. The millwrights were then assigned to do the installation.
On the day of the installation, I received a call from the production department suggesting I speak with their head. When I arrived, he was standing next to the machine where the new carton conveyor was supposed to be installed scratching his head. I asked if there was something he didn’t understand about the drawings. He said no, your drawings have this carton conveyor placed exactly in the same position as one of the support beams for the plant roof. He was perplexed and attempting to determine a solution.
Of course, I was extremely embarrassed and could not think of an immediate solution. The millwright offered a couple of suggestions which would allow us to use the already ordered parts and perhaps reroute the conveyor with the help of another part. We concluded our meeting and I immediately went to see that the added part was ordered. Within a week or so after that the new part arrived, the overhead carton conveyor was finished with no more delays.
This brief encounter with designing taught me a lesson that I have remembered for my lifetime. From that day forward, regardless of the nature of the assignment, I have always observed the area and conditions of the production department before offering a solution. I have learned to carefully consider these conditions as they can directly affect suggested solutions. In some cases, resolutions were mechanical processes that were part of a manufacturing process. In other cases, they were costing issues which required knowledge and oversight of the existing manufacturing process to fully implement a successful new cost process.
In all cases whether it be mechanical or costing, new systems are best designed and implemented by a manager who is very familiar with the processes to be supported or improved.
Some of the worst solutions I have seen are those that are designed by someone far removed from the process that has no real knowledge of the day-to-day operations and the challenges that the operational team faces.
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