5 Tools Every Manufacturing Supervisor Needs

1. Customized Spreadsheets

“Customized Spreadsheets” may seem like both an oddly specific and a much too broad tool for the manufacturing supervisor’s world. Fundamentally, you need someway to generate reports of what you are producing, the materials you are using to produce your product, the labor involved, and everything in between. Whether you both gather and report data through an ERP system, software designed specifically for small businesses, or just a few excel sheets you've created. This is probably old news to you, but we wanted to get you thinking about it, and how you are doing it, to possibly spark some new brainstorming on better ways to manage all that goes on around you.

2. Calculator

Yup. You need a calculator. Whether it is on your iPhone, computer, or just sitting there on your desk, you need one. While many simple processes have been automated, we found that having something handy to do the occasional addition and long division (even if it is only for your office Fantasy Football League) is essential.

3. Pen and Paper

Another “Well duh.” Tool. You probably already have pen and paper at your desk, but do you carry it around the facility with you? We think you should, or at least carry something around to jot down notes, requests, and ideas while you are on the move.

4. GoToMeeting, Google Hangout, Skype, or some kind of video conferencing medium

While many in the manufacturing world are preaching “Globalization,” that isn't really the point of this tool. Video conferencing does help all you global companies stay in touch across multiple oceans, but it is also useful for the person on a business trip only a few hundred miles away, or for the remote employee spending the day working from his couch. Video conferencing allows you to have face-to-face conversations and meetings when those things may not be possible. Suppliers overseas have never been so easy to contact, and neither has the salesperson next door.

5. 10 Minutes Every Week

This was one of our favorite tools. When is the last time you spent 10 minutes to walk around your facility (or a part of your facility) to ask your employees about their work, and what could be improved? You may ask, “Who has 10 minutes a week?” Or, “Why would I want to give my employees the chance to complain to me?” Don’t think like this. You do have 10 minutes a week, it’s not long at all. And we've heard those complaints usually aren't complaints, but ways to improve processes, and make your company more efficient. So take a walk through your facility, there may be some simple solutions to problems your employees have been dealing with for much too long.