"What do all great manufacturing supervisors have in common?"
I posed this question to an online community of manufacturing supervisors a few months ago, trying to start a fun discussion on essential skills, tricks, and processes that the best manufacturing supervisors have. The responses poured in: we had over 30 replies to our original question. Due to the sheer amount of initial interest on this topic, we posted it in other groups and communities in the manufacturing world. After the chatter had died down, we went back, organized and analyzed the responses, and found a few common themes what the individuals involved in operations, quality assurance, production, process control, hiring agents, CEO's, and manufacturing supervisors themselves had to say to about our question.
So what does make a great manufacturing supervisor? Here are the responses, ranked in order of the number of times mentioned.
1. People Skills
Associated terms (presence, approachable, mentor, coach, motivate, listener)
Sorry about the umbrella term. Basically, we found more people mention things often placed under "people skills" than any other category that we arbitrarily made up. "Effective communicator, ability to motivate, genuine listener" were all mentioned. Thus, if you made us pick what the greatest attribute for a manufacturing supervisor was, we'd say the ability to talk to those around you.
Associated terms (honesty, respect, trust, service)
You can't have one without having some of two. "Integrity," and its synonyms, were almost always used in conjunction with the skills nested under "people skills." From our research, the manufacturing community firmly believes that supervisors and managers should not only exhibit integrity, but push integrity onto their employees by leading by example. I suppose "understanding" could be labeled under here as well. Understanding what is right and what is wrong and serving the people you supervise on a daily basis are all obvious traits we want in a supervisor, but when a supervisor can exhibit such qualities on a day-to-day basis, he/she is a real gem.
3. Open-mindedness and Recognition
Our last big theme is a combination of two traits: The open-mind to accept ideas from your production floor, and the recognition of when an idea is beneficial to your processes. Respond-ees wrote that supervisors need to prove to their employees (the ones they serve!) have value to the company, that they are not just a cog in the machine. Allow ideas to start from anywhere, and recognize when they are really golden.