Foreman

Lessons Learn't, next time i'll be ready

My experience as foreman was a massive learning curve for me. I took on the role under the following circumstances

There had been no-one in the foreman position for a year. The dealership including the service department wasnt making money. No one wanted to do the job. I'd been working there for 9 months. Mechanicing for 7 years including apprenticeship. I was 25 years old

Service manager was young as well (approx 28). He had been workin there as service manager for a bit over 1 year, he was a mechanic but hadn't been a mechanic at the workshop. Both of us didn't have high workshop specific experience

I was thrown in the deep end to sink or swim and I sunk.
I lasted 6 months in the job. I love a challenge and I wanted to be the one who turned the place around but I bit off more than I could I chew. After I gave up the position the dealership closed 7-8 months later. Turns out it was more than anyone could chew

Foreman is a tough job. You cop shit from every different angle

Customers- The challenge I faced was that I looked young and I was young. I didn't have massive workshop specific/ brand specific experience, which made being young worse. Customers want to be made priority, want their job done cheap and now (short notice overtime). They want to know what's wrong with my vehicle, how long will it take to fix, how much will it cost

Mechanics- The challenge I faced was that they were used to having it there own way, doing what they wanted. There hadnt been a foreman so between the top three mechanics they organized who did what. With none of responsibility. All said I'm not foreman when managers or customers had issues. They were happy with how things were. Didn't like now being told what to do.

Managers- The challenge I faced was that my managers finally had someone to channel their wishes through. Cleaner workshop, we are not making budget, address this OHS issue, talk to the boys about this behavioural issue

What I did
I Started a rewards program. Points were received for completeing jobs in allocated times. Bonus points for finishing under time. Also received points for doing 'shit' jobs and short notice overtime
I created a tool of the week award. The idea being that it was awarded to a mechanic for doing something silly, trying to add some fun
I fired up the bbq for a couple of breakfasts and lunches.
I Started clamping down on time wasting. Stopped things like two people going on Test drives, extended lunch breaks, getting to work fractionally late. Tried to increase efficiency


The result
Rewards program was well received by the first year apprentice, Everyone else thought it was childish and silly
Tool of the week backfired, I think it just made people feel bad about the stupid things they did
BBQ's were a success,
Clamping down on time wasting sent morale down 
Implementing what my boss wanted me to. Made it feel like I was on managements side not the mechanics

Bosses asked, customers asked and I tried to take care of what they wanted. The problem is the mechanics didn't ask and it all gets landed on them. They pushed back and I dont blame them, they didn't want to help me out anymore.They had the workshop experience, I needed their help. They didn't want to work for me. All this made productivity even worse, and the service department continued not to make money

What I should have done
What I have learnt is that as foreman your number one priority is your mechanics. If you get things right with your mechanics everything else will sort it self out. Happy workers, high workshop morale, better quality work and higher efficency. It is counter intuitive because customers should be priority without them none of us have a job. It is counter intuitive because your boss decides who to hire and fire. He is your boss he out ranks you.

How do you make mechanics the priority?. First you have to gain there trust and respect. You need to not just be one their side but show that your on their side. Tell management to F###  off for a start (obviously dont say it like that explain your reasoning). Don't ask your mechanics to do something for you until you have done something for them. Ask each one of your mechanics. What holds them up, what pisses them off about the workshop. What needs to change. What perks would be nice. Don't presume to know what they want. Find out what's important in their life and try to be flexible around that. Do they have kids that need picking up from school or looking after on certain days or at certain times. Do they have football training at certain times. Don't forgot the women in their life. Happy wife happy life. Is there something they do every week?

Rewards program, be careful about the extra time and effort required for things you add. Also people don't like change. Introduce things slowly. Start with younger, newer members of the team.
Try and get the mechanics to come up with ideas to boost morale, or at least make them think they came up with the idea. Acceptance and participation wont be a problem then
Clamping down on time wasting- Look at the bigger picture. Does it matter if they are 5 minutes late in the morning if they quite often stay 15 minutes late in the afternoon and don't put it down on the timecard. If 1o minutes talking to each other during work time makes them happier and makes them more productive when they are working then don't take that away from them. The value of workshop morale is severely underestimated.

Other tips
Negotiate with management before accepting the job to allow room to offer the boys something
Never hold group meetings to discus something, try to talk one on one