Managing an entire production floor alone can be a difficult task even for the most adept plant manager. Some plants can have over 100 workers working at once and let me tell you it is hard to keep track of everyone. So the question is how can a plant manager ensure that daily goals are met?
Well plant managers look towards professionals known as Production Lead Hands or Lead Hands. In between the plant supervisor and line staff, lead hands are experienced workers who are in charge of a small group of employees in the same trade.
They are specialized individuals who play an important leadership role in various departments such as production,packaging and shipping. This means there is typically more than one lead hand on a shift at a time.
In order to better understand these leaders in production FoodGrads is exploring the fast-paced careers of Production Lead Hands and how they help meet food manufacturing daily targets!
1. Production Lead Hands support production
Production Lead Hands are responsible for:
Overseeing food processing activities in a given department and support daily operations. They perform this by scheduling, staffing, training, and troubleshooting problems. All these tasks help to lead the department to meet target and goals.
Lead Hands typically have knowledge on all equipment used in a facility. This allows them to train and help line workers if any troubles come up during production. Lead hands are essential to production because they help to maintain high food safety by being role models for other employees. Sometimes they will even jump in when needed performing general labour tasks on a production line.
2. Production Leads help to achieve daily goals
Lead hands are responsible for helping to meet production goals. Production goals typically are in the form of manufacturing a certain amount of product in a given set of time. Daily goals are met by coordinating the movement of product and people to achieve good efficiency. For example, they might realize they might switch individuals on two different lines because they they find one person is better at boxing off a product.
In addition, they communicate expectations and provide feedback to performance to those expectations for employees. They understand that people work better when given constant feedback surrounding a certain task. Furthermore, encourage co-workers increasing morale and productivity.
3. Production Leads have this education
This is a profession where the only education that you typically need is high school diploma or equivalent. This is a profession where having experience in a food manufacturing plant is much more important. Being a production lead is a very hands-on job where you work on the ground level with your co-workers. However, having an education background could help to jump start your career depending on the section of the plant to you are working in.
To be successful it is beneficial to know the nuances of a companies product and the equipment that manufactures it. Furthermore, having strong supervisor qualities and problem solving skills.
4. Production Leads Hands ensure good manufacturing practices
Production lead hands act as role models for other employees. Through their everyday actions they demonstrate commitment to improve safety and work culture. It is the production leads job to educate and train all individuals on GMPs. Many times individuals take on first time jobs in food manufacturing plants and don’t anything about GMPs. Although it is the quality department’s job to enforce and maintain GMPs it is difficult to be on the floor all the time so the production leads fills in these gaps.
5. Production Lead Hands are problem solvers
Problem solving can be the most challenging but exciting portion of any lead hands job. For example, they may find that a machine is not producing a product with the required speed or quality. To solve the problem they might adjust the equipment to have better portion-weight control or stronger.
Alternatively, they may be told by the plant supervisor that the production priorities have changed during the shift. It is their job to delegate new tasks to production workers or move them to different machines to optimize production or to change over to the new product processes. There a lot of challenging tasks that a production lead may have to perform but that is the fun of the job!
6. Production Lead Hands train employees
It is very typical for new workers to be trained by production leads because these individuals have so much experience in the plant. They provide effective training to all new and existing employees and ensure safety and quality standards are maintained at all times. Training might including shadowing an individual throughout the day while other times they are thrown right in the job and the line. Although the production lead always makes sure they are doing so in a safe manner.
7. Production Lead Hands are involved in innovation initiatives
When research and development decides to perform a new initiative it is not uncommon for the production lead to be involved. These individuals are very knowledgeable about their organizations and different machinery parts so they have a good grasp of things. Lead hands are able to answer questions that quality-control, safety or management personnel ask about work procedures or product characteristics.
8. Production Leads Hands have these set of skills
Being a production lead hand requires a range of skills however there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:
- Ability to motivate- In order to meet daily targets these individuals need to be able to motivate their workers. This is a skill that is generally developed over time but the most effective production leads are able to perform this task. They motivate individuals by first assessing the preferences and personality characteristics of the individual or group to be motivated. Next, they provide feedback regarding progress or lack of progress towards desired outcomes. Finally, they publicly recognizing others who have responded in the desired manner.
- Ability to communicate- Any effective leader needs to be able to communicate clearly and persuasively with their team and managers. If not done correctly this could mean incorrectly produced products or daily goals not being met.
- Ability to act decisively- Production lead hands need to act decisively and not get over-whelmed by the chaos of a food manufacturing plant. They are confident in what they are doing, have the knowledge from production, don’t let their emotions to over-whelm them and talk with employees to ensure success!
Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a recent FoodGrad working as Quality Assurance Technician at a snack food company. She graduated with a Chemistry degree at Ryerson University and has a passion for bringing awareness to sustainability in the food industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavours you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.
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