How to Do a 180 Turning Around an Underperforming Factory

Do a 180: How to Turn Around an Underperforming Factory

Here are five tips for better engaging the workers you’ll need to turn around your troubled factory.

After setting records the month prior, manufacturing activity slowed some in September. According to the latest data from the RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, manufacturing activity fell to 53.5 last month -- down from 54.8 in August. (A score of 50 or above signals growth.)  In the U.S., The Institute of Supply Management’s index of manufacturing activity fell to 56.6 from 59.0 the month prior.

Changes in the business cycle account for most of the decline, though underperforming factories may also be contributing to the malaise. Facilities with outdated equipment, disengaged workers, and a correspondingly meager order book can exact a terrible toll.

Disengagement may be the most corrosive of these ailments. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, turnover costs roughly 21% of the average employee’s salary. Since most companies lose between 9 and 13 workers each year, cutting back on turnover could save millions.

Here are five tips for better engaging the workers you’ll need to turn around your troubled factory:

Embrace a culture of recognition. Don’t stop at the one-offs. Develop a whole program for recognizing great work in order to surface new best practices, and then score your team leaders on how well they do engaging with line workers. Make it part of quarterly and annual performance reviews.

1. Audit yourself to find what works. Chances are you already know what’s wrong. Do you know what’s going right? Commission a comprehensive audit of operations. Be specific and rank problems in order of severity. Also take note of successes and seek ways to leverage that work in other areas.

2. Recognize the great work that’s being done now. Once you’ve surfaced the areas where great work is being done, broadcast the good news. Call out the workers making a difference via email, social media, and with a personal visit. Let these employees know that, while times are tough right now, their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.

3. Embrace a culture of recognition. Don’t stop at the one-offs. Develop a whole program for recognizing great work in order to surface new best practices, and then score your team leaders on how well they do engaging with line workers. Make it part of quarterly and annual performance reviews.

4. Set measurable goals for improvement. Once you’re aware of the issues your factory is facing, set goals for addressing them. Break apart each problem, and then assign teams to tackle a portion. Request additional budget for overtime or incentive pay if that’s an option. And most of all, share your plan with the whole factory.

5. Share in the rewards of success. Give everyone a stake in the turnaround. Be explicit with your targets and then update workers on progress. In fact, make it a public contest. Give daily updates and dangle the idea of a catered dinner or  similar reward for hitting goal ahead of schedule. A well-aligned team will always accomplish more.

Production is a cyclical business, yet some factories suffer from systemic issues. Don’t give up if you find yourself in that sort of situation.

Instead, audit your operations to find the bright spots and take steps to publicly recognize the great work being done now. Then, formalize the process by making employee recognition a cultural imperative. Finally, set measurable goals and allow everyone to enjoy the spoils of success. Over time, your troubled factory may emerge as a template for others to adopt.

John Mills is executive vice president of Business Development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, a global leader in employee rewards and recognition programs designed to motivate and increase engagement and productivity across the workforce.

TAGS: Talent
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