The past few generations of Americans have spurned manufacturing as a career. The reasons for this are many and tangled, but one obvious reason for the snub has to do with the word professional and its connotations. Prestige. Money. Lawyers and accountants. Air-conditioned offices in skyscrapers. Certainly not factories. Anything but manufacturing line workers.
Bill Hindle is out to destroy that mindset. His company, HindlePower, has invented a system, an ethos, a new approach to the manufacture of its battery-charger products based on employee professionalism. And the system is working, as the company's 15% annual revenue growth over the last 10 years attests.
Hindle calls this initiative the Professional Manufacturing Team. Built around employee education, trust, and empowerment, the initiative's aim is to establish a profession for HindlePower's workers to build a career within, thereby transforming every member of the company's 75-person workforce into a bona fide professional.
How to Tap the Greatness
"Every person in our organization has greatness in them," Hindle said at last month's 2014 IndustryWeek Best Plants conference in Milwaukee. "Our job is find that greatness and tap it."
Education. One way that Hindle's Easton, Pa.-based company is tapping its employees' greatness is through the establishment of HindlePower University, a comprehensive training program that offers 25 to 30 courses contained in separate curricula for each of the company's five production lines.
"To be a member of our Professional Manufacturing Team, you must be educated," Hindle says. "It's your responsibility to learn how to do your job. It's about accountability. Everybody here is a professional, and everybody must graduate from HindlePower University."
Trust. The most crucial element in the company's Professional Management Team initiative is employee trust. HindlePower has no locked stockrooms, no security cameras and no time clocks.
"If you want stellar performance, there had better be trust in your organization," Hindle says. "We don't lock things up and we don't have cameras -- but we have no theft. We don't use time clocks. Our only attendance policy is 'You are important; please come to work.' And family always comes first. But even with all that, we routinely hit 97% to 100% attendance every day, every week, every month, every year."
Empowerment. In Hindle's view, empowering workers is simply a matter of removing the barriers that impede their growth.
"The best way to empower people is to get out of their way," he says. "We think we have this amazing ability to tell our young people exactly how they should act and behave. They grew up in a different world than we grew up in. They have different brains. They think differently than we did. Get out of their way."
Occasionally you have to grit your teeth and roll the dice, he says.
"If somebody comes up with a crazy idea and you think, 'God, that's going to fail in a heartbeat,' sometimes you should say, 'Try it. Let's see what happens.' It may fail, but that failure may open the door to a great new idea. You'll never know if you don't let it happen."