Mike Rogers, employee-relations manager at Lord Corp.'s Dayton plant, has seen a remarkable turnaround. On the brink of demise in 1985, Dayton went on to become in 1991 the company's most productive plant and a Best Plants winner.
Rogers also saw a workforce that felt hindered in the past become all-salaried, fully self-directed, and highly motivated.
When things were at their worst in 1985, Rogers and plant manager David Lichtinger went to the workers for help. They asked what should be done to make the plant a good place in which to work.
The two men were told by their employees that although they preached empowerment to the workers, they were not behaving like the enlightened managers they thought they were. Rogers and Lichtinger took that response seriously and began putting together involvement teams.
In the summer of 1987, the first work-cell team was formed in order to make a pitch-control shaft product for helicopters.
According to Lichtinger, almost immediately after the team began operating, it produced miracles. One example: Team members reduced scrap from $350,000 a year to virtually zero in 1991.
Seven more teams followed. Spirits began lifting, and trust developed. As improvements occurred, the plant began bringing in new technologies five Toyota machining centers, now busily churning out products, for example.
The transformation involved extensive training. As an example, every operator has received the technical training needed to be able to do all the work within a cell, instead of operating just one machine.