A new year brings new ideas, new dreams, and new opportunities.
For manufacturers, 2014 also brings new challenges. Last year saw a renaissance for much of the industry. Production as measured by the Institute for Supply Management averaged well over 50 during most of 2013, signifying expansion. Canada's producers didn't fare quite as well, but on the whole North America's factories are gaining ground after a long and painful battle with overseas rivals.
And yet floor managers can't get complacent. Accenture estimates that investments in North American manufacturing are on track for roughly $300 billion a year, which could expand the region's share of worldwide capacity from 26% in 2012 to 28% by 2016.
Such spending must carry with it huge expectations from those making the bets. Here are five tips to help you make good:
1. Revisit. Take nothing for granted. Take a few days early in the year to review 2013 performance metrics for every aspect of the line. What worked? What didn't? Are there areas for obvious improvement? Get it all down somewhere and then set new (and realistic) targets for gains in the year ahead.
2. Train. As you revisit you'll likely identify patterns. Take extra time to notice why your best performers did so well. What about their process worked? Break apart the elements and document this best practice for widespread use throughout the factory, knowing that such incremental gains can add up over time.
3. Invest. Who are your top performers? Again, presume nothing. As you revisit 2013 results, look at what levers drove productivity and profits and correspondingly, who was pulling them. Single out these all-stars for extra training time, whether it be investing in a class or spending time with executives to learn more about the business.
4. Recognize. Also, invest in praise. Happy workers are infinitely more productive than their depressed peers. Give your best employees reason to cheer and be cheered by their colleagues. Send out a companywide email signifying a particular achievement. Have the CEO or General Manager place a congratulatory phone call. Whatever method you use, never miss a chance to publicly recognize great work.
5. Reward. Finally, make outperformance tangible and personal. Offer rewards that speak to the particular personality of the worker you're honoring. Are they a hockey fan? Commission a miniature engraved version of the Stanley Cup. A movie buff? A nice card with a personal note signed by the GM along with theater tickets might go over best. Whatever it is, make sure your workers understand that their contributions are valued.
In the end, North America's improving manufacturing climate means opportunity for the most enterprising floor managers. Take advantage by revisiting what has worked, training on best practices, investing in top performers, recognizing their work publicly, and rewarding achievement appropriately. Do that, and your chances at exceeding already lofty expectations will improve dramatically.
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.