Plant Optimization at Goodyear Has Employees Fired Up

Plant Optimization at Goodyear Has Employees Fired Up

Jan. 5, 2021
A tenured employee told Bruce Beach, vice president at Goodyear, that Plant Optimization is “the best thing I have seen in 30 years.”

What determines whether you have a good day at work? According to Bruce Beach, vice president, Global Plant Optimization at Goodyear, it’s when things run smoothly and efficiently.

Taking that one step further, if you know that there is a framework in place that can help you correct any inefficiencies you encounter, that’s even better.

Well, Goodyear has that foundation and they call it Plant Optimization (PO).  “At the heart of this program is empowering employees to own either the machines they are working on or even a section of the plant,” Beach says.

Plant Optimization, which was first implement in 2013, is an operating system across global tire manufacturing locations, that employs specific practices that are based on the company’s pillars of performance. And that’s no small undertaking as the company operates 33 tire manufacturing plants.  

“While we are in the middle of our journey, we have made great traction in both employee engagement as well as increased productivity,” explains Beach. This system has also led to a 16% reduction in safety incidents and a 13% improvement in year to date OE yield above 90%.

Another outcome of the program, which is especially important to the company, is that it has helped to close, by 31%, its global gap in plant maturity levels.

“Plants do self-assessments, performed by the PO leaders as well as associates, to determine the current state of maturity levels. Engaged, empowered and enabled associates leverage standard, best-in-class approaches (“One Goodyear Way”) to deliver continuous and sustainable results,” says Beach.  

They use the PO pillars that are comprised of a set of underlying principles that can number from five to 33. As the principles are achieved the plant is considered more mature.  To illustrate why this metric is important Beach uses the example of training. A basic level training status would be ad-hoc, not documented and not used on a regular basis. The next level could be a more formal program used by 50% of the plant. But at the top of the maturity scale training is used 100% across the plant is well-documented and measured.

“Each year plants are expected to complete a certain amount of the principles and work across all company pillars,” says Beach. “Plants with the highest levels of maturity are our best performing plants.”

To help plants achieve those metrics, Goodyear has set up a PO Academy. It’s a two-week, off-site, intensive training program. “What’s important is for everyone to understand the principles behind these metrics,” says Beach. After an in-depth dive into the business strategies, employees are given a field project that allows them to apply their knowledge while finding ways to improve current processes. “People are very excited about the fact that they can see how these strategies result in practical improvements,” says Beach. He says that this system has fostered a company-wide practice of sharing best practices. He sees a lot of enthusiasm among employees who are eager to share their successes as well as look to other plants for ideas.

Over the past three years, 652 associates completed the formal Academy.  Associates are chosen for this program based on several criteria,  with leadership being one of the key characteristics.

While in-person learning created a problem with the pandemic this year, associates encouraged the company to use technology, such as RealWare, to continue the program. So, this year’s Academy was operative.  

Online learning, another component of the Academy, has been available since 2017. The number of associates who completed PO Academy eLearning courses rose to 13,484 in 2019, increasing from 10,783 in 2018 and 8,467 in 2017.

The PO system is highly-regarded by both long-term employees as well as newer ones. In fact, Beach said that he has heard from tenured employees who have told him that PO is “the best thing I have seen in 30 years.”

And for younger workers, the challenges presented by PO appeals to their preferences for jobs that involve input as well as problem-solving. “PO revitalizes the reason why people want to stay at the company,” says Beach.

The success of this system isn't surprising as it is based firmly on a culture that is receptive to continuous learning. Beach explained it this way, “When everyone I encounter looks me in the eye and talks about this system and their ideas, I know the culture is strong and will deliver results for both the   workers and the company.”     

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