People, Training And Empowerment

Dec. 21, 2004
Accountable teams get results. Every team and member of that team must feel accountability to achieve specific goals and objectives that help the plant reach its goals. Teams must also have a way to report on their accountability. Putting the team process in place takes a lot of time, training and effort. If we did this again, we would have driven this with a structure using a certification process. This puts the accountability [on] every team to meet the specific requirements for each level and make a presentation to an oversight team stating why they have met these criteria. We have now started this and are seeing better results. -- Autoliv Steering Wheel/Airbag Facility, Columbia City, Ind.Establish a team suggestion process. Our individual suggestion process was not successful for us because our vision focuses on team involvement. When we changed to team suggestions, the numbers went from 0.75 suggestions/person to 5.7 suggestions/person. The accountability was put back on the team to implement where before it was up to the individual or maintenance. Teams can more easily free up appropriate resources to implement suggestions. We also added a drawing for prizes after every 150 suggestions are implemented. The only way to be included in this drawing is to have your team implement at least three suggestions since the previous drawing. As the numbers increase, we continue to raise the number of suggestions required to be involved in the drawing. -- Autoliv Steering Wheel/Airbag Facility, Columbia City, Ind.Stretch for safety. The use of stretching exercises along with chiropractic assistance to minimize many repetitive motion pains has been a positive factor in reducing long-term injuries. We also increased the number of ergo tables and changed machines to be ergonomically sound to help prevent issues. This -- combined with a plant safety team focused to prevent problems -- has given this plant the highest safety rating of all the Autoliv plants in North America. -- Autoliv Steering Wheel/Airbag Facility, Columbia City, Ind.Beware the power of empowerment. One of the goals of the plant is to have an empowered workforce that sees the plant's objectives as their own and is given the tools and systems to affect those objectives. Our team members latched on to that core value and ran with it. However, the number of suggestions and on-the-fly changes quickly became overwhelming and in some cases regressive. Examples of problems that ensued were:
  • Problem: Kaizen ideas were being submitted, but the evaluation and feedback loops to team members were taking too long due to the volume. The effect of this was that ideas started drying up as team members felt like no interest was being paid to their contribution. Lesson Learned: Get feedback that is honest and direct. Perhaps the volume is still overwhelming, but acknowledge receipt of the kaizen idea and status, on a regular basis. People are understanding of delays if they know what is happening and why. In addition, we had to develop systems to prioritize and more quickly evaluate kaizens for disposition.
  • Problem: Empowerment was contradicting working standards. With good intent, team members would find new and faster ways of doing their job. In some cases these were good improvements and in others they were unknowingly creating a quality or safety problem. Additional impacts were inconsistencies between operators or difficulty in determining what had been done the shift before. Lesson Learned: Education was the first place to start. We had to explain that we understood that the intent of most team members was noble and could be incorporated into the working standards, but that for the sake of consistency, we must make changes to working standards in a structured way. Team members still generate ideas quicker than we can incorporate them into the working standards, but they understand the need for a structured system now.
-- Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, Aiken County, S.C.Management commitment to teams. All of our activities, such as continuous improvement/lean workshops, are always made up of cross-functional teams consisting of both hourly and salary employees. This encourages communication, cooperation and team spirit, and eliminates any perceived union/non-union boundaries. These team activities can only be accomplished by management's commitment to providing the resources necessary to support these activities while maintaining production requirements. In other words, management must be committed to forego short-term operating objectives in an effort to support employee driven, team-based improvements. -- Collins & Aikman Corp. -- Guelph Products, Guelph, Ontario, CanadaThe plant cannot be managed from the office. The most important lesson that we have learned, and what we have found to be key to our success, is our employees. We have learned the importance of communicating with the workforce, keeping them informed and having them involved. We have found that the success in day-to-day operations is directly influenced by management's visibility on the floor. We firmly believe that the plant cannot be managed from the office, and as such, not only do the managers, but the office personnel as well, regularly visit the floor and participate in plant-floor activities. We have learned that our employees are genuinely concerned about the business and want to participate in the day-to-day challenges with which we are faced as a plant. It has been our experience that employee culture and diversity complement our business needs as each individual brings with [him or her] something characteristically unique; be it an idea, a talent or a discipline. The ability to tap into this diverse knowledge base is simply a matter of affording the employees the respect, self-dignity and the freedom to express their opinion on how they can invoke positive change. -- Collins & Aikman Corp. -- Guelph Products, Guelph, Ontario, CanadaCreate a winning team. Ultimately, the fundamental lesson that we have learned is that in order to succeed, we must generate excitement among our employees and instill upon them the enthusiasm of being part of a winning team that is focused, determined and recognized throughout the industry as being world-class. We have learned that there can never be enough communication with our employees, that there can never be an end to our continuous improvement efforts, that we are a partner to our customer in a highly competitive market and that if we support their efforts for success, we will in turn succeed ourselves. -- Collins & Aikman Corp. -- Guelph Products, Guelph, Ontario, CanadaThe transition to teams won't happen overnight. Developing truly empowered teams is a gradual process. It requires developing mutual respect through frequent, consistent communication and actions that back up the words. We have teams that have assumed various levels of responsibility for their daily activities. Some have grabbed the new culture and run with it. Others have come along more slowly, or simply resisted. Many who have not been able to accept the new culture have left, voluntarily or otherwise. But the vast majority of our associates are unified in our vision. As we have worked through this process, we have found our associates ability to execute and drive improvements to be the real reason for our success. -- General Cable Corp. -- Automotive Products, Altoona, Pa.Involve employees from the very, very beginning. Involvement of our hourly associates in the upstream planning and development of future business opportunities has proven to be very beneficial to the successful launch of product within our plant. However we have learned that involvement even earlier in all pre-launch activities can improve this even more. -- Kautex -- A Textron Co., Lavonia, Ga.Develop a flexible workforce. A union hourly environment, with many different job codes and stringent lines of responsibility and the "right" to do certain tasks, presents a challenging environment for lean transformation. Achieving flow necessitates minimizing the number of different people needing to touch the product on its way to completion. For us, where once there were 30 job codes, now there are effectively four that are involved in product assembly, testing and material handling. For the most part, there are no delays due to availability of the correct skill for a job. -- Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, Syracuse, N.Y.Touch everyone with training. Our evolution to excellence started with the act of sending a couple people to black belt training to see what it was all about. Excitement from the prospect of implementing those tools in Syracuse quickly led to our first wave of black belt training for about 20 people, commitment of about 2,400 hours (20 employees for three full-time weeks of training). This led to a session for senior leadership in a one-day overview of the Six Sigma tools, giving leaders an understanding of how they could deploy their newly trained black belts. This led to another wave of black belt training and was followed by subsequent waves of green belt training. Getting a critical mass of black belts trained across functions in a short period of time allowed us to start a continuous-improvement movement at the grass-roots level, mostly with successes in operations, but with supporters in other functional and program areas. We conducted the training as a precursor to kaizen events and found that it really served as a team-building tool, helping to contribute to success and open communication in the event. Based on this success, we decided to make sure that the entire operations workforce took the training, including the facilities' teams. We found it especially beneficial for facilities to have the training since they were often called upon to support kaizen events, sometimes on short notice. -- Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, Syracuse, N.Y.Find good people, train them well. As we grew from a $40 million to almost $200 million in sales, the employee talent infrastructure had to grow proportionately. We believe that our improvement is based on two facts: first, the recruitment of talent, and second, an emphasis on training. The Avilla Plant over the last few years has done a great job of attracting and retaining top-notch and qualified candidates for all jobs ranging from the operator on the floor to staff management. This strength in skills and experience has allowed the Avilla plant to implement succession plans and develop top management from within the organization. As for training, the facility is on track to average over 70 hours of training per person for 2003. The training has not only enhanced and strengthened the skills of our workforce but the residual effects of the training is the empowerment and positive employee morale that it has generated by the company "investing" in its employees. The employees have responded with a "can do" attitude. -- Kautex - A Textron Co., Avilla, Ind.Team member involvement. Involve the people to the degree that they learn to think as a manager when it comes to things like cost reduction, quality improvement, benefits, policy change, etc. Have as many people involved in as much of the decision-making as possible. It gives our team members a sense of empowerment to be able to influence what happens within their plant. -- Dana Corp., Owensboro, Ky.

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