Sharing Lessons Learned

Dec. 21, 2004
North America's 10 Best Plants winners for 2002 share advice about the challenges facing facilities that pursue world-class performance.

As part of the 2002 Best Plants application process IndustryWeek asked the 25 finalists to review their accomplishments and share the most significant lessons they had learned on the road to where they are today. For readers embarking on their own journeys to world-class performance, here is advice from the 10 winning plants -- Compiled By David Drickhamer. Management And Leadership

  • The quest for performance excellence is a journey, not an event. We are now in the 15th year of what was supposed to take only five years. We believe that an organization must select and institutionalize a proven framework to help manage and continuously improve any business. For us that framework is the Criteria for Performance Excellence used for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. We first used this criteria for internal assessments beginning in the early 1990s and continue to use the criteria today as a tool to validate our strengths and identify opportunities for improvement. -- Boeing C-17 Production Complex, Long Beach, Calif.
  • Treat everything you do as a process; then manage by process. Our enterprise is defined as a collection of processes. We use a seven-step approach to process management that helps us define, measure and continuously improve each process. We use our understanding of the linkage between key process characteristics and key product characteristics to manage key process inputs. We have also identified those processes that directly involve customer satisfaction and manage them closely. -- Boeing C-17 Production Complex
  • There are a lot of great business models to follow; selecting the wrong one can be destructive. Process improvement is great. However, at DST Output we have found that trying to lock everything into process control can be crippling. People who lock into process control tend to lose their ability to react and be nimble enough to respond to customers' needs. Hence our legacy of anticipating, accepting, and responding to change. -- DST Output of California, El Dorado Hills
  • Without question, the most important factors impacting world-class competitiveness and continuous improvement are very fundamental in nature:
    • Clear, concise, accurate and timely communication
    • A truly participative environment
    • Sound planning
    • Ongoing day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month continuous-improvement philosophy
    • Individual accountability consistent with responsibility
    • A passion for what you do
    • An obsession with customer satisfaction
    We recognize that these fundamentals are not necessarily cutting edge or intuitive, but . . . world-class performance cannot be achieved without them. -- Collins & Aikman, Americus, Ga.
  • Centralized policies do not allow a facility to meet the needs of the people. The Dana Style discourages centralization of all forms. For example, we decide in our plant what our wage and benefit package should be. We decide what our attendance policy will be. We have found that in order to be effective, people need to be involved in the development of these policies. -- Dana Corp., Stockton, Calif.
  • The characteristics of principled leadership are well described in Stephen R. Covey's book "Principle-Centered Leadership," [1991, Summit Books]. At ISP Chemicals, we have spent a great deal of time developing trust and trustworthiness because we recognize the need for trust in profitable business relationships. No less important are principle-centered followers. Good team members know that to go in the right direction they must help their leaders succeed. A successful organization must have good leaders and good followers, and we have both. -- ISP Chemicals Inc., Calvert City, Ky.
  • Webster Plastics has undergone a cultural transformation that has taken years. A great deal of patience, constancy of purpose and reinforcement is necessary throughout that process. That puts a premium on leadership and constant communication. A well-founded (and data-based) strategic planning and implementation process is also critical. A whole system approach ensures that our support systems, structure and process are well integrated and fully enabled. The smallest detail could undermine the transformation we've made." -- Webster Plastics, Fairport, N.Y.
  • In ISP's quest to become a world-class manufacturer, we have relied heavily on employee involvement, engaging the union work force in all steps along the way. However, you cannot obtain empowerment by abandoning leadership. It is critical that, while providing opportunities for job development, involvement and fulfillment, necessary leadership and direction facilitates the transition to a more empowered workforce. -- ISP Chemicals
  • Selective introduction of new technology is important. There are many choices for upgrading existing capabilities and adding new equipment. Involving those in direct control with a long-term vision is the key to the good decisions we've made at Webster Plastics. The technology decisions we've made support the self-directed work teams, providing them the capabilities (technical and non-technical), information (real time), and tools (quality molds, fixtures, automation, machine controls). -- Webster Plastics
People, Training And Empowerment
  • Involve all employees. A productive workforce is a motivated one, and a motivated workforce is an involved one. At the Boeing C-17 facility we have enjoyed success in improving productivity through extensively training and empowering high-performance work teams. And we have developed a culture that encourages risk-taking and regards so-called "failures" as learning opportunities. Our philosophy that "All ideas have value" has brought us amazing results. -- Boeing C-17 Production Complex
  • Empowered work teams are probably the most popular initiative in the quest for continuous improvement. Many companies want to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow overnight. They believe that putting any group of people together, training them in a classroom for a few days, and giving them goals will produce instant success. Supervisors will no longer be needed because the teams will make all of the decisions and the energy of empowerment will make everyone a great employee. Any company that embarks on this journey should expect great results in years, not months, and then only if they are committed and stick with it. Rantoul Products is on its fifth year of formalized work teams. We are still learning and growing. -- Collins & Aikman, Rantoul, Ill.
  • Avoid a cookie-cutter approach when starting teams. As tempting as it may be to simply copy another program from another facility, it may not be the best approach for your culture and business. Take a serious look at other successful programs. Note the similarities and differences between your operation and theirs. Then decide what will work best for your plant. -- Collins & Aikman, Rantoul, Ill.
  • Supervisors, team leaders or team advisors (whatever you choose to call front-line management) will be the critical element of a team and its growth. Do not embark on this journey without your supervisors fully on board. At Rantoul Products we initially thought it would be best to leave our front-line managers off the teams because we thought they would dominate and control the teams. This was a mistake because our supervisors were our "first line of empowerment." If they were not involved, ideas from the team rarely went anywhere. If you want effective teams, start with your front-line managers and develop them into team leaders. They will be the people that make your teams fly. A beautiful illustration of the power of supervisors on teams can be found in the book "Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment: How to Improve Productivity, Quality, and Employee Satisfaction," [1998, Fawcett Books] by William C. Byham with Jeff Cox. We strongly recommend this book as a prerequisite for anyone starting teams. -- Collins & Aikman, Rantoul
  • Empowered work teams should be cross-functional. The more functional diversity a team possesses the more this team will be able to think "outside the box," and its range of empowerment will greatly increase. Specifically, [the team] will brainstorm better and be qualified to act with minimum oversight (without having to ask permission for launching an idea). Not having functional diversity will create teams that constantly have to ask outsiders if they can do something. At best, this slows down the team and sucks the empowerment out of [it]. At worst, the outsider says "no," and the team is not only de-powered but discouraged. At Rantoul Products our original teams were made up of seven to 10 operators and a facilitator (who was an operator with a few weeks of training on how to be a facilitator). The original teams were severely handicapped because of this. We quickly switched to cross-functional teams with the supervisors at the helm, and our teams started rolling. -- Collins & Aikman, Rantoul
  • Perception is everything. This is especially true when it comes to the image of manufacturing. At DST Output we strive both internally and externally to project an image that reflects the unique qualities of our corporate culture. Inside and out, the focus on people is first and foremost. For example, we rolled out a new program this year -- Principles at Work -- designed to recognize people who "walk the talk" by showing a positive attitude and principled workplace philosophy. It provides employees with important acknowledgement from individuals who mean the most: their peers. We've found that recognition by a peer is one of the most valued rewards. -- DST Output
  • People must be involved in every facet of the plant operation in order to be successful. The environment in today's manufacturing facilities is so dynamic that top-down management is no longer effective. People respond to involvement, recognition and responsibility. It is no longer feasible for management to be an all-knowing, "I know what's best for you" entity. To be successful takes effective teamwork. Teamwork failed in the early 1980s because there was not a fundamental change in the management structure. The chain of command did not allow teammates to really feel that they had the authority and responsibility to make changes. -- Dana Corp., Stockton
  • The safety culture of a plant is absolutely critical to success. From a people perspective it is the right thing to do. No one should leave our plant injured. From a business standpoint, injuries cost a lot of money. The successful safety culture begins when the plant is built. Ergonomic, ventilation and lighting issues need to be addressed in the plant design. These items don't get the attention they deserve in the budget for new construction but will cost plenty if they are not addressed or are addressed poorly. The safety culture must be free of fear. At Dana Stockton we tell teammates to come to us with an injury, work related or not, no matter how minor, so that we are aware and can help them before it becomes more serious. Also, any compensible injury causes the entire plant to stop what we are doing and talk about the incident. -- Dana Corp.
  • Recognition is a powerful force for motivating people. Everyone needs to receive feedback on how they are doing, encouragement for a job well done, and guidance for improvement. At Dana we believe that every person should have at least one performance appraisal per year. We feel that this is an opportunity for each teammate to meet with [his or her] coordinator and discuss perceptions of that individual's performance. It is also a time to discuss career goals and direction. -- Dana Corp.
  • People are truly our most important resource. The following are some of the means we have undertaken to empower and utilize this important resource:
    • High performance work organization (HPWO) partnerships -- Labor-management partnerships based on shared decision-making to create positive and extensive workplace change such as improved quality, productivity and organizational agility, as well as enhanced earnings opportunities, long-term employment, job satisfaction and safety for all employees.
    • Behavior-based safety process -- "No Name/No Blame" proactive approach to changing employee at-risk behavior. Trained observers provide safe and at-risk behavior feedback.
    • Quality-improvement teams -- These cross-functional teams of employees from all levels have been trained in statistical methodologies and rigorous problem-solving skills. Their goal is to eliminate non-value-added steps and waste, eliminate sources of customer dissatisfaction, and use process-improvement tools to discover process/performance breakthroughs.
    • Gainsharing -- The employee gainsharing plan is designed to support plant objectives, ensure growth and stability of our site and company, increase employee involvement, improve customer satisfaction, help us become better environmental stewards, improve first-pass quality yield, and lower manufacturing costs, while sharing gains generated in quarterly payouts to all employees. -- ISP Chemicals
  • Our HPWO-Partnership structure places emphasis on consensus-style decision-making. Though not every decision may be made by consensus, those decisions that affect trust must be made by consensus. Furthermore, when consensus decision-making is not prescribed, the decision is made with prior input from all people affected by the decision. -- ISP Chemicals
Customer And Supplier Relations
  • Re-invent relationships with customers. In addition to delivering product and service excellence, at the Boeing C-17 facility we have come to recognize the value of customer-relationship excellence. Our customers actively participate on many of our multifunctional teams. This approach has enabled us to not only meet customer expectations but [also to] anticipate their needs on occasions as well. Agility and the ability to adapt to changing customer needs are strengths that we continue to develop to retain our current customers and attract new ones. -- Boeing C-17 Production Complex
  • One of the most difficult things to accomplish at Webster Plastics was continuing to revitalize the customer/product mix. We have accomplished this during a time when some would say we couldn't afford to. Long-term we believed we couldn't afford not to. Time has proven this to be a wise decision. Margin improvement, the excitement of new work and the challenge of learning new things are testimony to the success of this strategy. Part of the criteria used to select new work is the strength of the customer partnership. It's commonplace these days for large customers to demand price concessions and other one-way arrangements that ultimately put suppliers out of business. We accept this in some cases as a condition of doing business. In other cases we'll forego the business in favor of other well-structured, understood and mutually beneficial (win-win) long-term agreements. -- Webster Plastics
Communication And Performance Metrics
  • We have learned the importance of having all stakeholders understand where the organization is headed and the guiding principles that will help get us there. Our leadership regularly communicates our performance and our goals based on four key management imperatives: Meet commitments, improve processes, strengthen the team and grow the business. The commitment of our leaders at all levels to "walk the talk" has been a powerful cultural driver for us. -- Boeing C-17 Production Complex
  • Teams need to develop good metrics that they can understand, update and set goals for. They must have a guiding light for their efforts. The development of these measurables must involve top management to ensure that what the team identifies as important is in line with the goals of the plant and company. They must also be simple and translate easily into what people do in their day-to-day jobs. At Rantoul Products our teams currently measure and chart the following:
    • Safety -- number of injuries for the area
    • Quality -- number of non-conformance tickets from customers
    • OEE -- productivity measure made up of machine availability, performance, and quality rate
    • Delivery -- number of trucks with missing parts
    • 5S/housekeeping -- monthly management score for their areas
    • Training -- number of people trained on 75% of an area's jobs
    If a team has real, hard-hitting metrics and understands them, you will get real, hard-hitting actions from the team that drives bottom-line improvement. -- Collins & Aikman, Rantoul
  • Review goals and measures regularly -- every day is not too often! Honeywell Warren's results are shared in large groups at monthly meetings, and daily e-mails are sent to each production shift as constant reminders of goals and current performance. -- Honeywell Control Products, Warren, Ill.
  • It is helpful to have a clear plant scorecard and a balanced set of metrics. It is also helpful to have a theme, starting at the corporate level, that folks can rally around to better understand the payoff. At the Honeywell Warren plant our vision is productivity and "building best-in-class." This helps us define who we are and how well we are doing. -- Honeywell Control Products
  • Data-based decision making. In the past five years there have been two significant changes in the way data are used to make decisions. First, our accounting data have been transformed and presented in ways that better communicate our financial progress. The best example of this are our monthly key performance metrics (KPM). Prior to the development of the KPMs there was no understandable, consistent reporting of our financial results. The second significant change is that we have standardized the way we communicate process data. The best example of this is the prolific use of statistical process charts. -- ISP Chemicals
  • Another critical tool the ISP Chemical plant uses to achieve sustainable improvement is communications. The plant has sitewide communications meetings every month that help keep the entire workforce "in tune" with current operations and opportunities. All information regarding plant costs, programs and operations is shared. This open communication allows all employees to see the value they have to the organization and what value their actions have to the bottom line. -- ISP Chemicals Speaking the same language is critical; not English, but process improvement and problem-solving language. To achieve this we use Qualpro's SPC/MVT process and quality improvement methodology and Kepner-Tregoe's analytic troubleshooting skills and problem-solving/decision making workshops to provide all plant employees with the same terminology and step-by-step methodology to resolve issues and process problems. -- ISP Chemicals
Lean Manufacturing
  • Our secret to being a role model is without a doubt our embrace of lean principles. Our every action is driven by it. We religiously follow:
    • Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness -- Every move should be choreographed so everything has a place and nothing unplanned happens. This guarantees a safe, orderly and immaculately clean workplace.
    • JIT -- Products are built just-in-time. One overproduced part is waste.
    • Empowerment -- Everyone must be involved, engaged and have the opportunity to make key decisions in the management of the business.
    • Visual management -- Clear, open and timely communications are paramount. Every day everyone must know how the business is performing, as well as what's expected.
    • Pursuit of perfection -- Every action must delight both our internal and external customers. We are never satisfied with the status quo or reasons why a process cannot be improved.
    Every aspect of the business is addressed in lean manufacturing. Fully adopted, no stone is left unturned. The transformation that occurs is amazing. -- Collins & Aikman, Athens, Tenn.
  • The process to implement the lean enterprise is fundamentally a simple one. When you get right down to it, all that anyone needs to do, whether it's a manufacturing process or not, is identify the value that is provided to the customer. Then align the value stream to provide that value, make it flow, make everything happen because the customer needs it, and improve it. Simple, right? If it is that simple, why don't more companies do it? Why have we been successful? First, we had people who are passionate about success (change agents) . . . beyond what most people think is possible. When you're dealing with problems and headaches, the "dream" of what we were trying to do carried us through. Make people read, make them learn, make them do things they might think are stupid, but look for people willing to try something different. Then turn them loose to go after the dream. Second, give people success. Everyone loves a winner. 5S is a good place to start because it's easy, but also because it makes a statement. The general populace sees things changing and may not understand why, but they know something "different" is happening. It also gives the "true believers" something to point to and say "Look what we did" that no one can dispute. We also picked a line to pilot -- we saw results early and knew we could do it -- that provided momentum as we added new elements. Third, get rid of the "concrete heads." This doesn't mean they can't be productive members of the company or organization, but they need to get out of the way of the change agents. Everyone says you need to get rid of them sooner; we "said" the same thing too. But because we took some time with this, we also had a strong group of believers, and those who made the decision to not participate are no longer with our organization. Four, make a decision and stick to it! Too many people don't know how to make a decision. On April 26, 2000, we decided we were going lean one way or another, and there was no turning back. At that point we stopped "dabbling" in lean and went after it and got some tremendous results. It was no longer a question of "if" but "when"? It's easy to say we'll try it "here" for "this long" or "we'll see what happens." Those are phrases of someone who is sitting on the fence. Five, secure buy-in throughout the organization. At Medtronic Xomed, we had a vice president of operations both pushing us to change and providing "air support" so that when things went bad there was backup to protect the effort. You have to have an executive sponsor who is in a position and is willing to take the heat and push you harder. Six, crises help, but we didn't have one. In some ways, it would have been nice to say, "If we don't do this, the world will end!" But it wouldn't and it didn't. So someone has to provide a compelling reason why it has to be done: a crisis, to make history, to do something no one else has done. There has to be a compelling reason because when the chips are down, and no one is helping and it doesn't seem like you're getting anywhere, it will keep the passionate people together. Seven, stand by for heavy rolls because the ship is going to rock. You've just upset the apple cart, and a lot of people aren't going to like it. Expect resistance but keep an unwavering focus on the ultimate goal. Maybe it's the guy whose organization got smaller or the project that was cancelled. Or maybe "operations" is going to get all of the recognition. Whatever the reason, people will resist. We (the plant team) have been accused of being too focused, too one-dimensional, too good, not good enough. Whatever comes up, you have to have the persistence to see it through. And finally, have fun. Take pictures, celebrate success, talk about it, sell it to whoever you can. Invite people in to see what you're doing. Go for an award. One way or another, you have to remember where you came from so you can figure out where you're going. Showing other people, teaching other organizations, helps you to remember what you went through. And that gets people fired up. -- Medtronic Xomed, Jacksonville, Fla.

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