During a recent assignment, I was the acting Interim Director of Manufacturing while an executive was putting a new management team in place. This was a difficult time for the company – scrap was at an all time high, a manager with almost 20 years of knowledge had just been let go and they had just failed a quality audit which put their business at risk with some of their customers.
During periods of transition, I have found it beneficial to give a team something to focus on. So, my mantra was simple: Safety, Quality, Communication. Safety of employees is always first and foremost. Quality must be a priority for every employee. And effective Communication is key to efficient operation of a business.
Changing the safety culture wasn’t easy. We started with personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically safety glasses. Once that was in place, we focused on slips, trips and falls, a top cause of safety related incidents. It took time but, slowly, the employees began to accept and embrace the changes.
We also focused in cleanliness of the plant. Cleaning up the plant went a long way towards improving the way the employees viewed not only their work area but also the quality of their work. Positive feedback on plant cleanliness from customers and vendors reinforced the habit.
Improving the quality of the parts we produced required educating the operators on their work and how it impacted the final product. While there was a quality system in place, the system hadn’t been fully embraced by the operators. Often times, operators didn’t understand how their individual job could impact part quality. The answer to the question, “Do you want good parts or parts at the specified rate” was Yes. And, if operators were struggling to make good parts, we took the time to fix the problem, not apply a band-aid.
Open communication was lacking with the previous manager. And it took time for the employees to change the way the spoke with each other. After a few coaching sessions, I overheard one of my direct reports say to another, “Our manor of communication needs to change.” And from that comment, I realized we were on our way.
Of course there were other obstacles that we needed to overcome. But slowly, we made improvements to the plant, scrap, and culture. Having a mantra that the employees could focus on during the period of change was vital to sustaining the business during the period of transition. Is your business in a period of transition? Do you have a mantra that your operators can focus on? If you need some assistance as you transform your business, emailme so we can arrange some time to talk. Together, we can make your business thrive.