Continuous Improvement. If you’re in manufacturing it’s a term you hear all too often. ISO is based on continuous improvement. As manufacturers compete globally it is essential to their survival. Too often continuous improvement is based on processes, ways of doing things and new technologies. All of these are important but to succeed, continuous improvement needs to focus on your greatest asset, your team members. Remember them, the ones that actual get things done, the ones that turn raw materials and parts and pieces into something amazing you can sell to your customers.
When looking at continuous improvement, creating a better working environment for the the team should be at the top of your list. Remember the old saying, “When Mama’s happy, everyone is happy”? Well try it this way, “When the employees are happy, everyone is happy, including the customers”. Doesn’t it make sense that when the people that actually make the company work are happy, things are better?
Reviewing input from Ebsco employee’s yearly goal setting evaluations and employee surveys it’s obvious they want to learn and experience more. It’s human nature. It’s hard to get excited going in to work and doing the exact same thing day after day, for most people. Most people want variety. I’ve heard it is the spice of life.
Over the past years we have had some success cross training employees in different departments. It allows management flexibility and allows those employees some variety in their jobs. In theory it was great but in practice it often seemed they would end up spending most of their time in one department and not get the opportunity to practice their training in the others. With a few exceptions we never seemed to get it to work to it’s full potential. Continuous improvement, let’s try something else.
We have some very skilled operators in both our secondary and grind departments. They come in day in and day out and produce high quality parts for our customers. BUT are they really happy doing the same thing day in and day out? Some yes, but many are wanting something more. We are launching a new training program focused on individual processes, not jobs. It focus on the basic principals of each unique process step instead of the individual jobs. This new process will allow operators to move across department lines, learning and experiencing new challenges. We are doing away with our job titles of grind operator and secondary operator to creating a new job description, Machine Operator. Each individual will now have skill sets that will cross department lines and be based on their individual processes. Supervisors will be able to easily move operators across department lines to meet the work load, a key concept of lean manufacturing. Our team members will learn more about the overall process of making springs and make contributions in several areas. VARIETY.
I am very excited about this. It will allow us greater flexibility and the ability to move team members to where the work is. We will be able to respond quicker to changes in the schedule and have more knowledgeable team members. BUT what I’m REALLY excited about is what it will do for our team members. It will offer a new opportunity for them to learn and grow. They can continue learning new processes with our new training program. They will have the opportunity to move around and experience new things every day. VARIETY. There maybe some who are happy doing the same thing that they have become very good at. For those we are happy to allow them to stay. The real point of this change is making the job better for them. To give them the opportunity to look forward to new challenges and experiences daily. To let them work along side new team members in different departments and have variety in their lives at Ebsco.
I tell all new employees that I have the following goal. “When you wake up at 5 am I don’t expect you to be excited about crawling out of your warm bed that early, BUT since you need a job, my hope is that you say to yourself, I might rather go back to sleep for a couple of hours but I need a job, and since I do I’m really glad that job is at Ebsco!”. I hope this change is one more reason for them to say that. I hope the variety and challenge is one more reason to look forward to going into work everyday. I know it’s exciting for me.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to see what new challenges and opportunities I have to face today.