Inviting The Whole Culture to Save the Factory from Closure:
A Home Town Solution To Surviving In Global Wars For Marketshare
Sherrie Ford, Ph.D.
Principal, Change Partners, LLC
CROSSING OVER FROM THEORY-MAKING TO CULTURE-MAKING
In past years of sharing knowledge and information about work culture in manufacturing, I have written the conference proceedings essay as a consultant with expertise in understanding the ultimate constraint in manufacturing: that of sustaining a continual and compelling dream in the hearts and minds of a workculture such that radical change not take such terrible tolls on people, not to mention on the bottom line. This year, I am here as a cross-over.(1) Our consulting company has taken a radical change upon itself by actually acquiring one of its clients, a factory here in the same town, where nearly 500 employees work, many of whom have been here for over 35 years. Thus, today I am speaking as a manufacturer, with all of the realities thrust upon me and my business partner that sceptics about consultants in the past have claimed were wanting in our experience.(2) Why on earth did we do this, particularly since the consulting business was doing very well and had excellent prospects for continuing?
There are many reasons, but first and foremost, we saw that we finally had a golden opportunity to prove empirically even further that our pioneering theories and models of lifting out and then understanding hidden legacies in workcultures have more to do with business success than do the tactics associated with, for example, Lean Manufacturing. If you have not as yet been caught up in Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Enterprise Management, you certainly soon will be, as it is a movement that continues to circle the globe, and with each pass, becoming more refined as transformations fail on the first pass, or even the third, fifth, tenth. The Toyota Production System (TPS) has become indeed a holy grail for all of us, and we each must find our unique path of stripping away all excuses for being less than Number One in our industry.(3)
Secondly, it is one thing to assist the workculture in a state or country remote from your own back yard. Our mission is to facilitate the re-invention of organizations deemed endangered by a too-slow response to global competition. One of our stated values is, without trying to be all things to all people, never to walk away from a company or a person in need. When you begin reading headlines with ever-increasing frequency in the local newspaper such as regards the following manufacturers, you realize, when you believe that you have the remedy that could prevent it from happening, your own sense of failure not to take an even greater stand:
What all of these (and there are many more in our region) have in common is prolonged denial that their workcultures, along with a complacent, bystander stance in the community, were the primary root causes of shut-down. Though certainly global pressures to compete on cost for commodities with virtually no margins are compelling and logical factors that corporate owners claim for these shut-downs for Athens, Georgia, USA, you only have to look at the strategies of one other factory in town, those of textile beaming plant Invista (formerly Dupont), to know that a plant and most of its jobs can indeed survive when you engage the whole workculture sustainably in survival. And there are more examples such as these.
- General Time - the last clock factory in the USA, having bought out its competitor Spartus in 1997, closed its doors despite having major domestic contracts with K-Mart and Sears and a commitment to using Lean Manufacturing methods.
- Chipman Union - In business since 1884, with state of the art sock knitting machines and holding licenses for Adidas and other top brands, closes down its two plants after expanding only five years earlier, as sock making goes to the Caribbean.
- Thrall Car - Suspended operations in making railroad cars for hauling finished automotive goods despite the on-going demand for automobile distribution.
- Levelor Blinds - Shut down its custom window treatment fabrication despite having major retail contracts and reputation for high quality product.
- Wilkins Industries, Duckhead Apparel, Texfi Industries, Delta Apparel, Men's Apparel Group close within two to three years of each other - all classics in the American South, where cotton was king in the nineteenth century, and textiles and garment making have continuously dominated the economy, despite the fact that alternative methods of manufacture had demonstrated world-competitive results.(4)
- Veratec/BBA Non-Wovens - A key link in the supply chain of synthetic fibres (Fibervision) to weaving (Veratec/BBA Non-Wovens) to disposable diaper liners (Procter & Gamble), this plant in losing its largest customer did not recover adequately or quickly to regain it or to find a replacement.
Thirdly, it has long been our belief that regions have overlooked their most potent weapon in winning the economic development wars. It is true that local economies are inseparable from the global economy, and that more than ever, any local factory is buffeted about by whole supply chains that collapse and re-form. Competitors suddenly become partners then competitors again. The town where a factory workculture resides gives up on remembering who the latest corporate owner is, and any attachment ever felt by the town weakens. But for a community to view itself as being at the mercy of global dynamics beyond control is a form of negligence on the part of local leaders that must be made plain. My business partner and I saw the opportunity, by risking our successful careers and the security of our families to demonstrate that a local community is not at the mercy of what feels like corporate whims (to merge with a competitor, to move a plant to Mexico or to China, or to India, or to oblivion) to slash costs.(5) A town with a factory, even an old tech, low tech factory, has assets worth fighting for.
BUT DO NOT FIGHT WEARING A BLINDFOLD
This is not a story about starry-eyed, American can-do-ism. It is not anti-global economics (we are not in denial about the attractive offer made by China: low cost production, large consumer base). This is a story about managing the inevitable shifts in the tectonic plates of global commerce such that vast numbers of current workcultures have more control over their own destinies and timing, through more effective operational engagement and more effective systems of support by the community.(6)
In short, it is a recounting of how a brownfield factory over forty years old, once regarded as the employer of choice in a city of 60,000, came to be a nightmare of workculture abuse as a result of over-reacting to global competitive threat, with its performance spiralling ever downward despite high demand for its old technology product and general good relationship with customers. A recounting of how it evolved from being a flagship production facility for Westinghouse, a grand old American brand, to being a whipping boy for its European owners, ABB, Inc, to now as Power Partners, Inc, if not to being a completely a free agent, at least to being a company with the owners standing next to you in line at the gas station where you both speculate on next steps in strategy.
THE TOYOTA PRODUCTION SYSTEM, LEAN ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT AND THE WORKCULTURE IMPASSE
The Toyota Production System and its synonym Lean Enterprise Management today represents the best set of manufacturing and supplier chain management principles ever to evolve and gain a foothold not only within the company of origin, Toyota, but now within some factories as part of some corporations on every continent.(7) The "PS" in "TPS" is now often part of the acronym of an explicitly stated production system, such as Delphi Manufacturing System (DMS), etc, all modelled on TPS.
Boiled down to a sentence:
- The Lean Enterprise seeks to eliminate the waste of time in all its physical and sometimes hidden manifestations (data in a computer inaccessible to those who need it). The methods of doing so are derived from constant inquiry of the workforce and constant maintenance of their critical thinking and job-related skills: standard work, kanban-managed inventory, visual systems, fool-proofing, 5S Order and others; as well as constant engagement in the plan, do, check, act problem-solving process.
- You can track the waste of time that accrues in a factory by the physical presence of the following classic seven forms:
- Overproduction of parts or final product, which leads to
- Waste in handling, counting, storing, searching, retrieving, contaminating or if stored long enough, rendering obsolete, all of which can lead to
- Waste in transportation either inside (forklifts) or outside the factory
- Waste in motion from ill designed worker fields
- Waste from making defective products (re-work, scrap management)
- Waste in supply management: under- or over-stocking
- Waste in waiting (for blueprints, corrective actions, incomplete sub-assemblies - often caused by stockouts)
There is many an accounting of Lean Enterprise methods, each method designed and refined to take out waste, create a clockwork of effectiveness and efficiency.(8) The Japanese come-back from negative net worth at the end of WWII still astonishes the admiring and grateful consumer of cameras, camcorders and cars. No one else on earth, as a country, has ever created such a profound change in economic well-being in such a short period of time, and now the whole world wants to emulate that process, including the Americans, whose combination of grocery store replenishment and integrated supply chain developed by Henry Ford is said to be an integral source of Japan's inspired manufacturing model.
The problem lies in the fact that Lean Enterprise manufacturing uses counter-intuitive strategies that often baffle "old fashioned" American and other workcultures that have, to their understanding for decades, outperformed the world (or tried to in copying American and European ways) by thriving on the very methods that produced these so-called wastes.
- Produce all you can while the machine is set up and running; it's the efficient way; it shows ROI on the machine
- Keep plenty of parts on hand, "just in case"
- Assign degreed professionals to take care of inspecting quality in to the product
- Create a priesthood among the maintenance crews because they hold the keys to continual operation
- Be suspicious of your suppliers because they will likely cheat you if they can (and negotiate hard!)
I could list many more such fundamentals considered to be second nature to factory workcultures, and let's face it, these workcultures have indeed outperformed the world, in times past despite their bloated systems (9)
Past. What a powerful word that is. What a hold it has on a workculture. The fact of the matter is that the move from mass production and all its glorious results to lean production and all of ITS glorious results has been one of heartache, stress, and loss of will in many cases, to stand by the beleaguered factory and its people as the world of manufacturing adjusts to a new drumbeat in production caused by "PS".
The role of plant leader has changed so radically that front line workers today have the job description of a plant manager a few decades ago, while the plant manager looks for innovations in product, process, design, customer relationships, supplier relationships. Union presidents scratch their heads and try to decide whether to support the idea of teams or not, the idea of outsourcing or not, going on strike or not, as the future becomes more opaque, with increased wages and benefits seemingly a thing of the past. Workers, alienated by both management and union, wind up in generational conflicts that sidetrack meaningful discussion about plant progress.(10) There is little to suggest that anyone is likely to be swept off their feet by completely changing their beliefs about production processes.
We at Change Partners in our culture-change facilitation work have observed that more important than whether a factory ever masters the intricacies of kanban inventory management, 5S workplace management, supply chain management, total maintenance management or any of the other Lean management systems is whether the culture can have an awakening such that Lean Enterprise as a way of life is in fact what the workculture itself deems as vital, in ways that only a workculture can commune with itself. Lean Manufacturing has never been embraced ipso facto by any workculture where by fiat corporations have sought to convert their operations. In addition to making these observations, we have discovered a pathway to opening up a workculture so that the warm light of Lean Enterprise can be let in. That process has been recounted at this conference each year since 1999 and since the details of that process are covered in the workshop, as well as in past conference proceedings, I will not review them here, but the primary reason for finding a way to swing the deal to own what we have named Power Partners, Inc, came out of the instant vision that a factory we were helping to find its way to Lean thinking and working could at last be a proving ground to all about the improbable power that workculture has on success in managing any change, let alone a Lean Conversion.
FROM IMPASSE TO DEALING WITH THE PAST TO THE PASSING LANE, ONE FACTORY AT A TIME
In the above comments, I describe that the Lean Enterprise movement, while clearly part of the solution to the global challenge in America or anywhere, hardly takes root easily despite its reputation for production and quality prowess, not to mention the wealth and job security that follow. And, failing to master Lean Enterprise methods quickly leads to the demise of more factories than perhaps necessary. That is, if more of the plants listed in my opening, and all those plants in other parts of the country in even more industries deemed "not fit for further American investment" had embraced the new manufacturing methods sustainably, they would still be open for business with improved products and processes, perhaps even making different products altogether.
This brings me to commenting further on the second reason we bought the plant: to find out whether we could move one factory from its well defined impasse, to putting its past completely behind, to then seeing that the factory become strong enough to pass ahead of the few competitors that exist today and to prevent competition from emerging from abroad. While we have not yet achieved the second two goals entirely (it has only been one year), the success indicators are strong.
THE IMPASSE WITH LEAN ENTERPRISE
As reported last year, the former corporate owner ABB, Inc, a large Swiss-Swedish conglomerate, had determined that this former Westinghouse transformer plant in Athens, Georgia, had to be "fixed, closed or sold." Their attempt at "fixing" the plant through use of Six Sigma strategies and others, some vaguely recognizable as Lean Enterprise strategies, had failed to make the plant profitable. Closing the plant, with its union contracts in place, would have cost a fortune so large that it would have been hard to recover even in a decade.
The choice was to sell the plant to us at Change Partners, a third party culture change facilitation firm that had identified many ways that the workculture indeed favoured Lean Enterprise approaches to salvaging the plant during the intensive assessment process conducted over three months in 2000. ABB, Inc, still needs the product in its portfolio and accepted that Change Partners was free of the corporate levels of waste (the eighth waste perhaps, that of paying overhead charges whether the services they represent add value to the product or not).
What had ABB, Inc done to emulate the Lean Enterprise strategy at this plant, yet failed? Many things:
With its completely non-culture-based approach to making the plant profitable, the plant became worse than merely a sink-hole for dollars. No one recalls the ABB era as one of successful Lean Enterprise implementation. Instead, the memories are bitter. To the degree that Lean is being re-introduced by Power Partners via Change Partners, we are having to reassure the workculture that we are following the results of the 2000 culture assessment in all that we do, and among those results we find a longing for quality to prevail, training to be extensive, suppliers to be intimate and partnering, and for leadership to be recognized everywhere, not just with those with position power.
- Outsourced all but its core competencies of coil winding and tank making. Items such as breakers, arrestors, wires, other components of a transformer were sent outside, with the result that process visibility was lost, part quality greatly declined, stockouts went through the roof, vendor wars ensued
- Tried to "build quality in" to the product by firing 30 inspectors, with the result that, with untrained operators, quality again deteriorated
- Eliminated "non-valued added" activities such as training, service awards, family days, reward and recognition programs. The fatal flaw was in reducing training to, in many instances, just a few hours on the job
- Downgraded the role of maintenance so as to loosen their grip on regulating machine vitality. In just a few years, maintenance workers either retired unreplaced or left, diluting the skill base, not to mention the maintenance work ethic
- Enforced a belt-tightening program such that everyone took 30% payouts, in essence trying to take the fruits of a Lean conversion before they had been earned, and in the process shattering the last shred of worker pride and loyalty to the operation.
DEALING WITH THE PAST
The very heart of what Change Partners has pioneered is a process that uncovers just what it is that workcultures want and a great deal about why what they want appears to be beyond reach: the presence of legacy systems that both propel forward yet pull back at the same time. At any given moment across a factory floor, you can hear conversations that, if somehow played side by side would sound as if the speakers worked at different places. Legacy systems in a culture accrue over time and at some time each told a truth, if ephemeral, but a truth that continues to be remembered by enough employees that they form a mini-belief system. Until challenged, accomplishing a Lean Enterprise while entangled in these conflicting legacy systems, these legacy systems frustrate every function and level (not to mention generation) until such time as a clear, new, relevant vision is articulated and embraced.
That sounds easy enough, and many companies let their younger generation plant managers-those without the mental frameworks of the mid- to late-twentieth century -- rush headlong into "culture change" plans, generally based on copying what someone else has recounted as their success, copying even the words in another's vision statement. But we have found out that without facilitating 100% of a workculture through a process that reveals its accumulated contradictions, as well as its own prescription for how to change, the culture change process is sheer torture for everyone. Those that succeed do so because of the determination and charisma of one or two at most, driving the process. When they leave, Lean leaves as well.
The paradox is that what workcultures want is Lean Enterprise methods! But the language of Lean (kanban, pokeyoke, hijunka, takt time, six sigma, cycle time, cells, cross functional teams) is not the language of a workculture, which is, by the way, always interested in surviving, despite how resistant it feels to be immersed in workculture trying to lead it out of the mass production thinking, or, trying to follow that lead.
At this ABB, Inc, plant, the legacies clearly had evolved from having been once a Westinghouse plant then becoming an ABB plant. That is, from Westinghouse-American, a pedigree brand name, quality a premium, many forms of reward and recognition, respected in the community, career path intact, world reputation for excellence in its transformer technology to ABB, Inc-foreign, cold, uncaring, cost-obsessive, dismissive of quality, unknown in the community (ABB? Who is that? Do you mean A B and B?)) and managers always angry. Even though under Westinghouse this plant had lost a major class action suit based on racial discrimination, virtually all employees would prefer returning to the Westinghouse era.
And yet, ABB, Inc had its share of employees who had never known the pleasures and perks of working at Westinghouse. Many resented those who seemed to be stuck in the past. Younger employees, though they could cite the grievances felt by older workers, and thus absorbed some of their biases against ABB management, largely thought older workers should "get over it," and "let us show you how it's done." They felt they could make quality product under any circumstances (whether they could by measured standards or not, we could not at that time tell).
Primary legacy systems include huge gaps between belief and reality in quality, training, the role of supervisors, the value of robotics-these and other topics. For the most part, this plant with sad performance, despite its obvious evidence to the contrary, still believed it was a world class plant. Quality at one time, yes, was respectable, but was inspected relentlessly, at a huge cost under Westinghouse. Training had become episodic at best and eventually non-existent under ABB, yet those with decades of tenure considered themselves to be well trained, including those in the professional ranks who lack even today the most modest levels of certification. Supervisors were adrift on a sea of confusion-never given financial information or meaningful information on performance under either Westinghouse or ABB, most were regarded as barriers to productivity rather than enhancements. And robotics. This is the technology that ABB, Inc, Worldwide is best known for, but to this plant, robotics had become an albatross. A demonstration project to show the world how you could call in an order for a customized transformer, have it made and shipped within days, turned out to be a complete farce-it made one tank while the designers declared it a successful venture. But it never ran a single, trouble-free production run and was eventually scrapped.
THE PASSING LANE
With so much going against it, how can one imagine this plant re-inventing itself sufficiently to surpass its own best levels of performance-long since deemed not good enough, let alone pass ahead of competitors in the marketplace? Naturally we are taking a culture-based approach.(11)
The culture-identified solutions derived from an assessment in the year 2000 of the 100% of the workforce revealed the specifics of changes needed; we are in the process of implementing them very consistently, tying the Lean Enterprise methods in as appropriate, if they fulfil a culture void. The "Order of Operations" for effective change pivots on effectively resolving specific changes demanded regarding standards in "Communication," " Management" and "Training" in such a way that results would be obtained to desired levels in such themes as "Materials and Equipment," " Quality," " Customer Service" and "Pay and Benefits".(12) Our belief has been proven many times over that effectiveness in the plant's top three influences for change, as determined by the culture itself, as Communication, Management, and Training determine whether the other areas will have results. Accordingly, right out of the ownership gate, we re-instituted the following sampling in each:
Vigour in Communication
Vigour in Management
- Re-chartered the Communication Team, which has eight sub-teams for designing and executing strategies that ensure full awareness of the business, competitors, status on the key initiatives. Included are the All Employee Meetings now held monthly instead of four times per year, plant wide social events, "Watt's Up?" the company newsletter, an interactive kiosk terminal whereby any employee can check status of his or her career options, training path, etc and many others
- The Birthday Club whereby in the employees' birth month a session is held on each shift whereby the owners share a meal and conversation about any topic desired, with emphasis on visioning beyond the making of transformers
- Drum Beat Meetings whereby the management team learns the discipline of follow-up in their leadership roles: every Monday and Wednesday for two hours, the top management team reviews initiatives and measures, with deep dialog regarding any missed goals or any culture impacts
- A daily 8:30 am "walk around" by top management to each corner of the factory, with dialog at each stop with the lead person on any barrier to meeting daily goals. Any barrier raised is given on the spot to the manager accountable for removing it.
- A daily 12:30 pm meeting by top management to examine all issues in need of attention and to fend off such impacts as poor supplier deliveries, sudden rise in order rate, effective management of temporary workers(13)
- Newsletter "Watt's Up?" published in Spanish for the benefit of our Hispanic workers
- Visual Workplace methods-perhaps one of the most potent ways to communicate in a workplace is without words but rather with effectively placed signs, labels on the floor or overhead, or other devices that direct the individual to important information without the extra layer of management and can relate to quality, materials and production real-time information(14).
- Social communication efforts include the first-ever Christmas party, entirely organized by an hourly leader and a volunteer team; an Easter Egg Hunt put on by the Culture Change Team as well as an annual Family Day, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day costume competition.
Vigour in Training
- Started a breakthrough meeting monthly called the Leadership Forum with union and company leaders, setting cultural direction, addressing "rumours," jointly determining responses to issues that arise.
- Instituted the Drum Beat process, to enact in leadership what we expect in a Lean shop floor: takt time, running at the beat of customer orders. In this case, the customer is the shop floor and those that support it. This is a highly No Excuses process; managers show up with solutions, not blame, which is not tolerated. Neither is procrastination tolerated nor failure to involve and engage the workforce in problem solving
- Removed the supervisor level. Shop floor departments are now able to pursue self-direction in meeting production goals. The supervisor level was proving to be a major barrier to effective communication and morale building
- Instituted the Lead Person role: this person works full time on the line but is given intensive leadership and accountability training. In time, the entire factory will be in self-directed cells producing one piece flow
- Goals set by using tools that require baselines of proven capability before setting unattainably high standards; further, goals are set jointly with whoever is expected to execute the work
- Gainsharing implemented to reinforce the goals set by the above method, so that we never revert back to the poor performance of old. That is, each month, when improvements are met in defect reduction, on-time shipments, cash flow and other turnaround metrics, employees get a bonus check
- Instituting a culture of teams: Communication Team (with eight sub-teams), Training Team (with eight sub-teams), Gainsharing Team, Charities Team, Benchmarking Team, weekly kaizen blitz teams on such tasks as defect reduction, machine failures and stockouts. Each of these efforts is given generous resources for reward and recognition
- Instituting a culture of reward and recognition: Gainsharing, perfect attendance (up from only 25 individuals to now 100), defect-free coil-winding, 5S performance (15)
- Where necessary and after lengthy due diligence, removed some managers and replaced with proven talent from the outside
- In backfilling positions formerly covered by ABB, Inc, hired new management with culture-based values.
I could go on at perhaps boring length, but you get the picture. Business results: have we turned the plant around? We have not to our satisfaction accomplished that goal, but we have brought the plant to at least a marginally profitable level - a level that the plant has not experienced in decades-some tell us the plant has never made a profit. A small sample of results includes:
- Re-chartered the Training Team, which has eight sub-teams. Their themes include New Hire Training, Career Track, Learning Lab, Technical Skills for Standard Work, Benchmarking, On-the Job Training, Lead Operator Skills and Support Staff development
- Benchmarking twice monthly. Thus far, some of our outings allowed us to benchmark Saturn for their training systems, Michelin Tires for their self-directed team management concept, Summit Polymers for their TPS implementation, Creform for their visual workplace device usage and Ohio Brass for their Lean Manufacturing "early journey" story
- One-on-one training in problem-solving by our Six Sigma Black Belt
- Total Productive Manufacturing (TPM) training-making a strong team out of the maintenance worker, the operator and the engineer
Has the marketplace noticed? You bet. Our toughest competition is resorting to spreading rumours about our just being a "mom and pop" outfit, taking huge losses on bad bids just to get market share and other manoeuvres that tell us they find us a very threatening enterprise, no longer burdened with the corporate overhead suffered by ABB, Inc.
- Last September, with a particularly brutal hurricane season, our plant produced 20,600 units, a level of production that had been performed only four times since the 1970s, when the plant had 1600 employees, compared to our 500 today.
- Defects at the end of the line are down 50%, and down in the paint line by nearly that much.
- Those machines that have gone under TPM are approaching OEE levels at 80 to 85% or more, up from the doldrums of percentages in the 60s.
- Absenteeism is drastically reduced, from 150 "occurrences" (unexcused absences) per month to 50, and still going down
Has the community noticed? Again, yes. As part of our motivation for acquiring this plant, we wanted to create a role model example by not allowing this factory to be a throw-away. We were thus very gratified to learn that our community has not only named us Industry of the Year but has nominated our plant for state-wide recognition. The Manufacturer: Promoting Best Practices in Manufacturing in March, 2004, singled out our "project" in a feature entitled "Brave Hearts: Alarmed By the Exodus of Manufacturing From Athens, GA, a Pair of Organizational Consultants Took Action."
Where are we headed? First, we have to continue getting the house in order. It is cleaner and safer one year later, but not at world class levels. We do not run a Lean Enterprise so long as there is a backlog, or that we build to forecast rather than to order, and have suppliers that fail to meet our material specs. But these are within sight in the next year. Next, we want to grow the line by taking more market share, based on prowess at one piece flow production and the lower cost that we can guarantee our customers. Then, we want to move away from dependence on making only transformers, which is completely a replacement business, likely to be obsolete in ten years. Thus we will begin using our coil winding and tank making skills for related products in the electrical power world, and then, ultimately, we will make things that have nothing to do with power. That is the vision. As the closing lines of the preamble in the union contract say:
The work of the factory is to create a work culture that cannot be put out of work. Ever. We welcome the opportunity to work with you together-to accomplish all of our objectives.
- As last year was my business partner, Steve Hollis, who spoke to you in Sun City in 2003, about the purchase that had just been made and of the hopes to "right the ship" by following the voice of the workculture. This essay is a major update on progress, one year later.
- It has always struck me as curious that no one expects a physician to have had the flu in order to prescribe remedies to manage or cure it. In America, the word "consultant" typically brings a second class status in the eyes of factory operations managers, until they are "downsized." Then, they suddenly are experts and qualify to become consultants themselves!
- A subset of Lean Enterprise management is Supply Chain Management, the heart of SAPICS. Try to imagine that every link is perfect with regard to each workculture fully attuned to the ultimate customers' conditions and requirements and able to adjust its drum beat accordingly.
- Received opinion among economic developers is to abandon these dead-end (low tech, low wage) industries and let them go overseas where they represent a step up for their local economies and lower prices for garments here in the USA. However one semi-role model is Hartwell Sports, in Lavonia, GA, embracing the "Toyota Sewing System," applying the renowned automaker's cellular manufacturing principles to the craft of making sportswear. The problem with this radical experiment's uneven result has been the nearly fatal oversight of ignoring the need to radically alter its culture as well as its manufacturing processes.
- In our community, the city fathers publicly described many of our factories as producing commodities better made elsewhere, that our local strategy ought to be to hang on until the coming bio-tech revolution where we would catch a new economic wave. Meanwhile, we ask, how to you imagine you will re-tool heavy manufacturers into lab techs when they are in their 50s yet the labs we expect to fill up with workers haven't even been created yet? The community is caught in a rather callous social view, totally unnecessary in light of the fact that the enemy is not high tech versus low tech or old tech, but rather crude management of time-that voracious consumer of operational money.
- "Workculture" captures both shop floor employees - usually paid hourly-and functional operational managers-usually on a salary. Part of the breakthrough in salvaging a plant marked for closure is to awaken in everybody the insight of the pointlessness in the "us versus them" mental framework for solving leadership issues. "Leadership is everywhere or it's nowhere," as written by Peter Senge in The Dance of Change (1999).
- Many historians of this movement point to examples of when Lean Enterprise Management prevailed for short periods, as during World War II warplanes were cranked out at a takt time of one every few minutes or so, requiring excellence in the entire internal and external supply chain. But the manufacturing model did not survive after the production urgency subsided.
- A subscription to Target: Innovation at Work will teach you all you need to know about Lean Enterprise manufacturing, found at www.ame.org. Other excellent sources include www.superfactory.com and www.leaninstitute.org. A must-read is The Machine That Changed The World, Womack and Jones, 1995, a detailed historical view of the rise of Japanese manufacturing - the Lean Enterprise -- and an extensive world wide comparison of auto-making performance.
- Books that describe in painful detail and personal experience the evils of outmoded manufacturing systems are Iaccoa, by Lee Iaccoa or The Rivethead, by Ben Hamper, both wailing against the old production systems of General Motors.
- For the first time in American history, there are five generations at work, each with conflicting values and definitions of work, its meaning, its reward, its priority: The Veterans, The Boomers, The Gen X'ers, The Nexters, The Millennials. Managers report increasing demands on their time to broker internal relationships based on what each generation projects to be the weaknesses of the other, with little mutual appreciation.
- Our SAPICS presentations for 2001 and 2003 outlined in detail the culture inquiry process which reveals the cultural legacy systems and this plant's unique Order of Operations for effective change.
- These themes sum up what over 50 sessions, with fifteen employees each, concluded to be the categories where specific changes needed to occur.
- We do not rely on temporary labour; rather we use a service that screens potential employees for us, and during the 90-day probationary period, we refer to these individuals as "temps." Our goal is to hire them if they meet the values and earning mentality expected, as well as good safety behaviours.
- A must-read on this subject is Visual Systems (1997) by Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth. Her methods of creating information embedded in the working environment, with devices designed by operators, enhances communication to extraordinary levels.
- 5S refers to the Lean Enterprise method of getting the factory cleaned up and orderly, highly visually regulated, safe, ergonomically correct, regularly audited and sustained. No items remain on the floor or in anyone's "value field" that are not needed for daily, routine work. This is an environmental condition that allows for deeper levels of problem solving, since poor systems are no longer covered up by such things as dirt and grime or chaotic arrangement of tools or documents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Sherrie L Ford has been in organizational consulting for the past fifteen years. In 1991, as Vice President of Business and Industry Services, she founded the Centre for Continuous Improvement at Athens Tech, in Athens, GA. Twenty-three companies in the north GA area each gave $10,000 to fund the Centre's start-up, its mission being to develop leadership and vision at all levels in an organization, particularly in the lean production environment.
Local manufacturing successes led the Centre staff and its "tag team" of consultants to division-level development, improving on strategic assessment and planning practices in each case. When she left the tech school system in 1996, she had built a client base of over 150 organizations, both manufacturing and service sector.
She received her PhD from the University of Georgia in 1982 and was named to Phi Beta Kappa that same year.
Sherrie Ford is also Chairman of the Board of Power Partners, Inc., which she and CP principal Steve Hollis purchased in May of 2003. The plant is located in Athens, Georgia and manufactures pole-type transformers for worldwide distribution.
Sherrie's publications include a chapter in a casebook (LSU Press, 1995) "Reliance Electric: A Workculture Renaissance"; "Economic Development through Quality Improvement," in Economic Development Review, Winter, 1997; an article "Competition May Be Global, But All Quality Is Local," in Target: Innovation at Work, December 1996; "High Velocity Change: Energized for Excellence at Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics-America," in Target: Innovation at Work, September, 1997; "Hometown Kaizen Blitzing," in Target: Innovation at Work, December, 1999. Her work was featured in IndustryWeek, January, 1997, in an article by John Sheridan entitled "Nurturing World Class Solutions" as well as in The Kaizen Blitz, 1999, a book by Dr. Robert Hall, et al. She wrote at IndustryWeek's invitation a White Paper for the 1999 edition of their Best Plants CD-Rom, a compilation of all award winners' statistics on world class performance criteria since the award's inception.
She is a frequent presenter for APICS (Summer Workshops and International Conferences) and SAPICS (South Africa) and Inc. Magazine. She has been Southeastern President for the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) and is a current AME Champion. She was named to the first board of examiners for Georgia's Oglethorpe Award, modelled on the Malcolm Baldrige Award, and was one of four judges for IndustryWeek's Best Plants Award, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Sherrie has spoken at many prestigious events in the past including past SAPICS Conferences.
Telephone: +1 706-546-4045
Fax: +1 706-546-1686