Demoralized Workforce Blues

It is truly amazing how fast a crisis can snowball. I feel a great deal of empathy for our friends in Automotive. Poor forecast accuracy and externally impacted political demand schedules; require this industry to employ only the very best in their field. Trouble is, nobody “wants” to lead an automotive production organization. You’ll work harder than you every have in a thankless environment where the light at the end of the seems more like a black hole. This is the industry that really separates good leaders from great leaders. On the positive side, if you are learning to lead – there is no better environment. If you are a leader in the Automotive industry, dealing with a demoralized workforce keep these four key points in mind.

01

QUOTE COMPETITIVELY WITH CAVEATS

DO NOT SET YOUR TEAM UP TO FAIL.  Aggressively quoting business without thinking about the future could not only destroy your organization but will certainly obliterate workforce moral. Imagine coming in too tight on a quote, suppliers raise prices and the customer refuses to offset. What now? Run the product at a loss? Think about how demoralized the workforce becomes when they KNOW they are working overtime on a MONEY LOSER. Lastly, NEVER assume you will somehow “make it up” in future productivity gains. With technology, costs are going down and the low hanging fruit is not nearly as obvious as it used to be. Can’t compete otherwise? Try selling VALUE. Selling on price alone is a long slow bleed out and your teams will see it too.

02

MAKE THE HARD DECISIONS

MAKE A DECISION AND STICK TO IT. Leaders who lag on key decisions CAUSE a demoralized workforce. Sorry, you are expected to LEAD. That means making decisions to cut or move product lines that cost more to operate than they generate. That also means balancing work across the team at ALL levels and cutting excess overhead. Unions included. I have yet to meet a Union official who would prefer a plant closure over absorbing additional responsibilities in the contract. Your team sees waste every day. Objective #1 is Safety. Objective #2 is Machine efficiency. Immediately move all NON VALUE ADDED processes away from the shop floor. In a crisis, every second that machine is not running is another inch dug in the grave. To stay engaged, employees MUST see action everyday and the RESULTS from their leadership team – and Leaders MUST COMMUNICATE IT – especially in a distressed environment.

03

CUT THE PROCESS WASTE

CUTTING LEAN MANUFACTURING RESOURCES IS NOT A COST SAVINGS What is does do is illustrate that organizational leadership is focused on short term gains, thus further demoralizing the workforce. Furthermore, handing over your business over to consultants is not a solution either. Your workforce must stay engaged in the solutions working with (not for) consultants as needed.  Several years ago an executive asked me why an organization I was running was 45% more efficient than the next comparable plant. I answered very frankly with – I look for stupid EVERY SINGLE DAY. Great leaders know exactly what process waste looks like and frequently asks the team what it looks from their vantage point. Put a GO-PRO type of camera on one of your team members. Review the day. Then really think about whether your really need to hire more people.

04

FIGHT THE STATUS QUO

Leaders know that every level of the organization has a different perception of what is important which is precisely why transparency and communication are CRUCIAL to success. Your teams need to SEE you fight for them and you should! A leader is NOT a “YES” person. If you cannot keep a job in your role without being a “YES” person – I would suggest another career. Leaders must question Sr. Management regarding waste with plenty of well presented data to back it up.

 

ANDON LIGHT

Andon‘ is borrowed from the Japanese term for “lantern,” and these devices are used to visually communicate changes in the production process or a change in quality. When an andon light comes on, its color can signal to workers to tend to the quality or process change.

 

UTILIZING PLASTIC CUPS FOR ANDON

The process observed utilized the plastic cups on in process WIP carts. This incredibly simple solution created a visual environment where employees could easily identify which WIP process was nearly complete.

 

SIMPLE PROCESS

The image at right illustrates the concept. Simply restack the cups for a different status color. Place over a corner post and witness the value of a manual andon system.

Industrial stack light

These types of stack lights are usually incorporated into machine design. Often these stack lights change status color based on the automation of a machine system.

A LOW COST ALTERNATIVE

 

Employee Engagement

As a leader, it is crucial to keep employees engaged. Let’s face it, sometimes work can get a bit boring. Coming up with solutions to really spur creativity is a never ending challenge. We were very impressed with the solution below to help keep employees engaged.

Utilizing A CATEGORY SOCCER BALL

This particular example is from Trainer’s Warehouse. They can customize soccer type balls for any number of custom categories. The example shown was purchase to engage employees regarding safety discussions.

Trainers Warehouse

CUSTOM IDEAS FOR BALL ENGAGEMENT

In most cases about 29% of your workforce is actually engaged on a good day. Consider using this soccer ball example to engage employees in:

  • Culture Objectives
  • Strategic Goals
  • Safety
  • Product or Quality Questions
  • DISC Interaction
  • Situational Leadership questions

We have seen this tool utilized in a couple of facilities with great results.

 

 

VISUAL WORK INSTRUCTIONS –

 

Visual Workplace, Visual Factory

VISUAL TASKS (Visual Workplace, Visual Factory)

In a leaders quest to build a Visual Work place, it is often very difficult to determine if tasks have been completed. We found this solution as a creative method to make tasks visible.

WHAT IS A T CARD

T cards are available in different sizes. The paper is cut in a specialized manner that can be hung in a slit rack. T cards are commonly used for visual Kan-Ban systems.

USING THE T-CARD AS A TASK INSTRUCTION

By simply using both sides of the T card it is easy to create visual go/no go board for work instructions. Placing the basic task on the card, employees simply flip the card over and replace it in the rack when the task is done. By doing so it is very easy for supervisors and other lead staff to go into a work cell to determine if the task has been completed.

Better Way Inc. is a provider of T-card solutions along with specialized software for populating data on the card. Click on the link below for more information.

T-Card Solutions

Tasks to be completed

BEGINNING THE SHIFT

At the beginning of the shift all of the cards are flipped to red.

Task Completed

THROUGHOUT THE SHIFT

During the shift or operation, T-Cards are flipped over to green indicating that the task is complete. This action makes it very easy for a supervisor to review required action items in the line. We also see opportunities where this type of system could be easily utilized for audits.

(Visual Workplace, Visual Factory)

 

MAKE QUALITATIVE DATA QUANTITATIVE

ENSURING USEFUL QUALITY MEASURES

The human eye can physically perceive millions of colors. But we don’t all recognize these colors in the same way. Some people can‘t see differences in colors—so called color blindness”

That being said, imagine if you were the leader of an organization making widgets that had to be a certain color! All of the sudden you start to see customer complaints regarding incorrect widget colors. What next?

Most organizations begin coaching and write ups and blame it on the inspector.

SETTING UP FOR FAILURE

If the business objective is quality above cost or delivery (i.e. what the customer will pay for), qualitative data quickly becomes the enemy. Perceptive inspection techniques should be replaced measurable inspection.

EXAMPLE

 

A colorimeter like the one above can easily be used to judge product color rather than depending on the human eye.

IN SUMMARY

Leaders need to keep a close eye on quality complaints to ensure that systems are actually capable of determining the quality requirement. Every effort needs to be made to convert qualitative processes to quantitative.

 

 

QUALITATIVE DATA

This type of data  depends on the perception of the data collector. Example:

The cats have orange, brown, black, or white fur. Count the number of each.

 

QUANTITATIVE DATA

This type of data uses some kind of concrete measurement system.  Example:

The 8′ 2×4 is measured with a tape measure to be exactly 8′ long.

 

GAGE R&R

An analytical test used to determine the accuracy of the measurement system used. Example(s):

Quantitative: Have employees measure 6 independent objects with calipers to determine they all have the same measurement result.

Qualitative: Place 3 red hats on a table. Pole 6 employees to determine if each agree the hats are actually red.

 

 

5S DEFINES THE CULTURE

Too many times we see short sighted 5S success. As leaders, 5S programs need to be built around a culture of teaching employees to “see” waste and clutter and most importantly, how it impacts the overall operation.

SORT

Seems simple enough? Pick a work cell and challenge the workforce to find everything in a cell that simply should not be there. Using tools like 5S red tag above makes it very simple to identify items in the work cell that should not be there. Typically those items are moved to an area for review prior to disposal. In the “sort” phase, the key objective is to remove items that do not add value to the process.

SET IN ORDER

Putting thing in order in the work cell requires more than simple arrangement. To do it right – get out the stop watch, time the process, count the steps, examine the ergonomics, and create an environment with the least amount of non-value added time.

SHINE

A 5S event is a great time to “clean up” the work cell. Taking the time to wipe down equipment, tables or even the floor provides an opportunity to identify – leaks, damaged equipment, or other opportunities for improvement. Most importantly, this activity sets the new standard expectation for how a work cell should look.

STANDARDIZE

Take the time to build systems in the work cell to ensure that everyone is doing the process the same way. Simple tools like the shadow board example above help to ensure, regardless of who is working – they follow the process the same way.

SUSTAIN

Develop a regular audit system to ensure program compliance. More importantly, train the workforce to audit their own work environments and coach on expectations. Remember, culture is driven when teams take direct ownership.

 

            VISUAL MEANS EVERYTHING

MORE THAN JUST CLEAN

When we talk about cleaning a facility it is often confused with creating a Visual Workplace. There is an entire process to address cleanliness and clutter known as 5S but we will get to that in future blog posts. The Visual Workplace is much more that organization.

THE DREAM FACILITY

Imagine traveling the interstates without exit signs, without GPS, or without a map? Can you fathom the inefficiencies? Imagine doing it with out a cell phone! Over the years technology and visual illustration have literally changed the way we look at the world. Now ask yourself as a leader, why our organizations do not reflect the same.

In a perfect world, we need onboarding and training to be – “simple”. As leaders, we often expect new employees to hit the ground running. Do they? Most organizations spend a couple of hours training basic company rules then send employees to the floor expecting fantastic results. Ultimately, without a visual workplace program in effect, we are setting them up to fail.

In a dream facility (where everything is always perfect) the operation is so well illustrated and automated that literally ANYONE OFF THE STREET can immediately begin work with little or no onboarding. A bridge too far? Consider the following:

  • When you go to an unfamiliar grocery store and you want to find bread – do you NATURALLY look up for a sign over the bread aisle?
  • When you want to turn onto a street from as dictated by your GPS – do you NATURALLY look for a road sign?
  • When you go to a fast food restaurant – do you NATURALLY look for menu?
  • When you go to a department store and are ready to check out – do you NATURALLY look for checkout lane with a light or indicator that is is open?

I’m guessing you answered yes to all of these questions. So why wouldn’t you want to gain a competitive advantage by building a facility that is as NATURAL as the outside environment where the workforce is coming from? By investing the time into the Visual Workplace, leaders can drastically reduce onboarding time. 

UTILIZING TECHNOLOGY

It goes beyond sign and floor striping. Remember the last time you wanted to fix something at home or had technical questions? I would venture to guess that you when straight to youtube. Within minutes you found out how to fix that leak or repair that squeak.  However, when leading your workforce – you create an arsenal of paper documentation for your processes, try to manage them through a revision system, and worst of all – expect your newly onboarded employees to spend hours reading information they will forget after 12 minutes.

Leaders get creative with visual workplace techniques by placing themselves in the in the role of the receiver. Step back and pretend it was your first day on the job – what could be done to make the environment more NATURAL. Take the time to query new employees to find out what opportunities for improvement exist in the onboarding process.

GETTING STARTED

Before you can go VISUAL it is beneficial to invoke lots of 5S events. Afterward, take the time to sit with staff and employees and BUILD A VISUAL PLAN. Utilize available tools to get the most of what works with your budget. Focus on building an environment that is NATURAL.

 

           SERVANT LEADERSHIP

THE DIFFERENCE IN MEAT

Not to intended to offend our vegetarian friends, do you recall how meat is graded?

  • Prime
  • Choice
  • Select
  • Standard
  • Commercial
  • Cutter
  • Canner

Expect plenty of gristle from select down! Like meat grading, we can rate our own leadership effectiveness with “Servant” as the prime cut. 

WHY IS THIS LEADERSHIP STYLE DIFFERENT

In a word, EMPATHY. A great read is The Empathy Factor by Marie Miyashiro. The book is over the top in a lot of ways but it really drives home how to start on a path to MASTER reading people. Prime cut leadership will be able to look a subject and know ‘something is off’;  then subsequently adjust leadership styles accordingly. (More on that later.)

Servant leadership actively seeks to LITERALLY serve the workforce. Not quite the cigars, brandy, and posh office you were promised? Evolving to this level of leader takes work and constant dedication. When the leader understands the effectiveness of the the cohesive team transcends individual objectives – an AMAZING culture shift will take hold.

THE BEST FAST FOOD RESTAURANT

When you ask for a cheese burger “plain” and you get the opposite, how do YOU feel about the service? Do you go back? Neither do your employees when you fail to SERVE them!

BUILDING SERVANT LEADERSHIP SKILL TAKES PERSISTENCE AND FOCUS

Great leaders develop listening skills, learn how to read body language, and break down barriers for solutions to thrive. Learn to re-frame yourself as an approachable opportunist. Actively seek to engage employees when you see the signs of fatigue and frustration and ask “HOW CAN I HELP!” Then sit back and enjoy watching the CULTURE THRIVE.

THE REALITY OF SELF SERVICE LEADERS

There is NOTHING wrong with having personal goals of advancement and achievement but the the approach and genuineness define true leadership. Be very aware that staff MUST be coached to change their traditional mindset because organizations continue to reward on mere results – NOT THE METHODS of HOW THOSE RESULTS WERE ACHIEVED. This counters servant leadership and creates a culture of self serving short term goals. Build an organizational structure that rewards leaders who engage in focusing on serving the workforce rather than simply solving problems quickly.

WHERE TO BEING YOUR JOURNEY

Start your transition by following these simple methods:

  • Put yourself in place of the employee (see it from their perspective)
  • Read everything you can find on body language
  • Engage quickly – Actively seek frustrated workers
  • When you can’t provide an immediate solution, propose a timeline and act
  • Immediately coach staff managers with inappropriate engagement
  • Train the workforce to serve each other

We will be publishing training soon on servant leadership and employee engagement.

 

       LEARNING TO SEE REAL WASTE

FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW

Anyone in the leadership business for a while has probably heard the term MUDA. This was the proverbial Japanese term for process waste. Recall the following:

  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Over-Processing
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Transport
  • Defects

Incredibly simple, any leader can follow this standard to identify opportunities for improvement. One would think, staying on top of these wastes would create the most efficient environment ever! The reality is quite different.

THE PERCEPTION OF WASTE CHANGES FROM THE VANTAGE POINT

Recall the last time you may have been involved in a product launch. Out of time, over budget, and likely producing scrap – the process was put on the floor without a proper runoff and verification. What happens next, is some sort of stabilization to meet customer orders. Usually with lots of overtime and more people than expected from the original cost portfolio.

The lean leaders in the plant do a pretty good job of coming in and cleaning up the low hanging fruit then it is off to the next project.

What is left is a big steaming pile of micro waste. More than likely, operators are taking to many steps, there is no automation in label making or scanning, quality checks were put in line with the process but not balanced with the machine takt time, and on and on.

When the team member brings this up to the supervisor it is ignored and eventually never gets brought back up again.

Sound familiar?

GREAT LEADERS KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE REAL WASTE

Short term thinking and strategic planning force us to go after the “big fish” projects and rightly so. However, ignoring the waste at the micro level will cost you more in the long run. Think about it. When you hired Bill – unemployment was 10%. He was more than happy to have job. Later, the economy improves and unemployment follows with it – say 3%. Now Bill has had to manually print his own labels, manually do his own quality checks, walk 4 miles a day versus 1 because of poor machine layout, and rarely gets anyone to listen him about the waste in his work cell. What is Bill going to do? Move on! While as leader,  you may have gotten that fantastic bonus for identifying and executing that big fish project -you failed to sprinkle any resources to support your CULTURE and WORKFORCE development.

BUILD A CULTURE OF WASTE IDENTIFICATION AT ALL LEVELS

It is crucial as a leader to build waste identification and communications systems at all levels. While our resources are not infinite, you can still enact change. Train the workforce and empower them to resolve opportunities. Does it really take a college degree to enact a management of change document for a process change suggestion? Of course not. The effective workforce of tomorrow has no roadblocks and is empowered to “own” their process. We will examine how the folds into “servant” leadership in another post.

 

 

           Transparency

 

WHY IS TRUST SO IMPORTANT?

A leader is the cultural liaison in any organization. Building trust in the workforce is crucial to organizational goals and success. Continual communication and transparency are key to successful workforce development.

HOW ORGANIZATIONS FAIL WITH CULTURE

Remember when you were little and mom told you not to go outside without a coat in the cold? Sometimes we would ask why, only to receive the proverbial response – “Because I Said So”. Remember how that made you feel? No one likes being told what to do and a paycheck is not a justification for authoritarian leadership.

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

Great leaders understand the importance of transparency. Imagine in the example above if the conversation went this way:

  • Science has proven that exposure to cold elements increases the probability that you will be sick, thus ruining your ability to play.
  • The average doctor’s visit has a copay of $50.00 and mommy doesn’t have extra money to take you to the doctor.

Applied in a work environment taking the extra time to be “transparent” is never easy. We have a lot of work to do and timelines are always the enemy. The extra seconds to explain the “why” for the decision we make builds trust with the workforce.

ADDED BENEFIT

This type of dialog often leads to discovering opportunities for improvement.  Imagine, after understanding mommy’s reasoning – you suggested adding a face mask or coveralls to further ensure keeping warm.

WHERE LEADERS GET CONFUSED

Most leaders go in with the best intentions on being transparent. The confusion often comes with what to share and the level of detail. Generally, keep it high level. If more detail is requested, share a reference resource. Additionally, challenge upper management on what can be shared. Think about this: nearly everyone has a bank account and deals with cash in one form or another. In fact, cash is kind of a universal language. Why then do we not discuss financial information with the greater workforce? Would it not be more meaningful to illustrate the ‘true’ cost of scrap or the true cost of capital in buying a new machine vs. implementing an effective PM system to keep the existing equipment in top working order? In the end, share as much as you possibly can and engage at every level.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Great leaders know that workforce alignment starts with communication. Opportunities for communication include:

  • During Gemba walks – “stop and smell the roses”
  • Shift Meetings – “be the leader who shows up on all shifts from time to time”
  • Monthly/Quarterly One On One – “take a group of employees to lunch”
  • Plant Meetings – “schedule as often as you can”
  • Communication Objectives – “make it part of your staff’s measurable objectives”