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What’s On Your Mind? How Manufacturing Leaders Manage Change

In a few recent conversations with manufacturing leaders, I asked, “What’s on your mind? What do you see as an issue to be addressed in the next year?”

A couple of common concerns stood out:

  • Clear communication and direction to the manufacturing floor
  • Standardizing processes and procedures

On the surface, these issues seem fairly simple to address. However, they indicate that a cultural shift is needed – an incremental shift, but a shift nonetheless, in how everyone within the production group approached their jobs. Continuing to do things the way they always had would not solve these problems.

Successful Culture Change

When it comes to EOS implementation, the conversation usually centers on strategies for implementation within the organization, but seldom does the discussion include the manufacturing floor. When one fast-paced job shop faced last-minute direction changes, late shipments, higher manufacturing costs, and general scheduling problems, leadership determined that a lack of clear communication was at fault. By implementing Level 10 meetings throughout the organization, discussing their plan daily, and providing additional clarity and fewer distractions, the manufacturer improved not only those issues, but also overall job satisfaction on the floor.

In another organization, this time a high-tech manufacturer, they faced the challenge of standardizing procedures and processes. Leaning on a few “heroes” within the organization had helped them in the past with on-time delivery of a superior quality product, but that model broke down when they increased production and relied on second shift. If your organization relies on those “rock stars,” think about what happens when they go on vacation, or even retire. Knowledge and experience are valuable, but finding a way to use knowledge and experience to build a repeatable process that yields superior quality can be a challenge.

The Power of Information

The key to success in making culture changes is teaching the importance of standardized process and procedure. Change has to be approached in an incremental and manageable way. Information is powerful; keep in constant communication with a focus on showing the benefits of change. This will help everyone adapt to the new culture. The answer to “What’s on your mind?” usually can’t be identified on a performance appraisal, but can significantly impact the bottom line for manufacturing organizations.

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