Blog Article Written by Todd Eppert, Executive Project Manager
In the latter half of 2010, we teamed with PDi Communications on a focused effort to transform the way the company worked. Before the engagement with Definity Partners, the plant manager, Mark Hartings, was bogged down in the day to day running of the operations. His time was especially consumed with scheduling tasks. After gaining trust in his front-line supervisors and operators, Hartings’ time spent on transformational improvements doubled. The confidence he developed in his front line also reduced the stress in his life at work and at home. This Q&A blog article is his reflection of the experience:
Todd: Could you explain to me what your job was like before the transformation in 2010?
Mark: Well, I was responsible for what products went out and when. I got to the point where not only was I scheduling, but also dealing with the issues that came up in the departments such as, “We’re running short on this or I don’t think we’re going to be able to make this because of this part shortage here.” Then I would have to dig down into that and understand why the part couldn’t be supplied, then uncovering another layer and so on. As this happened in all of these departments, I was chasing a lot of stuff every day.
Todd: How did you get to the point you are at now?
Mark: With Definity’s help. They helped me realize how to prioritize my time, while being able to trust my front-line to hand off responsibilities. They call that the Run-Improve-Grow™ system. When you put everything that you are doing down on a piece of paper, it’s like “Wow, that’s a waste of time. Or shoot, I should be doing that.” As a result of that analysis, we created a scheduler position and the responsibility is totally on the supervisors to meet that schedule. I’ll get involved at a very top level and then let them run with the details.
Todd: So what are you doing now that you weren’t able to do in the past?
Mark: My capacity to make improvements has doubled from where it was. I spend a lot of my time improving our lean progression as we’re starting our new projects. One of those projects was building stock in the warehouse. I had the time to analyze the project which included moving the press room over in the machine shop and setting those machines up themselves and having more of a one piece flow. Then, taking the old press room and turning it into a warehouse so we can take a lot of the stock that we buy offshore like larger screen television sets and not have them at an offsite warehouse paying for the overhead, not to mention the transportation costs. So now we have all of that here. It’s a whole different way of doing business than we did six months ago.
Todd: That’s a great improvement in a very short period of time. How about for you personally? How did the transformation impact you?
Mark: I haven’t taken all of my vacation since I’ve been on salary which has been probably before I came in this building (which they moved to in 1989). It was always that I would schedule all of my time, or at least most of it, and I would end up cancelling days because this is going on or that is going on. There’s a situation here that needs attention. Now, since all of that has been pushed down to the supervisor level and them taking care of those problems, I can go away and I know that things are being run and I know things are getting done the way they are supposed to be done. This is the first year that I’ve taken every hour of vacation I had coming. I took the last one on December 22. I enjoyed every damn one of them because I wasn’t thinking to myself, “Crap, what’s going on at work? Geese, what about this? What about that?” Not focusing on all of the other things that are going on because I know they are under control. That has been huge for me.
Todd: Have the supervisors and front-line employees had similarly positive experiences?
Mark: I’ve got one fellow in Arm Assembly that was a supervisor that was actually working a (operator’s) position pretty much all the time. He would have to take care of problems and situations and he was having a hard time looking at the bigger picture to meet the scheduling demands. Him being on that line was a real issue because he couldn’t get the people that he needed trained and up to speed. He was more focused on making the day to day numbers as opposed to trying to improve the business long-term. That was a headache (for me) because I had to keep telling him he needed to remove himself from all of those issues and details because he had a second in command that can do anything that he can do (on the line). I told him he needed to push more responsibility down on her. We gave him the date of December 31 which would be the last time he would ever be able to work on the line again. Now he’s strictly a supervisor. He’s feeling what I’m feeling now which is all of those headaches and worrying about all of those details are gone so he can sit back and look at what he needs to do to run his portion of the business: get the people in, work with the temp agencies, spend time training people, look at the processes, and just the overall appearance of the facility, trying to get things working more efficiently.
Todd: How long did it take for your supervisors and front-line operators to buy into the improvements you wanted to make?
Mark: Definity came in and turned their whole world upside down. They were pushed out of their comfort zones – everybody was, including me. I guess the buy in started to happen when they saw it was possible to do this. When they saw it was possible to have a multi-mix line and to make the changes with them involved in making the changes. And as the changes were made, the numbers just started going up and up. Finally, when we started hitting those numbers once, we would celebrate, but when we would hit those numbers more and more, we would give them the feedback and praise of how good of a job they were doing. On the days that they didn’t hit the numbers, we would focus on why and make improvements the following day. It was a process of momentum. As they saw things getting better, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Todd: Do you have any stories of their personal benefit from the transformation?
Mark: At the end of the year, they didn’t think they were going to have a bonus because of some repair problems and other things that were going on. But a lot of the bonus came from the fact that it was the product that we made in house with the margins that we make that provided that bonus. With Definity’s help, we were able to get more efficient to get better margins on those products so at the end of the year, they got the bonus check that we told them they weren’t going to get. They got a pretty damn good bonus check and everyone was just tickled to death. They got it on Christmas Eve and they had the time to spend it on what they wanted over Christmas. And that really drove it home. It’s like everybody came back after the break and thought, you know what, that made sense. We can see where all these improvements are going. This is for the bottom line, to make the company healthier, to provide profits, to provide bonuses, to provide raises, better raises, more opportunities, better environment to work, and make it easier for them. Produce more at the same time as making their job easier. We’re not trying to make them work harder, we just want them to work more efficiently and make it easier to produce more. It makes their life a lot more headache free – mine sure as heck is!