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Flip Charts

Once a week the employees gather to review opportunities. These might be anything from "how to solve a painting issue," to "an idea for a new product offering." I recently sat in on one of their meetings. I was amazed to see the humor that was threaded into the exercise that showed the fun they were having with the process. One of the team members manned the flip chart. The first thing they do is review the preceding accomplishments. Nothing (or at least very little) is left to management to fix or solve. This includes reviewing items listed on the previous pages of a dog eared flip chart that resides in the department.

Each year, money is budgeted for contingency tooling needs. Expenditures within the budget, and individually, under $1000, do not require other than immediate manager approval. We have given the motor shop authority to get what they need by never refusing their requests for signa­ture when they are asking for these opportunities under $1000. I might also add that, although we have asked for more detail on a few occasions, we have also never totally refused their expenditures over $1000, and have autho­rized several between $1000 and $15,000—all of which have resulted in cost savings to the business. It's my belief, through observance, that they are more frugal than man­agement in many instances. Management either trusts the input or goes through scrutinizing detail to assure proper expenditures, or even worse, management determines what ideas need to be pursued based on the exposure they (management) have had to new ideas and technology regardless of the best answer for the department. Being held accountable and responsible surfaces the best plan­ning and scrutinizing behavior.

Back to the flip charts... The motor shop employees have been quick to list all the issues that hinder their ability to perform quickly, effectively, and with high quality. More often than not, the fixes are less sophisticated than you might expect. Typically the answers are simple and cost almost nothing. These answers were not as chic when managers were under the gun to perform as the "wonder people." Under the pressures to come up with "manager's divine intervention," solutions tend to be more complicated and expensive, and in our experience, not any more effec­tive. Simple cost effective ideas are best conceived by the people closest to the issue. We've seen it time and time again.

The flip chart discipline is simply a way to organize the improvements and to gain from the synergy that can come from the sharing of problem resolution techniques. It has been our experience that management does have to play a role—making sure the time is taken to do the flip chart review. It is easy to procrastinate, especially if there is much work to do. We even have a performance measure­ment that measures ideas generated and ideas imple­mented. We average two per week, implemented.

As a last capture item on the topic of the motor shop, it is worth mentioning that problems are not the only items that receive the flip chart attention. Several new products have resulted from input gathered from employees. These ideas have added drive units, electrical controllers, casters, and switches to the rebuild offering. Volume in related new products has required additional employees to be hired and profits to be on a trend that few managers would not salivate over. The flip chart process, as simple as it is, works.

It is also important to share with you that the process was not adopted overnight. Many of the workers in the rebuild shop have been at Raymond for quite some time. Others have been members of similar traditional organizations. The paradigms of the past had to be torn down. Manage­ment had to provide the catalyst to get "the pump primed." We (management) struggled with this until we acknowl­edged to ourselves that we could not simply leave it to the department to become empowered. It doesn't work that way, we found out. Management must feed the model and support the first success. Even then, as we have found out, it does not mean the next attempt at empowerment will be any easier. In other departments we have had differing levels of success. In every successful case, I believe that management played a significant role in the initial feeding of the process. We have to show that we are serious about the process and acknowledge it when it works.
Performance Measurement

Performance measurements have become part of the inner fiber of the Raymond Corporation culture. In all facilities, performance review meetings are held at least weekly with participation from the people who perform the functions. In Syracuse, at the parts distribution facility, we hold the performance review on Monday at l:30pm without excep­tion. It is attended by non-management representatives from purchasing, materials, accounting, sales, warehouse, and the motor shop. Management attends as well, but seldom does presenting unless they have ideas to share as anyone else would. Measurements are well defined and names are attached to establish accountability. All of these measures roll up to monthly measures that are reported at a top management performance review meeting that hap­pens monthly. Measures are reported by management at this meeting, but even here, when ideas are promoted for major funding, real people (as opposed to managers) de­liver the request for funding approval, laying out the benefits, and return on investment. Once again, this keeps accountability and ownership in the system and assures the greatest potential for success.

Weekly reported performance measures at the parts distri­bution facility include sales levels, backorders, fill rate (measured from several different angles), inventory turns, material cost variance, freight cost variance, vendor per­formance, change control performance, scheduling of the rebuild shop, warranty, billing and shipping discrepancies, packaging audits, inventory accuracy, and several cus­tomer service type measures such as price investigation turnaround time, technical inquiry turn around, shipping performance better than policy, stock return processing, etc. In all, there are approximately 75 measures reported weekly. I say approximately because they change week to week, usually increasing.

It is my experience that there are three stages to perfor­mance measurement: 1. Denial—"Its not me that needs to be monitored"; 2. Resolve—"Oh, all right, what did you want measured anyway?"; and 3. Empowerment—"I've realized that there are a couple more measurements that may be helpful in determining the root cause." It is at this phase that performance begins to exponentially improve and management can get out of the way.

To be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02


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