Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

As a Manufacturing Improvement Professional, I am lucky to have the opportunity to visit many factories, producing huge numbers of different products. Many of these factories have been good, but on occasion, some of these factories have been exceptional. The layout of the production facilities, level of GMP and the standard of visual management within these factories have been outstanding.

It’s from these factories that I have become a thief.  Perhaps thief may be a strong word to use but why not share great ideas around when you have the chance.   I have not been too proud to learn new ideas and have subsequently implemented them in many manufacturing facilities. Even mediocre sites often do some things better than anyone else.

I am fortunate to be able to visit a range of factories on a regular basis, whereas many of you will be on the same site day in and day out and have little, or no opportunity to visit other sites. Imagine if you had the chance to visit numerous production facilities and see different ideas and ways of working?

Members of The Ambassadors Academy (TAA), on occasion, willingly host onsite visits to their fellow Academy members. This enables members to learn and take ideas, in return of course they also get fantastic independent feedback on what they themselves can still improve.

Every month a group of Improvement Specialists from various factories meet to discuss their latest projects and the implementation issues they are facing. Ongoing training in tools and techniques, that TAA members have requested, is delivered by LI Europe.

Click here for more information about The Ambassadors Academy.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

One of the most common questions we come across is “How do we engage our workforce”? 

Many companies try to measure how engaged people are but often overcomplicate the surveys.

They create a vast array of questions among many categories which results in a large amount of convoluted feedback. How easy is it to then analyse this feedback? How often does that feedback actually get translated into activity that makes a demonstrable difference to engagement? Or do the actions end up as the most generic of activities that will do almost nothing to meet a specific individual’s needs?

One of the simplest yet most effective surveys I came across was reading the book “First, Break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Early in the book, they detail a simple survey which later became known as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. They surveyed 105,000 people amongst 2500 business units within 24 companies.

The following 12 questions were asked and scored 1 to 5 on “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” respectively.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?  
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? 
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress? 
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow? 

Gallup completed a significant analysis of their findings and found two key results.

The first key finding probably wasn’t surprising, but was nonetheless, important.  Employees who responded more positively to the questions also worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer service. In essence, more engaged employees mean better business performance.

Further analysis also showed that employees rated the questions differently depending on their department rather than the overall company.  The opinions to the 12 questions depended more on the employee’s immediate manager than the overall policies and procedures of the company.

It goes to show how every single line manager and their ability to engage with their team is the key driver of engagement within a business and thus directly linked to performance.

How engaged are your employees? Could you be doing more to support them in the workplace? Do you have effective systems in place for managing performance and developing your team?

LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). A monthly forum for ambitious manufacturing operations professionals concerned with, amongst other issues, engaging their workforce.  The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at www.laurasinternational.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa/

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting on the M42, watching the traffic slowly inch forward, when the gravelly-voiced crooner, Rod Stewart, came on the radio. As I listened to Rod singing ‘Ooh La La’, the lyrics, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger”, caught my imagination.

I started thinking back over my life and of all the learning opportunities (more commonly known as mistakes) that I have lived through. I won’t bore you with the details of every learning opportunity I’ve experienced; after all, I am only writing a blog and not a novel.

Looking back to the start of my CI journey, one of my first major projects was implementing 5S across a soft drinks’ factory. Every part of the factory, from offices to production lines, engineering and warehouse needed to be 5S’d. Two years later the factory was completed, external auditors visited, and after an intense and intimidating 2-day audit, we were finally signed off as a gold standard site.

Throughout that 2-year period, we re-visited our Setting techniques numerous times. Pallet spaces were initially solid yellow blocks, then yellow outlines of blocks and finally four yellow corners. Lettering on floors started as painted stencils until we discovered that ink from date-code printers lasted a lot longer.

If I were to implement 5S again, the knowledge I have now would make the process a lot faster, but where can you get that knowledge? We can read books, visit other sites and trial and test methods, but this can be a long and drawn out process.

Imagine if you could easily gather knowledge and insight, drawing on the experience of other like-minded people. People who have made the mistakes you are going to make. People who can talk you through the pitfalls of different processes. People just like you. Imagine how easy your life as a Continuous Improvement Manager would be.

What if I were to tell you that there is a select group of CI managers that meet on a regular basis. These managers come from a range of Blue-Chip companies and have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They are all members of the Ambassadors Academy which is run by LI Europe.

Every month they get together and have the opportunity to share their frustrations and explain their problems to each other. Through the shared knowledge of the group, these problems are put into perspective, and plans are formulated to deliver the desired results. This structure allows these elite members to map out where they want to go on their CI journey, and more importantly, how to get there.

Ambassador Academy membership isn’t open to everyone; only those prepared to share valuable learning experiences are eligible to join. To find out more about TAA membership visit the Academy web page.

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

A few weeks ago, my beloved wife announced that she desperately needed a new bathroom. This was an emergency, she informed me. She couldn’t possibly live in our home, the home where we have created such fond memories, unless she had a new bathroom suite, floor-to-ceiling tiles, a heated towel rail, power shower and whirlpool bath.

I respectfully pointed out that, after renovating two previous houses, I formally retired from major DIY projects around six years ago and the bathroom we had was good enough. I also mentioned that I would struggle to find time for a major project. After all, I was busy at work, I played a little golf, we had three children to ferry around to numerous clubs, I played a little more golf, I wanted to spend quality time with my wife, and did I mention golf?

I won’t repeat the response I got, but you don’t need a great imagination to get a feel for the one-sided conversation that followed. After a morale-raising speech, I was forcibly frog-marched to the bathroom.

Once the vision of bath time bliss had been painted, and I had fully bought into that vision, I mentioned that I didn’t really have the knowledge or the correct tools to complete the project “on time, in full and within budget”.  I was kindly reminded that my wife wasn’t a member of the workforce and didn’t take kindly to “management speak”.  In the end, we agreed that we would get someone in to perform this life-saving household surgery.

Sure enough, a few weeks later a team of experts arrived at my house. Within an hour the van was unloaded, and cups of tea consumed. After some banging and colourful language, my bathroom was removed and everything was stripped back to the bare walls. More tea was then required, along with numerous chocolate digestives. Within a week the bathroom was complete; shiny chrome, sparkling tiles, a shower so powerful I’m sure it was part of a fire engine at one time.

Once again, all is blissful in our house.

So, what is the point of my bathroom-related ramblings and what has it got to do with making significant and sustainable manufacturing improvements?  

As the team of bathroom experts unloaded their equipment, it quickly became apparent that they had a multitude of tools. I had no idea what some of them were or how you would use them correctly. This is often the case with the tools and techniques in Six Sigma, Lean, TPM etc. Anyone starting an improvement project can get lost in the myriad of tools, not to mention the strange names they have and how to correctly apply them. It’s about understanding the tools available and how to use them effectively.

For this reason, LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). It’s a monthly forum for CI professionals to meet and discuss how to correctly use and apply the plethora of tools available. The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

If you want to be a DIY CI manager, that’s great. If you want to become a CI professional, with a depth of knowledge, breadth of experience and an extended network of like-minded professionals, then come along to our next TAA session and see what it’s all about.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at https://li-europe.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa