DVIRC, Turkey Hill Teach Manufacturing Execs How to Build a Fearless Culture

January 16, 2018

Competition for talent in the manufacturing sector is steeper than ever, and on December 12, the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) and Turkey Hill came together to address ways manufacturing leaders can use talent to grow their companies and outperform competition. The event, Building a Fearless Culture, focused on ways business leaders can empower talent to solve problems and deliver results, which ultimately increases productivity and decreases waste.  

During the event, Jeff Kopenitz, Lean Master and Director of Advanced Manufacturing, provided attendees with tools to develop their talent using a systematic approach to lean and continuous improvement. Tom Weber, Continuous Improvement Leader at Turkey Hill Dairy, shared how continuous improvement efforts and talent engagement have improved Turkey Hill’s culture and resulted in more than $1 million in savings annually.

Kopenitz pointed to a recent Gallup report, State of the American Workplace, which found that more than half of employees (51%) are searching for new jobs or watching for new openings. As more employment options become available today, employees are willing to explore alternative employment if their current role is not meeting their expectations. Even more startlingly, the report found that manufacturing is the least engaged occupation across the U.S., with as many actively disengaged workers as it does engaged workers. The traditional management mentality in this industry tends to put process ahead of people, possibly accounting for some of the engagement obstacles, according to the report. The way to change results, Kopenitz says, is to change the culture.

“If people are really our most important asset, then leaders need to engage, enable, empower, and encourage more,” said Kopenitz. “Leaders need to get their [people’s] hearts, hands, and minds.” He outlined ways leaders can create a fearless culture for their employees. Examples include creating a safe environment, positioning failures as opportunities, and using systematic problem solving techniques.

Tom Weber, Continuous Improvement Leader, Turkey Hill

Tom Weber took attendees through his company’s continuous improvement journey, which began in 2010 when Turkey Hill engaged DVIRC to help the company move away from the traditional management structure towards a culture “where employees are empowered to take initiative and lead the way in sustaining the company’s growth and profitability.” While most companies that undertake continuous improvement efforts do so in response to a slowdown in business, the opposite was true for Turkey Hill. The company had experienced double digit growth for 30 years; however, competition was relentless, and while employees had many great ideas, they were limited by culture. With the help of DVIRC, Turkey Hill leaders deployed a lean transformation. Through these efforts, capital investments reduced 40 percent, equipment reliability improved, and operating efficiency increased.

According to Weber, Turkey Hill has moved from viewing continuous improvement as project-based to embedding continuous improvement into the entire company culture. Weber emphasized that lean tools represent 20 percent of a continuous improvement journey, while lean management comprises the other 80 percent, which often includes soft skills such as communication, attitude, the ability to work as a team, and others.

“Today, every associate contributes to the company’s success,” said Weber. “We train every associate, define waste, and give employees tools to eliminate waste. We engage our people and ask their opinions when they’ve never been asked before.”  

Through its consulting services and organizational learning and development courses, DVIRC has worked with firms of varying sizes and functions on Lean and Continuous Improvement strategies. To learn more about these and other services DVIRC offers, contact us here.

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