Hoos contracted with DVIRC for the development of a strategic plan for growth, and multi-year process for deploying Lean initiatives in support of the strategic plan. “Lean success is driven by cultural change,” says Hoos. “My goal was to create a positive environment, where people work together, have a desire to learn, feel engaged in continuous improvement and are recognized for doing so,” says Hoos. Understanding that leadership had to be on board for cultural change to take hold, Hoos determined that management-level employees would be the first to be introduced to Lean concepts.
DVIRC designed a customized training process for 55 employees in management and leadership positions, creating a Winning Teams Certification Program. The managers participated in 60 hours of classroom training. They were also divided into teams, with each team developing a project to be implemented at the ESCO facility. The hands-on projects enabled the teams to put their training into action, generating an immediate return on the training investment.
The teams worked on their projects from January through April, focusing on a variety of improvement initiatives ranging from the purchasing of supplies to production methods. In May, the team projects were showcased in an event involving all ESCO employees. The facility was closed, and the employees were invited to a celebration where each of the teams gave a humorous presentation of their project and the results.
Lean was introduced to the shop floor shortly thereafter. “It was met with initial skepticism,” notes Hoos. “But, we made the commitment to them that no one would be laid off. That helped remove concerns about Lean being an effort to reduce headcount.”
One of the first Lean activities implemented in the plant was 5S – a method of clearing non-value-producing items from work areas. Junk was removed and walls were painted. Tools and equipment were organized to eliminate wasted time searching for needed items.
Kaizen events — intense, goal-oriented efforts focused on specific reductions in the time, effort, materials and systems — were held. Employees learned to use Value Stream Mapping to pinpoint areas of waste and guide continuous improvement efforts. Visual Control Boards were established throughout the plant to track and measure everything from safety and electricity usage to cycle times and productivity.
Training was provided on a continual basis to educate employees on Lean concepts. ESCO’s ongoing training initiatives involved all employees and included Winning Teams Certification, Mentoring Training, Team Building and Facilitator Skills Training, as well as ongoing training in Lean tactics related to specific projects.
A list of management and employee behaviors was developed to guide the workforce toward the achievement of the positive culture Hoos envisioned. Management was encouraged to build trust and respect, create a cooperative environment, develop robust processes, create a learning organization, seek innovation, keep employees up to date, and provide promotional opportunities from within. Behaviors expected of all employees included courtesy, a sense of humor, flexibility, integrity, safety, enthusiasm, teamwork and more. Educational and training opportunities, including Dale Carnegie courses, were offered to support employees in achieving behavioral change.
Recognition and Rewards
An essential component of the ESCO cultural change has been recognition and rewards. Today’s ESCO celebrates team and individual accomplishments on a regular basis with special company events. Each month an employee who is nominated for positive behavior receives a chance to win one of eight $100 cash rewards. Perfect attendance is rewarded with two extra vacation days.