Manufacturing businesses are constantly under pressure to improve processes to become more profitable, particularly in production activities – reduction of waste, better use of resources, wise procurement practices, work flow improvement, team motivation, etc. Attempts at empowering people on the shop floor to bring about improvements, however, are often not successful, based on the following factors:
- Lack of vision clarity – employees are told to improve, but are unsure of the fundamental imperative to change
- Too few guidelines – communication channels, authority structures and improvement meeting formats are all unclear to employees
- Lack of tools to bring about change – budget and other resources are not available or their accessibility has not been communicated adequately to employees
Employees get frustrated when their ideas for improvement are not implemented – “What’s the point? We come up with all these ideas and then get told that there’s no budget, that the idea won’t work or that the production manager just wants us to be more accurate”. Disempowerment is the result.
A reasonably cost effective empowerment solution to the above issues can be found in the use of video equipment or even a smart phone with good camera capabilities – taking short videos of every aspect of the production process (from concept to design, purchasing the raw materials, storage of these materials, actual production, warehousing and dispatch). The videos should focus on both good and bad processes/execution and illustrate people movements, ergonomics, health and safety issues, cleanliness, waste removal, etc. At first, employees are going to be self-conscious – more careful and unnatural about what they are doing than usual. After many times of filming the same activity, however, employees will go about their tasks oblivious to the presence of the videographer. Once complete, the following steps should be followed:
- Whilst keeping all the short video segments for use with individual teams, an edited overview video should be produced for all to view – the CEO should use this viewing opportunity to share vision and suggest that the company will get better as each team improves their own area of work.
- At this same viewing forum, the production manager should outline the guidelines for the improvement process and responsibilities of every team to come up with improvement suggestions.
- An idea review panel should be established to ensure alignment to strategy and to weigh the cost/saving ratio.
- Reward incentives should be published – note: not in the form of a competition, but rather reward based as a percentage of the total production improvement savings to the company.
- Each team should be given their respective sets of videos – ideas will be generated automatically.
- All ideas that require extensive budget should be piloted before being presented to the review panel – ideas that can be implemented with little or no cost to company should be implemented immediately.
- Quick wins should be communicated company-wide and relevant improvement dashboards erected.
- Individuals and their teams should be recognised and wins celebrated appropriately.
Videography brings an empowering opportunity for any manufacturing company – cameras don’t lie, videography is relatively cheap and employees love seeing themselves as part of a bigger process. The process also gives every employee/team a fair chance – it removes the negative influence of an authoritarian management style as those employing such a style can’t argue with camera evidence.