This blog was guest written by Darla Gibson, Executive Admin at Cambridge Engineering.

We all know what employee engagement means, getting our employees to be present at work. Getting them to make things better, paying attention to quality and making sure our customers are taken care of. But how do we get it?

Over the 20+ years that I have been at Cambridge, I have seen so many iterations of getting the employees heard. From the suggestion box, to a database of issues that they encounter and want solutions for (we called it Employee Action Request or EAR), to rearranging where the departments are physically located to make sure the resources are near to where the problems occur. But it never seemed to work. But, why? 

It wasn’t that we didn’t hear them. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe them. It was a matter of having enough time and figuring out what the priorities were. Once the employee handed the problem to leadership, we had to put it in a bigger engine. Now, we had to prioritize it with the other projects from other areas. It became a bunch of “red tape.” So, what changed that for Cambridge?

I believe that the change came when we told the employees to fix it. That may sound harsh but basically, we said, if it bugs you, fix it. Don’t bring it to us, use the resources within your circle of influence and figure out how you can make it better. Most of the little issues, suddenly get fixed. If the employee was not changing the way our product looks or feels to the customer, we allowed them to find solutions. 

These solutions took a lot of their headaches away. Many times, they had the relationships within their departments and amongst other departments to fix the problems that plagued them day in and day out. They became more engaged because they felt they had a voice in finding the solutions to their own issues. No longer did they have to wait for the item to become top priority, no longer did they wait for a magical solution, they just took care of the issue.

The truly inspiring part of this is that we asked them to record it. We asked for a video that gave the problem and showed us their solution. This gave them a voice.  Now, they had the permission to fix what bugged them, and to show the entire organization their creative process. 

Did this make everything better? Of course not. There were larger problems that needed to be addressed within the bigger engine. However, what I believe this did was give employees a place to be creative and ask them for their ideas to fix problems. 

We have many people come through Cambridge to visit to see what we do. They have heard so many things about our Morning Meeting and our employee engagement.  When they are here, they see and feel this engagement.  This sense that the employee’s voice matters and therefore, the employees are willing to step up and tell us when they have an idea, rather than stay in the background. Everyone’s question is “how did you make it happen?”

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. We have been on this journey for several years and the iterations keep happening. We have added so many places where the employee can come with ideas and be creative. What all the systems do is recognize that the employee voice needs to be heard, and the employee needs to have a space to be creative.

So, how can you make this happen in your organization?

  1. Create a pathway that works in your organization.  One that is simple and easy for the employee to access. 
  2. Allow the employee to tell their story.  Video is as easy way to share.  Find a venue – email, company meeting, some way for the stories to get published.  Allowing the employee to show off their creativity. 
  3. Celebrate.  Make sure the employee knows that you appreciate their efforts!

Find that space in your organization and let your employees become engaged and thrive!

Cambridge has recently decided to test the Andon strategy from the Toyota Production System in conjunction with the lean manufacturing already being practiced at our shop. Andon is a popular form of visual management used in lean, designed to alert operators of problems as they occur in order for corrective action to be taken immediately. Originating from the Jidoka methodology used in Toyota’s production system, the system empowers employees to recognize problems and take initiative to stop the workflow without waiting for their superiors to do so. 

In most cases, an operator would pull the “Andon Cord” - a rope located above the manufacturing line which signals to everyone that a problem has been detected in a specific location on the line. Because of its benefits and empowerment to employees, Cambridge decided to adopt its own form of Andon.

Instead of using a typical Andon Cord, we chose to use the Voxer App.  Voxer is a “walkie talkie-like" app that can be downloaded on smartphones or computers. This app was chosen because, unlike the traditional Andon method, it allows various forms of access to the individuals working the line. However, if expectations are not set clearly on how corrective action should be taken as problems arise, Cambridge will not be able to utilize the full potential of everyone’s ability to help.

Before alerting all operators of an issue, we set up parameters to follow. If an operator can fix the problem in less than 10 minutes, the operator should attempt to solve the problem by his or herself. If the problem will take more than 10 minutes to fix, the operator is responsible to use Voxer to alert other employees for help. 

We also felt it important to set up certain levels of response. The supervisor, team lead and operations engineer are the first to assess the situation when called upon. If they cannot fix the problem, it continues to a higher level of support including engineering, supply chain, etc. If this level cannot fix the problem, it continues to an “all hands on deck” level of support.

The S-Series line is the first place to test Andon because it is an area in the shop that has an actual flow of work happening from one operator to the next. Unlike the other lines, the S-Series line has a takt time of 60 minutes per station when building a heater.

“Andon is about responding to issues immediately, finding the root cause of the issue, and putting a permanent corrective action in place so that the issue never occurs again”, states Cole Drussa, Operations Engineering Manager.

By fully adopting Andon, Cambridge also has the ability to document problems that happen on a daily basis. The data produced from Andon gives the engineering department knowledge of the frequency and severity of problems that interrupt the workflow.

Overall, the goal of Andon at Cambridge is to remove anything that inhibits flow.  Quality problems will be brought to the surface to be identified, the root cause will be established, and a final solution to the problem will ideally be found.  Through Andon, Cambridge plans to document and fix problems permanently. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though the practice of scrum is fairly new to Cambridge (has only been actively applied in three of our 56 year existence) it has already helped us formulate a new approach to goal setting and how we will ultimately achieve those goals. More importantly, we are using it to address safety practices and protocols within Cambridge, so that every one of our fellow employees makes it home at the end of the day.

After being introduced to the scrum concept (grouping agile thinkers together that stress constant communication to achieve complicated tasks and goals) in J.J. Sutherland’s book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, a group of Cambridge engineers volunteered to be trained in the practice by Toyota scrum expert Nigel Thurlow and apply it within the Cambridge walls, thus becoming our first four certified Scrum Masters. See their story and how their daily work has changed over the past few years.

To catch a glimpse of Nigel Thurlow’s on-site scrum training at Cambridge - make sure to check out our blog on his visit!

This blog was guest-written by Meg Brown, Director of HR at Cambridge Engineering. 

The goal was 10 applicants for each opening. In a tight labor market? There’s no question: this is the most difficult time to build engaged teams in a generation. There are so many interests competing for attention. From finding workers, to upskilling them -- how can we make sure we attract the right people in the first place? We’d have to be crazy to attempt it!   

Then call us crazy because we have supersized our recruitment pipelines and enabled historically low turnover. Through a combination of people-centric leadership and innovative recruiting/development programs, we have redefined the employer/employee relationship. 

Allow me to explain. 

Cambridge doubles production in the 3rd and 4th quarter, especially on our S-Series HTHV heaters, which naturally coincide with the colder weather. For many years we have surged with seasonal employees who spend 4-6 months working for Cambridge through our busy season. A few years ago we began hiring for cultural fit over experience, believing we can provide thorough in-house training. While that helped, we were still struggling to find talent quickly enough using staffing agencies to help bridge the gap. In 2018 with the crazy goal of 10 applicants for every opening the message was clear - we had to find a new approach to attract and retain talent.     

Enter Cambridge Unleashed. 

We realized there is real value in spending time at Cambridge - even if it is only for a short period of time. So we created Cambridge Unleashed, a new concept which allowed us to start telling our story - describing the value working here can bring to each and every one of us. This program is intended for anyone interested in learning, leading and launching their manufacturing career. 

Reading 2-Second Lean by Paul Akers is a conscious step we require for all full-time and seasonal workers. This continuous improvement methodology reinforces autonomy for each person to make their work processes, and by extension, their jobs better and easier. 2-Second Lean, though, follows each person home and extends beyond the walls of Cambridge. We hear time and again how someone recognized waste or something that bugged them at home and exclaimed “Hey, that’s a lean improvement!” Exposure and practice of this mentality is quick and effective, and can help a person make their own experiences better for their rest of their lives.

We’ve found that when our 20 “Unleashers” dove into the given opportunities they end up unlocking their potential, feeling appreciated and in control of their own workspace. Here are some real life examples:

  • Many Unleashers found courage they didn’t know they had and volunteered to emcee the morning meeting. 
  • Our team reached a company record breaking production level of 13 units a day.  
  • All 20 Unleashers jumped into our lean system making videos showing highlights of their improvements. 
  • Zero lost-time accidents through the entire busy season.

You might be wondering what happens at the end of the program? Where do these seasonal employees go after Unleashed? 

We realized quickly that if Cambridge Unleashed is a program for anyone who wants to launch their manufacturing career, then we had better figure out how to do it.  Many of our Unleashers came into Cambridge having never worked in manufacturing, and after 4-6 months with us they had learned the daily habits necessary to be a dedicated lifelong continuous improvement/lean maniac. What company wouldn’t want to hire them?!? We just had to figure out a way to tell their story. So we used video – a well loved tool often used at Cambridge. 

We created a launching process which allowed us to work with our Unleashers to determine their best next step at the end of the program.  Did they want to apply for our open positions and launch internally or did they want to look for a job somewhere else launching externally? Either way we were in it with them every step of the way. Those interested in internal launch applied for those openings, completed an interview process and were considered for any openings available. Those interested in external launch worked closely with us to create an introduction and highlight video they could use when they applied to other companies. We helped them update their resumes, adding a link to their video so any recruiter could see the amazing work they had done at Cambridge. Then to help get the word out we blasted their videos to our entire network, letting them know we had some Unleashed graduates who were seeking employment. 

All in all, we launched all 20 Unleashers into positions they are excited to have, many here at Cambridge and a few elsewhere. We smashed the goal – achieving an average of 20 applicants for each opening!   We are beyond thrilled with the results of Cambridge Unleashed. Can’t wait to do it again in 2019!

 

We had the privilege of welcoming Nigel Thurlow, Chief of Agile at Toyota Connected to Cambridge to train us on the fundamentals of how Scrum, Lean and Agile all work together in a beautiful equilibrium. As many of our Scrum teams are off and running, this was a great opportunity to review and realign to keep the momentum going. Watch the video below to see how we took advantage of having Nigel onsite for 8 hours!

To find out more about the initial Scrum training that Cambridge sought out from Nigel, make sure to see our previous blog post on Learning Scrum - The Toyota Way!

 

 

This post was guest-written by our friend in lean and life, Martin Tierney, from Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, you can experience the amazing things Martin and his team are doing with lean in our blog post.

 

I recently visited Cambridge engineering to learn from their awesome team following their visit to Seating Matters in Ireland. We, too, are in manufacturing and wished to visit Cambridge to learn how they’ve implemented lean, developed their culture of respect and care for their colleagues and grown a successful business as a result. 

This video only gives 5% (or less!) of the lessons I took away from visiting Cambridge. Their unique blend of hard work, creativity, respect for people, clever project management and an impressive drive for growth is something that cannot be bottled into a 5 minute clip. 

They are truly bringing glory and dignity back to manufacturing. Their people and their leadership have created something truly special.

 

The first stop on the International Lean tour leading up to the Global Lean Leadership Summit was at Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. Just an hour and a half drive from Belfast in Limavardy, this company is transforming the future of healthcare seating for elderly and disabled persons.

We could go on and on describing what we saw – from their Lean improvements to their company culture – but we figured we would show you instead!

Everyone is Measuring to Target

To make sure that the daily throughput is met – Seating Matters has implemented a series of checkpoints and signage to keep a live tabulation of progress to goal.

They Made the Morning Meeting their Own

One of the best approaches to Lean is making it your own – building on what you’ve seen work at other companies and adjusting it to meet your goals and to inspire your team members. Seating Matters does an incredible job of being transparent in their progress and giving everyone an opportunity to discuss any struggles or successes they are encountering.

Their Lean Improvements are Everywhere!

Why didn’t we think of these?

The Video Cameras turned on us!

We had such high praise to give to the Seating Matters team – make sure to check out the observations video that they made while we were there!

 

Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The "practice" of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they'd like as the group stretches - some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others - like Steve, our Controller - take the opportunity to be creative. Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time! 

During a recent visit in Rhode Island, a customer and friend of our organization complained about the features of our WiFi thermostat and Iphone App. He just didn’t like the interface with the control application. He struggled with understanding if the HVAC equipment was running and he didn’t like not being able to program the system settings directly from the Iphone App. Our phone interface bugged him. What happens when our customer’s get repeatedly frustrated with experiencing our product, services or people? You know the answer. They’ll be gone. frustrated We have been learning and growing in our LEAN journey at Cambridge. My key learning has come in the form of exposure to the energy and passion of our Operations staff for documented improvements in our plant. I’ve been drawn into the LEAN vortex in operations because of our people and their commitment to improving things every day. Unfortunately, the passion for LEAN has not translated to the same awesome level of enthusiasm and commitment beyond the factory floor. Like many in the sales, the customer service and the marketing departments, I have struggled to document meaningful process improvements. My focus on fixing what bugs me has yet to yield the transformational improvements that are possible for me and my team. While transformational improvements are not our stated objective, I find myself feeling reluctant to put forth additional 2-second Lean improvements. Others in my organization have shared similar frustrations. Paul Akers, the author of the book 2-Second Lean, details that every organization hits plateaus in LEAN and persistence is needed to push through to another level. My perspective on LEAN shifted during this Rhode Island trip to VIBCO, a family owned U.S. based manufacturing organization. I want to share my perspective shift in hopes that it might unlock more people regarding how LEAN practices can propel all of us forward into closer relationships with our customers. I am shifting my thinking from fixing what bugs me to fixing what bugs my customer. Over the last year, I have spent the majority of my time looking at my processes, my environment, my efficiency, my organization, my wasted time and energy. As I reflect on the power of our Customer Service team, I believe their stellar reputation in the HVAC industry is built upon this hard wired philosophy of helping customers solve problems fast. They strive to support the customer quickly. Both on the phone and on site, our customer service squad supports solving issues that bug customers. Within our technical advisory team, they support our Reps and contractors with information, analysis and design to make their customers more effective with their customer. They have a guaranteed 24 turn around commitment to their customer and typically deliver in less than 4 hours. LEAN beyond the manufacturing plant dock doors is all about fixing what bugs customers. happy I’ll report back on the progress we make creating our own LEAN Sales Vortex. We are building our 15 minute daily stand up meeting agenda now. It will include building and fixing customer issues and new ideas for customer improvements. We will be discussing our “Go and Watch” plans for cross functional team learning and customer centric improvements. Finally, we will be outlining our Revenue team external exposure plans so that we can provide an environment to unlock everyone’s genius for fixing what bugs our customers. Is it not true that what bugs the customer, likely bugs us the most?

Our Senior Leadership team recently returned from Japan where they were on an educational journey to bring back ideas from Japanese businesses that had been working on LEAN initiatives for many decades. Their trip included a visit to Lexus, the luxury car maker and part of the Toyota family of brands. As they were departing for their trip I asked that they solicit feedback from the Japanese companies regarding LEAN and it’s applications to sales organizations.

One might describe the Sales Cycle as the time it takes to obtain an interested prospect through a customer purchase order and finally through the ongoing post-purchase customer engagement. If you look at the Sales Cycle in 3 stages, you may find it easier to look for waste in the sales process. Waste will reveal itself in time, motion, over processing and/or wasted human potential of associates. The Sales Cycle -3 Stages: Pre-Sale Activity / Direct Selling Activity / Post Sale Engagement Pre-Sale Activity Building interest with prospects takes research, dedication, focus, creativity and a concise definition of value for one’s target audience. Marketing and Sales teams work closely to refine these target audiences and the messages that will drive desired customer response; typically outreach, raising their hand in some fashion for contact or more information. Eliminating waste from these processes can be accomplished through building a standardized approach to the various activities required to deliver in clear, simple language – Who is our target? What is our value proposition message? How will we communicate it internally & externally? How will we measure our success? Who is accountable for each pre-sale activity? What are the desired timeframes or deadlines? A clearly defined launch formula shortens the cycle. Compressing the time it takes to complete these pre-sale activities is LEAN applied to the sales cycle. Each delay, restart or off track adventure eats time and energy. What areas of your process can be leaned out? Direct Sales Engagements The Sales Team has a prospect, whether obtained through the marketing engine or through direct sales customer prospecting. Are your sales team members capable of building instant rapport and interest? Do they have the skills necessary to do so? Were they measured in the hiring process or ongoing performance evaluations against a standard in order to predict their success in their role? Have they been educated on a definitive sales approach? Is leadership spending the right amount of time, watching, listening and coaching sales team members? Show me a sales person with a rich pipeline of business and I’ll bet money that they have done the hard work of preparation, outreach, communication, post visit follow up and continuous touches necessary to close deals. Direct selling without a process, a script, a consistent message, a consistent list of questions, a consistent approach to customer engagement will result in the absence of results. LEAN thinking applied here in the sales process is as applicable to sales professionals as it is to operational, manufacturing personnel. What standard work or best practices can you point to formally in the sales process that are evident across the sales team? Post Sale Engagement Now that we’ve received a purchase order, what systems, processes or steps do you have in place to communicate with your customer? Do you have in place automated order confirmations detailing shipment dates from the factory? Confirmations of product shipments and anticipated arrivals to benefit the customer are a great way to communicate order status and shipment. Whether invoicing at time of purchase order or at shipment are those communication automated, manual, efficient, clear and understandable? Does your marketing team then continue to touch your customer with the correct frequency according to plan, to stay in front of the customer base with information that is relevant to your customer segment? Are there opportunities (waste) to streamline these, speed them up, to eliminate time and multiple touches. MRP systems and CRM systems offer solutions in automated workflows to eliminate time spent on these activities. LEAN and it’s application to the sales cycle is self-evident. Seeing waste in the process is certainly the hardest part of the journey. I am hopeful that this breakdown of the process might trigger thoughts for continuous improvement. I would love to hear about steps that you’ve taken in your own sales process to eliminate waste. Thank you for any insights you can share on your own journey that have helped you LEAN out you selling cycle.