This blog was guest-written by Darla Gibson (Executive Admin) with input from Meg Brown (VP of HR) and Conner LaLonde (Safety Coordinator) - all members of our COVID-19 Steering Committee.

This is Part 2 of a blog that we developed to help remind us that in this time of uncertainty, we can still live out our mission of enriching lives. Read Part 1 here.

Enriching Lives During a Pandemic - From the Perspective of the Cambridge COVID-19 Steering Committee.

When we realized that we were going to have to address the COVID-19 situation at Cambridge Air Solutions from a corporate standpoint, we started a Steering Committee, as I am sure many of you did. Our COO/CFO Kevin Thompson was part of this committee and he stated up front that the Committee needed to act within four core principles: Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency. These principles fall into line with our “We exist to glorify God by enriching every life we touch” mission statement. But how exactly do you “Enrich Lives” when things are changing faster than you can react?

Fortunately, we have a culture that allows us a lot of flexibility in being creative, trying something that may or may not work, being quick to act, quick to fail and quick to improve! So, the following are some of the things that our COVID-19 Committee put into place to enrich the lives of our employees, vendors, and customers.

Once we verified that we were an essential business and could continue our operations, we did something that I never thought I’d see at Cambridge as we have historically been a traditional organization, working in the office. We knew we had to find a way for people to work from home.  Obviously, our manufacturing operations cannot do that, but what if the office personnel did? That would allow us to have less people crossing paths AND, allow the office side to deal with the fallout of childcare and school closures.

Then, we said, how do we address these same items (childcare and school closures) for Manufacturing, as well as keeping them safe when they come to work? This was more difficult, and as St. Louis County said, “stay at home” we decided to take a week, pay our employees, and give us breathing room to make it happen.

In that week, we worked on alternative schedules based on each employee’s need, we worked on how to make the building safe for the return, as well as on-going after the return, we reworked how outsiders could visit our building – we had a very open policy for delivery and pick-up that had to change, and we found a communication channel that we could utilize to communicate with the employees on what we were doing.

That was a tough week. The Committee put in overtime galore to make it all happen. From policy changes, governmental as well as corporate, to reworking how the lunchroom flow was going to work, it was crazy!  It didn’t feel like we were enriching, it felt like we were turning the world upside down!  Our Morning Meeting had gone from all company, in person, to virtual from home, with only the office employees! No more high-fives, fist bumps and laughter, but tired, stressed out “Brady Bunch” screens of employees!

In a little less than a week, we put together a plan, implemented it and were ready to welcome back our Manufacturing team. We made it!  We tried to make them feel welcome and safe by keeping with our brand promise of “enriching lives”. But, how did we do that?

  1. Safety – is always our first criteria for everything we do.  So, we put a portable water closet for our truck drivers, with a vanity, thanking them for “keeping America Moving!”, we rented portable hand washing stations to put them closer to the employee work stations, we took out the high-touch things like water coolers and coffee supplies, we revamped cleaning protocols…everything we could think of to keep them safe and flatten that curve!  It didn’t always feel like enriching lives, but if safety comes first, it is an enriching moment! 
  2. Communication, Communication, Communication!  This was the most difficult to execute as we had to find a platform that would work for everyone.  WhatsApp was our solution, there were a lot of choices, but this allowed us to send out messages to the employees to let them know what the changes would be and what they could expect.  It also allows them to reply if there are questions.  We use video a lot and this platform allowed us to continue the use of video. We utilized our partnerships with other businesses through our corporate memberships, such as St. Louis AME Consortium and AME National, to find and adapt documents and ideas that they were using. Being able to share and adapt what was working (or not working) at other organizations kept our speed up on these changes and communications. We also put together a survey to send out to the Operations team. This went out the end of the first week and gave us some feedback on how we were doing and the employees’ willingness to return. We are sending this out every two weeks so we can get continued feedback from them. 
  3. Scheduling – We spoke to each employee about it being voluntary to work or not work. Our goal was to help them figure out the options for pay (or no pay) given their individual situations. 
  4. Remote Meetings – I mentioned our Morning Meeting earlier, but we moved ALL meetings to remote, using Zoom and have found our employees are thankful for the flexibility this allows them as their home lives are as different as their work lives!  Our Operations team is also able to be part of the Morning Meetings in this format. We have made it purposeful to keep normal updates going through this format too. For example, our CFO does a monthly update on finances and we have continued to do this.  We are also working on our Quarterly update meeting in April and finding new solutions to making that happen. It may be a different format, but it is an important communication we do not want to skip! 

The COVID-19 Steering Committee meets as often as needed to discuss, review and update as the world and guidelines keep changing.  Then, we COMMUNICATE! Our VP of HR, Meg Brown has made sure we posted something once a day minimum at the start to keep everyone aware of what was happening.  She continues to update as things change.

Although Safety is always #1, if I had to pick an item of most impact, it is the Communication piece.  The what we are doing and why, is what lets the employee know you are thinking of them first, along with their families, our vendors, and our customers.

So many things have changed in our world but looking through the lens of “Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency”, allows you to always think of others before anything else.

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!

 

Bringing #GloryandDignity back to manufacturing.

It’s an aspirational concept, one that you might not associate with manufacturing. We see it every day, though, through the companies that share their stories with us when they visit our facility or our colleagues at trade events. The goal of lifting our industry to a higher standard by giving back to the community and to employees might not be intrinsic to all leaders - yet, more and more, we see shining examples of our friends in this business doing just that.

The Seating Matters team is generating tools and resources to save lives before and after pressure injuries through an Injury Prevention Program aimed at correct seating, training, maintenance and education of staff.

BCI is providing high-quality packaging solutions to their customers through a system of creating meaningful employment and skills training for 250 adults with disabilities.

A structure of independent and interdependent teams at Vibco allows individuals valued for their strengths to complement and grow with each other while working toward the same mission.

FastCap continues to share their own manufacturing improvement ideas through 2 Second Lean to inspire other organizations or to even just provide a simple solution to a problem they might be facing.

Remembering to fête the lines’ extraordinary output when we hit a 13 unit/day output (up from 8-9 units/day) while maintaining quality standards was essential. The service team is constantly praised by our contractor partners for their diligence and assistance through any issue in the field. The engineering department’s behind-the-scenes work designing custom, yet simple, solutions for our end users deserves its own standing ovation. Each Cambridge employee embodies the dignity factor, and as a whole, they bring glory to their work, our company, and the manufacturing industry.

Watch John’s speech from 2017 that helped us realize the #gloryanddignity mission!