In an effort to execute on our promise to grow our people and future leaders, we recently offered leadership training to our employees from the esteemed Dale Carnegie of St. Louis. Thirty-three teammembers took us up on it and graduated from the program. We are so proud of the courage that it took to commit and to "show up" and step out of their comfort zones for each and every training.

The video captures highlights of the program and the benefits from the investment from an individual and organizational level. 

 

If you want to learn more about why and how we encourage our employees to be courageously uncomfortable, please join us for a morning meeting

This article is written as a point of view from our Marketing Coordinator, Jesse Hummel.

Your first question might be: what is a workplace chaplain?

A chaplain is like a priest, pastor, or minister. However, they are not linked to any specific religious organization. They can provide support to whomever, regardless of religious affiliation. 

When life presents its unexpected challenges, having someone to talk to can go a long way. Cambridge provides chaplains that come in throughout the week to speak with employees. These chaplains operate on a purely anonymous basis, meaning whatever is said during conversation will not make its way around the company to others. They are there to listen to struggles and successes or engage in regular conversation. Chaplains do not operate as religious entities. They are not there to promote any specific religion but rather be  a positive resource. 

Experience with Chaplains

From personal experience, I can attest to the benefits of having a workplace chaplain. One morning I came into work with a negative attitude - my weekend was unpleasant, and I carried those feelings into the workplace. I could tell that these feelings had a negative impact on my mental health and my production at work. A few hours into my workday, one of our chaplains asked how I was doing. I shared with him the struggle I was enduring, and in return, he shared some words of encouragement. This interaction was quick but had undeniable benefits. I was able to feel relief from getting the negative experiences off my chest and ultimately was able to be more productive and concentrate on my work. 

Benefits of Chaplains in the Workplace

  • Resolve disputes: Any workplace with many people and personalities can experience quarrels and feelings of frustration. These issues are often minor disputes that can be resolved through conversation and likely aren’t taken to management due to fear of escalating the situation. Having a chaplain to talk through issues with can resolve these conflicts quickly. 

  • Culture: Having a chaplain promotes a positive culture. It shows employees that production numbers are not the only matter of importance. Employee mental health is a priority when chaplain services are provided. 
  • Safety: Carrying burdens can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety that act as a fog over someone; however, while in a manufacturing environment, you are frequently near a forklift or heavy machinery. If you are not present in the moment or aware of what is occurring around you, there is significant potential for an accident to occur. Chaplains can proactively relieve “the fog” leading to a safer environment. 

Studies show that approximately 90,000 hours of one’s life are spent in the workplace. For those in management, it is estimated that 30,000 of those hours are spent responding to a crisis. Having a chaplain in the workplace can help lighten the burden on those in management. They will have more time to focus on revenue, improving processes, and production. 

Come visit and ask us anything.

Having chaplains in the workplace is only but one of the ways in which we try to promote a culture of mental and physical health. Caring about the well-being of every employee is how we try to enrich our employees’ lives daily. As we’ve learned from other companies, we believe in a pay-it-forward and open our doors to visitors to experience our culture in our morning meetings – one of our favorite daily rhythms. 

This blog is written by Thomas Little, Sales Development Representative, speaking on his experience at the Build My Future trade show. 

Finding quality employees is a pain point that most companies currently struggle with. Therefore, new ways of finding talent are essential to remaining competitive in the current job market. The Build My Future trade show is one great way to engage with potential future employees. 

The Build My Future trade show started in Springfield, Missouri but now pans many states, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. For the first time the trade show occurred in St. Charles, Missouri as well. This trade show consists of local organizations inviting high schoolers to spend a day learning about potential career paths. In addition, employers set up booths where they will have a hands-on activity that shows what individuals may be doing if they go into that field of work. 

The first Build My Future trade show was in Springfield, Missouri at the fairgrounds on 4/13. Approximately 2,700 high schoolers attended this event. I was blown away by the level of interest that was shown. Students were highly engaged and excited for an opportunity to learn more about potential career paths. Unfortunately, we do not have a location near Springfield, so I took the opportunity to speak with students about what is of interest to them. Many students said they are grateful to be exposed to options outside of a traditional 4-year university. 

We had our scale models of units for the Cambridge booth, some steel parts with a cordless pop rivet gun to piece the parts together, and material on what Cambridge does. 

On April 20th, I attended the second Build My Future trade show with Michael Harmon, M-line Team Lead, held at the St. Charles Family Arena. This was the first year that St. Louis has hosted, so the turnout was less than the Springfield event. There were around 900 students in attendance. Michael and I shared how Cambridge aims to enrich the lives of every life we touch, both internally and externally. I was surprised at the level of engagement that this messaging was met with. Students were highly intrigued by a company that cared for more than just profit margins. We also shared the different career opportunities that Cambridge offers and that we are all about growing our people. 

Those that showed high interest in our culture and what we do took our flyers, my card, and a flyer directing them to our website to apply. 

I also made some connections with a handful of opportunity and career centers in the St. Louis area that I will get in touch with our HR department. It was a terrific opportunity to meet interested prospective talent and share the Cambridge way with other people in our area.    

 

If you would like to learn about the potential career opportunities at Cambridge check out our careers page

Cambridge had the pleasure of hosting a tour for AME presented by Paul Akers. We made a few stops during the tour to show off our “2 Second Lean” improvements around the facility. Here we would like to share some of the examples of employee genius at Cambridge. 

In this video, Johnathan Solter shows off the new carts used to transport units around the facility. They have gone from being clunky carts that must be welded and can only fit specific sizes to a one size fits all cart that anyone in the facility can build. This improvement showcases not only employee genius but the ability of our employees to work in unison across multiple departments. 

In this video, Conner Lalonde shows off the progress at the wiring stations. With the changes, he and others have implemented, the required motion has drastically decreased. As a result, individuals can gather any supplies they need within arm’s reach, plus can move stations should need be. 

In this video, SMegan Solter shows off the secondary RCS station that she put together. SMegan was given free rein to make the area however she would like. She has implemented better shelving, drawers, and organization in her area. 

In this video, Mathew shows off some of the improvements that have been made in the sheet metal department. By stepping up and trying a new cutting method, they have dramatically cut down on the amount of sheet metal waste that comes from forming parts. Mathew also shows off the new way of cutting RCS cans so that defects are less prevalent. 

Employee genius is something that Cambridge takes great pride in. These examples are only but a few of the many that occur. We display each of our improvements every day during our morning meeting. Please join us if you are interested in seeing these changes firsthand.

 

Continuous improvement plays a key role in the Cambridge culture - we are always striving to better ourselves and our processes. After learning about 2-Second Lean from Paul Akers and adopting it in our shop, we then explored the methodology of continuous improvement and found Kata. Most recently employees were introduced to it through the AME 750 and 24-week continuous improvement training. 


The structured practice of continuous improvement, Kata has proven to enhance our lean methodologies and give us the process to see a project through with enhanced outcomes.

In this video, Becca Jenkins does a great job of explaining how our Operations Engineering team uses Kata to improve different production lines and processes. Used first on our S-series HTHV heating line, employees formed teams and came together to create experiments. Through many experiments guided by Kata, we have been able to drastically cut down on the space required to perform tasks while also reducing the number of errors made during our processes. These improvements have been most recently implemented on our new paint line. Using Kata, we have identified ways to improve our line density with quality in mind.  That means we can load more parts in the same amount of space which means better line efficiency. Through Kata experimentation, we have learned how to deliver parts to the new paint line so that the loaders can hang the parts as efficiently as possible in the sequence that makes the most sense for processing the parts after they are painted and unloaded from the line.  These improvements are consistently being made to enrich the lives of our Cambridge colleagues.

During our morning meetings each day we share the latest improvements to give a space for employee genius to be celebrated and inspire other areas of the shop. If you would like to get a glimpse into our Kata process and culture of continuous improvement, please join us for a morning meeting. 
 

Each year, on the first Friday in October, the manufacturing community opens its doors to the public. This is known as Manufacturing Day. Manufacturers try to give insights into the problems and solutions that the modern manufacturer faces. This year Cambridge had the pleasure of hosting an event on creators wanted that provided a glimpse into manufacturing. 

Cambridge believes that everyone has the ability to lead and just needs to right opportunity. We believe in growing our leaders from within using multiple avenues for this development. In the clip below our marketing ambassador, Tony Spielberg, goes into detail as to how we develop leadership across the company. 

The Cambridge Air Solutions brand and our commitment to “Enriching Lives” is more than a name, an icon, or a tag line. It is our promise to our people, our customers, and to our supplies, that Cambridge desires to make an impact on the world. 

Megan Solter, Jesse Hummel, and Thomas Little were panelists and provided a live Q&A segment. They go into detail on their experiences at Cambridge, and the ways in which the culture has impacted them. 

Please join us for a morning meeting if you have any questions, or would like to experience our culture first hand!

No matter the business, quality issues remain a factor. After all, quality impacts all aspects of a business and improving it is a big undertaking. At Cambridge, our method involves a focus on employee genius and continuous improvement.

The problem is in the process, not the individual

Throughout the day, employees track quality issues using a communal iPad. These issues are compiled into a report that is then shared in an open conversation each day with the entire production team. Most issues are presented with a picture and a clarifying description of the problem. Throughout the conversation, there is never a moment of blame or causing shame to an individual for a mistake. Cambridge believes that the process failed the individual. If the proper procedure was in place, then the quality issue would not have occurred. The best part is: the process can be improved.

Quality issues are then archived in order to identify reoccurring issues. Whenever quality issues become repetitive, the process must be evaluated. When this happens, a team of employees steps up to address the issue. Employees volunteer during the quality meeting and come together to find a solution. Rather than a supervisor telling them what they should do in order to fix it, Cambridge believes that those performing the job are the ones who will come up with the best corrective actions. This employee genius will allow for the process to be improved in the most effective way. 

Process improvement in real life 

One example of this was with the orientation of gas train components. There are shutoff valves (SVs) and safety shutoff valves (SSVs) that must be orientated to the correct direction to ensure proper functionality. The SVs and SSVs were configured incorrectly on a few occasions, and there was a significant risk if these components were not correct when shipped out into the field. A team of employees came together to correct this mistake and ensured the process would drive the solution. It was decided that after the gas train was installed, the gas train builder would place orientation indicators on the SV and SSV. Proper orientation now goes through multiple checks ensuring the process will not allow for failure and for an incorrect gas train to make it into the field. 

Making improvement a central idea to culture

Standardized workflows that clarify what must be done help our employees achieve high expectations of a quality product. The perfect people to develop these processes or improve them are those who do it every day by using their employee genius. Open conversations without the fear of punishment allow for all quality issues to be addressed. Cambridge employees understand that there is no shame in making a mistake. Embracing failure and prescribing solutions enriches the lives of our employees and of our valuable customers.

Come and join us

Each morning Cambridge goes over quality issues that had happened the previous day. We discuss what went wrong within the entire organization and share what improvements will be made to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Come and join us for a morning meeting to see this in action!

Often there is a divide between those in the office and those who work on the floor. This divide can seem as if it is a wall that stands between the two parties. Building a strong culture brings unity between the two, but a great culture cannot exist as two separate entities divided by a shop floor wall. Though we have yet to achieve our final goal of breaking down that “wall,” we hope that through continuous improvement we can become that great culture we strive for.

If you think of this process as removing “one brick at a time,” the process began with the dress code. There was an apparent disparity in the way people looked on the shop floor compared to in the offices. Those on the floor had to wear jeans or durable workpants while those in the office were required to wear slacks or other dress clothes. Doing away with this allowed for a more uniform code that made all employees feel like equals.

A focal point of our strategy towards building a solid culture is allowing for employees to utilize their genius. One way this happens is through creating leadership opportunities. At Cambridge, companywide meetings take place every day and provide full transparency into details about company operations - whether it be finances, safety, or delivery timing. These meetings are led by different individuals every day. Employees sign up and are given a chance to lead in front of the entire company. Not having the same higher-ups conducting the meetings every day clarifies that anyone can be a leader, regardless of their official position. 

When working on the shop floor, most of the day is planned for you as there are quotas on production, unlike in the office, where the time utilization is more at the discretion of the individual employee. To ensure that all employees feel as if their ideas are appreciated, time is set away each day for “lean” ideas. This is when the employees on the floor have no task that is required of them, and they are allowed to think of anything that can improve the company freely, whether it be changes to the processes, their workstation, or something that could improve safety. Empowering individuals is a centric idea of this culture and lets it be known that genius exists within every individual. 

One glaring disparity that can cause frustrations between the office and floor is indoor air quality and comfort. It is apparent to people on the floor that they are seen as less valuable when working in poor air quality conditions. The office should not be a comfortable temperature while the floor is cold during the winter or hot during the summer. The investment of thermal comfort does more than meet a code standard, it signals to your employees that their company cares for them. 

The pandemic brought with it many challenges. One of which being the fact that office workers gained the ability to work from home while those on the floor were still required to be on campus. We realize that the ability to work from home is not going away. However, through continuous improvement, we are striving to find a solution that will bring equality to both sides. 

Breaking down the wall between the office and floor is certainly not a task that can be completed overnight. Rather than being one large change, it comes with small changes or removing of “bricks”. For a healthy culture to exist, it must be unified. Finding ways for employees to dress and think the same are great ways to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and on the same playing field. The benefits of overcoming the challenges are quickly apparent as it improves moral, recruitment, and retention. Help create an awesome workplace by joining Cambridge for a morning meeting to see these ideas in action.

The Manufacturing Leader Podcast: Restoring Glory and Dignity to Manufacturing with John Kramer and Marc Braun

Podcast by Joe Sullivan of Gorilla76 Marketing
Listen on Gorilla76's website

Would you rather focus on people or profitability in your business?
You can’t have it all.

But maybe you can…

Maybe people and profitability go hand in hand, and each makes the other stronger.

In this episode of The Manufacturing Executive, I talk with John Kramer, Chairman & CEO at Cambridge Air Solutions, 
and Marc Braun, President at Cambridge Air Solutions, about what it means to restore glory and dignity to manufacturing through both culture and business practices.

We also talked about:

How to build a culture that celebrates people.

How profitability fits in with a people-first culture

How to adapt to crises in a way that cares for people and drives business forward.

Extending a Company Culture across Multiple Facilities

When a company decides that their strategic goals and growth plans include the need for additional space – be that office, production or warehousing space – it begs the question: “How are we going to do this?”

To add to the complexity of multi-facility continuity, Covid introduced a unique situation where many companies offered the ability to work from home and plan to incorporate these workspaces in some fashion moving forward. The reality is that a company might operate at four business addresses but have remote workers dialing in from home offices across the country.

The good news is that a spirit of creative and intentional planning with the understanding that everything can be improved upon can make the process seem less daunting.

The operational “How?” starts to get sorted out through interdepartmental organization, communication and infrastructure investment. Planning for leasing, staffing, IT expansion and beyond becomes a beautiful challenge of logistics and operations. As these plans start to formulate, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and envision of how the success of the expansion will come about.

The less tangible “How?” – the one that deals with extending the essence of the company beyond the original four walls is a little less concrete and arguably harder to plan. At Cambridge, we are proud of the culture of family, teamwork and lean  that we feel throughout our offices, our shop and in our morning meetings. We would be lying if we said we weren’t concerned about being able to extend that culture to our newest facility down the road in Wentzville, MO. While the second Cambridge facility isn’t all that far by mileage, ensuring that each employee experiences the same core values and unconditional love is where the challenge arises.

We know that we are still at the beginning of our multi-facility journey, and reserve any opportunity to improve as we learn, but here is an action plan that helped us feel comfortable that the Cambridge culture will reach all of our employees.

Take a stroll through your facility and take note. 
When you are walking someone through your workspace, what features are you always sure to point out? For us, a favorite stop is a picture wall full of our families and hobbies that help us remember each other’s whole selves. This simple installment will also live at our new facility and will serve to keep faces familiar that we don’t see day-to-day.

Create continuity. 
We wouldn’t be authentic if held one facility to a gold standard and one as an overflow facility, especially since our talent lives in both places. Many of the fundamentals from our headquarters can be easily shared – signage, inviting breakrooms, collaboration spaces, etc. Beyond the basics, we will rely heavily on our 2-Second Lean training and rest assured knowing that each and every employee will make their workspace work for them by eliminating waste and struggle. Our whole culture and operating system is based on the belief that the genius of each and every employee shines through the improvements that they make, so much so that it takes the stress out of making sure the lean (and clean!) workspaces is consistent among facilities.

Create some friendly competition. 
While it is important for everyone to know that they are working toward common goals and are part of unified team, it is also fun to bring in a little competition, especially when it gives employees a chance to show off their employee genius. 

Some of our favorite competitions were centered around who could find and eliminate the most safety risk and which department could produce the best lean improvement. Unsurprisingly, employees ran with the challenge and winners received gift cards or lunch. The spirit of competition and team comraderie can easily be launched in many different locations with leaderboards available to see where each location stands.

Create communication touchpoints. 
Now that many companies have embraced virtual meetings, the idea that communication should be built into daily rhythms is seemingly obvious but can still be difficult to implement. We embrace our daily Morning Meetings as a home for announcements, a review of our revenue, safety, quality and delivery metrics and a way to share our lean improvements with our fellow coworkers.  We have been intentional in ensuring to have equipment in place on Day 1 for the new facility to log in to our Morning Meetings.
 

Other companies rely on an intranet, cadenced emails or a dedicated social media channel or app to keep information flowing among employees. Whatever your choice of communication may be, just be sure that the training of the platform and importance of participation is part of the rhythm of the company and not just used for one-off communications. 

Team Build in each facility AND across locations. 
Taking advantage of virtual capabilities makes it easier than ever to get everyone “in the same place.” Virtual platforms are now commonplace for productive meetings, but can be of value in the team building arena as well. For our 2020 Christmas event, our Activities Team hired a comedic  party host that led us through an engaging hour of team building activities that were refreshingly fun and engaging. You can now also do virtual escape rooms and talent shows.
 

You could also just plan similar activities to occur at the same time at each facility so that no one feels left out of the fun.


We hope in the next year to be able to have all events that make up our culture – morning meetings, lean tours, employee celebrations – as live, in-person events. But if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that we need to learn to be flexible and creative to not get sidelined by obstacles.